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Explore the themes of Imprisonment, Freedom and Authority in The Tempest. Why might Shakespeare have chosen to highlight these themes?

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Introduction

Explore the themes of Imprisonment, Freedom and Authority in The Tempest. Why might Shakespeare have chosen to highlight these themes? There are three categories that could be used to define the forms of imprisonment in The Tempest. You could say they are physical, Ariel being imprisoned in the cloven pine by Sycorax, mental, Prospero being imprisoned by his thoughts of revenge and there is magical imprisonment, Ferdinand being frozen by Prospero. Physical: The first and most obvious type of physical imprisonment in The Tempest is that of Prospero and Miranda, imprisoned on an island after being exiled from the Kingdom they once ruled. "In few, they hurried us aboard a bark, Bore us some leagues to sea, where they prepared A rotten carcass of a butt, not rigged, Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats Instinctively have quit it ....." Prospero tells Miranda this to try and make her see how they were imprisoned on the island. They were put on a boat that was not sea-worthy by far and left to die, either from starvation or thirst, for they had no food nor drink, or from drowning if the boat had sunk. The second act of physical imprisonment in the play is when Prospero reminds Ariel of her imprisonment by Sycorax, the mad witch and first inhabitant of the island, in the cloven pine tree. Ariel was left there for twelve years after he refused to carry out the foul plots the witch had suggested. ...read more.

Middle

Another type of physical imprisonment involving Caliban in the play is his imprisonment to stay in the cave at the other side of the island. He finds this imprisonment more painful than the others because twelve years ago before Miranda and Prospero came to the island Caliban had been able to do whatever he wanted in the island, he had no restrictions because he owned it with his mother Sycorax. Prospero banished him to the other side of the island and into a cave after Caliban tried to rape Miranda. Caliban: page 42 lines 341-343 "and here you sty me In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me the rest o' th' island." Prospero does a lot of imprisoning of other people on the island, another man he imprisons is Ferdinand. He imprisons him in two ways. One physically, in the prison collecting wood and the other magically when Ferdinand drew his sword and Prospero froze Ferdinand in his own body. I believe he imprisons him for two reasons. The first is the one most focused on in the play, Prospero wants Miranda and Ferdinand to fall in love gradually and really make the most of the time they have. The second is the one not looked at in the play at all and I have just realised that it is a possibility. When Ferdinand first arrives on the island he stands up to Prospero and so I believe that Prospero may just be trying to show Ferdinand how powerful he can be. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is mentally imprisoned because he always needs a leader figure. At first it was Prospero and Caliban was desperately unhappy at Prospero's actions and being a slave. Nevertheless, when Stephano came along brandishing "celestial liquor" Caliban was more than happy to kneel before him and even lick Stephano's boots a number of times! This shows Caliban's need for leadership but in spite of this when he gets it he always hates it. This is shown most at the end of the play when Caliban actually begs Prospero to forgive him and to take him back as his slave this is completely the contrary to what Caliban had told Stephano earlier in the play. The other type of mental imprisonment is of people wanting to be imprisoned. Miranda and Ferdinand imprisoned willingly in their love for each other. Ferdinand is willing to do anything for Miranda, even if that means being out in prison and being stopped from seeing her he is willing to do it because he loves her. She is willing to disobey her father to go and see him because she loves him. Magical: Following on from the last type of mental imprisonment, Ferdinand was imprisoned in his own body by Prospero because he drew his sword against Prospero. This shows Prospero's powers and how strong they are. Prospero controls all of the men on the island one way or the other. He uses Ariel to lead Ferdinand to Miranda, he uses Ariel as a Harpy to scare Gonzalo, Alonzo, Sebastian and Antonio. ...read more.

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