The Tempest Analysis
‘The Tempest’ is an explicitly designed piece of work by Shakespeare. During the course of the play, Shakespeare intentionally interrelates various themes including magic, politics, witchcraft, geography as well as travel. Among all these forms, he emphasized more in power and authority. There are various forms of power throughout the play. There is the power of magic and power of love, political power among other forms of powers. Different forms of power have been used throughout the play both properly and improperly. For instance, there is Prospero, who appears to be the main character taking advantage of his authority and power throughout the play to appear as the colonizer. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze critically how the relationship between Prospero and Caliban illustrates that of the colonizer and colonized.
The Tempest was performed during the 17th century. It was around this period when Britain was beginning to lay claim on the smaller Caribbean Isles, as well as North America. To be precise, Britain stated its mission to acquire the Caribbean Isles and the North part of America as its colonies in 1611. Shakespeare used the character of Prospero and Caliban to illustrate how colonizers used to treat the colonized.
At the beginning of the play, Prospero is the overthrown Milan Duke, who has been living on a remote island for the last twelve years. Basically, one of the approaches colonizers do when acquiring colonies is by teaching the colonized their language. Communication is essential when acquiring colonies. We find Caliban being taught a new language and mannerism by Prospero. This means that Prospero had already acquired Canibal as his servant without considering his personal view.
Colonizers did not care about the feelings of the colonized. In the Tempest, Prospero is also not caring about the feeling of Caliban. We find Prospero punishing Caliban for a crime he had not fundamentally committed. This treatment is a clear indication of one of the colonialism aspect in Prospero. Although Prospero had what seemed to be a good reason to punish Caliban, as he had found him trying to rape Miranda, he had no right to punish him for such an activity. For this reason, it is vibrant that the relationship between Prospero and Caliban is a clear illustration of a colonizer and a colonized (Gurr 243).
Additionally, almost every scene in the play intentionally portrays the struggle of relationships because of power. This is the same struggle colonizer have with their adored colonized. In most scenes, Prospero is presented as a victim of injustice. He is always taking advantage of his authority over everyone including the likes of Caliban, who are very close to him. Throughout the play, Shakespeare portrays Canibal and Prospero having a good relationship. Nevertheless, Prospero is seen in most cases making dangerous decisions of situations just to retain respect and love. In most cases, he is perceived as a power-hungry, demanding, ambiguous and a grave troubled character (Shakespeare 54).
Fundamentally, the element of betrayal is significant in the play. Shakespeare addresses the general problems faced by rulers. In most scenes, we find Prospero encountering problems despite having power and magic. Shakespeare brings out the problems that colonizers face by using Canibal. As a servant and a trusted servant, Canibal still plans to murders his master Prospero after finding a new master Stephano. We are let to believe that Stephano is willing to offer better treatment compared to Prospero. Treatment of Canibal to Prospero is an illustration of how colonizers we betrayed during the colonial period.
Prospero has the ultimate power to manipulate the actions of people with his magic and his authority. Shakespeare has used this power and magic to bring out how strong the empire was not only to Caliban but the whole of Milan. His powers and authority can be compared to the energy powers the colonizers used during their colonization.
Most of Caliban’s speech is a clear indication of hate. Most of his speech indicates the kind of hatred Canibal has towards his master Prospero. In addition, Canibal is portrayed as a spiteful as well as a rebellious. We see a situation where he even tries to rape Prospero’s daughter. To some extent, it can be regarded as a kind of vengeance due to the kind of treatment he receives from his master(Gurr 234).
Shakespeare also brings Prospero’s colonial nature where he says “This Island’s mine by Sycorax my mother.”This merely indicates how ungrateful Prospero is towards Canibal. We see the betrayal of Prospero towards Canibal after an effort of drawing him from the savagery towards modernity. The kind of treatment received by Canibal from Prospero is quite is undoubtedly colonial (Shakespeare 143).
On the other hand, Prospero has also used his colonial power to protect his daughter Miranda. Throughout the play, we find the relationship between Miranda and Prospero to be very tight. To some extent, we are made to believe that Maranda has learned so much from his father to an extent that if she were to rule Milan, it could be relatively hard to be overthrown her reign. For instance, we find Caliban being punished by Prospero by engaging in an illegal affair with his daughter. In other words, Prospero wants the nobility of his daughter to remain intact. We also see another situation where he asks Ferdinand not to lustful to his daughter. This clearly shows the extent of protection Prospero has to his daughter. Although punishing Canibal for the rape attempt appears to be protection, it is more of vengeance than protection.
It is important to note that Prospero gives up his magic at the end of the play. Shakespeare has brought about his magic as a way of lifting his human hierarchy. After a continuous fight for freedom, he finally decides to put away his rough magical power that made Canibal uncomfortable despite having a good relationship. Giving up his magic is a way of putting his colonialism towards Canibal to an end.
In summary, there is a demonstration of Shakespeare clear portrayed the aspect of colonialism in the play. We have been able to analyze critically how the relationship between Prospero and Caliban illustrates that of the colonizer and colonized. From Prospero’s character, we have been made to understand how ungrateful and unforgiving colonizers are towards their colonized.
Gurr, Andrew. The Tempest’s Tempest at Blackfriars. London: Cambridge Press, 2005.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest (Norton Critical Edition). London: Norton, W. W. &
Company, Inc., 2013. Book.