The Tempest

By William Shakespeare

Act V

Scene 1

This concluding scene takes place in front of Prospero's cell and his plans are now reaching fulfilment, so he sends Ariel to fetch the Royal party to his dwelling place. All the sub plots are integrated as the magician reveals himself to the party, rebuking Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian for their crimes, thanking Gonzalo for his kindness and revealing to the King his son, alive and betrothed. Ariel brings in the boatswain and crew who testify that the ship is untouched and ready for sailing in. Then Caliban, the Stephano and Trinculo are led in for reprimands. As Prospero directs the pageant of characters, his former puppets, Miranda is introduced to further elements of human life, and wonder struck exclaims,

"How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"

The pattern of reconciliation and resolution is imaged in terms of cleansing, and the expansion of reason and comprehension and as Prospero prepares for the climax and his revelation he says,

"Their understanding
Begins to swell, and the approaching tide
Will shortly fill the reasonable shore
That now lies foul and muddy".

With the rising of the tide the audience can sense the completion of the tale, and the force of nature, its cyclical patterns consummated as human conflicts are resolved; nature and man are seen as inextricable, harmonic and rhythmically analogous. All that is left is to free Ariel and dispose of Caliban. In these two island inhabitants it is possible to see an allegorical personification of the spiritual ethereal qualities of psyche (in Ariel) and the baser earthly qualities of man (in Caliban). Perhaps Ariel and Caliban appear in roles analogous to Marlowe's good and bad angels in Dr Faustus.

Post-Freudian analysis would see them as symbols of the 'conscious' and 'unconscious'; Ariel as the controlling 'ego', and Caliban as the lustful forbidden 'id'. Prospero presents Caliban as 'other', foreign, exotic, beastly, sexually aggressive and devilish, but ultimately he says,

"this thing of darkness I
acknowledge mine".(V.1.275)

Caliban could thus be said to represent the 'Other' within the 'self'; primitive man and repressed desires, which no amount of magic, knowledge or civilisation can harness or restrain; nature triumphs over nurture:

"A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick" (IV.1.188-9)

It is perhaps a little too neat at the end that we are expected to believe that the character embodying the notion of instinct (where Ariel equals spirit, Miranda - love and Prospero - power) is actually converted "I'll be wise hereafter,/ And seek for grace" (V.1.295-6), it seems that it is rather a result of dramatic expectations of complete resolution. Prospero, has triumphed then, as all the sub-plots are joined and resolved and he renounces his magic, his omnipotence over men and sets his "chick" Ariel free. Love and order triumph over hatred and horror. Prospero is restored to his rightful place as Duke of Milan, the criminals are punished, Alonso is reformed and finds his son he thought dead, Ferdinand finds a wife and Miranda is led into the world. Thus, the enchanted island can be vacated once it has served its purpose as restorative, pastoral 'other' place on which conflicts can be enacted and explicated. The emphasis is on mercy and forgiveness that have led audiences to see the themes as paralleling the Christian experience.