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Explore how Shakespeare presents the theme of power in "The Tempest"

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Introduction

Explore how Shakespeare presents the theme of power in "The Tempest" In "The Tempest", power manifests itself in many different forms. Three of the main types of power that Shakespeare explores are the power of love, the power of magic and illusion and the power of a master over his slave. He presents these forms of power in a number of ways. In "The Tempest" Prospero appears to hold the majority of the power. He maintains his control over other characters in various ways, for example he uses the power of love to influence his daughter Miranda. Miranda is devoted to her father, and Prospero uses guilt to maintain this. In their first conversation, Prospero's power over Miranda becomes apparent. She says "Alack, what trouble/Was I then to you!" and it is clear that because of the guilt she feels, she will be willing to do anything for him. It is evident that Miranda is aware of how powerful Prospero is, as she says "Had I been any god of power, I would/ Have sunk the sea within the earth". This indicates that she understands the extent of Prospero's power, and that if she had possessed the same amount of power, she would use it differently to her father. ...read more.

Middle

Prospero could be blamed for Caliban's demise into savagery, calling him "Abhorred slave" and treating him with disrespect. Caliban is often rebellious towards Prospero, refusing to do what he is asked. This is similar to the beginning of the play, in which the Boatswain, who is usually subject to power from authority, is controlling those on the boat, subverting the master-slave presentation of power. He says, "You mar our labour. Keep your cabins" and when Gonzalo says, "remember whom thou hast aboard" the Boatswain replies "None that I love more than myself". Whereas he usually submits to the power of Alonso, the king, he reverses this and takes control. Another example of this subversion of power is when Stephano and Trinculo, who are also servants to the king, convince Caliban that they are his masters. They use alcohol to gain power over him, Stephano saying, "Open your mouth. Here is that which will give language to you, cat" and are amused by Caliban, calling him "monster" and laughing when Caliban says, "I'll kiss thy foot". Caliban believes that they will able to free him from Prospero's control over him, singing, "No more dams I'll make for fish... Cacaliban/ Has a new master, get a new man". ...read more.

Conclusion

He often only uses his powers to show off, and it is questionable as to how powerful he would be without magic, and the willingness of his servants, Ariel and Caliban, to comply with his demands. After all, it is Ariel who conjures the tempest at the start of the play, and as Prospero says about Caliban "We cannot miss him. He does our fire/ Fetch our wood, and serves in offices/ That profit us". Prospero needs Ariel and Caliban in order to have power, and so throughout "The Tempest", contrary to our beliefs at the beginning of the play, we begin to see that the main protagonist of power within "The Tempest" is not, in fact, Prospero. Shakespeare presents many kinds of power in "The Tempest". He demonstrates the control that Prospero has over Miranda using love, and also different kinds of power between master and slave. Sometimes the master and slave power is subverted, such as at the beginning of the play, when the boatswain takes control. Shakespeare also presents a change in the balance of Prospero's power. The main reason Prospero has so much power is due to his magic, however at the end of the play he sacrifices his powers and sets free his slaves, Ariel and Caliban. ...read more.

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