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The Tempest

The Tempest


by William Shakespeare

The Tempest Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the 2008 Norton edition.

Quote #7

For that's my business to you—that you three
From Milan did supplant good Prospero,
Exposed unto the sea, which hath requit it,
Him and his innocent child, for which foul deed,  
The powers—delaying, not forgetting—have
Incensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures,
Against your peace. Thee of thy son, Alonso,
They have bereft; and do pronounce by me
Ling'ring perdition, worse than any death 
Can be at once, shall step by step attend
You and your ways; whose wraths to guard you
Which here, in this most desolate isle, else falls
Upon your heads—is nothing but heart's sorrow
And a clear life ensuing. (3.3.87-101)

What is the purpose of Prospero furthering Alonso's belief that Ferdinand is dead? This seems particularly merciless, and it makes Prospero seem as though he wants his enemies to suffer before he forgives them.  Does this undermine the very point of being merciful and forgiving? Does this also indicate that his decision to choose virtue over vengeance later is entirely because of Ariel's persuasion?

Quote #8

At this hour
Lie at my mercy all mine enemies.
Shortly shall all my labours end, and thou
Shalt have the air at freedom. For a little
Follow, and do me service. (4.1.291-295)

Prospero definitely delights at having his enemies at his mercy, but again, is it okay to enjoy their suffering in the meantime? Would it be too much to ask, or too unrealistic, for Prospero simply be wholeheartedly forgiving? Is this kind of total forgiveness within the realm of human possibility?

Quote #9

The King,
His brother and yours, abide all three distracted,
And the remainder mourning over them, 
Brimful of sorrow and dismay; but chiefly
Him that you termed, sir, the good old Lord
His tears run down his beard like winter's drops
From eaves of reeds. Your charm so strongly works
That if you now beheld them, your affections 
Would become tender.
                                    Dost thou think so, spirit?
Mine would, sir, were I human.
                                                 And mine shall.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling 
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art? (5.1.14-31)

Ariel shows that mercy should be in the nature of human beings—he imagines he would feel tenderness if he were human.  By saying this, he calls Prospero's humanity to task. Is it more human to seek vengeance, or forgive? Is forgiveness not the best way to stick it to your enemies?

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