The Tempest and Prospero’s Books

by Allison Wilson

Prospero loves his books above anything else. While he was the duke of Milan he was too busy in study to be an adequate ruler and hence lost his position of power. When he is telling Miranda about their exile from Milan he says that Gonzalo packed them things and “knowing I loved my books, he furnish’d me, from mine own library, with volumes that I prize above my dukedom” (Act 1 scene 2). This being said why would Prospero then wish to return to his dukedom of Milan and have to give up his books? He says in act 5 scene 1 “Ill break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound Ill drown my book”

Now this all seems to fit with the portrayal of Prospero being Shakespeare quite well; as he is at or near the end of his career he has to retire from his plays and return to the real world. So in that sense it makes sense that Prospero has to relinquish his magic books and return back to Milan to become the duke once more. He is going back to his reality which also ends the play with everything back in its rightful order. But has something changed about Prospero to make him give up his books?

This also brings me to the film Prospero’s books, when he throws his books in the water. It begs the same question but also if Prospero is supposed to be Shakespeare than who is Caliban when he saves the works of William Shakespeare and what does this show us about Caliban’s character? Why does Caliban want the book?