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

Discuss the discourse of colonialism in The Tempest.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the discourse of colonialism in The Tempest The Tempest is a play of such ambiguity that it becomes difficult to discuss the subject of a colonialist discourse in isolation. It becomes inextricably linked with not only power and authority, but also with illusion and reality, with redemption and regeneration. It is through the use of language, relationships and events that the discourse unfolds, and the purpose of this essay is to set out and discuss those aspects of the play that contribute to the making of this discourse. A colonialist discourse will of necessity involve an awareness of power and authority versus slavery and subjugation, of conquest and domination over a deliberately constructed inferior 'other'1. It is this inferior other that is an essential part of the colonialist discourse, that component that exists in the relationship between colonizer and colonized, that ensures the superiority of the invading force. This superiority can only be achieved and maintained if the discourse 'voices a demand both for order and disorder, producing a disruptive other'2. So the other has to be seen as both inferior and disruptive, characteristics that are only too apparent in the play in the shape of Caliban. Indeed it is the relationship between Prospero and Caliban that lies at the centre of the colonialist discourse, for while Prospero demands obedience from all his 'subjects' on the island, it is Caliban who becomes the true victim of colonialism. ...read more.


The language of slavery and subjugation became the language of colonialism, and the means whereby Europeans were able to emphasize the moral depravity of the indigenous people, thereby providing themselves with a suitable excuse for the colonization of the inferior other; the colonialist discourse was born. In the play Prospero asserts his superiority through a verbal discourse which reflects the dehumanized thinking of an imperialist power. The language revolves around the binary oppositions of conquest and servitude, slavery and freedom, civilized and savage, nature and nurture. This is reflected in the relationships with his 'subjects' on the island; while all are subjugated to his power, it is Caliban as the savage and deformed slave who represents the subjugated, the colonized, while Ferdinand and Ariel serve out their terms of bondage for a period of what proves to be spiritual and moral testing for redemption. Ariel claims his freedom as his right, having, in his eyes, served out his term, but Prospero reminds him that this freedom can only be achieved through further servitude, that he has already been freed from a more stringent and stultifying form of imprisonment under the auspices of Sycorax. Ferdinand sees his bondage, his 'wooden slavery' 11, as an occupation fit for a prince, only too willing to serve out his term in order to claim his rights to Miranda. ...read more.


This seeking for grace becomes just a part of the mystification of the colonialist discourse, in that it is Caliban as base, natural man who will ask for redemption. In so doing it could be argued that the necessary sense of threat that he has posed to Prospero as the disruptive other is to some extent removed; the action of seeking for grace negates that sense of threat that is needed to uphold the validity of the colonialist discourse, which is as a result undermined; new levels of meaning are thus introduced. At the same time the introduction of the word 'grace' becomes a justification of colonialism, the necessary tool in the redemptive process that, it could be argued, redeems not only those involved in the process of regeneration, but the play itself, lifting it from the purely magical and secular to the level of the divine. The word now becomes the focus around which the whole play has been enacted, throwing into confusion any preconceived ideas that we may have had concerning the issues raised. At the end of the play we witness Prospero coming to self-knowledge, embracing and taking responsibility for those darker parts of himself which he recognises in Caliban; 'This thing of darkness | I acknowledge mine'24. Nature and nurture come together briefly in acknowledgment of sins, but 'The play's 'ending' in renunciation and restoration is only the final ambivalence, being at once the apotheosis, mystification and potential erosion of the colonialist discourse'25. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 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 University Degree The Tempest essays

  1. Many claim that Shakespeare's last attempt at the theatre was unsuccessful; resulting in a ...

    The island, which Prospero inhabits for the duration of the play, is one of magic, as the stage is a place of magic and illusion. In conventional theatre, the playwright controls his stage, and it becomes what he tells it to become.

  2. One of the issues dealt within William Shakespeares play, The Tempest, is exactly the ...

    (Act I, Scene 1, L 18-24) This change in power foreshadows trouble and questions authority, yet it shows Boatswain's control over the ship. The tempest is a time whereby social rank does not exist and that despite the King's and Noblemen's higher status they are still subjected to nature and in hands of the more experienced low-status characters.

  1. Discuss the role of divine providence or destiny as used by Shakespeare in 'The ...

    Shakespeare was nearing the end of his career when his tragic-comic play, The Tempest, was written in 1610-11. A new royal dynasty was beginning, and Shakespeare was considering his literary legacy, his career s destiny. It is interesting to contemplate, then, the role of Providence and destiny in one of

  2. How can the dramatic presentation of Caliban and Miranda affect the dominant readings of ...

    I think that at times Caliban's situation can be distinctly paralleled with the situation of Prospero. Just as Caliban feels his island was taken away from him, is how Prospero feels his brother Antonio usurped his dukedom of Milan. The scene which consists of Caliban, Prospero and Miranda is a

  1. Similarities Between Principal Characters in Shakespeare's The Tempest

    He does not feel children need to have any form of structured schooling to prove successful in the everyday life of his society. Prospero does crave knowledge from the books he reads voraciously and loves, but this pursuit of higher learning differs from the formal education both men strive to eliminate.

  2. Compassion is what causes us to forgive. Not because someone deserves it, but because ...

    Entering more fully into the truth of the universe in which we live" (Heschel 23-4). Ariel is the very spirit of imaginative illusion and though not even human, he grasps the idea of compassion that Prospero seems to lack. Because Ariel has had such long time to gain an outside

  1. Hegemony is everything - The Tempest.

    One can see this as an advantage, because without the greed associated with the allocation of money society is not driven by the same self-centered, monopolistic forces. These forces arguably are the same forces that cause strife, war, murder, and in the case of the Tempest usurpation.

  2. The Self presentation skills of Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela.

    Turning to Nelson Mandela, I found that, though he uses much more self-contained NVC and language, in terms of self-presentation, in some ways he is very similar to Malcolm X. Nelson Mandela also shows the ability to keep a common register, and drawn upon the vernacular.

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