Last Updated on August 14, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 436
Prospero vows to stop practicing magic forever, saying he will break and bury his staff in order to signify this promise. He then orders Ariel to fetch Alonso, Antonio, and the other men who were under Prospero's spell. During this conversation, Prospero confronts and forgives each of the men who has done him wrong. At first, Alonso and the others cannot decide if Prospero is even real, since they have been confronted with so many illusions during their time on the island. To ensure that they believe him, Prospero has Ariel fetch his royal uniform that he used to wear as the duke of Milan. He states that he forgives Antonio, despite how terrible his brother's betrayal was, and he asks for his dukedom to be restored. Antonio grants this to him.
During this scene, Prospero has Ariel communicate with the master and boatswain of Alonso's ship—who were put under a spell and stowed in the ship's cargo hold—to arrange for safe passage back to Italy. Ariel also retrieves Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, whom Prospero releases from their servitude—but not before forcing them to clean up Prospero's chamber as punishment for plotting to have Prospero overthrown on the island.
Believing that Ferdinand is dead, Alonso despairs after realizing he will return home without his son. Prospero explains that he himself lost his daughter in the recent storm, pulling back a curtain to reveal Ferdinand and Miranda playing chess. Ferdinand is overjoyed to see his father alive and tells him about his love for Miranda and Prospero. Miranda is equally happy because there are more people there than she has seen since she was a child.
Prospero and Alonso then agree that their children shall be married upon their return to Milan. Prospero asks Ariel to use his supernatural power to ensure the ship's safe passage, after which Ariel will be forever free.
The epilogue that appears at the end of the play is a monologue Prospero directly addresses to the audience. Just like his slaves, Prospero says that he will be trapped on the island by the audience unless they agree to free him with their applause. Prospero entreats the audience to clap in order to break the spell, thereby allowing him to return home with the others.
Many interpret this scene as revealing Prospero's function as an artist or a playwright; he has woven a story to entertain an audience for a purpose. Now that the purpose of his act has been achieved, he would like to know if the audience enjoyed the art enough to set him free from his creation.
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