The Tempest
The Tempest
by William Shakespeare

Prospero Timeline and Summary

  • 1.2: Prospero enters into the play with the command: "Be collected." He tells Miranda not to be shocked, there's no harm done, in spite of the spectacle he's created in the tempest. This could well be applied to all of the magic Prospero does throughout the play – it's spectacular, but it isn't malicious or to be feared.
  • 1.2: Prospero says all he's ever done has been with the intention of caring for Miranda, and though she doesn't know it, he is more than she thinks he is. He assures her he's done no harm to the men on the boat, and now he'll tell her about their life story.
  • 1.2: Prospero marvels at what Miranda remembers. He asks what else she can see back in the darkness of time, but hearing that she doesn't remember much more than her nursemaids, he tells her that their family once had the dukedom of Milan.
  • 1.2: Prospero shows his enlightened perspective – he says it was foul how they were sent from Milan, but they were blessed (by Gonzalo and the good winds) that they made it safely to this island.
  • 1.2: He continues to tell the story of how he became involved in his studies of the liberal arts, and trustingly gave over the run of his dukedom to Antonio. Prospero then details how Antonio contrived to steal the dukedom from him while he was busy with his books. He says his library was dukedom enough for him, and he did not anticipate his brother's evil grab for power. He also doesn't like that Antonio made Milan stoop to the King – this is below his (and Milan's) dignity. The final detail is that Antonio opened the gates and sent Prospero and Miranda out of Milan under the cover of night, to a sad little boat.
  • 1.2: Prospero shows his tenderness as a father – though he wept for all his loss, Miranda had a smile infused with the strength of heaven, and he gathered courage from her. They survived at first because of the things Gonzalo kindly made sure they had, including Prospero's precious books, which he uses to teach Miranda. He claims she is better learned than other princesses that have more distractions and worse tutors.
  • 1.2: Prospero admits that his art depends upon a star, and he must act in accordance to that special sign if he's going to achieve anything. It's time to get back to business, so he enchants Miranda to sleep.
  • 1.2: Prospero has an exchange with Ariel, confirming that his bidding was done to bring the passengers of the wrecked ship to shore safely. He compliments Ariel lovingly, and says there's much more work to be done.
  • 1.2: When Ariel points his thoughts to the freedom Prospero promised, Prospero gets angry. He accuses Ariel of being moody, and quickly asks whether Ariel has forgotten what Prospero did for him.
  • 1.2: Prospero chides Ariel for thinking that Prospero is asking too much. He claims Ariel has forgotten the witch Sycorax, and though he asks Ariel to tell what he remembers of her, he himself fills in all the details about who she was, why she came to the island, and why she imprisoned Ariel in a pine tree. He points out it was his own art that freed Ariel from his groaning torment in the tree, an act so powerful that Sycorax couldn't have done it herself.
  • 1.2: Prospero warns Ariel that if he so much as murmurs on this again, Prospero will return him to his tree prison so he can howl away another twelve winters. (Harsh.) He later promises Ariel will have his freedom after two more days of doing his master's bidding.
  • 1.2: Prospero wakes Miranda and asks her go with him to see Caliban, whom he admits does them a great service by bringing them wood and building their fire. He curses Caliban thoroughly, and promises his servant will suffer great torments for any curses he lays upon his master.
  • 1.2: Prospero calls Caliban a lying slave, and recounts that he kept Caliban in his own cell (home) until Caliban tried to violate the honor of his daughter (not a good move). More cursing follows, with threats of cramps and aches that Caliban will get if he doesn't follow Prospero's orders to the letter.
  • 1.2: Miranda accompanies Prospero to see Ferdinand from afar – Prospero tells her he's the same form as they are (human), and moves her to pity him for his recent grief. Prospero makes an aside that he's pleased with how the things are going with the young couple, and compliments Ariel for his fine work, which will earn the spirit's freedom.
  • 1.2: Prospero scolds Ferdinand for calling himself the King of Naples, and makes a pompous aside that the Duke of Milan and his daughter (i.e., Miranda) could control Naples (i.e., Ferdinand) if the time were right for it. This pompousness is left off to again compliment Ariel, and the aside continues with Prospero's observation that he must make it hard for the two young lovers. If they don't struggle, they won't value their love for each other. Prospero now moves to harassing Ferdinand, whom he accuses of being a spy.
  • 1.2: Prospero bids Ferdinand follow him, for he'll chain him up as a traitor and feed him only withered roots and acorn shells. He dares Ferdinand to raise his sword, and promises to make him drop it by using his (magic) staff. When Miranda protests, he scolds her, too, saying that another word in defense of Ferdinand will make him chide her, if not hate her. He claims that Ferdinand is ugly, but she doesn't know it because she doesn't know anything of men. He has now wrapped Ferdinand in a charm.
  • 3.1: Prospero looks on at Ferdinand and Miranda from a distance, and happily notes that Miranda is deeply in love. He is so pleased by their innocent encounter that he asks the heavens to rain grace on the love between them. He admits he can't be as glad of their surprise love as they are (because he did plan it after all), but he does rejoice immensely. Then he's back to the business that must be done before dinnertime.
  • 3.3: Prospero watches the banquet laid out before Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian. He makes an aside agreeing with Gonzalo's comment on the heavenly nature of the spirits, grumbling that some of the people at the banquet are actually worse than devils. Later, he finds Ariel again, and praises him for his good carry-through on his instructions. He notes his enemies are all knit up by what they've seen, and are now in his power. He leaves the traitors to go visit Ferdinand.
