"As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgences set me free."
-The Tempest, Epilogue
These lines bring to close Shakespeare's play of discovery, love, and forgiveness. Perhaps the greatest of these themes is forgiveness since it permeates both the play and the entire character of Prospero. In the Renaissance world of renewed religious fervor, due to the Protestant Reformation, Prospero stands as an example of the ideal Christian: both forgiving and desiring to be forgiven.
Prospero's gift for forgiveness is no small matter in this play. He is betrayed by his brother and king, exiled from his land, and left to the mercies of the sea with the young Miranda. But the seas and Providence are merciful and Prospero and Miranda make it safely to their new island home. Now, years later, those who betrayed Prospero are delivered into his hands. But what is shocking is that rather than take revenge on his brother and the king for their betrayals, Prospero returns the mercy shown to him by God and forgives his enemies.
Now, in the final scene of the play, Prospero turns the role of mercy to the audience. Using the imagery of judgement and forgiveness, Prospero begs the audience for their applause and approval. Watch the following clip of the British Shakespeare Company's The Tempest Epilogue and then respond to the Questions For Thought.
Questions For Thought
1. How is the audience to exemplify the idea of mercy based off of Prospero's epilogue?
2. Prospero asks the audience to let their praise free him "as you from crimes would pardon'd be." Is this referring just to temporal crimes? Or is their a spiritual element to this?
3. Much of the Protestant Reformation focused on having a personal relationship with God. Are there instances/allusions in the play which demonstrate a personal relationship between Prospero and God?