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How far do you agree that The Tempest is a play about the use and abuse of power?

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Introduction

How far do you agree that The Tempest is a play about the use and abuse of power? The Tempest uses a variety of symbols and motifs to create the allusion of power upholding a hierarchical society. The play as a whole uses the idea of having one character controlling the fate of all other characters: other supporting characters also contribute in sustaining the theme of power successfully whom I will talk about further on. I am going to consider how Shakespeare uses his central character to promote the idea of misusing power as a means to ending injustice, and how this character develops relationships with other characters to demonstrate this. Firstly I will look at how not only characters depict this theme but how structurally and literary ideas used by Shakespeare can reveal the illusive nature behind political power. The opening scene alone creates the setting in which all abuse of power is derived. This scene Act 1, Scene 1, opens with a howling storm ("The Tempest") tossing a noticeably smaller, powerless boat, threatening to kill the characters before the play had even begun. Referring back to the idea of masters and servants, this is instantly shown throughout Act 1, Scene 1, with social division emerging. ...read more.

Middle

Prospero exploits the guilt of his subjects to his own advantage, thus appraising his exploits in order to secure power: "Hast thou, spirit/ Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee? /... My brave spirit!" (193 -194/206) However, when consulting with Caliban, Prospero uses his power maliciously in a merciless manner, inflicting him with bodily harm, an extreme example of how Caliban feels is in lines 371-374: "No, pray thee. [Aside] I must obey. His art is of such power" Caliban has no duty to Prospero, unlike Ariel whom Prospero saved from the curse of Sycorax, this answers the question of why Ariel, under such heavy authoritarian power, can still be submissive towards Prospero, and in return for Prospero's equally good nature towards Ariel. Shakespeare is trying to show that his treatment of Ariel as a possession, forcing him to retell his suffering endured in his story, allows Prospero to hold more control over Ariel as well as underlining to himself and Miranda how he is the saviour who conquered Sycorax, however Prospero also uses this story to display his own power thoughtfully and physically threatening to re-trap Ariel like Sycorax did, preventing Ariel, Caliban and Miranda to rebel against his authority. However, Ariel occupies possibly the most important role in the last two acts of the play: This is what threatens Prospero. ...read more.

Conclusion

but Prospero is quick to point out that they are still each dressed in their servant uniforms: "Mark but the badges of these men" (267) Prospero's change of personality is noted significantly when he accuses his enemies of what they deserve, yet forgives them instantly, however this is only when he has succeeded his title as Duke of Milan back. He will no longer hold Ariel and Caliban as his slaves and he will no longer control Miranda - the very reason behind his social lesson taught - as she is marrying Ferdinand (without Prospero's intervention). This sudden change in forgiveness is taught to Prospero through Ariel: "If you beheld them now, your affections/ would become tender" (18-19). The power exercised by Prospero originally may have been unsettling to the audience, however in this final scene it is apparent that the theme of power is the primary source of all pleasure enjoyed by the audience. There is no doubting that power is the key to the success of The Tempest. Shakespeare uses his protagonist Prospero to control every outcome throughout the play, as with a playwright. As The Tempest is the last play written by Shakespeare it is appealing to think of Prospero as being a deliberate representation of Shakespeare. Prospero's last speech can be viewed as Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre. ...read more.

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