  • 4.1: Prospero speaks frankly with Ferdinand, telling him the trials were just to make sure that the boy deserved his daughter. Ferdinand has passed the test, and Prospero will now hand over a precious third of his life (i.e., Miranda). A few lines later, he warns that if Ferdinand touches Miranda before the proper wedding ceremony, he's toast. Then Prospero calls Ariel to bring spirits to the place to perform "the vanity of mine art" for the young couple. He again warns Ferdinand to be good to his word. Then all attention is moved to the display of gods before them. Prospero tells the amazed children that these are spirits enacting Prospero's present fancies.
  • 4.1: Prospero calls off his magical drama production – he had forgotten Caliban's plot against him, and must do something about it. He then notes that Ferdinand looks unhappy, or at the least worried about his soon-to-be father-in-law. Prospero gives a thoroughly lovely speech, proclaiming that the revels are ended, and he wraps metaphor upon metaphor about life being a play, which is a meta-metaphor, given that they're talking about the life outside of the play based on a play they're watching in a play we're watching – totally postmodern chic. Anyway, this is one of Shakespeare's most beautiful speeches, to challenge "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," we'd bet. Read it in its entirety for full effect.
  • 4.1: Prospero asks Ariel to lay out his fine stuff (clothes and linens), knowing it will distract his drunken, greedy, would-be murderers. He then cusses Caliban as a born devil, whose nature cannot be bettered by nurture. Prospero vows to plague the plotters all to the point where they'll roar out of anguish. He eggs on his spirit hounds that chase the group when they arrive, and promises the traitors will have cramps, convulsions, and pinches.
  • 4.1: Prospero notes he has everybody right where he wants them: "At this hour Lie at my mercy all mine enemies." Will he use his power for good or evil, virtue or vengeance? Nobody knows, Jeeves, nobody knows.
  • 5.1: Now we know! Prospero asked Ariel how the shipwrecked group is doing, and Ariel says they're such a sad mess, they could make a person feel sympathy. Prospero takes Ariel's words to heart – he should be capable, if not more than capable, of the spirit's sympathetic feelings. Although the traitors have done him terrible wrong, he doesn't want vengeance, and only wishes to see that they are sorry. He commands Ariel to release them from his charm.
  • 5.1: In a gorgeously moving speech, Prospero recounts all the bits of magic he has seen and partaken in. He then announces that once this task is over, he will break his staff and drown his book, giving up his art of magic. This is kind of a big deal.
  • 5.1: Prospero, surrounded by all first string bad guys, gives them a stern talking to. He greets Gonzalo gladly, and calls out Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio for their role in his present condition (being banished to an island). He then subtly points out that Antonio and Sebastian would've murdered the King, bros or no. In a grand final gesture, Prospero declares he forgives them all, before realizing they don't know who he is. He bids Ariel to bring him his hat and sword, which they'll then recognize. ("Oh! I didn't recognize you without your hat and sword!") As Ariel dresses him, he praises the spirit, and bids him to bring the mariners (sailors) that are safely sleeping in the King's rescued ship.
  • 5.1: Now that he's wearing his hat, he says "Behold, sir King, The wronged Duke of Milan, Prospero." Having thus properly announced himself, he'll dispel any fears they have that he is another illusion of the island by hugging them. He bids them all hearty welcome, and hugs all around, as the "You had me exiled with my infant daughter,"/ "You destroyed my ship and killed my son" feud is far in the past. He points out that he hasn't outed Sebastian and Antonio (which basically outs them – slick). Prospero continues to be backhanded here; he turns to his brother Antonio and says that to call him brother "would even infect my mouth," which he immediately follows with "I do forgive thy rankest fault" and a follows that up essentially with "of course you'll have to give me my dukedom back now, you simpering fool."
  • 5.1: Prospero then plays a funny prank on Alonso, who is still mourning his dead son. He points out his daughter is also lost, and now Alonso gets to think about two dead children! Prospero quickly changes the subject back to himself, noting the others' awe. He knows it's amazing that he's here, and he recaps the injustices done against him, but then, after his long talk, he says it's no time for long talk. He directs their attention to his cell, where Ferdinand and Miranda are playing a round of chess.
  • 5.1: Alonso has a private moment with his son, thinking to ask his forgiveness for the wrong done against Milan, but Prospero interjects that they should not dwell on the past.
  • 5.1: Alonso suggests that an oracle could explain all these strange happenings, but Prospero cuts him off and promises to clear it up himself later. Then Prospero commands Ariel to bring in Caliban, Trinculo, and Stefano.
  • 5.1: Prospero tells Caliban's life story in a not-so-nice way, calls Caliban's mom a witch, highlighting that the three have robbed and plotted to kill him. He then teases Stefano, who is in a cramp of pain and drunkenness, asking if he would be king of the isle. Prospero magnanimously dismisses Caliban to tidy up his cell for dinner, so that Caliban can again be in his good graces.
  • 5.1: Prospero invites everyone to stay at his cell for the night, where he'll tell his life story. In the morning they will all take the ship home to Naples, where the kids can get married and Prospero can revel in his dukedom and obsess about his own death.
  • 5.1: His last command to Ariel is to make sure the seas are good for sailing, and then he sets him free to the elements, as he calls the audience near.
  • Epilogue: Prospero makes a big speech that goes something like this: "If you clap, I'll be satisfied and be able to get off the stage already."
Next Page: Caliban Timeline

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