Tempest Is One of William Shakespeare's Later Term Paper

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¶ … Tempest is one of William Shakespeare's later plays which was probably written between 1610 and 1611. Considering that the early 1600s were marked by the beginning of the emigration from England and Spain to North America, it is interesting to examine how the theme of colonization was expressed in Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Shakespeare's play raises some important questions regarding the relationship of the colonizing people coming from Europe with native tribes that they encountered in the colonies. Since this is an essential part of the Elizabethan period in England, Shakespeare uses his play to bring the experience of the European settlers into discussion, and to familiarize English society with the concept of "New World," an uncivilized and sparsely populated island.

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Nineteenth and twentieth century critics were involved in countless debates as to the colonial character of the play. Some critics have argued in favor of the assumption that "The Tempest" was in fact, Shakespeare's response to colonialism, and that Prospero and Caliban's relationship is the epitome of the master-slave relationship as it was established by European colonizers. However, there is also an opposing side which argues that Shakespeare did not intend to point at a particular European nation, be it England or Spain, and that albeit his play points at colonialism, it is not an expression of it. Thesis: This paper argues that while Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest," does raise issues about the relationship of Europeans with native peoples, it does not aim at describing the experience of one particular nation, be it English or Spanish. The main argument of This paper is that Shakespeare utilizes the pattern of colonialism seen as a general phenomenon, and the colonialist endeavors of one European nation in particular.

Term Paper on Tempest Is One of William Shakespeare's Later Assignment

No source for "The Tempest" has been found. Critics believe that the inspiration for most of Shakespeare's plays comes from his incredibly diverse theatrical experience, readings and conversations. However, in the case of "The Tempest," Shakespeare was influenced by the "Bermuda Pamphlets," which include Sylvester Jourdain's "Discovery of the Bermudas," the Council of Virginia's "True Declaration of the state of the Colonie in Virginia with a confutation of such scandalous reports as have tended to the disgrace of so worthy an enterprise" both published in 1610, as well as a letter by William Strachey, the "True Reportory of the Wracke," dated 15 July 1610, but not published until 1625. That Shakespeare saw the letter is highly probable because his patron, the earl of Southampton, was an officer of the Virginia Company (Coursen: 7). Furthermore, in May 1609, nine colonist ships set out from Plymouth under the command of Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Summers to join John Smith's colony at Jamestown. Gates' and Summers' ship, the Sea Venture, was separated from the rest of the fleet by a storm, and driven toward Bermuda. The ship was destroyed but the entire crew survived. The story of the Sea Venture reached England in late 1609, so this might have also constituted a source of inspiration for Shakespeare's "The Tempest." (Ibid)

The main theme of the play is that of colonization which controls the entire plot especially through the motif of the master and servant. In this sense, irrespective of the moment of the plot or the characters involved in a certain scene, there is always either an implicit or an explicit relationship between a master and a servant i.e. A character who has the authority and another who is subject to that power, and obeys his master. However, this relationship is challenged at times by Shakespeare as he explores the changing dynamic of the master-servant interaction in case of the servant's rebellion, or the master's incapacity to control his servant. By exploring the social and psychological aspects of this relationship, Shakespeare contrasts different points-of-view and manages to illustrate the master-servant interaction from two opposing perspectives. On the one hand, there is the positive relationship between Prospero and Ariel in which authority and submission are clearly distributed in the sense that Ariel always obeys and protects his master, and Prospero keeps his promise of freeing the spirit once his plans are completed. On the other hand, there is the negative facet of this relationship as exhibited, for instance, by Prospero and Caliban, or Alonso and his nobles. In both negative cases, treachery is what undermines the relationship and ultimately destroys it.

Colonization was put forth as a major Shakespearean theme in "The Tempest" around the middle of the nineteenth century, when English critic William Hazlitt pointed out that Prospero represents the European colonizer who usurps the native from his rule of a certain territory; in this case, Caliban represents the local who is subject to the authority of the agent of imperialism i.e. Prospero. In order to understand the theme of the colonization it is fundamental to look at the characters of Prospero and Caliban, as well as their relationship of master-servant. Prospero is a European who comes from the Old World and seizes control of the island. His implicit authority once arrived on the island allows him to transform the local inhabitants i.e. Ariel and Caliban into his servants. Obviously, in this case, Prospero is indeed the representative of the European colonizer whose fame was increasing during Shakespeare's time.

Caliban is considered the main part of the discourse of colonialism (Skura: 47). Caliban is a native of the island, and regards himself as the rightful owner of it: "I must eat my dinner. / This island's mine by Sycorax my mother, / Which thou tak'st from me... / for I am all the subjects that you have, / Which first was mine own king, and her you sty me / in this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me / the rest o'th'island." (I.ii.330-2; 340-4) He is forced to serve Prospero and his daughter Miranda, although he constantly proclaims his unwillingness to be their servant. There is also a sort of trade that occurs with the arrival of Prospero. Prospero teaches Caliban language, and in return, Caliban shows him all the natural resources of the island. However, Caliban does not want to serve Propero, and even tries to rape Miranda; their relationship changes to one of master and slave: "Thou most lying slave, / Whom stripes may move, not kindness. I have used thee - / Filth though thou art - with humane care, and lodged thee / in mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate / the honour of my child" (I.ii.344-350). Caliban acknowledges Prospero's power; to Caliban, the European man is more powerful than his god: "His art is of such power, / it would control my dam's god Setebos / and make a vassal of him" (I.ii.373-5).

From Prospero's perspective, the main problem with Caliban is that he cannot be educated; however, Caliban learns language, and his poetry is definitely not a sign of savagery, but of civilization. The issue here is that although Caliban is able to develop a couple of the traits associated with civilization, his sense of rebellion and his unwillingness to accept himself as Prospero's slave determine the latter to consider the former as a savage. For Prospero, civilization can be translated into the will to surrender, and become the slave of the colonizer. Since Caliban exhibits no self-restraint, and is perpetually discontent with his status, Prospero sees him as beyond salvation, and even considers him to be controlled by the devil: "Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself / Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!" (I.ii.320-1). In this sense, Prospero's image of Caliban is itself the European perception of the New World and its inhabitants. From this point-of-view, Prospero's authority is the result of his incapacity to understand and accept the natives as human beings. Because he is different, and does not fit into the European mind set, Caliban is seen as sub-human by Prospero: "A devil, a born devil, on whose nature / Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains, / Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost; / and as with age his body uglier grows, / So his mind cankers" (IV.i.188-93). Miranda shares her father's view of the world: "Abhorred slave, / Which any print of goodness will not take, / Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee, / Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour / One thing or other. When thou didst not, savage, / Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like / a thing most brutish. I endowed thy purposes / With words that made them known. But thy vile race - / Though thou didst learn - had that in't which good natures / Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou / Deservedly confined into this rock; / Which hadst deserved more than a prison. (I.ii.350-61). However, what she does not understand - either due to her naivete or simply her young age - is that Caliban is taught their language because Prospero needs a way to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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