Why Does Ariel Obey Prospero’s Orders in The Tempest?

Why Does Ariel Obey Prospero's Orders in The Tempest?

In William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Ariel is an ethereal spirit who is bound to obey the commands of the powerful sorcerer Prospero. This raises the question of why Ariel willingly follows Prospero’s orders, even when they go against his own desires and freedom.

One argument is that Ariel obeys Prospero because he is indebted to him. Before Prospero’s arrival on the island, Ariel was enslaved by the witch Sycorax. Prospero, however, promises to free Ariel once he completes the tasks assigned to him. Ariel’s obedience can therefore be seen as a way to secure his future freedom.

Another reason why Ariel obeys Prospero is related to the moral issues presented in the play. Despite being a magical spirit, Ariel possesses a sense of right and wrong and understands the consequences of disobedience. He recognizes that Prospero has the power to punish him if he does not follow orders, and therefore chooses to comply to avoid the negative consequences.

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There is also a sense of ambiguity surrounding Ariel’s obedience. It is unclear whether Prospero’s control over Ariel is purely physical or if there is a deeper emotional connection between them. Prospero apologizes to Ariel for imprisoning him, and Ariel forgives him. This forgiveness suggests that there is a bond of trust between them, which may explain Ariel’s willingness to obey.

Furthermore, Ariel may see his obedience as a means to an end. By assisting Prospero in his plans to regain power and escape the island, Ariel is indirectly working towards his own freedom. This self-interest could provide a motivation for his obedience.

Overall, the reasons behind Ariel’s obedience to Prospero’s orders in The Tempest are complex and multifaceted. They involve considerations of ownership, power dynamics, forgiveness, and self-interest. Shakespeare presents Ariel as a character caught between his desire for freedom and his moral obligation to serve Prospero. Understanding Ariel’s motivations adds depth to the play and invites further exploration of themes related to imperialism, slavery, and forgiveness.

Why Ariel Obeys Prospero’s Orders in The Tempest?

One argument that can be made is that Ariel, being a powerful spirit bound to Prospero’s command, doesn’t have much choice but to fulfill his tasks. However, a closer look at Ariel’s actions and motivations reveals a deeper complexity.

Ariel’s loyalty to Prospero can be seen as a result of the freedom that Prospero’s magic and control offer. Prior to being freed by Prospero, Ariel was imprisoned by the witch Sycorax, and had suffered under her rule. Prospero promises to release Ariel from his service once the tasks are complete, thus providing a sense of hope and liberation for Ariel.

Another interpretation could be that Ariel recognizes the inherent misdeeds of other characters in The Tempest and aligns himself with Prospero as the lesser of two evils. With characters like Caliban, who desires to overthrow Prospero and take ownership of the dukedom, Ariel may see Prospero as a more just ruler. In this sense, Ariel’s obedience to Prospero’s orders is a strategic decision to side with the better option.

One of the themes presented by Shakespeare in The Tempest is the ambiguity of power and the complexities of ownership. Ariel’s compliance with Prospero’s orders can be seen as a manifestation of this theme. Just as the Europeans claimed ownership over lands inhabited by indigenous peoples, Prospero claims ownership over Ariel and Caliban. The character of Ariel represents those who are subjugated and controlled by those in power.

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In comparison to other Shakespearean characters, Ariel’s obedience stands out as it differs from the more sinister motivations seen in characters like Iago. While Ariel does play a role in assisting Prospero’s plans, his obedience comes from a place of gratitude, and the promise of freedom rather than personal gain.

Ariel’s Loyalty to Prospero

Bond with Prospero

Ariel’s loyalty to Prospero can be attributed to their close relationship. Ariel regards Prospero as a mentor and caretaker, which creates a sense of devotion. This bond is evident when Ariel says, “And mine shall do you service so faithful as she has done” (The Tempest, 5.1). This quote implies that Ariel willingly serves Prospero due to their strong emotional connection.

Promise of Freedom

Prospero has promised Ariel eventual freedom as a reward for his loyal service. Ariel longs for freedom and uses this desire as motivation to follow Prospero’s orders. He states, “I shall be free” (The Tempest, 1.2), indicating that the prospect of gaining liberty motivates him to carry out his tasks faithfully.

Alignment with Prospero’s Plan

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Ariel’s loyalty also stems from a belief in the greater purpose of Prospero’s plan. Despite initially being imprisoned by Prospero, Ariel recognizes the value of the plan in resolving the misdeeds of those who wronged Prospero. Ariel acknowledges this purpose, stating, “All hail, great master, grave sir, hail! I come To answer thy best pleasure” (The Tempest, 1.2). This quote indicates Ariel’s acceptance of his role in fulfilling Prospero’s intentions and suggests that he sees the plan as just and necessary.

