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 pardon'd 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. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
Name: The Magician - Prospero.
Dramatis Personae: Prospero, right Duke of Milan; Caliban; Miranda.
Roman à clef : John Dee.
Astrology: Mercury, Aries
Hebrew Letter: ALEPH
Text & Context: The first card of the Major Arcana is aligned with the Hebrew aleph and Greek alpha, derived from the Phoenecian ʾāleph, meaning "ox", and the Egyptian Ox god Apis. Aleph is "father" of the alphabet, closely related to Hebrew aluph meaning "master", "lord". A number of divine names begin with an aleph, including El and Adonai. The letter's lower arm, or yod, represents earthly man [Caliban], while the upper yod represents God's hiddenness and infinity [Ariel]; the central diagonal slash is a hook, or vav, holding the 2 worlds together [Prospero]. The gematria for the 3 parts of aleph is 26, the same as the sacred name YHVH, also demonstrated in Exodus when the lord reveals his name to Moses: I Am That I Am". Christ, as God made flesh, called himself the Alpha and the Omega, directly referencing Isaiah where Adonoi Himself says He is the First and the Last. The Tempest is the first play in Shakespeare's First Folio, and many believe it to be his last.
The word "tempest" itself is related to time, as in tempo and temporary. Words for “weather” were originally words for “time” in languages from Russia to Brittany. The name Prospero, generally considered to indicate prosperity, derives from the Latin spero - I await, I hope, I fear, I assume. Spero's present active infinitive sperare can be seen in "Shake-speare". Sonnet 116 avers, "Love is not Time's fool...it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken." Similarly, as Hamlet was overheard to say, there is "a special providence in the fall of a spero."
Some have seen in Prospero an allusion to Queen Elizabeth I's Magus John Dee, alchemist, astrologer, possessor of the largest library in England, and first person to coin the phrase "British Empire". Caliban claims, without his Books, Prospero is "but a sot, as I am". Others see in Prospero the author himself, avowing
"I'll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book."
One of the Lord Great Chamberlain's duties is to carry a white staff on behalf of the monarch at the opening of each new Parliament; upon the monarch's death he is to break it over the grave. Note neither Prospero's book nor the staff he falls upon are actually destroyed, but rather kept from eye and ear, as in anonymity.
Caliban here, whom Prospero accedes is his, takes the form of the Minotaur, solar personification adapted from the Phoenician's Ba'al. Like the Mintotaur in his maze - "half man half ox" Ovid calls him - Caliban "the moon-calf" is banished after his attempted defilement of Miranda. Trinculo mistaking Caliban for half man half fish crudely parodies the Ichthys of Christ, as his introduction to liquor and assignation of godhood to its bearer mocks the sacrament of wine and Holy Spirit.
The oldest surviving Tarot deck - the Visconti-Sforza - was commissioned by the Duke of Milan. The Duke, a patron of the arts, also commissioned Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. Prospero's table then is literally that of the last supper, echoing the Eucharist table, as the movable feast phantasm supplied and withdrawn by Ariel iterates the communion rites prohibited under Queen Elizabeth I. The Tempest, with its themes of forgiveness and redemption, may have been performed if not written as a liturgical drama for Shrovetide or Holy Week. In this way, betiding Christ's death and resurrection, it is both a beginning and an end.
Mercury is our solar system's first planet. Mercury the god is patron of eloquence, communication, travelers, boundaries, divination, and trickery. Akin to Prospero's prop [Greek herma], Mercury carries the caduceus staff and - as Ovid writes - dreams to sleeping mortals. As psycho-pomp, he guides souls to the afterlife ... "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." As Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the author's duties was to carry a white stave, the insignia of his office.
From Germanic myth, Mercury is associated with the staff-carrying Wotan, whose various names number 200, including Biflindi, meaning "spear shaker", and Odin, from which is derived mind, soul, sense. From spero then, seen in Prospero, to the "spear" in Shakespeare, we espy the Latin spirare, "to breathe", and its cognate spiritus, "the breath of god", "the spirit". In England, the Lord Great Chamberlain carries a white staff, to be broken over the monarch's grave. In this way, the play is also a beginning to an end, the past as prologue.
Intertext: Crowns 5 Caliban; The World XXI The Globe
The Magician I Prospero