The epilogue of the Tempest is an example of William Shakespeare's genius as a writer and producer. As Robert Lamm wrote in The Humanities Western Culture Vol. 2: "Shakespeare understood human nature in all its complexity and perversity and was able to translate his perception into dramatic speech and action" (qtd _____). The Tempest is a literary example of his reflection of the contrast between life and art, and reality and illusion. In a few short lines Shakespeare writes an excellent ending to his play in which he asks the audience for their applause and reflects on his own life and career. This epilogue can be viewed as his farewell to theatre. .
The Tempest is set in an imaginary world with elements of fantasy and reality. Prospero, a magician, controls the island and through his magic helps others to see themselves. The epilogue brings the elements of life and art into perspective. Shakespeare uses Prospero's magic as an analogy of his own work. Just as Prospero leaves behind his magic, Shakespeare prepares to leave behind his career as a playwright and his performance of the play: "Now my charms are all o"erthrown, and what strength I have's mine own." But they are both too weak to leave on their own accord, "I must be here confin"d by you." They ask the audience for their help: "dwell in this bare land (the stage) by your spell, but release me from my bands (tether) with the help of your good hands (applause)." .
Shakespeare was a showman and it was his desire to please his audience. He couldn't walk away from his career on a bad note so it was essential that his final play be a success. This is reiterated in the statement: "And my ending is despair unless I be relieved by prayer, which pierces so, that it assaults mercy itself, and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon be, let your indulgence set me free." In other words the audiences" applause is what he needs to know that his desire to please has been fulfilled.