Essay about Forgiveness and Reconciliation in The Tempest

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Forgiveness and Reconciliation in The Tempest

Many scholars argue that, along with Shakespeare’s other late romances, The Tempest is a play about reconciliation, forgiveness, and faith in future generations to seal such reconciliation. However, while it is clear that the theme of forgiveness is at the heart of the drama, what is up for debate is to what extent the author realizes this forgiveness. An examination of the attitudes and actions of the major characters in the play, specifically Prospero, illustrates that there is little, if any, true forgiveness and reconciliation in The Tempest.

We must first set a standard by which to judge the effectiveness of forgiveness in the play. Undoubtedly, the most important
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Prospero insists that those who wronged him suffer for their crimes, before he offers them his forgiveness, even if it means innocent and noble men, like Gonzalo, suffer as well. Later in the drama Ariel tells Prospero that "The good old lord, Gonzalo/His tears run down his beard" (V.i.15-6), and it is Ariel’s plea that convinces Prospero to end their misery: "if you now beheld them / Your affections would become tender" (5.1.19-20).

Some critics believe that, through Ariel’s expression of genuine concern for the shipwrecked men, Prospero undergoes a transformation – that he comes to a "Christ-like" realization (Solomon 232). A close reading of the magician’s response reveals that his newfound regard for the command "love thine enemies" comes after he has achieved his revenge:

…the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further.

Prospero feels free to forgive those who sinned against him only after he has emerged triumphant and has seen the men, now mournful and "penitent", pay for their transgressions. Further evidence to support the claim that Prospero’s quality of mercy is strained, and that a truly sincere reconciliation fails to develop, comes when Prospero finally confronts King Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio and announces that he is the right Duke of

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