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Q. “Forgiveness and freedom” are the keynotes of the play. Discuss. 


Q. “The true freedom of man consists in service “. Discuss with reference to The Tempest.


Q. What are the moral lessons especially emphasised in The Tempest.


It is a commonplace of Shakespearean criticism that every Shakespearean play presents a view of life. in Shakespeare the philosopher and playwright go hand in hand. The dramatic purpose at the poet in telling a story, which excites and enchants is always governed by the higher purpose of illustrating a philosophy. The Tempest also emphasises a moral of its own. As Prof. Dowden has pointed out, “Forgiveness and freedom : these are the key-notes of the play.” Indeed, these two words are writ large over the whole play. Prospero, the Duke of Milan, has been cruelly wronged by his wicked brother Antonio and Alonso, the King of Naples. Taking ad. vantage of his unworldly and unpractical habits of life, Antonio has expelled him from his dukedom and cast him adrift with his three year old daughter in a rotten carcass of a ship. He arrives at the uninhabited island and even here he is not safe. The savage beast, Caliban, on whom he had exhausted all his kindness, has nothing but curses for him and at last plots with his drunken associates against Prospero’s life. Caliban had also made attempts to outrage the modesty of Prospero’s daughter Miranda. Thus, he has 1egiti~ mate grounds for revenge on all his enemies. But when by his spiritual powers he has brought all his enemies within his power, he decides:

“Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick Yet with my noble reason against my fury
Do I take part the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose does extend Not a frown farther.”

The discipline of sorrow has come upon him in full measure. He has been trained hard in the school of adversity. Hence, there is a sweetness in his character, which makes him resolve on forgiveness. He forgives his wicked brother ‘unnatural though thou art. He forgives Alonso who has been driven to penitence by the supposed loss of his son. He forgives Sebastian. Prospero’s forgiveness is solemn, judicial and has in it something abstract and impersonal.He cannot wrong his own higth nature, he cannot wrong the nobler reason, by cherishing so unworthy a passion as the desire of vengeance. To the drunken brutes he extends his forgiveness on the condition that they should restore the stolen trumpery and trim his cell handsomely.
The epilogue too, “curiously falls in with this moral purport of the whole. Prospero the pardoner, implores pardon. Shakespeare was aware that no life is ever lived which does not need to receive as well as to render forgiveness”. He appeals to the audience that as he has pardoned his deceivers, let the audience now pardon him and in their indulgence set him free. Thus, the whole conduct conduct Prospero is a homily on the moral truth that it is far nobler to forgive than to take vengeance. The happiness of life is to be attained by noble forgiveness rather than cruel vengeance.

The other thought which runs through the play is that the true freedom of man consists in service. Ariel, to whom freedom is the breath of his life, always chafes under restraint, and Prospero has always to reiterate his promise of freedom. Nevertheless he serves his master ‘without a grudge or grumbling, and takes price in the performance of labour that is repugnant to him. Prospero’s praises for having done well whatever he is bidden to do flatter him. At last when he earns his much-desired freedom he becomes glad and melts into the elements.

To Caliban who is made of duller elements, service is a slavery. He hates to bear Prospero’s logs, but obeys and curses him. He is always smarting under the sense of wrong that Prospero has usurped his rights: ‘This island is mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takes it from me.’ When Stephano and Trinculo appear, he is suddenly possessed by the love of freedom. He sings the song of freedom. To which his new master answers with a corresponding song. He enters into a conspiracy with them to destroy the usurper and promises to serve the new master, who is to be enthroned as the king of the island. When the battle for liberty ends in a quarrel over the trumpery of Prospero, Caliban realises his mistake in taking this “drunkard for a god and worshipping this dull fool.” He realises that the beneficent servitude under Prospero is preferable to the freedom he is to enjoy in the proposed new regime.

The moral is further illustrated in the conduct of the human actors in the play, namely Ferdinand and Miranda. Ferdinand who would not endure in his own country ‘this wooden slavery’ is reconciled to his lot by the love of Miranda. For her sake he becomes a ‘patient log-man’ and delights in the labour by the sweet thoughts of Miranda. He finds a true freedom in service and does not whine against it. Miranda too, in her instinctive goodness, offers to undertake the lowest drudgery for the sake of Ferdinand. Her love prompts her to voluntary bondage to Ferdinand “Your wife, if you will marry me; if not, I’ll die your maid to be your fellow you may deny me, but I’ll be your servant, whether you will or no.” Thus, Ferdinand and Miranda with the instinct of perfectly healthy nature seek freedom by the far different roads of loyal whole hearted service and self surrender in the bands of true love, as pointed out by Boas. The only exception to this maxim is the conduct of Antonio who smart; under bondage and seeks to rid himself of it by questionable mean.


Dipendu Das

Dipendu Das

Author of Resonating Voices and Resounding Minds. A writer, poet, blogger and web developer. Administrator and Founder of ExamsTopper. Alumnus of Stepping Stone Model School, Alipurduar. Currently pursuing BA. LLB. (Hons.) at the prestigious NLU National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi. His work has been published in more than 21 nations around the globe.

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