Power, Betrayal, and Colonialism in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Sep 07, 2023
Cite this
Category: Literature
Date added
Pages:  6
Words:  1910
Order Original Essay

How it works

A piece written by William Shakespeare, The Tempest, is a play written in the early 1600’s. This plays deals with magic and tragedy. Like any other play, Shakespeare’s story is intriguing and once you start thinking about it more, you realize there is more to it. This book deals with a person taking over someone’s land for their own benefit. Not seeing the harm or danger they might have put them through. Throughout history you see constant need for power and you see what people will do so willingly to obtain it. While reading The Tempest, people will see that two people who are slaved by another man who wasn’t even a habitant of the island before themselves, belittles them and hangs freedom over their heads. William Shakespeare’s book deals with the radicalization of taking over someone else’s’ land.

The meaning of the tempest defines as a wild and windy storm. This is actually how the play starts off by. The characters, Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, and Gonzalo, are in a ship traveling through the sea, sailing back home when they are caught in a shipwreck. The winds pick up and sailing is rough. Everyone starts to panic on board and fear for their lives. What each of them don’t know is that this is all an illusion to help Prospero’s plan. He gets help by a spirt named Ariel. Ariel has powers to make them think they got no chance to live, but she brings them ashore. They all get split up on an island and think that their ship is ruined. They think this island is not suitable for anyone to live on and assume they are alone.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

In order to understand why Prospero did this to them is to actually pay attention in Act 1, Scene 2, he explains to his daughter Miranda that he was thrown away to this island. He explains that he was the actual duke of Milan. He had to escape from there because his own brother, Antonio, was driven by the power he saw his brother have that he wanted it for himself. Antonio wanted to be the duke of Milan so he ordered henchmen to come and kill his brother off.

Prospero explains that he was lucky to not be killed off that night because a noble named Gonzalo, helped them escape on a boat. He had to flee with his daughter so no harm can come to them. Here, is where this sympathy for Prospero because of the situation he had to go through.

Now, Prospero is no ordinary person. He has powers that can make anyone feel pain within. He has two slaves that work under him that were already on the refuge island before he got there with his daughter. These slaves have names, Ariel and Caliban. You get the impression that they didn’t surrender gradually to Prospero. He came into this island and did them favors in order to now hang it over their heads. In the book you can see that Ariel is Prospero’s favorite. He doesn’t really mouth off to Ariel. He asks him to do his bidding and he abides. Prospero trusts him fully because Ariel is practically his eyes and ears in the play.

The relationship between Ariel and Prospero is known in the first act. Ariel, a divine spirit, was a servant before to a witch called Sycorax. This witch is deemed to be inhumane with her witchy craft. Ariel is seemed as a kind spirit because she wouldn’t carry out Syrcoraz menacing plans. The sorceress had enough of Ariel and her kindness that she imprisoned her inside a pine tree. Prospero reveals the he was sheltered in this tree for twelve years. Sycroax died and left Ariel in there until Prospero came and freed her. In this case it can be seen that Ariel knows how to be a good servant so that’s why she is somewhat Prospero’s favorite. She was already a salve beforehand so she knows how to act with her master.

In this scene it also reveals that Sycorax was banished to this island when she was pregnant. She was in Algiers before, but was cast out for her wrongdoings. When this witch died she had a son named Caliban. Caliban is describe to be a beast that is an offspring from the devil. Caliban is more resistant to Prospero’s orders. He doesn’t like that Caliban came over and took control over his mother’s land. He claims that he was fooled by Prospero. He didn’t think he would take his landing and make it his own. He hates that he teach him how to talk and eat like an ordinary man. He feels betrayed by Prospero. It deems that Prospero was being kind to Caliban in the beginning, but now he treats me unfairly. He hopes nothing but pain to be inflicted on Prospero. [53]

Even though Prospero has teach him the ways of the island and much more, Caliban doesn’t see it as a reward. He sees it as a scheme all along. Prospero taught Caliban the language of the common tongue, but Caliban only sees the benefit of that came that he can now curse. [55]

This where the factor comes in where foreign people come into other people’s land and start showing them their own culture. With adaptation and thinking they have done something right they feel the need to be one in power. Prospero feels like he has done nothing but good by Caliban. Caliban doesn’t see it this way. Caliban thinks that he was better off before Prospero came in. Since Prospero came he has felt his magic powers being inflicted on him. He is now scared of Prospero.

