<em>The Tempest</em> is obsessed with the concept of imprisonment – both literal and figurative. Prospero and Miranda are forced to live in exile on a remote island, where Prospero enslaves the island's only native inhabitant (Caliban) and forces Ariel to do all of his bidding. The theme continues into the epilogue where Shakespeare suggests that, during the performance of a play, actors and playwrights are held captive by powerful audiences who may or may not approve of the artists' work.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- How did Ariel come to serve Prospero?
- Why has Prospero enslaved Caliban? Is Prospero justified in his treatment of Caliban?
- What is the nature of Prospero's relationship with Ariel? How does Prospero view the spirit? How is this different from how Prospero views Caliban?
- Analyze the play's epilogue and explain why Prospero insists the audience must "release [him] from [his] bonds."
Chew on This
Because Prospero forces Ariel to serve him, he is no better than the witch Sycorax, who imprisoned Ariel in a pine tree before Prospero came along and "rescued" the sprite.
Prospero is not free because he is subject to his own desire for justice; he is a slave to the past wrongs done to him.