The Epilogue of the Tempest by William Shakespeare is an excellent -- if
not the best -- example of Shakespeare's brilliance. In 20 lines
Shakespeare is able to write an excellent ending to his play, while speaking
through his characters about Shakespeare's own life and career. Even
more amazingly, he seemlessly ties the two together.
In the context of the story Prospero's monologue makes perfect sense. He
has lost his magical power, so his 'charms are o'erthrown, and what
strength [Prospero] have's [his] own, which is most faint.' He is now
'confined' on the Island, for his other choice would be to go to Naples and
reclaim his dukedom, but he doesn't want to do that because he has already
'pardoned the deceiver' who took his position many years ago. Prospero
then says something a little strange, but it makes sense in the context of
the story, he ask us to 'release [him] from [his] bands with the help of
your good hands.'
In other words, clap so that the sails of the boats his
friends are riding in will be safely returned and Prospero can be 'relieved
by prayer' of the audience.
All of what Prospero has said is very nice cute, but the most interesting
part of this monologue is what Shakespeare himself is saying. 'Now that
my charms are all o'erthrown, and what strength I have's mine own'
means, now my plays are over, and it's no longer my characters speaking.
The 'Island' or stage Shakespeare is on is now 'bare' and it is time for
'you' the audience to release Shakespeare and his actors from this play
with the 'help of [y]our good hands.' Shakespeare was not only being
released for the performance of the play, he was being release from his
career as a...