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How far do you agree that Shakespeare presents status as the greatest enemy to communication in The Tempest?

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Introduction

How far do you agree that Shakespeare presents status as the greatest enemy to communication in The Tempest? The themes of status and breakdown of communication are prevalent in The Tempest; and it is therefore unsurprising that the two come into conflict at several points within the play. This essay will discuss these themes, and more specifically, how status and hierarchy cause a breakdown in communication, reaching the conclusion that Shakespeare does present status as the greatest enemy to communication throughout the play. As early as Act 1 Scene1, the two themes collide, and status is portrayed as a negative force towards communication. The aristocracy on the boat are obviously of a higher status than the boatswain who is sailing them home, however, when the storm hits it is clear that the power is held by the boatswain. He is the only one able to get them through the storm alive. The King's party have difficulty in accepting this switch of power, and thus the Boatswain's orders are ignored. BOATSWAIN: When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for The name of king? To cabin. Silence! Trouble us not. GONZALO: Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare creating a spirit as a slave is no coincidence. It again highlights how status can control event the freest of beings. It also adds to the theme of injustice, and the combination of the two does not allow freely flowing communication between the two. Once again, the slave is given prose instead of blank verse - a sign of elevated status. The inability of Ariel to truly communicate with Prospero despite being eloquent, clearly shows how status is an enemy to communication. Just as with Gonzalo, the character with status is presented as dismissive of other characters below them. Shakespeare presents situations in both these cases whereby we cannot automatically accept the authority wielded by those with status. In Act 1 Scene 1, the boatswain is clearly the character who should have authority in that situation, regardless of the normal hierarchy. Similarly having only just been introduced to Caliban and Prospero, we can see that Shakespeare elevates Caliban above what a slave would normally be, by giving him prose, and an eloquent speech. Therefore it is not status as theme by itself that is the greatest enemy to communication, but more specifically, the resentment of status, and the unwillingness to surrender power and authority in any way. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the case of this relationship, one would assume that communication would be clear, Miranda would attentively listen to Prospero at all times; however, the first communication that the audience sees between the two characters shows Prospero anxious that Miranda is in fact listening to him. He continually checks her awareness: "Dost thou attend me?" "The very minute bids thee open thine ear; Obey and be attentive..." "Dost thou hear?" There seems to be a slight apprehension on the part of Prospero that his status in this relationship is not enough for the channels of communication to be open. Whilst in this relationship, status is not an enemy to communication, it doesn't have as positive an affect as one would imagine. In conclusion, throughout the play, almost every single relationship that Shakespeare presents to us allows the audience to see just how much status affects communication, and what an adverse affect it has. Be it through the obvious and blatant disregard of one character to another, or the ability of two characters of the same social level to communicate well, Shakespeare clearly wants the audience to recognise this point, and the dynamics of the master slave relationship. It is clear that whilst many things affect communication in this play, Shakespeare wanted to present status as the greatest enemy. ...read more.

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