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How does Shakespeare present Prospero's relationship with Ariel and Caliban throughout the course of the play?

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Introduction

Q1. How does Shakespeare present Prospero's relationship with Ariel and Caliban throughout the course of the play? Look at the language used when speaking to, and of each other. Do you think the dynamics of the relationships support a colonialist reading, or is this incidental? The time at which Shakespeare wrote The Tempest saw a new dawn in sea travel. It was written in 1611, two years after the ill-fated journey of the Sea Adventure to Virginia. This early attempt a colonisation was doubtless an influence Shakespeare's storyline in The Tempest. It is unlikely that Shakespeare consciously included this colonial theme in his writing, as there is only circumstantial evidence of a colonialist reading. However, we can further explore this theme by looking at the relationships of Prospero, the supposed 'colonist', with Ariel and Caliban, the assumed natives. The relationship between Prospero and his deformed slave is obviously a tempestuous one. Caliban is an unusual character in that he claims ownership of an island he may not be native to. He quite obviously resents Prospero's mastery of the island and indeed himself. Prospero has his own grievances with Caliban, who attempted to rape his daughter Miranda. ...read more.

Middle

This he realises by the play's conclusion. Prospero's other poignant relationship is that with Ariel - the 'airy' spirit. The circumstances surrounding Ariel's entrapment on the island are uncertain. He may very well be a native himself - and in this case the true claimant to the island. But, some doubt does surround this, Ariel could very well have journeyed to the island with Sycorax the witch under her command. We certainly know that he was her slave before his imprisonment and her death. Ariel's relationship with Prospero is quite different to that of Prospero and Caliban. In this affiliation, there is a certain degree of respect that lacks in the master-slave relationship of Prospero and Caliban. Caliban is a self-accepted underdog. He realises that he is different from others and therefore can never be more than a sideshow attraction. This can be seen clearly on a number of occasions, for example, when he offers himself to Stephano the drunken butler as a servant. We could also say that Caliban is not acting as the underdog in this situation and that he is actually quite scheming. Caliban is allowing Stephano to think he is the leader, but really he has a grander design. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is likely that Shakespeare read these texts, if so, it is doubtless that he was greatly influenced by them when writing the Tempest. The views of the critics are very influential on our own interpretation of The Tempest with reference to colonialism. Personally, I think that it is unimportant. In my opinion, any comments it may seem that Shakespeare made on the subject are incidental. As aforementioned, England was not a major colonial player at the beginning of the century and Shakespeare was not completely familiar with all of the facts about the New World and the people who inhabited it. However, Spain had established colonies in South America many years before and the Spanish viewed the British colonies as a threat to their supremacy in the New World. How much Shakespeare knew about the Spanish colonisations is vague, but as Shakespeare himself was British it is doubtful he knew much. Prospero's treatment of the island residents could be seen as proof, but I am not so sure. Prospero does treat Caliban and Ariel with needless cruelty, but this behaviour is found all over the world even today. So, The Tempest could be a comment on colonialism, but it could just as easily be a comment on the class system of any country in the world, Italian politics or anything else for that matter. Gemma Dale Page 1 5/8/2007 ...read more.

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