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Explore the presentation of authority and inferiority in 'The Tempest'.

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Introduction

Throughout The Tempest, Shakespeare manages to present authority and inferiority through different characters and in a variety of different ways. One of the main characters, Prospero, is acknowledged as being the most authoritative character in the play because the audience realise that, not only was he once the Duke of Milan, but his power and overall superiority in the island is due to his knowledge in the magical arts. Prospero is proficient in the magical arts mainly due to the fact that he brushed aside his responsibilities when he was a Duke to make time for his magic. It is ironic to consider that, being gifted with magic, Prospero is shown as being virtually omnipotent on the island, yet it was the pursuit of this magic which was his initial downfall in society. In contrast to Prospero's excess in authority, Caliban is presented as the most inferior character in the play. He is banished out of Prospero's circle due to his nature; his mother was often referred to as a "hag", and because he knows nothing of civilisation, but rather acts on an instinctive belief. It is also due to Caliban's ignorance of the rules of outside society, that the island, where he born, and which could be said be rightfully his, was taken from him by Prospero. ...read more.

Middle

receives comfort like cold porridge". This was said when Gonzalo tried telling Alonso to be grateful for having survived the tempest, "Beseech you, sir, be merry". The way in which Antonio and Sebastian plan to kill Alonso and Gonzalo, in order for Sebastian to become the new King of Naples, shows how they are both willing to do blasphemous deeds in order to be their own leaders. Their lack of respect for those with more authority to themselves helps the audience to understand that there is no authority or superiority without those who are inferior to acknowledge it. The case of Caliban and Stephano and Trinculo shows the audience that some people were born to serve, but that they wanted to the freedom to choose their leader. Caliban never wanted to be free, he just wanted to have the freedom to choose who his controller was to be. We see this when he tells Stephano and Trinculo he will "serve thee" if they "bite him (Prospero) to death". Caliban's hatred for Prospero is justified as the treatment he receives from Prospero is nothing short of degrading; Prospero constantly refers to him as a slave, "Thou poisonous slave". The speed in which Caliban was willing to accept Stephano and Trinculo as his new leaders shows his naivety as they are much more inferior than Prospero could ever be. ...read more.

Conclusion

The boatswain is more interested in getting out alive rather than adhering to the rules of hierarchy. He orders the four to get to their cabins as they "mar" his "labour". This scene shows that even in the face of danger, Antonio and Sebastian are more concerned with the correct respect shown to them due to their statuses in society. The Boatswain's only interest is saving himself and the ship, so his language is abrupt and short: "Work you, then". He is speaking directly to Sebastian after Sebastian gets affronted with the disrespect he is shown. Sebastian shouts insults at the Boatswain "A pox o'your throat". It is his pride which was injured due to the lack of respect he was shown. Sebastian and Antonio were never used to this treatment as they were usually held in high regard in society. What the audience realise is that authority means nothing when in the face of danger as the ultimate authority is help by Mother Nature. In conclusion, one can assume that authority and inferiority is determined by a number of things, but mostly the situation and circumstance a person is in. Caliban is a victim of circumstance and thus has no authority, but if Prospero hadn't come to the island, Caliban may have been his own king. It is Prospero's magic and the fear he instils in Caliban which gives him the superiority he has on the island. Authority and Inferiority can also only be determined by those with less authority, as without inferiority there cannot be superiority. ...read more.

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