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Exploring the themes of Imprisonment, Freedom and Authority in the Tempest.

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Exploring the themes of Imprisonment, Freedom and Authority in the Tempest In the Tempest you see a variety of themes set in many different contexts which develop further as the play progresses, many of the themes are based on what would have been current issues around the time the play was written. However the strongest of these themes have to be Freedom, imprisonment and the Authority, which Shakespeare has decided specifically to highlight. This is probably due to the fact that the Tempest was written in the early 17th Century, which is a period in time well known for the very powerful monarchy. It is also during this era that Magicians were very high profile, and people in these times actually believed the magic they witnessed on stage and therefore in this play the audience would have believed the unrealistic elements and spellbinding scenes that take place. Such as Prospero having the ability to create the illusion of a storm to the sailors and having a spiritual slave. The Oxford Dictionary definition of Imprisonment is "put into prison, confine". An overview of the play would be that only Ariel was imprisoned in the tree and Ferdinand in a prison, however an in depth look at the play shows that there are many other examples of confinement, be it physically or emotionally. The definition of Freedom is "the condition of being free or unrestricted", which we see only at the end of the play when Ariel is set free and Caliban is left alone. ...read more.


This is all thanks to his spiritual slave Ariel, whom Prospero uses as his spy. The character Ariel plays a very important role in terms of the orders being carried out and causes nearly all of the illusions that baffle the sailors and the king's party, he doesn't however in the overall scheme of things have any real power. His discontent in still being Prospero's slave is also visible when Prospero asks, "What is't thou cans't demand?" to which Ariel replies "My Liberty". He is under the direct control of the all-mighty Prospero, to whom he must be eternally thankful for releasing him from his incarceration in the tree trunk, which leads to me Sycorax. Sycorax was clearly was a very powerful figure on the island, whose evil and amoral leadership can only be compared to a wicked dictator. Her authority over everyone was however much more than that of Prospero, which is apparent in Ariel's, words whenever the "foul, blue-eyed hag " Sycorax is brought up. "And for thou was a spirit too delicate to act her earthy and abhorred commands". A good description of the detestable tasks and inhumane expectations she had of Ariel. This power clearly has had a lasting effect on Ariel, as he is very careful whenever he is addressed by Propsero or talking himself, this is evident in his very apologetic nature for daring to ask to be released. "Pardon sir. I will correspond to command and do my spiriting gently." Prospero generally greets Caliban and Ariel with the words 'slave' and 'servant'. ...read more.


Just as Antonio plotted against Prospero to have him exiled out of Milan. The theme of freedom only makes an appearance near the end of the play when Prospero allows Ferdinand and Miranda to be together. However the bigger development is Prospero's decision to let go of his magical powers and Ariel. Finally Ariel gets his "liberty" which he had been working for since the day he started working for Prospero, the interesting thing is that Ariel had been through being enslavement by Sycorax, and to some extent Prospero and finally gained his Freedom and Authority over himself upon being released. Prospero also felt he was being imprisoned by his magical powers and his ability to exert such a large amount of power over others, the snapping of his staff at the close of the play and removal of garments symbolises his freedom again. The irony of it all is that the only thing Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano wanted was to be free, Prospero left his mark on them and his continual authority over them by making his phantom hounds haunt the three on the desolate isle forever. In conclusion I would like to say that although Shakespeare discusses a variety of themes, devious plotting and dangerous scheming in the play, he ends it all on a happy note where everything is back in its rightful place. Ferdinand and Miranda as the King and Queen of Naples, Propsero back as the Duke of Milan, Ariel finally free, and Caliban Stephano and Trinculo left alone on the island serving their punishment. This would have been to please his boss James 1 who would not have liked the audience to question having the monarchy from seeing what happens in the Tempest. ...read more.

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