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In the light of this comment, discuss the [dramatic] ways in which Shakespeare presents the issue of control and authority in The Tempest.

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Introduction

'Drama essentially has its basis in the operation and effects of control by one character or characters over others' In the light of this comment, discuss the [dramatic] ways in which Shakespeare presents the issue of control and authority in The Tempest. Shakespeare presents the issue of control and authority in a different and unique way in The Tempest, in that one character, Prospero, has absolute control over all the other characters in the play; a technique which is not used by Shakespeare in any other work. The drama, if based in the operation and effects of control, can be found where Prospero exercises his authority, which is on varying levels. He embodies the roles of ruler, master, father and colonist in the play, and controls all the other characters in these different roles. However, although Prospero provides the fundamental basis for control (and therefore drama), there is conflict and control among the other characters, for example, that of Sebastian and Antonio over Gonzalo. The first scene, in which the tempest Prospero generates takes place, is significant as it sets the ideas of authority and control and is clearly very dramatic. The shipwreck alone can be seen to symbolise the surrendering of self-control, as the Lords become helpless to the elemental forces. ...read more.

Middle

The contrast in the way Prospero treats Ariel, also suggests that he is unfair to Caliban, while he calls Ariel a 'Fine apparition! My quaint Ariel,' he refers to Caliban as 'Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam'. Also, at the end of the play, Prospero grants Ariel his freedom while Caliban is seemingly condemned to be his perpetual slave. However, there is obviously the counter - argument that Prospero is justified in his treatment of Caliban as he tried to rape his daughter and because he conspires to kill him with Trinculo and Stephano. Whether this is valid, all depends on the idea of Prospero as a colonist. As a master, Prospero is both kind and firm. He gets angry with Ariel when he refuses to obey him and asks for his liberty, 'Dost thou forget from what a torment I did free thee?' and says 'Thou liest, malignant thing'. This suggests Ariel perhaps serves him through fear as much as through gratitude. The justification for Caliban's rebelliousness can be attributed to the idea that Prospero is a colonist who came to the island, which was rightfully Caliban's, or at least to which he was a native, and simply took over unjustly and imposed on Caliban his language and his authority, much like the British did to the South Americans around the seventeenth century. ...read more.

Conclusion

Interestingly, Prospero refers to their marriage as a contract which can be taken to mean, not just a marriage contract between the two lovers but also between Prospero and the King of Naples, as theirs is, albeit one of love, a political marriage also. Prospero will have political gain from it, and in this sense he shows himself to be a typical renaissance parent. The contrast to Ferdinand and Miranda's marriage is Claribel's marriage to the King of Tunis in Africa arranged by Alonso purely for his own advancement. This marriage was ruthless and very unpopular, as Sebastian states, 'You were kneeled to and importuned otherwise by all of us; and the fair soul herself weighed between loathness and obedience'. Claribel was clearly a victim here of patriarchal authority and values, the seventeenth century audience would have generally have empathised with Claribel's situation as arranged marriages were seen often as wrong. Prospero does not impose these on Miranda and wishes her happiness showing him as an authoritative but loving father. Shakespeare presents the issue of authority and control in many different ways, which often challenge the socially accepted traditions, like that of colonialism. Prospero is a benevolent father and ruler, but can be a cruel master. The play's elusiveness has enabled its addressing of these issues of control to be interpreted in many different ways. ...read more.

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