The loyalty of Ariel to Prospero in The Tempest highlights several themes explored by Shakespeare, such as power and ownership, freedom from slavery, and the ambiguity of loyalty. It can be analyzed through various lenses, including Marxist perspectives that delve into issues of imperialism and control, or in comparison to other characters like Caliban who rebel against their oppressors.

Ariel’s Debt to Prospero

Ariel’s debt to Prospero is not a financial one, but rather a moral one. Initially, Ariel was imprisoned in a tree by the witch Sycorax, who had trapped him there for his disobedience. Prospero saved Ariel from this imprisonment and, in return, Ariel promised to serve Prospero faithfully for a set period of time.

While Ariel did fulfill his promise by carrying out Prospero’s orders, there is also a sense that Ariel sees his servitude as a means to his own freedom. In obeying Prospero, Ariel knows that he will eventually be set free. This can be seen in Ariel’s apology to Prospero when Prospero tells him that he will soon be freed:

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“Your charm so strongly works ’em

That if you now beheld them, your affections

Would become tender.”

Here, Ariel acknowledges Prospero’s power to grant him freedom and expresses gratitude for the eventual release.

An alternate explanation for Ariel’s obedience to Prospero’s orders can be found in the societal context of the time in which the play was written. In the 17th century, women were expected to be subservient to men, and this power dynamic is reflected in “The Tempest.” Ariel, being a male spirit, embodies this notion of obedient servitude.

Furthermore, the play explores the themes of ownership and freedom. Prospero sees himself as the rightful owner of the dukedom of Milan, and by exerting control over Ariel, he asserts his claim to his kingdom. In this way, Ariel’s obedience becomes a metaphorical representation of the power dynamics and sense of proprietorship that existed during Shakespeare’s time.

Lastly, Ariel’s obedience can be seen through a Marxist lens. Friedrich Engels quotes Rene Descartes in his essays on the subject, writing “Whatever I have up till now accepted as most true and assured I have learned either from or through the senses. But I have sometimes found that these senses played me false, and it is prudent never to trust entirely those who have deceived us even once.” In this interpretation, Ariel is an embodiment of the oppressed proletariat, obeying the commands of his bourgeoisie master to secure his own freedom.

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Ariel’s Desire for Freedom

From the very beginning of the play, it is evident that Ariel longs for his freedom. In the opening scene, Ariel recounts how he was trapped in a “cloven pine” by the witch Sycorax, and was only released when Prospero arrived on the island. This background information sets the stage for Ariel’s yearning to be freed from his servitude to Prospero.

Ariel’s desire for freedom can be compared to the struggle for independence of various oppressed groups in history. Just as Ariel wishes to break free from Prospero’s control, so do those who have been under the thumb of imperialism, colonization, or even more modern issues such as immigration or communism. Ariel can therefore be seen as a symbol for all those who seek to liberate themselves from a dominant power.

Moreover, Ariel’s desire for freedom is further reinforced through his interactions with different characters in the play. For example, when Ariel comes into contact with Trinculo and Stephano, he sees an opportunity to escape from Prospero’s control. Ariel cunningly manipulates them, and leads them astray, further showcasing his desire for freedom and his willingness to take whatever actions necessary to achieve it.

The theme of freedom is a central part of understanding “The Tempest”. Ariel’s yearning for liberation and his willingness to use his magical abilities to achieve it presents a moral dilemma for the audience. Should Ariel be freed from his servitude to Prospero? Should Prospero be held accountable for his mistreatment of Ariel? These questions leave the audience grappling with the complex issues of power and forgiveness.

Use of Power in The Tempest

Ariel, a magical spirit, is bound to serve Prospero after he rescued him from imprisonment by the witch Sycorax. However, despite this initial enslavement, Ariel willingly carries out Prospero’s orders without question. This can be seen as a representation of the power dynamics present in society, where those in positions of authority may exert control over others without their consent.

Prospero’s use of magic to manipulate and control the actions of Ariel and Caliban raises questions about the morality of his actions. While Prospero believes that he is using his power for the greater good, his methods can be seen as manipulative and exploitative. This ambiguity is reflected in the character of Caliban, who is initially presented as a savage and subhuman creature, but later shows a complexity of character and a capacity for forgiveness.

The use of power in “The Tempest” can also be related to the themes of imperialism and colonization. Prospero’s usurpation of Caliban’s land and his assertion of control over the island’s inhabitants can be seen as representative of European colonialism and the subjugation of indigenous cultures. This connection is further highlighted by the presence of characters like Gonzalo, a kind-hearted counselor who speaks of creating a utopian society on the island, echoing the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto.

