It is revealed when they would prefer fine clothes to any real desire to try to take the island – that is, their ambition is simply equated to fleshy pleasures – which is why Caliban aptly remarks, “What a thrice double ass was I to take this drunkard for a God, and worship this dull fool!” They are base characters, baser even than Caliban, which is shown through their use of prose rather than verse, “What’s the matter? Have we devils here? Do you put tricks upon’s with savages and men of Ind?” In contrast to Calibans’, “No more dams I’ll make for fish…nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish.”
Antonio is the ultimate villain of the play as his ambition is entirely selfish. He usurped his brother, Prospero by depriving him of his Dukedom. Prospero had entrusted Antonio with performing some of his duties as Duke, yet Antonio took advantage over this power. “He being thus lorded…to credit his own lie, he did believe he was indeed the Duke…” Antonio began to feed off of the power given to him by Prospero and did not want it to be taken away again.
He believed that he was a better Duke than Prospero and wanted to be “absolute Milan.” and so he arranged for the removal of Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Antonio couldn’t kill Prospero and Miranda personally as the people of Milan would rise against him, as Prospero was very well liked, “so dear the love my people bore me,” (Prospero.) Antonio needed them for support, and so, with the advice from Gonzalo, Antonio created a situation in which they were very likely to die. This clearly shows how ambitious Antonio is, he is prepared to murder his own brother. This “unnatural” power surge compromises all his thoughts.
Antonio is extremely corrupt in his thoughts and feelings. For instance, when he and Sebastian are alone, they speak of the possibility of Ferdinand’s death and what importance it brings. Antonio engages Sebastian in the prospect that he could be the next King of Naples, “Worthy Sebastian? O what might? No more…” It is in fact a rhetorical question but followed by half an answer with “no more,” as if it was a casual notion with no hidden meaning, he is being unbelievably subtle and all the time hooking Sebastian into his trap. “My strong imagination sees a crown dropping upon thy head…” The use of the word ‘dropping’ is very effective – as if the crown has nothing else to do but fall, it is inevitable.
“Noble Sebastian, thou let’st thy fortune sleep – die rather…” Antonio refers to Sebastian as ‘noble’, the use of this adjective is calculated irony, as it is a most ignoble deed if in fact they do kill Alonso but the conceit is that Antonio is saying that if they succeed, he will praise and follow Sebastian. Using the idea of sleep is interesting; as death is simply an extension of sleep and by extending the metaphor further, “as well as he that sleeps…what a sleep were this for your advancement!” Antonio is emphasising that Alonso and Gonzalo are sleeping before them – and Sebastian’s ambition is sleeping also.
He speaks of Ferdinand, “‘Tis as impossible that he is undrowned…Will you grant with me that Ferdinand is drowned?” He lures Sebastian into his trap by reinforcing the fact that the only heir to the throne may have drowned, and so who else is there to claim it but him? Perhaps the reason for all the persuasion is perhaps in helping Sebastian become King, Antonio could receive a reward? What the audience would appreciate by now is that Antonio has no scruples, no moral conscience in his ambition, they are undoubtedly fraudulent and ambition is the most important thing in his life.
However, Shakespeare shows how ambition itself cannot keep a man alive by Prospero producing a feast and then taking it away, “‘ enter several strange shapes, bringing in a banquet… “since they have left their viands behind, for we have stomachs”…and with a quaint device the banquet vanishes.'” Ambition cannot feed a man, which is one of the reasons Caliban is nobler than some of the other characters on the island. He is incapable of deceit in the sense that he says what he feels and wants, whereas Antonio is far more devious.
Antonio seems to be ambitious for the sake of ambition. As Gonzalo says: ‘you would lift the moon out of her sphere if she would continue in it for five weeks without changing,” emphasising the fact that he would do something to destroy it, simply for the sake of doing so. In conclusion, the audience leave the play with the idea that order had been restored in the way that is just. It also shows that people like Antonio for instance; need to be controlled with laws – laws made by a character like Prospero. It also hints on the idea that fate and the Gods will succeed in making sure that laws are followed through, for example reclaiming birth rights which is essential to bring the world under order.