William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” tells the story of Próspero, the Duke of Milan, whose enemies have betrayed him and deprived him of his title and position. Much of the play revolves around Próspero’s plans to exact punishment on these traitors. He conjures up a great storm that, unbeknownst to them, leaves them in his power. But there is a surprising and remarkable end to Próspero’s plans for revenge. Instead of returning evil for evil, he offers forgiveness. “The rarer action,” he realizes, “is in virtue [rather] than in vengeance.” He rises to the virtue that is more deeply human than vengeance—the virtue of forgiveness. It makes you wonder what transformations might occur if, instead of exacting punishment for the resentments and betrayals so evident in our world today, we gave compassion and forgiveness first place. It would indeed be the rarer action. Would that we had the courage to choose virtue.
By Christian Morris, OSB