Prospero’s Use of Magic as Technology in The Tempest

Technology in its broadest sense is the craft of using knowledge and tools to control or adapt to a certain environment. This idea of technology can be understood as the central theme of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The protagonist Prospero uses his knowledge and his craft to single handedly control all the activity upon the island in order to achieve his own personal goals. The knowledge that he has and the technology he uses are all in the form of magic, represented by Ariel. The sorcery he uses ultimately carries out his master plan and main goal. He brings his enemies all together onto the same island he was exiled to, tricks and confuses them into believing they’re stranded and alone, seals his daughter’s future as the Queen of Naples and makes amends with those who betrayed him while regaining the power he once had. His use of magic through Ariel is a form of technology, and can be credited for the seemingly coincidental, yet carefully thought out unfolding of events in The Tempest.
Prospero uses magic as a technology in order to get his plan started. A storm is conjured up, fires are set, tricks are played and the crew of a ship are scattered upon an island that seems uninhabited. Ariel uses his magical abilities at the request of Prospero in order to get all the men onto the island, and have them think that many of their crew members are dead. Despite all the tragedy they have witnessed, no one was truly hurt during Ariel’s terrorizing at sea, “Not a hair perished./On their sustaining garments not a blemish,/ But fresher than before; and as thou bad’st me,/ In troops I have dispersed them ‘bout the isle (I.ii.217-220).” It is imperative to the plot that all aboard the ship were kept safe, but also led to believe that they each may be the only survivors of the tempest that hit them. Prospero’s use of magic was through Ariel the spirit who is indebted to him. This magic is the technology being used to bring everyone together in the same place so Prospero can further carry out his plans.
Prospero’s knowledge is the contributing factor to his powerful magic. He indulges in studying and reading from his many books so much that he has ended up “neglect[ing] worldly ends (I.ii.89).” He is very dedicated to seeking knowledge and applying it to his surrounding environment on the island, eventually controlling and adapting to it. His daughter Miranda is the only one with him, but also a very big part of his plan. Growing up, he passes certain things down to her, teaching her what he wants her to know. Ultimately, he is shaping her in a way that works to his advantage. By keeping her isolated until she is a young lady, she is kept from being exposed to other men. She has only met two men in her life, the first being her father and the second, Caliban, whose identity as a full human man is questionable. The third man she meets is the son of the king of Naples, whom she falls in love with. This union is short of coincidence. Rather it is Prospero’s doing. He calls upon magic and has Ariel conjure up music to lure Ferdinand over Miranda’s way. As they begin to fall in love, Prospero decides that he has arranged everything too conveniently for them, and decides to challenge Ferdinand a little, in order for his success in winning Miranda be that much more rewarding, “They are both in either’s pow’rs. But this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning/Make the prize light (I.ii.451).” Even after Miranda has decided to act upon her feelings, Prospero interferes in order for his intended goal to be as successful as possible.
Prospero’s plans are carried out as he had planned, but along the way the deserted crew member make treacherous plans of their own. They intend on taking Prospero’s life, and would have been successful if not for Prospero’s magical helping hand. Ariel reports the plan and ideas of the men back to Prospero, who understands how he must deal with them. He uses Ariel to conjure up music again to lure the group of men to the area where Prospero needs them. He rallies everyone together, and has them under a spell while he speaks to them, scolding them for their betrayal and treachery. He makes amends with his brother Antonio, granting him forgiveness but revoking his throne as well. He blesses Alonso with the sight of his son Ferdinand playing chess with his bride-to-be, Miranda, and grants Ariel the freedom he has been seeking. Because of his careful execution, and the advantage of having magical technology on his side, Prospero was able to be just to all those on the island while still fulfilling his goals. As everyone is gathered, Prospero realizes everything he has wanted is falling into place, and he no longer will need to resort to magic. He says, “…At this hour/Lies at my mercy all mine enemies. /Shortly shall all my labors end, and thou/Shall have the air at freedom (IV.i.262).”
Technology in The Tempest is represented through the use of Prospero’s magic. He applies his magical knowledge and craft, and has Ariel carry out his commands in order for certain events to unfold, and ultimately grant Prospero the success he has been seeking. His magic helps him achieve his intended goals by allowing him to control, and manipulate the environment he is in.

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