The Tempest

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

5) Why does Prospero give up magic?

Near the beginning of Act V, Prospero stands alone onstage and delivers a speech where he lists his many accomplishments in magic. At the end of this speech, he tells himself that he will abandon “this rough magic” once he’s managed to resolve his conflict with Alonso and Antonio: “I’ll break my staff, / Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, / And, deeper than did ever plummet sound, / I’ll drown my book” (V.i.). In The Tempest, Prospero uses magic as a means to an end. Although his accomplishments in the magic arts have been great, magic itself remains “rough,” meaning either “crude” or “violent.” In short, magic is capable of great harm. And as Prospero describes in the first act, his obsessive study of magic is what cost him his dukedom in the first place. Prospero therefore uses magic to right a wrong and restore himself to power. However, once he accomplishes his goal, he resolves to abandon magic and rid himself of its corrupting influence for good.