Please, just let me go (Epilogue, 1-13) #StormTossed

PROSPERO     Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardoned the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands.

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please.            (Epilogue, 1-13)

Prospero, alone. (Probably.) Unusually for an epilogue, he speaks in character, and is still almost entirely within the world of the play. The spells are broken, the charms are all o’erthrown, the magic has gone. (The revels, now, are truly ended.) He is entirely reliant on himself, his own strength, and he is weak. No Ariel now. Prospero is powerless, and he is in the hands of the audience, his conceit being that it in their (our) power as to whether he remains here—on the island? on the stage?—or is sent to Naples. It’s the latter that he wants (to follow his beloved Miranda, and Ferdinand; return to his city, his dukedom, the rest of his books) and he pleads: I’ve uncovered the truth, recovered my dukedom, and pardoned the deceiver (still not named, still not identified as his brother; it’s the scansion, but it’s not just the scansion). Don’t make me stay here, in this bare island, with no Miranda, no Ariel—no magic. It’s a prison; here I am a slave, confined by bands, in bondage. (Like Caliban.) Release me; applaud (with your good hands), speak kindly, and fill my sails with gentle breath. Or else my project fails. All I wanted was to please you.

The thundering, mighty blank verse line has given way to halting octosyllabic rhyming couplets. The phrases are short, breathless; even these short lines are broken further by caesuras, subclauses. This is a man in extremis, pleading for help, for understanding, for release—for forgiveness? (Unforgettably, Antony Sher’s Prospero delivered these lines entirely to John Kani’s Caliban.)

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