This book ties in well with history because a prime example can be seen in real life events. When Christopher Columbus came and “discovered” America he showed the natives the way around and with weapons by his side they surrendered. He took over and made sure to maintain order. Before him people were not exposed to African slavery. They were also not exposed to the diseases that they brought with them. It’s safe to say people died more from the new diseases that came than actual violence. This doesn’t take apart from the fact that he came to a positon of power by inflicting terror on the residents there.

In Shakespeare’s play we can see the romance as well. We can tell that Prospero wants his daughter to be married to Ferdinand. Ferdinand is the son of the king of Naples, his father Alonso. This is why he does this whole fantasy of a shipwreck because he wants his position back as duke of Milan. He wants to make sure that his legacy is carried out. He makes sure of this by making Miranda fall in love with Ferdinand. He will be the rightful heir once his father is long gone. I don’t want to focus so much on the romantic part of this novel because for me this book can be seen a piece of art that showcases the need for people to come over and demand other people to do right by them.

Even though Prospero is not seen as person with armor or with weapons, he does have magic skills. When Caliban gives him attitude he tells him that he will be in pain if he doesn’t do what he says. Caliban knows that Prospero’s magic is too great to not comply by his demands. Now, back to Christopher Columbus he has this power because he does have actual weapons. These people didn’t have a firearm so they had no chance but to yield. They had to listen to these new foreigners coming to their lands because of fear.

This was easy for Columbus to take because he had the upper hand. This was easy as stealing a piece of candy from a kid. These people didn’t know what hit them until they saw these fair skin men on their lands with weapons beside them. They didn’t have any other way to escape or to resort to. They had to submit and play along. There were so many lives taken because of this. There was no absolute need for this, but just simply for power. These people were power hungry and they didn’t care who they had to take down to appetite their hunger.

It’s very easy to parallel this play with Columbus because it’s easy to see how both are the same. Prospero doesn’t forget that fact that he was dethrone twelve years ago. He is still brewing with rage from that incident. He didn’t forget. When he got the chance to take over Caliban and Ariel he did. He used his kindness to win them over and then deceived them. He did this only for himself. He’s a selfish character because he wants the power to be only with him. He wants everyone to listen to his commands. He wants his daughter to marry just for his own benefit.

A book called the Iron Cages: Race ad Culture in 19th Century America by Ronald Takaki, he touches based with Caliban as well. He makes a comment that Caliban, as well as anybody beneath the fair skin men are nothing, but slaves. He makes a point that people, natives, are seen as people who have no control over themselves. They were deemed as people who needed and easily controlled by whites. This can easily be seen in The Tempest.

CTA banner
Donate your essay and get 10$ for each one!
Upload your essay and after it checking you will get money in your bonus account.

Prospero talks so great about what he has done for both Ariel and Caliban. He basically tells that they wouldn’t have survived without him. Ariel would’ve been nothing but a person a spirit being in a tree. Caliban would’ve been a simple minded beast. He thinks that Caliban and Ariel should owe him their lives because he feels like he did so much for them. Exactly at what point doesn’t Prospero see that he didn’t treat these people as friends who simply live in the same island with him. If he thinks he was doing well by them then why hold them as hostages. Why wave fear in their faces when they don’t comply by his rules. He’s not a good person as he thinks himself to be. He doesn’t grant Ariel true freedom unless she is done with his dirty work. He keeps Caliban isolated from the real world, but only useful for him.

All in all, I did have a pleasant time reading this book. It captures you with the magic that comes from the characters. It fools you to believe Prospero is a great man because he is helping these people. In reality, he is just exploiting his powers over them. I enjoyed this book because at the end you do see a resolution. He does grant Ariel his freedom. This book can be translated as well to see how easy people do anything for power. As always Shakespeare’s play barely disappoints with his work. As any other play The Tempest is an admired work of his. There’s no clear source as to why he wrote this but with the theme of magic and betrayal this is

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay

Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Power, Betrayal, and Colonialism in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. (2019, Nov 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/power-betrayal-and-colonialism-in-shakespeares-the-tempest/