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The Theme of Colonialism in Shakespeare's Tempest Essay

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The Tempest, by Shakespeare, offers the reader a variety of themes. The one theme that stands out the most is that of colonialism. During the time of Shakespeare, many European countries such as Spain, France, and England, were expanding their borders by taking over less developed countries, referred to as colonies. During this time of exploitation, there was skepticism concerning the possible success of the colonies. While some scholars believe that the play is about the Americas, I argue that the play reflects on colonialism in general and how it is destined for failure which is shown through the character’s relationships throughout the play.
During the 1600’s the English decided to have people colonize in the Americas for the potential resources and wealth that they may find. During this time Spain, France, Portugal, and the Dutch have already began trade and exploration in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. England hearing of their riches, didn’t want to miss out of the opportunity. However, during these expeditions, there has been various news beforehand of the strong oceanic storms that would sometimes destroy ships or mislead them from their destinations Such news was not uncommon but due to the storms, many of the people knew the dangers of the journey and would often doubt the success of these explorations. For example, “ In may 1609, nine ships carrying 500 colonists under Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Summers had set sail to America to reinforce the colony at Jamestown. In an unusual storm, Gates and Summers were driven on the Bermudas, before managing to sail to the mainland” (Honan 371). News such as this was widespread throughout England and amongst these would be news of the encounters with natives. For example, “...


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... such as slavery and exploitation of nature, and also gives us insight to the speculations that were common in the time of explorations and discovery.





Works Cited

Cesaire, Aime, Richard Miller and William Shakespeare. A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, Adaptation for a Black Theatre. New York: TCG Translations, 2002. Print

Shakespeare, William, Virginia Mason, Vaughan, and Alden T. Vaughan. The Tempest. Arden Shakespeare, 1997. Print. Third Series

Smith, Hallet Darius. Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Tempest; A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Print.

Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Marshall, Tristan. “The Tempest and the British Imperium in 1611.” The Historical Journal 41.2 (2003): 375-400. Print.















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