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The real monster in The Tempest is Prospero rather than Caliban

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The real monster in The Tempest is Prospero rather than Caliban" With particular reference to the interpretation of Prospero as a symbol of European colonialism, discuss his treatment of Ariel and Caliban. "The real monster in The Tempest is Prospero rather than Caliban" With particular reference to the interpretation of Prospero as a symbol of European colonialism, discuss his treatment of Ariel and Caliban. In Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero can be seen as a coloniser. Although he himself was forced onto the island, he was quick to impose both his beliefs and his self-proclaimed authority over the island's natural inhabitants. This self-appointed ruler however, is not the legitimate sovereign of the island. The native Caliban is the natural landlord of the isle, as it was passed down through his mother Sycorax. Yet Prospero rules over the island. In taking charge of an island that is not his, and then exerting his authority over the inhabitants through his magic, Prospero is obviously a metaphor for European colonial power, with which Shakespeare was becoming increasingly familiar during his lifetime with accounts of sea-men and expeditions splashed all over the covers of the broadsheets. In the Elizabethan Zeitgeist, Prospero would have the right to dominate and exploit Caliban because Prospero would view himself as a superior being with the right to take control of the inferior. This is the rationale Europeans used in the 17th century to dominate and exploit the native populations of emerging colonies. ...read more.


When he is not performing menial tasks for Prospero, he is cooped up, almost imprisoned in a small rocky cave, adjacent to the cell of Prospero and Miranda. Regardless of this, Caliban is neither ashamed nor remorseful of his attempt on Miranda. For Caliban it is a natural act, but to Prospero and Miranda it would demonstrate Caliban's natural inferiority. The English colonists, being strict Protestants and even Puritans viewed with horror the easy sexual relationships that many native people enjoyed. Marriage as an institution was often forced in the name of religion upon native populations. Throughout the play, Caliban is subject to abusive, humiliating language from Prospero. One of Prospero's rationale for mistreating Caliban is that, "He is not honor'd with a human shape." This constant bombardment seems unjust, as Caliban is not wicked and malicious for the sake of it. He genuinely feels that an injustice has been done. Being difficult is perhaps his only way of striking back at his oppressor. Although he is seen through the eyes of Prospero as a grotesque monster, Shakespeare has given Caliban some of the most beautiful speeches in the play about his island home. (Act IV, ii 130-137) His delight in the natural beauty of the island is evident and the way in which he describes his near tearful pleasure paints a very different picture of him than the monstrous one that Prospero holds. "Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not: Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, That, if I ...read more.


There is an alternative motive on the part of Ariel though, as the spirit must keep Prospero content in order to ensure his release. Despite this though, it is evident that Ariel is very keen to please Prospero and strives to satisfy Prospero's demands. Ariel does not fit easily into a colonial interpretation of the play. Ariel's relationship with Prospero is not of that of master-slave; it is closer to a partnership as Prospero would be virtually helpless without Ariel to carry out his commands. Yet there is never a time when Prospero runs the risk losing Ariel. In my opinion, Ariel can be seen as the native who aligns himself with the oppressors. Some Zulus and other native populations worked with the British, rather than for them, Ariel can be seen in this respect. Shakespeare had probably read the accounts of the shipwreck of the expedition in June 1609 when a group of important nobles, including George and John Sommers, were marooned on a desert island off the coast of Bermuda, later named "the Sommer Isles." Several accounts of the great storm, the shipwreck and the men's adventures on the island circled London in the broadsheets. As this was a colonial expedition, it may well have influenced Shakespeare to include a colonial theme in his play. However, this evidence is far from conclusive. The Tempest is probably not an intentional critique of the 17th century colonialism, but Shakespeare seems to be raising some of the issues being popularly discussed in London. He was driven by a desire to get money and he knew it was include what contemporary issues were popular. ...read more.

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