In the last scene of The Tempest, the magician Prospero describes the loss of his magical powers and his earlier imprisonment of the spirits Caliban and Ariel. The only magic that will work now–the only way they all may now be liberated–is through the applause of the audience. Reminding the audience that the aim of his art was only ever to please, his last words are “Let your indulgence set me free.”
The Tempest is considered by many scholars to be the final play William Shakespeare wrote by himself. Thus, many also imagine that Prospero’s feelings echo Shakespeare’s.
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.