Why does Prospero show mercy to his foes?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Tempest , Prospero’s primary goals are to match his daughter, Miranda, with Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, and thereby to unite the dukedom of Milan with the kingdom of Napes, which Alonso rules. That is the reason he has diverted the ship carrying the Italians to wreck on his island....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In The Tempest, Prospero’s primary goals are to match his daughter, Miranda, with Alonso’s son, Ferdinand, and thereby to unite the dukedom of Milan with the kingdom of Napes, which Alonso rules. That is the reason he has diverted the ship carrying the Italians to wreck on his island. Fortunately Miranda and Ferdinand like each other right away and are soon “in either’s powers” and their love endures, which Prospero had feared it might not. If he did not forgive the betrayal, the union could not be accomplished; instead, there would probably be war.

Other than his brother, who betrayed him and usurped his dukedom, and the complicit Alonso, it is debatable who Prospero’s “foes” are. He has a tendency to take things over, and on the island he has used magic to make others his servants or even slaves. He attributes his antipathy toward Caliban is to attempted rape of Miranda. Caliban’s fate remains unresolved at the play’s end.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It's kind of hard to say, since if you were to line up Prospero's strengths on the right side of a scale and the weakness on the left, it would be akin to weighing a feather and a boulder.

Bad stuff: makes his daughter think she causes the storm that may have taken innocent lives, makes her question her paternity, ("She [Miranda's mother] said thou wast my daughter." I.2.57.). He's a big whiner, "Me, poor man, my library /was dukedom large enough." (I.2.109-110) and mean to Ariel.

Good stuff: Well, he kind of feels badly in the end.

The only reason for mercy would be the kind of forgiveness he hopes to receive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team