The Tempest

1 Theme in play: How a just act can turn unjust with the wrong motives. Prospero seeks to take back the throne he rightfully owned, which was usurped by his brother. Though Prospero knows what it is like to have power taken away from oneself, he enslaves people and spirits like Ariel and Caliban and does not treat them well, threatening them both if they don’t do what he wants. This kind of poisoning of justice shows that even if a act starts off justly it can be twisted into something that becomes selfish and wicked. 


2 Theme in film: Prospero is a puppeteer to the rest of the characters and creates the events they undergo and their endings like the director would have done for the movie. One of the first demonstrations of Prospero as puppeteer or director is her being behind Miranda and Ferdinand first meeting. Miranda met Ferdinand because Prospero summoned Ariel to wreck the ship in the water and lead the people on board onto the island and to isolate Ferdinand from the rest of the crew.


3 Analysis of the Adaptation: 

Though the part of puppeteer and Prospero was changed to be played by a woman from the original book it did not change the meaning of the relationship between Prospero and Miranda too much to the point that the meaning was lost. Another interesting casting choice was Russell Brand as Trinculo. I must add that Russell Brand as Trinculo was a stroke of brilliance and added even more humor to a scene which was intended to illicit a laugh. It was unexpected, but perfect casting.



4 Research:

This source speaks on the relation of a female being in control over male servants like Ariel and Caliban as opposed to the originally intended Prospero being in control over male servants.

This is a scholarly review and analysis of the change of Prospero to Prospera in the Julie Taymor’s film version of The Tempest by Shakespeare. Some of the most valid points from this source come from the inclusion of information about witchcraft and the popular beliefs of the time since Prospera was exiled for her use of witchcraft.

This source is most valuable because it directly addresses a major difference in Prospera’s power versus Prospero’s power as Prospero was more concerned with his studies than committing himself to government issues as s duke should. This results in his overthrow and exile as his brother saw Prospero’s lack of attention to political matters and overthrew him due to this, while Prospera was more overtly wronged as she was due the thrown, but because she was gaining too much power from her study and knowledge of spells, was cheaply exiled through the accusation of her being a witch. This shows the gender politics that played through the film version of the Tempest as Prospera was exiled based on her gender, which effects the relationships she has with each other character, instead of a person downfall, such as Prospero’s lack of awareness.



5 Critical argument: 

Though the gender of Prospero was switched from male to female the meaning of the play remained in tact, the relationship between Miranda and Prospero was changed from a protective and vengeful father to a more complicated one of a mother who wants more for her daughter than to marry the only man she has seen besides her father, Caliban, but does not want to lose her too quickly. The dynamic changes not only between Prospera and Miranda, but also between Caliban and Prospera and Ariel and Prospera as now it is not a male holding power over male servants, but a female, who through gender politics should have less power than men, holds power and knowledge over both her male servants. It is a much different situation, considering the times, to have a female teaching a male character than a make to teach a male as it is shown in both the play and film that Prospero/a says in Act 1 Scene 2 to Caliban “Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee/In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate/The honor of my child.” The same power is shown again when Prospero/a chides Ariel for speaking against his master as both Prospera and Prospero say “Dost thou forget/From what a torment I did free thee?” in Act 1 Scene 2, though the power this imbues a woman is uncharacteristic for a work of Shakespeare and changes the relationship to one which highlights the gender differences. As a mother, Prospera is inherently protective of her daughter, though so was Prospero, giving the only real change of motivation behind Prospera’s choice for Miranda to marry Ferdinand to be to give her daughter the life she herself was intended to have. Prospera mentions that when her husband dies he gives the throne to her instead of his brother, though she is soon exiled after being accused to be a witch. The denial of prominency and power that Prospera underwent gives her separate motivation to arrange marriage for Miranda with a man of royalty as a way to give her the life she never had, but should, while Prospera’s act of arranging a marriage with a man of royal blood would bee seen as a way of ensuring his daughter’s welfare since he was never denied power because of the loss of his spouse, but instead because of his brother’s lust for power. The updated version of this play allows for a more accessible way to understand Shakespeare and the substitution of a woman for a traditionally  male part allows the female audience to relate with a work of Shakespeare who usually gives all the power to the male leads.


  1. I really like your description of Prospera as a puppeteer. I focused primarily on the power he had over the rest of the character, but to express him as a puppeteer is right on. I want to include the scene when the four men, Alonso, Gonzalo, Sebastian and Boatswain, is another great example as Prospera as the Puppeteer. Although it was Ariel that put the two men to sleep, Ariel can be compared to that of the strings used by Prospera to exert his power over others.

  2. With the numerous power/relation dynamic changes that arise from changing Prospero to Prospera, I had never thought to compare the minor details regarding their political downfall – and I agree that Prospera “was more overtly wronged,” and that her “cheap” downfall certainly exerts a more complex take on the gender politics throughout the film. “The denial of prominency and power that Prospera underwent” definitely embeds in her a different kind of vengeance than that of Prospero’s that is also more effectively understood on screen by the audience. Whereas Prospera’s different take on vengeance certainly allows for a “more accessible way to understand Shakespeare,” I do not think that Taynor’s “woman substitution” limits the “further understanding” of Shakespeare to that of the female audience; the female gender change complicates the original “drama” of the play so that the “dramas” on film still retain “the Shakespeare” and become more relatable to society circa now and not just the women. The major themes in both the play and the film encompass societal issues of love, betrayal, lust, envy, and power that have always been and always will be timelessly relatable.

  3. Your critical analysis is an interesting one. I agree with your points. I also found it interesting that by changing Prosperro from male to female, Miranda has even less experience with males. This means that to her Ferdinand is the only male she has ever seen, assuming she views Caliban as a monster. This may be unintentional, but I think it gives an even bigger significance to her seeing Ferdinand for the first time.

  4. This is pretty good for a first effort at the blog response post assignment. However, be careful not to focus too much on plot and character in your thematic analysis of the book and film. In the adaptation section, you should focus on the problems regarding the adaptation. The gender change in the lead character is quite relevant in that regard; Russell Brand’s performance (brilliant as it is), is not. Your critical argument paragraph probably could have used another draft. I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s buried on unnecessary verbiage. Basically, it seems to me that you were arguing that the gender change in Prospero/Prospera changed all of his/her relationships – not just with Miranda, but also Ariel and Caliban. You could do a lot with that, in terms of argument. And it does profoundly change the meaning of the play. Anyway, I’ll keep giving you pointers on your critical argument as we go forward. 9/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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