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How does Shakespeare ensure that the theme of usurpation and its consequences runs throughout The Tempest?

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How does Shakespeare ensure that the theme of usurpation and its consequences runs throughout The Tempest? The Tempest is a late romance, which is a mixture of comedy and tragedy and during the play Shakespeare puts across his Church of England views on usurpation. Before we discuss how Shakespeare ensures that the theme of usurpation and its consequences runs throughout The Tempest, we need to define the meaning of the term usurpation. Usurpation is when someone wrongfully seizes/assumes the power or the throne. An example of usurpation was when Napoleon usurped/seized the power from Louis XVI. The main plot of the play is to do with Prospero seeking revenge on his brother for taking his place as the Duke of Milan and leaving him and his daughter Miranda adrift in a boat to die. Prospero wants order to be restored and for him to be back as the Duke of Milan. During the play there are also two subplots involving a couple of people wanting to usurp the King of Naples and a group of three people wishing to usurp Prospero. Some aspects of the idea of usurpation occurs in nearly every scene in the Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" The theme also occurs in a verity of different circumstances and between different groups of people all wanting to overthrow the rightful person for there own benefit. ...read more.


Sebastian was quite happy to let Sebastian become King. Sebastian tries to persuade Antonio by telling him "Here lies your brother, No better than the earth he lies upon, If he were that which now he's like, that's dead". By saying this he is trying to imply that he may as well be dead because he is like the earth and almost at the bottom of the chain of being. Sebastian even goes as far as saying if you don't want to kill him yourself; I'll do it for you. The next piece of usurpation that was incorporated into the play occurred is driven by Caliban's desire for revenge and the greed of Trinculo and Stephano. During Act 3 Scene2 pages 80 onwards Caliban explains to Stethano and Trinculo how Prospero took the island from him, and tells them that had now became his slave. Caliban persuades to Stephano and Trinculo to usurp Prospero by killing him. There is evidence that Caliban dose in fact only want revenge on pages 80 and 81 when he describes very graphic ways to kill Prospero. These quotes tell us that he has been dreaming and waiting for this moment a long, long time. At this point in the play most if not all the audience would have now lost any sympathy for Caliban. ...read more.


The consequences of usurpation are also highlighted in this play During Act 2 Scene 1 Gonzarlo give an ironic speech all about his idea of a kingless society. Gonzarlo is talking nonsense for if there was no king evil men with a greed for power such as Antonio would take over anyway. The irony of this speech is that Gonzarlo quickly contradicts himself for he says that if he were king there would be no king. If there were no king the country would be in chaos for there would be no one to stop power hungry men from taking over and ruling themselves, there would be no one to protect the country from war, a civil war would almost immediately brake out between those who want to rule the country and there would be nobody to say what's right and what's wrong. Overall the play has very traditional and Christian values for example there is and empathises on the chain of being and that Machiavelli's idea is completely wrong. Also the Christian view of forgiveness is also empathised in the play through Prospero when he forgives his brothers wrong doings although his brother did not apologise and was not sorry. The play ended with order being restored just like in a tragedy. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

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There are some good points made in this essay and it is an interesting topic to explore. The theme is a good thread to follow through 'The Tempest' but the links must be made; so rather than looking at each point independently the structure of the play should be considered by linking the points and considering the direction of the whole play. All points should always be justified with evidence from the text; there are some good observations made about characters here but they do need to be supported.

Marked by teacher Laura Gater 22/04/2013

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