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Explore the theme of rightful authority in The Tempest

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Explore the theme of rightful authority in 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare. The theme of rightful authority prevails throughout Act One. It affects the relationships between the characters and dictates the outcomes of the situations that Shakespeare creates. Particularly central is the power struggle between Prospero and Caliban which many post-colonial critics have labelled as the struggle between natives and invading forces. Prospero is stripped of the power he held in civilisation when his brother Antonio usurps his position. Shakespeare presents Prospero's tale in a way where the audience may feel inclined to sympathise with him, however midway through his tale it becomes apparent that perhaps Prospero was right to lose his throne as his priority was his magic and not his people. On the island Prospero rules with unquestionable authority, a strength not apparent in his ruling of Milan. Prospero's magic becomes a useful power when he is banished to a small island. It enables him to hold power over the only native; Caliban. At first Prospero shows love and kindness towards Caliban who shows them the islands resources in return. ...read more.


Ariel is a spirit who acts in service to Prospero. Service to one's King or ruler was considered part of the 'natural order' in Shakespeare's time but is Prospero Ariel's rightful King or does Ariel serve him out of fear that he will entrap her in the tree that he originally freed her from? On the other hand Prospero seems to have genuine affection for Ariel who for the large part serves him cheerfully. In many ways Ariel is a contrast to Caliban; she is airy and has no body, Caliban is grounded and earthy. More than this, the characters differ in terms of their positions on the Jacobean hierarchy. Ariel is at the top of the hierarchy as her magical powers and immortality place her above humans, Caliban is at the bottom of the hierarchy as he is less than human in shape and has no magical powers whatsoever. To control Ariel Prospero uses threats and flattery. To control Caliban Prospero uses threats and punishment. Both the 'monster' Caliban and the 'good' Ariel serve Prospero unwillingly and chafe against his rule, Prospero labels them both as slaves. ...read more.


The age of exploration had begun and colonisation was taking place all over the world as the major powers like Spain, France, and England colonised countries where their tools and technology were far superior to the native's. The colonisers rationalised their actions as bringing words to the wordless, but as Caliban points out "You taught me language, and my profit on't is I know how to curse." 'The Tempest' is widely believed to be Shakespeare's last play and in this way he has been compared to his character Prospero since Prospero relinquishes his magical powers at the end by breaking his magical staff and Shakespeare lays his pen to rest. The play contrasts the idea of civilisation and 'savageness' fighting for power, and the greed that overwhelms a character in their pursuit of power; as evidenced by Caliban's plot to kill Prospero later in the play. The collective desire for power brings two of the most contrasting characters, Prospero and Caliban, closer than any other pair of characters in the play. The play centres on the loss and gain of authority and the resulting consequences that the characters suffer when there is a struggle for authority. ?? ?? ?? ?? Tabitha Scott 13N English Essay: Rightful Authority in The Tempest 2008-10-07 1 ...read more.

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