Shakespeare does not present us the perfect ruler immediately. Instead, he develops Prospero from a basically good, but flawed man, to one who, although retaining some vanity and therefore is not perfect, will certainly act in a manner befitting an ideal leader.Prospero’s character is portrayed as entirely good throughout the play, using his magic only to achieve positive ends such as education. He is one with his environment as he has developed superior intellectual powers, now realizing that he marked himself to be ousted by his distance from everyday affairs. At the beginning of the play viewed, he is perfected and works to perfect others. He occasionally rules with a heavy hand, as can be seen by his interactions with Ariel and Caliban, but never plans to carry out threats and acts in their best interests.
Shakespeare, by concealing part of the truth at first, shows us the developmentof Prospero's character while on the island, from excessively trustful, tootyrannical, to a man who is willing to forgive. By the end of the play, Prosperoindeed combines power over himself with power over the outer world (Elye 7).Although this does put him in an ideal position to lead, Prospero is brought toa point where he develops control over himself, rather than being presented assuch a character immediately. Prospero's magical powers allow him singlehandedlyto take control of a situation of slowly developing chaos, caused by hiseviction from Milan.
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He has powers over his surroundings, far greater than thoseof an ordinary mortal, is incontestable, as is the fact that he uses them forgood throughout the play. However, it remains to be presented whetherShakespeare actually favors Prospero as an ideal leader. Although we hearProspero tell the story of his eviction from Milan, the manner in which he tellshis history inspires distrust and self-pity. While Duke of Milan, he trusted hisbrother Antonio too much, and consequently lost his dukedom, and nearly hislife.
On the island, he befriended Caliban, brought him into his house andtreated him as a member of the family. Repeating the pattern of trust, which wasagain betrayed, when Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. Although Prospero learnsfrom this second betrayal, he goes to the other extreme (Thomson 27). As statedby critic Karl Elye: "Prospero's apparent tyrannical stance is revealed inhis exile and verbal abuse of Caliban, and also his tirade and threat toimprison Ariel again "till / Thou hast howl'd away twelve winters" (Elye24). Aside from the sin of tyranny, Prospero also seems unforgiving towardCaliban and Antonio.
When we see Caliban willingly serving Stephano and Trinculo,we begin to realize that Caliban is not evil, and could in fact be a mostaffectionate servant. When Caliban speaks of Prospero as a "tyrant,"Shakespeare implies that the fault of alienating Caliban lies with Prospero'sfailure to understand Caliban's limitations. Furthermore, Prospero's treatmentof the court party seems to show that he is interested only in frightening them,and at this point we do not realize that he wants to educate them.
We can onlyassume that Prospero wants to take his revenge on Alonso. As yet, we have heardno other speech from Prospero about his intentions for the court party exceptthe long history he told to Miranda, when he called Alonso "an enemy / Tome inveterate" and spoke bitterly at great length about Antonio (Elye 27).Prospero is also consistently self-indulgent and vain. At the beginning of theplay, he calls himself "poor man".