Tempest: the Theme of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

 The Tempest:  The Theme of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The theme of forgiveness and reconciliation is a striking feature of the play. This theme offers a positive vision to us. At first sight the play appears to us as a story of revenge.

   The play opens on a note of bitterness and revenge. Prospero wants to teach a bitter lesson to his enemies. 

    The raising of the tempest in the sea by his magical powers starts his revenge. But if carefully analyse the play, it seems that forgiveness and reconciliation are the main ideas projected by the play.

   Once the Duke of Milan, Prospero was cruelly wronged by his treacherous and ambitious brother Antonio. 

    Antonio joined hands with Prospero’s sworn – enemy Alonso, the King of Naples, to usurp the dukedom of Prospero.

      Prospero was so occupied in the study of philosophy and magic that he became indifferent to the management of state affairs.

      Prospero entrusted the management of state to Antonio. Taking advantage of his disinterestedness, Antonio conspired with Alonso and expelled Prospero from his dukedom. 

     Antonio cast him adrift with his three year old daughter,Miranda, in a rotten dilapidated boat, expecting that the boat would capsize and they would die in the sea.

    But somehow Prospero managed to escape the fury of the waves and reached an inhibited island.

     Apart from this, the savage beast curses Prospero for  making him his slave. He plots with his drunken  associates Trinculo and Stephano to murder Prospero.

    Caliban also made attempt to outrage the modesty of Miranda.

     Thus Prospero has all the justification to take revenge on his enemies with his powers.

     But he chooses a different path i.e. the path of forgiveness. As Prospero says –

“……..they being penitent,

The sole drift of my purpose does extent

Not a frown farther.”

     Thus he resolves to forgive them if they repent for their wrong – doings.

     Just after the shipwreck, Alonso is shown to us as lamenting the supposed death of his son, Ferdinand. Alonso is undergoing the mental torment which a father would undergo when he loses his son.

     Prospero arranges the banquet only to make the three sinners – Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian – realise the  enormity of their crime.

    When he finds that they are guilt – ridden, he decides to forgive them.

     First, Prospero forgives his treacherous brother Antonio. Then he forgives Alonso who is repentant due to the supposed loss of his son.  He also forgives Sebastian for his conspiracy.

       Thus we find that Prospero’s forgiveness is solemn, judicial and has init something abstract and impersonal. 

      He does not want to act against his own noble nature and therefore gives up the desire for revenge.

    Prospero also forgives the three rogues – Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano.

   All these actions pave the way for Alonso’s reconciliation with Prospero. The reconciliation is fulfilled by the marriage of Alonso’s son Ferdinand to Prospero’s  daughter, Mirinda.

    Alonso begs Prospero’s pardon for his past misdeed and says that Prospero’s dukedom would be restored to him.            Thus, Shakespeare conveys the theme that the happiness of life is attained not by taking revenge but by granting forgiveness.

For more such notes on The Tempest please visit 

For theme of Longing for freedom

For the theme of Pursuit of Power

Theme of Illusion Vs Reality

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