19 March, 2014
Villain Today; Hero Tomorrow
In Shakespeare's The Tempest, the enigmatic antihero Prospero walks a fine line between sympathetic and dislikeable. An antihero is a central character in a story, movie, or drama that lacks conventional heroic attributes. Prospero possesses qualities normally not ascribed to the conventional good-guy, such as hypocrisy and selfishness, but also displays more human and identifiable traits like protectiveness and forgiveness. Blurring the line between the classic antagonist and protagonist, Prospero arouses both distaste and empathy in the audience through his vengeful actions. Usurped by his brother and stranded on an island with his infant daughter, Prospero evokes compassion in his campaign for retribution, yet the actions taken to reach his objective are selfish. His noble yet ambiguous motives, driven by the belief that the ends justify the means, are eventually redressed and exemplify the concept of justice in forgiveness instead of revenge.
At the start of the play, Prospero's selfishness and absolute power over the other characters make him difficult to empathize with. Even before he lost his kingdom and was marooned on an island, Prospero was self-centered and greedy for knowledge. In the following speech, Prospero recounts the story of his life before the shipwreck on the island to Miranda, explaining that by "neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated / to closeness and the bettering of my mind" (I.ii.89-90), his brother, Antonio, was able to kick Prospero out of his dukedom. By neglecting his responsibilities as Duke of Milan and instead focusing on gaining magical abilities, he gave his brother a chance to rise up against him. Prospero seems like more of a villain than a hero at this point in the play because he only thinks of gaining...