• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The real monster in The Tempest is Prospero rather than Caliban

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Tempest section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Tempest essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Shakespeare ensure that the theme of usurpation and its consequences runs throughout ...

    3 star(s)

    They do not appreciate the way things should be and had no respect for authority. When Antonio challenged the boatswain he quite rightly argued that "What cares these roarers for the name of King?" Although Sebastian was arguing that the king should be in charge he really wanted to be in control him self.

  2. Explore the theme of rightful authority in The Tempest

    Later in the play Trinculo and Stephano plot to take charge of the island thinking that they are the only inhabitants but as peasants they would never be successful despite the advantage of having a native on their side. An island is cut off from the rest of the world and thus society.

  1. Character study of Prospero

    The first positive aspect in the relationship between Prospero and Ariel, is the huge amount of respect Ariel has for Prospero. A good example of this is when Ariel says: "All hail, great master! Grave Sir, hail! To answer thy best pleasure."

  2. Shakespeares 'The Tempest' as a Study of Colonialism.

    "This thing of darkness I/ Acknowledge mine." If this means, as it might, some recognition of a bond between Prospero and Caliban, then Prospero's leaving the island to Caliban and renouncing his magic (the source of his power) would seem to be a tacit apology for the master-slave basis for their earlier relationship which Prospero enforced.

  1. Why is Caliban such an interesting an important character in 'The Tempest' and how ...

    He himself calls her a nonpareil...' To some extent this explains why he tried to rape Miranda, but it is also because he cannot control his nature (animal urges). Caliban has also lacked social education, therefore doesn't have the social skills to know what to do around Prospero and Miranda.

  2. Presentation of Prospero in the Tempest

    By referring to her as "dear one", Shakespeare presents a loving, caring father. Another way in which Prospero is shown as a protective father is through his match making of Miranda and Ferdinand. On their first meeting, Prospero says: "Follow me - Speak not you for him; he's a traitor.

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

    He does have a gentle side that he often refuses to let surface. This could be another reason why Prospero treats Caliban unfairly. Not seeing this aspect to his character, Prospero does not see any of Caliban's redeeming qualities. Prospero's apparent hatred of Caliban initially does seem absolute.

  2. "Explore the presentation of authority and inferiority in 'The Tempest'"

    In some cases knowledge is not the root to authority; instead it is cunning and manipulation. Antonio did not gain power due to respect and knowledge, but instead stole it and was not rightfully his. The fact that Antonio usurped his own brother to get power shows how knowledge can be used in a negative sense.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work