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The Tempest: Illusion vs. Reality

            In The Tempest, Shakespeare makes use of the contradictory worlds of illusion and reality. Repeatedly scenes in the play are not what they appear, much to the misunderstanding of the characters within the play, as well as to the audience. Through the illusions of Prospero and the apparent reality of the island Shakespeare is able to comment on man's capability to know truth versus fantasy and also to advance his theme of forgiveness and charity.
             The main setting of the play is on an island, although not created by Prospero, he has much control over it. Through his various spirits, and their leader Ariel, Prospero generates most of the action of the play. In this way Shakespeare creates the world of illusion. However, mixed in with these illusions is also reality and often characters find it hard drawing a line between the two. One example of this is the meeting of Ferdinand and Miranda. Ferdinand is going into the situation with an altered sense of reality. Because of the storm, he believes himself to be the only survivor from the ship and therefore the King of Naples. Also through the guises of Ariel he is seeing Miranda as if she were a goddess, a surreal being. However, Prospero is not in complete control. As he himself makes known, he cannot create love, he can only create the circumstances for it. The characters themselves must perform. In this case, the characters perform much to Prospero's liking. In a relatively short time, Ferdinand is able to figure out much of what is real in the situation. Aside from the physicality of Miranda, that she is in fact a real woman, not a spirit or goddess, he also discovers the means of attaining that which he desires. Although he knows not why Prospero is angered (that in itself another illusion) or his motivations for giving him these labors, he does convince himself that they shall be labors of love. He will do servant work, though he thinks himself a king, to win the heart of Miranda and the pardon of her father.

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