The Epilogue: Summary
The epilogue of the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare begins with Prospero’s declaration that he is going to overthrow all his personal charms as a magician. It is true he has got back his dukedom and pardoned all the conspirators. He is going to discard forever his art of magic by which he cast a spell on others. He directly addresses the audience to give applause to the actors “with the help of your good hands”. He is hopeful that the audience must have got pleasure and the play has not been a failure because all his endeavour was to entertain the audience as spellbound. He is equally expressing his earnest plea to the audience to be merciful for any faults of the actors and the play. And he now craves for complete liberty to leave the stage.
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
Commentary on the Epilogue
It is a commingled effort of Prospero both as a character and as an actor addressing the audience. Some Shakespearean critics hold the view that in the Epilogue Shakespeare is speaking of himself. Prospero talks of being sent to Naples or being ‘here confin’d by you’. It is what reminds us Shakespeare himself who is possibly about to retire to Stratford-on-Avon or remain in London. Thus ample scope is there for finding snippets of personal stamp throughout the epilogue.
All these phrases are pointer to both the fictionalized account of Prospero and the dramatist. ‘My charms are all overthrown’ may be actualized as Shakespeare’s resolution to give up writing plays. Such possibility can be easily explained away as mere figment of fanciful imagination. We may cling to the surface meaning of Prospero – ‘I am no longer Prospero the powerful magician’ – such statement holds water enough to concretize the fact that Prospero is taking respite for good from the worldly affairs of life. He craves for applause from the spectator. “The help of your good hands” is mouthed by Prospero. He wants complete relief from the stage of life. He has pardoned everyone.
By uttering the line “And my ending is despair” Shakespeare is probably thinking of the desperate end to which necromancers must come unless prayer to God saves their souls in time. He speaks of divine mercy which pierces the air to reach everywhere; thus it is hoped to purge the sinful humanity. The epilogue is indeed held to be a model of mental serenity after the turmoil of Prospero’s agitated state of mind.