Prospero’s Illusion of Justice

Justice means conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness and in the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare tells a fairly straight forward story involving an unjust act; he was banished by his brother Antonio, he is on a quest to re-establish justice by restoring himself to power. However, Prospero’s idea of justice seems extremely one-sided and mainly involves what is good for him; the idea represents the view of one character that controls the fate of all the other characters. Nevertheless he presents himself as a victim of injustice working to right the wrongs that have been done to him.

His idea of justice and injustice is somewhat hypocritical, despite the fact that he is furious with his brother for taking his power; he has no fears about enslaving Ariel in order to achieve his ends. Ariel is a spirit, a servant to Prospero and it has male and female traits. He rescued Ariel from a long imprisonment by a witch named Sycorax. He promises Ariel freedom, but Ariel must carry out every task that he requests in the play. Prospero: Hast thou, spirit Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee? Ariel: To every article.

I boarded the King’s ship; now on the beak, Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin, I flamed amazement. Sometimes I’d divide And burn in many places. On the topmast, The yards, and bowspirit would I flame distinctly, Then meet and join. Jove’s lighting, the precursors O’th’ dreadful thunderclaps, more momentary And sight-outrunning were not. The fire and cracks Of sulfurous roaring the most mighty Neptune Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble, Yea, his dread trident shake. (1. 2. 229-242) This passage speaks about all the disasters Ariel has done to the ship that Antonio and Alonso, along with others.

He did no harm to those on the ship, but they are on the same island. The result of this storm was because Prospero wants justice. His brother, Antonio threw him out of his dukedom and banished him and his daughter, Miranda from Milan. Prospero’s arrangement is to obtain justice with the knowledge of books and manipulate everyone with the magic he holds. He still has many more missions for Ariel in order for his to re-gain his dukedom. Besides, without Ariel, Prospero would not be able to acquire the justice he is trying to get a hold of, but Ariel did land the King’s son by himself sad because he knows not that his father is still alive (1. 2. 262).

Walking about comes the prince of Naples, Ferdinand, distressed about his father. Ariel, invisible, singing and dancing was a way to get Ferdinand’s attention. As the singing goes on he follows and it leads up to were Prospero and Miranda are. So he thanks Ariel for guiding Ferdinand and repeats that he will set him/her free. Prospero sees potential in getting justice by making sure that Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love with one another; in fact Ferdinand says to Miranda, “And your affection not gone forth, I’ll make you the Queen of Naples” (1. 2. 539-540), but Prospero over-hearing this he plays the role as if he does not want them to be.

He says to Ariel on the side “But this swift business, I must uneasy make, lest too lost winning Make the prize light” (1. 2. 542-545), when in fact he can’t wait for them to marry so he can have power once again. Ferdinand and Miranda fall very much for each other and as part of Prospero’s plan he makes Ferdinand carry out some labor work because he believes that Ferdinand is a traitor. As some time goes by Prospero then realizes that he has punished him harshly and as a gift tells Ferdinand “take my daughter” (4. 1. 15). Of course the ceremony has to happen right away and other spirits and nymphs appear.

Furthermore, Prospero’s plan to gain justice still was not accomplished; he has to gather up the King of Naples, Alonso, the King’s brother Sebastian, his brother Antonio, and his good friend Gonzalo and Ariel works her magic to achieve the gathering. Once he is united with everyone he is able to charm The King with his knowledge. He lets him know that his friend Gonzalo has been a great help and has provided him with shelter. Also he says aside to Sebastian and Antonio But you, my brace of lords, were I so minded, I here could pluck his Higness’ frown upon you And justify you traitors.

At this time I will tell no tales. (5. 1. 142-146) Does this give evidence that justice was only an illusion Prospero set himself to believe was true? The quote states that he has no intention in telling the King what Sebastian and Antonio yet, but he does forgive Antonio for what he has done, but told his brother “My dukedom of thee, which perforce I know Thou must restore” (5. 1. 153-154). Prospero used magic to his advantage to persuade everyone that he was right, but his magic was intended for dreadful uses. He wanted to punish those who did him immorally and reward those who did the punishing.

So Prospero spoke to the King and surely enough Prospero received what he wanted, his dukedom, but is punishing the correct way in gaining justice? Although it might not be the correct way, no one was hurt, he forgave those who had done wrong and he freed Ariel just to gain back his dukedom. In the same way justice isn’t the correct way to go about vengeance; there are many other ways in today’s time to solve righteousness. There are many situations today that justice is given unfairly for example in the documentary Capturing the Friedman’s, Arnold, a husband and father of three and one of his sons, Jessy were charges for sexual harassment.

Arnold being a computer teacher was always around children. The police were led to believe that he was a pedophile and that he sodomized students in his class. The police used tactics that created false statements from students and more than half the students never recall being sodomized until the police pressured them. They only presented indication to prove their point, and never to help Arnold and Jesse. Hard evidence was never presented in court, for example evidence of students being physically abused was never presented. Hypnosis was used, but today that isn’t a legitimate way to prove a case.

All interviews should have been used as evidence in court not only the ones that the police wanted to show. Then the truth was revealed after Jesse was out of jail. Consequently, the detectives questioning methods led to some students to misleadingly accuse Arnold and his son, Jesse. The Tempest seems to present Prospero’s conception of justice as the only practical one, but simultaneously undercuts his concept of justice by presenting the artificiality of his technique of obtaining justice. Similar to how the police used their own technique’s to obtain the justice they wanted and not the justice that was fair.