Overall, the use of power in “The Tempest” raises important ethical and political questions. Prospero’s control over Ariel and the island’s inhabitants can be seen as a reflection of the power struggles present in society, while also raising issues of morality, imperialism, and forgiveness. Shakespeare’s play encourages a deeper understanding of these complex themes and challenges the audience to critically analyze the dynamics of power.

Prospero’s Manipulation of Ferdinand

Prospero first introduces Ferdinand to his daughter Miranda in order to create a romantic relationship between them. He presents Ferdinand as a potential suitor for Miranda, knowing that their marriage would secure his position and power on the island. Prospero tests Ferdinand’s love for Miranda by subjecting him to hard labor and imprisoning him, challenging his devotion and commitment.

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Throughout the play, Prospero uses his knowledge of magic to subtly influence Ferdinand’s thoughts and actions. He creates illusions and shapes perception, leading Ferdinand to believe that he is the rightful ruler of the island and that Prospero is the source of his suffering. With this manipulation, Prospero aims to teach Ferdinand humility and loyalty, as well as to gain control over him to further his own goals.

Furthermore, Prospero’s manipulation of Ferdinand can be seen as a metaphor for the power dynamics and struggles prevalent in society. Ferdinand, as a representative of the privileged class, is initially unable to comprehend or empathize with the hardships faced by Caliban and the other inhabitants of the island. Prospero’s manipulation serves to challenge Ferdinand’s understanding of authority and his role in society.

By the end of the play, Ferdinand learns from his experiences and undergoes a transformation. He recognizes the errors of his past behavior and seeks forgiveness from Prospero. This suggests that Prospero’s manipulation and control were ultimately intended to teach the importance of compassion, empathy, and humility.

Prospero’s Control over the Island and its Inhabitants

Prospero’s control is displayed through his ability to speak with authority and command. He frequently orders Ariel, his spirit servant, to carry out various tasks. Despite being an ethereal being who is not bound by physical limitations, Ariel obeys Prospero’s every command. This obedience is likely a result of Ariel’s gratitude towards Prospero for freeing him from the curse placed upon him by the witch, Sycorax.

Furthermore, Prospero apologises for his misdeeds and misjudgements, and essays to make amends. He acknowledges his power over the inhabitants of the island and puts forward arguments that justify his actions. However, there is ambiguity in his control, as he also frees Ariel and acknowledges Ariel’s independence as a being.

One could compare Prospero’s control over the island and its inhabitants to the issues of power and ownership presented in European colonization. In the context of the play, Prospero represents the Europeans who have taken control and are exploiting the resources of the island for their own gain. The other characters, such as Alonso, Trinculo, and Caliban, are seen as the oppressed natives who are under the control of Prospero.

Marx and Engels, in their Communist Manifesto, write about how those in power will often justify their control through the manipulation of concepts such as “ownership” and “property.” Similarly, Prospero justifies his control over the island and its inhabitants by claiming that he is the rightful ruler and that he is aiming to bring order and justice to the island.

However, there is a moral ambiguity in Prospero’s control. While he claims to be a just ruler, he also engages in morally questionable acts, such as enslaving Caliban and using his power to manipulate and deceive others. This raises questions about the nature of power and the ethical implications of its use.

Overall, Prospero’s control over the island and its inhabitants is a complex and multifaceted theme in The Tempest. Through his magical abilities and authoritative speech, Prospero is able to exert his power and force others to obey his orders. However, his control is not absolute and is often challenged by the actions and desires of the other characters. The exploration of power and control in the play raises important ethical and moral questions, and invites the audience to consider the implications of unchecked authority.


Why does Ariel obey Prospero’s orders in The Tempest?

Ariel obeys Prospero’s orders in The Tempest because she is under his control. Prospero rescued Ariel from a tree and has the power to imprison her again.

What are Prospero’s orders that Ariel obeys in The Tempest?

Prospero orders Ariel to perform various tasks, such as creating storms, tormenting and manipulating other characters, and eventually helping Prospero secure his freedom.

Does Ariel have a choice in obeying Prospero’s orders in The Tempest?

Ariel’s obedience to Prospero’s orders in The Tempest can be seen as a result of both her fear of being imprisoned again and her desire for eventual freedom. While she may not have a complete choice in the matter, she does play a role in her own liberation by helping Prospero.

What is the relationship between Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest?

The relationship between Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest can be seen as a master-servant relationship. Prospero has control over Ariel and commands her to carry out various tasks, while Ariel is dependent on Prospero for her freedom.

Does Ariel ever question Prospero’s orders in The Tempest?

Ariel does question Prospero’s orders in The Tempest, particularly when she expresses concern for the well-being of the shipwrecked characters. However, she ultimately follows Prospero’s orders out of fear and the hope of eventual release.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.