Prospero, why not just kill people?


I’m pretty sure most of us have read at least one other Shakespeare text back in high school. In my case, I’ve studied Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet.

When reading through The Tempest, I was certain that I knew what was going to happen; “Prospero is going to use his magical powers as well as Ariel and Caliban to terrorize the shipwrecked crew and eventually kill them all,” I thought to myself in my mind. At this point, I was pretty much expecting some sort of bloodshed since all the plays I mentioned above have at least half the characters die, Hamlet in particular has practically everybody die off except for Horatio and Fortinbras. By the story’s end however, I was left a bit confused at what just happened. Other than Caliban being left behind at the island, nothing particularly bad happens to the characters, certainly not death. This wasn’t exactly a tragedy, nor was it a comedy, so it was a bit of a more different experience than what I was expecting.

That ends up leaving these questions in my mind: Since it’s been made clear that Prospero has some powerful magical abilities, is there a particular reason why Shakespeare decides to not have Prospero use his magic to kill off the shipwrecked crew for revenge? Does it have something to do with a possible political message Shakespeare was trying to convey at the time? Could it possibly have something to do with Shakespeare’s change in perspective since he was near the end of his life at the time and no longer wanting face death? Some other reason?