The Tempest : What Was Prospero Planning?

I’ve had this question for a long time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever brought it up for discussion here on the blog.  We know the general plot of The Tempest — Prospero causes a shipwreck to strand his enemy, his brother Antonio who took Milan from him and stranded him here.  On the boat is also Ferdinand, Miranda sees him and falls in love, and everybody sails back to Milan happily ever after. My question is and always has been, what exactly was Prospero really planning?  Did the entire play go according to what he wanted?  Did he know that Ferdinand was on the boat, and was it in his plan for his daughter to fall in love with him?  Did he always plan the happy reunion we get at the end, or were his original plans for Antonio a bit…darker? I haven’t studied the text of this play as much as some others, I’ve only seen it a few times.  I can’t really put my finger on a passage that clearly says one way or the other whether things go according to plan, or if he changes plans midstream.  

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3 thoughts on “The Tempest : What Was Prospero Planning?

  1. I got the impression he initially wanted revenge and later changed his mind (without realizing it).

    I.e. he wanted revenge, but softened, but wouldn’t admit that he didn’t get what he initially wanted

  2. “No harme; I have done nothing, but in care of thee
    (Of thee my deere one; thee my daughter)”

    Pro. HAST THOU, Spirit,
    PERFORMED TO POINT, the Tempest that I bad thee.
    Ariel […]
    Then all a fire with me the Kings sonne Ferdinand
    With hair up-staring (then like reeds, not haire)
    Was the first man that leapt; cride hell is empty,
    And all the Divels are heere.
    Ar. Close by, my Master
    Pro. But are they (Ariel) safe?
    Ar. Not a haire perishd:
    In troopes I have dispersed them ’bout the Isle;
    Whom I left cooling of the Ayre with sighes,
    And in an odde Angle of the Isle, and fitting
    His armes in this sad knot.
    Pro. Ariel, thy charge
    EXACTLY IS PERFORMED; but there’s more work:

    [exposition re: Sycorax, etc.]
    Prospero wakes Miranda; Ariel reappears as a Water Nymph,, Prospero whispers in Ariel’s ear–later Ariel returns with Ferdinand, who is following Ariel’s singing, being led directly and purposely into Miranda’s sight.]
    Miranda has never seen another man in her life! Ferdinand is the one Prospero chooses for her to see before any other.
    I’d say the Ferdinand part resembles something like a plan 🙂 on the part of Prospero, as does his saving of the others. Maybe he’s had other thoughts (as we all do–but then we never act on them.)

    I don’t think Prospero has it in his character to have been planning anything other than what happens, allowed by the opportunity he’s been given. He’s not at all unsure of his Art, its great affect, nor of his ability to use it to great effect. Although he sometimes seems to delight in vengeful use of it, it seems his greatest reward are the object lessons taught; they, and Justice itself seem to be reason enough for the punishment he metes out. For instance, responding as a father, he might have killed Caliban with impunity–slowly and viciously– for his attempted rape of Miranda; and even after the fact, merely for Caliban’s subsequent unceasing recalcitrance and lack of repentance–he hasn’t done so.

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