Post by David Amicus
I was thinking of maybe Prospero
Wikipedia makes an argument for Prospero: "early critics saw Prospero as a representation of Shakespeare, and his renunciation of magic as signalling Shakespeare's farewell to the stage." Also note that Prospero makes his entry on page "1" of the First Folio and, assuming that the real Shakespeare was still alive in 1623 to supervise that publication, an argument can be made that Prospero was Shakespeare’s own pick for his greatest character.
The linked article makes an interesting comment:
"At the end of the play, Prospero intends to drown his book and renounce magic. In the view of the audience, this may have been required to make the ending unambiguously happy, as magic was associated with diabolical works; he will drown his books for the same reason that Doctor Faust, in an earlier play by Christopher Marlowe, promised in vain to burn his books."
Another rendering of this concept is Nostradamus’ account, published in French in 1589, of the destruction of Merlin’s prophecies:
"And although this occult Philosophy was not forbidden, I could never be persuaded to meddle with it, although many Volumns concerning that Art, which hath been concealed a great while, were presented to me, but fearing what might happen, after I had read them, I presented them to Vulcan, who while he was a devouring them, the flame mixing with the Air, made an unwonted light more bright then the ususal flame, and as if it had been a Lightning, shining all the house over, as if it had been all in a flame;"
Note that the diabolical nature of magical books is not limited to the written words but includes the very substance of the books. Though it is said that no true scholar would ever destroy a book, an exception can be made for books of magic as here we see a wish to remove evil (products of the Devil) from this world. The evil substance is gone but here the books were already read, so knowledge of the future was retained.
Like Nostradamus’ "volumes" (original French), Prospero also uses the word "volumes":
Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
Indeed, Prospero utilizes Nostradamus’ words with enormous frequency and in ways that remind us of Henry VI, Part 1, and the Marlovian plays. It seems that in the end, prior to writing The Tempest, Shakespeare spent some time contemplating Merlin’s prophecies anew. And so the last play takes us back to the beginning, to the days of Shakespeare’s initial contact with the ancient prophecies that eventually led to the writing of Nostradamus and all the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. One can only wonder: Was the motive behind the authorship conspiracy to protect the author of the plays, or to protect us, the readers, from becoming aware of a stringent connection with diabolical writings?
I concur with David Amicus on Prospero as Shakespeare’s greatest character: with Prospero, Shakespeare portrays himself.