Discuss the symbolic characteristics of The Tempest.

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One of the most powerful symbols used in this play is the tempest that begins the play in Act I scene 1 caused by Prospero's magic arts. This is actually quite a powerful symbol, as the way it is chosen for the title of this play suggests. On the one hand the tempest is the means by which Prospero gains control of his enemies, throwing them onto his island and making them vulnerable to his magical arts. Also, it is poetic justice, as Prospero's enemies are put at the mercy of the sea in exactly the same way as Prospero and Miranda were so long ago. Note how Prospero tells Miranda about being placed on a very precarious raft in Act I scene 2:

There they hoist us,

To cry to th'sea that roared to us, to sigh

To th'winds, whose pity, sighing back again,

Did us but loving wrong.

The tempest allows the enemies of Prospero to face exactly what he faced, and also therefore is symbolic of the desire of Prospero to make his enemies experience something of the same suffering that he himself experienced, and has subsequently learned from. The tempest is also a very strong symbol of the power of Prospero's magic, and how it can be turned to more malevolent uses.