Prospero (// PROS-pər-oh) is a fictional character and the protagonist of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.
Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan, who (with his young daughter, Miranda) was put to sea on "a rotten carcass of a butt [boat]" to die by his usurping brother, Antonio, twelve years before the play begins. Prospero and Miranda survived, and found exile on a small island. He implies he has learned sorcery from books, and uses it while on the island to protect Miranda and control the other characters. In truth, he never performs any magical acts. The power is Ariel's and the other island spirits. Prospero's "magic" lies in his power to use language to convince others to believe in him and do his bidding. On the island, he becomes master of the monster Caliban (the son of Sycorax, a malevolent witch) and forces Caliban into submission by torturing him with magic if he does not obey him, and Ariel, an elemental who is beholden to Prospero after he is freed from his prison inside a tree.
However, at the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his book and renounce magic. In the view of the audience, this may have been required to make the ending unambiguously happy, as magic smacked too much of diabolical works; he will drown his books for the same reason that Doctor Faust, in an earlier play by Christopher Marlowe, promised in vain to burn his books.
The final soliloquy and epilogue in The Tempest is considered to be one of the most memorable speeches in Shakespearean literature. In it, Prospero describes his loss (magic) and his imprisonment of Caliban and Ariel. He relates his imprisonment of them to that of his own bondage, which can only be undone by the applause of the audience. Many feel that since The Tempest was the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone, Prospero's feelings echo Shakespeare's own, or perhaps even his "retirement speech".
In popular culture
- In the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, Prospero appears as a founding member of the first such grouping in 1610, alongside his familiars Caliban and Ariel.
- In The Sandman, the title character has William Shakespeare write The Tempest.
- In Fables by Bill Willingham, Prospero is a recurring character, one of the "Thirteenth Floor Fables" (i.e. one of Fabletown's resident sorcerers).
- In the short story "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe.
- In the Dan Simmons Ilium and Olympos novels.
- T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".
- In John Bellairs's 1969 novel The Face in the Frost, Prospero is one of the protagonists.
- In Tad Williams' 1995 novel Caliban's Hour, the story of The Tempest is told through the point of view of Caliban with Prospero portrayed as the villain of the story, being shown as manipulative, prejudiced with colonialistic attitudes (especially towards Caliban) and capable of murderous violence.
- In Yury Olesha's 1924 novel Three Fat Men, one of the main characters is armorer Prospero
- In J.G. Ballard's short story "Dream Cargoes", the chemical waste ship marooned on the World War II garbage island is called the Prospero.
- In Frank O'Hara's "A Prayer to Prospero".
- In Erin Morgenstern's novel The Night Circus, one magician's stage name is "Prospero the Enchanter".
- In Elizabeth Willey's novel A Sorcerer and a Gentleman, which is a retelling of the story from The Tempest. There are also a pair of books that pre and post-date the story, The Well Favored Man, and The Price of Blood and Honor, respectively.
- In the book series "The Horus Heresy" several books take place on a planet called Prospero.
Film and television
- Melon Cauliflower by NZ playwright Tom McCrory. The play is about a man Prospero, in his late sixties who struggles to come to terms with the death of his wife, and has mistreated his daughter Miranda. 
- On 7 October 2001 BBC Radio 3 broadcast a production of The Tempest adapted for radio and directed by David Hunter starring Philip Madoc as Prospero, Nina Wadia as Ariel, Josh Richards as Caliban, Catrin Rhys as Miranda, Andrew Cryer as Ferdinand, Rudolph Walker as Gonzalo, James Laurenson as Alonso, Christian Rodska as Sebastian and Ioan Meredith as Antonio.
- David Warner played Prospero in the BBC Radio 3 Drama on 3 production of The Tempest broadcast on 6 May 2012 as part of the Shakespeare Unlocked series on the BBC. The production included Carl Prekopp as Ariel, Rose Leslie as Miranda, James Garnon as Caliban, James Lailey as Antonio and Peter Hamilton Dyer as Sebastian, and was adapted for radio and directed by Jeremy Mortimer.
- Loreena McKennitt sings a slightly altered version of the epilogue speech on her 1994 album The Mask and Mirror.
- Eric Gill's sculpture (1932), Prospero and Ariel.
- R. Juha's sculpture (2004), Prospero.
- The Economist has a blog on books, arts and culture that is called "Prospero".
- In the table top war game Warhammer 40,000 by Games Workshop, one of the Chaos Space Marine traitor legions; The Thousand Sons' original homeworld was called Prospero.
- One of the AIs of Digital: A Love Story is called Prospero and was created to research the *Reaper's weaknesses.
- In the Divinity: Dragon Commander video game by Larian Studios, the five political counselors are named after Shakespeare characters: Yorick the undead, Falstaff the dwarf, Oberon the elf, Prospera the lizard, and Trinculo the imp.
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