Betrayal, loyalty, revenge, and reconciliation are the principal, interconnected themes of The Tempest . Prospero longs for the restoration of his dukedom; because his brother betrayed him, he is motivated as much by desire for revenge as for his and his daughter’s recouping their rightful place. Caliban as well feels...
Betrayal, loyalty, revenge, and reconciliation are the principal, interconnected themes of The Tempest. Prospero longs for the restoration of his dukedom; because his brother betrayed him, he is motivated as much by desire for revenge as for his and his daughter’s recouping their rightful place. Caliban as well feels betrayed by Prospero because he has been enslaved, but Prospero accuses him of wanting to violate Miranda. In contrast, Ariel seems loyal but also fears betrayal, as he is also bound to Prospero.
When Prospero tells Miranda about her heritage and how they came to the island, he explains that his own brother, the person he loved most, was the one who conspired with King Alonso: “that a brother should / Be so perfidious!” Although he does not share his whole pot, he explains that he has brought their ship to the island so he can make things right. After the travelers wash ashore, the plot develops along several tracks. Sebastian intends treason against his brother, Alonso, paralleling that of Antonio, but his betrayal is thwarted. Instead, the two territories and families are reunited, not only through Prospero’s machinations but also his forgiveness. He understands that the more valuable, but “rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance.”
While the restoration of Prospero, and especially Miranda, to their proper place is central to the play’s resolution, Shakespeare emphasizes that this is not entirely bestowed from outside. Prospero has worked his magic to bring the other Italians to the island, that is true. But only when the wizard accepts the centrality of his mortal side can he truly be free to assume his noble role. Similarly, he must keep his word and show loyalty to those who served him. Along with “abjuring his rough magic,” Prospero must embrace the character of nobility in thought as well as word.
Ariel, without whom Prospero could not have carried out his plan, is rewarded for loyalty, rather than betrayed by Prospero. Caliban, however, plotted against his ruler—thus paralleling the brother’s treason—and showed himself unworthy of Prospero’s rewards. His final status is left ambiguous, but it seems likely Prospero will not renege on “pardoning” him.