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Prospero And The Tempest Essay, Research Paper

He is the “slave” of Prospero. One hears his voice before one actually see him because seeing a beast so horrid looking would be to much of a shock. Caliban once trusted Miranda and Prospero and this was mutual. Caliban showed the newcomers around the island. In return, Caliban was taught to speak English. All respect was lost for Caliban when he attempted to rape Miranda. He is now a slave to Prospero. Caliban curses Prospero when he is first called upon: “As wicked Dew are ere My Mother brush’d with Raven’s Feather from Unwholesome Fen drop on you both: a Southwest Blow on ye, and blister you all o’er.” Caliban is upset with the power that Prospero, and even Ariel, have over him. Caliban treats Prospero badly and therefore gets treated badly in return. The two characters respond in completely different manners toward the commands of Prospero. Each character is meant to contrast each other and how they respond to the power that they are under. The structure and use of power in Shakespeare’s The Tempest can be linked to his day by examining governments in Britain. While Shakespeare was writing The Tempest, The Stuarts were in power in England. They were the least successful of all the dynasties that ruled. The government was basically autocratic, but was called a monarchy. There was a king, James I or James the VI of Scotland, the nobles, and then there was the middle/lower class. There was a strict hierarchy within 17th Century England. The king ruled the country by telling the nobles what he wanted. He was in complete control of his kingdom. The nobles and the upper class, were the people who carried out the orders of the king. Whether the nobles liked these decisions or not, they were still required to carry out these orders. Most nobles respected the king and did what they were told because they believed in what the king said or they wanted to maintain their status on the social ladder. There were, however, the nobles who disliked the king and did not believe what the king was doing was right. They either attempted a rebellion with a lower class or they dropped several rungs on the social ladder very quickly. Underneath the nobles, were the middle/lower class. They were the shopkeepers or the farmers. They were the standard person.

These social levels are remarkably similar to the social levels within The Tempest. Prospero runs everything that happens on the island so he can be considered the king’ of the island. He is in complete control of what occurs on the island because of his supernatural powers. He also has people’ under him. He has the “airy spirit” of Ariel to work for him and carry out his orders. He is associated with the honourable nobles. He carries out the orders of Prospero with pleasure. He shows no animosity towards the rule of Prospero over the island. The rebellious nobles are represented by the character of Caliban. He curses the powers of Prospero and wishes that he was not trapped within the confines of his cave. He attempts, with Trinculo and Stephano, a “coup d’ tat” against Prospero. There were many attempts for rebellion in the 1600’s but most, like the attempt of Caliban, were unsuccessful. The middle/lower class is represented by the courtiers from Milan. The orders that are set by Prospero and carried out by Ariel directly effect the courtiers, as would the decisions of the king. The courtiers here are seen as the pawns in the revengeful game of the all mighty Prospero. A king in the 17th century could mould a society into whatever he wanted as long as he had enough power to enforce it and this is exactly what Prospero does. The Tempest displays a focus on authority. This play in which love and friendship show only a small portion of Shakespeare’s interest, revolves around the clashes between individual power and Prospero’s desire for vengeance. These power struggles are also reflected within the English governments of the 17th Century. One may also reflect that concepts of authority exhibited in contemporary society render this play relevant today.


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