As the film “FORBIDDEN PLANET” offers not just a warning about the dangers of nuclear technology, but a more specific yet previously unrecognized allegorical representation of the physicist OPPENHEIMER. The scenario of “FORBIDDEN PLANET” has been utilized repeatedly since this 1956 original. The Cameron film “ALIENS” uses a similar story of a crew dispatched out to rescue some lost party sent to a planet ( here Altair IV) to discover why they have vanished. The crew of FP finds the philologist Edward MORBIUS and his daughter the only persons alive at the destination. MORBIUS then begins to relate how the other scientists were killed by the as of yet mysterious force for which MORBIUS and his daughter are somehow immune. An advanced creature called then Krell who are very much in advance of humans have left behind a machine of vast power and for an unknown purpose.
There is a Rolodex of associations that soon come to mind. Fritz Lang’s “DOCTOR MABUSE” trilogy of Hitlerian thought control through technological media ( Jim Carey’s RIDDLER with his mind-mechanism that Bruce Wayne rejects ,,etc.) . For the purpose of the Krell machine is to project matter in any form to be used by the protagonist, to any point on the planet through the mere thoughts of its manipulators. This machine also gave expression and form to the Krell’s subconsciousness and thus opened violent emotions that caused the species to destroy themselves, also. MORBIUS as a philologist is also what men like von Humbolt, NIETZSCHE, and Noam Chomsky are; experts in the meanings and derivations of words. Critic Seth Lerer argued this guise of MORBIUS embodied the social and historical events that were reshaping literary and linguistic study in the postwar period. The monster unleashed in the novelization of “FORBIDDEN PLANET” calls the horrible deaths caused by the machine “the holocast”.
Then MORBIUS can also be interpreted as a 23rd century analog of J. Robert OPPENHEIMER. Both characters show their obsession with science, their questionable loyalties, a fascination with language, intimidating intelligence, a choice of living in a desert location, a shared responsibility for the deaths of others, as the two become quite similar. Now the third person in this three way parallel discussion of PROSPERO – MORBIUS – OPPENHEIMER doesn’t have the more exacting characteristics of these other two. Yet PROSPERO is a magician in the time before science, he moves to an isolated island, has vast esoteric knowledge, and also moves from a civilization that can be somewhat self destructive. PROSPERO is Shakespeare’s anti-Faust whose commitment to deep learning is aided by his angelic ARIEL for his companion. Even Christopher Marlow’s FAUST was but a failed scholar. Simon Magus was the original Faust. Simon MAGUS who was god himself descended in the form of Simon Magus to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself. For the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, Simon Magus had come to set things straight, likening himself to the Principalites and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man.
Other mystical or supernatural forms of Faust include Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. The secularization of the Man of knowledge :: PROSPERO is no gnosis. His searches are not for god, but he is also not a heretic like BRUNO, as he is indifferent to the whole christian revelation. Shakespeare went to great pains not to allow christian iconography into his play.
Percy SHELLEY had identified with ARIEL; as PROSPERO and ARIEL are personalities of vast suggestiveness ; yet their souls are all allusivity. We can conclude Shakespeare clearly did not intend “The TEMPEST” to be his last work. Since PROSPERO’s story is not TRAGIC , but somehow comic, in some sense of ending happily he appears to lose spiritual authority even as he regains political power. For PROSPERO shatters the magic of ART to go back to civilization from his island of Exhile. Breaking his staff and drowning his book, these emblems of PURIFIED MAGIC, these marks of PROSPERO’s exhile. For the play should have been called PROSPERO; as like HAMLET or MACBETH; but the fact that the play is called “The TEMPEST” is what seems to become the true mystery of the play, itself! Unlike Faust, PROSPERO does not make a pack with the Devil ! “The TEMPEST” is an elegantly subtle drama. PROSPERO has no Hermetic side like Elizabeth’s Dr. John Dee, or religious motivations such as the Heretic BRUNO; no, PROSPERO takes the BOLD STANCE of SEEKING A E S T H E T I C S rather than mysticism.