Prospero is interesting because he is one of Shakespeare’s few characters (others being the Witches and Lear’s Fool) to be derived from an Archetype- Prospero is basically the Magician in the Tarot, with a play woven in behind him. Moreover, the specific components associated with Prospero- the betrayed and exiled wizard; the hermit living alone in a remote and exotic outpost; the master of fantastically powerful beings; the solitary parent- have generated much inspiration, so well-known and beloved is Shakespeare’s classic.
For instance- consider Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars. A master of the mysterious Force that binds the universe together; who fled the Evil Empire and the betrayal of his disciple; to live alone on the barren planet Tatooine; with his Magician’s Wand (his Light-Saber) his device of power.
Then Obi-Wan starts teaching Luke the Force, and kind of turns into Merlin with young Arthur- but he starts out as Prospero.
Do you remember that shot from Jurassic Park- when Richard Attenborough is gazing intently at his walking-stick, decorated on top by a chunk of amber, with a prehistoric insect frozen inside? Richard Attenborough, who ruled a distant tropical island, where science had succeeded in working a feat of magic, and Richard Attenborough thought that he had a jungle full of Calibans (dinosaurs) under control?
Do you think that’s why Spielberg shows us the shot of Attenborough with his walking-stick- so that we get that it is Prospero with his Wand?
The Tempest-in-outer-space was the premise for one of the first sci-fi films ever- 1956′s Forbidden Planet! An inspiration for Star Trek, the movie stars the recently departed Leslie Nielsen as the captain of a space-team tracking down the mysteriously vanished Dr. Morbius (and his daughter) to a far-removed edge of the galaxy. Here they will discover that alien technology has invested Morbius with powers so awesome as to seem supernatural. We also find a helpful robot (one of the first movie-robots) and a dangerous, destructive alien presence.
An interesting modern adaptation whose cast reads like an ’80s movie shout-out was 1982′s The Tempest starring John Cassavetes as a disillusioned architect who deals with a mid-life crisis by fleeing to a remote Greek island with his daughter (Molly Ringwald). Here he meets a brooding shepherd (Caliban: Raul Julia) and an artistic free-spirit (Ariel: Susan Sarandon), and is happy until his evil ex-wife shows up (Gena Rowlands).
The character Prospero is more or less detached from Shakespeare’s play, and recast in Peter Greenaway’s 1991 movie Prospero’s Books. Starring the supreme Prospero (John Gielgud), the movie is an extraordinarily lush, sumptuous visual feast- although a little on the trippy side. Juggler reader Adrian writes provocatively about the work, as an example of a ”film-world,” an independent reality created by the ”objectscape” of a movie. Adrian has some very challenging points to make; please investigate his writing.
Lastly- an American adaptation was NBC’s 1998 The Tempest, starring Peter Fonda as Gideon Prosper, a plantation-owner in the Mississippi bayou who is forced out by his treacherous brother. However- he has learned the use of magic from one of his slaves, which he uses to assist the Union Army.
Is there another Shakespearean character so Archetypal- and so Versatile to Change- as Prospero the Wizard?