The Abuse of Power in Shakespeare's Play, The Tempest Essay

The Abuse of Power in Shakespeare's Play, The Tempest Essay

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The play, The Tempest, by William Shakespeare is a very cleverly thought out piece of work. Shakespeare very deliberately inter-relates several different forms of power during the course of the play. There is political power, shown through the plethora of political characters and their schemes, while at the same time parodied by the comic characters. The power of magic and love, and its ability to reunite and absolve also plays a major role in the play. Throughout the play, Prospero, the main character, takes great advantage of his power and authority, both properly and improperly. The epiphany of this however, is realized at the end of the play.

Nearly every scene in the play, either intentionally or unintentionally, portrays a struggling relationship between a figure that possesses power and a figure that is suppressed by that power. The play explores the relationship between master and servant very dynamically. In the opening scene, the boatswain (servant) is very oppressive towards the noble men (master) due to their sophomoric attitude in a dangerous situation like that. This is especially visible when Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan, asks the boatswain where the master is, to this, the boatswain replies, “Do you not hear him? You mar our labour. Keep your cabins! You do assist the storm,” (1.1.11-12). After being told to be patient, the boatswain once again replies with strong attitude, “What cares these roarers for the name of king/None that I more love than myself,” (1.1.14-17). This shows that despite the noble men having great amounts of political “authority” over the boatswain, they do not have enough “power” to substantiate that. This authority is not gained by strength or inheritance, but knowledge. ...


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...on seeing Ferdinand for the very first time, Miranda says that he is “the third man that e’er I saw,” (1.2.449) This shows the audience that Prospero’s power of love and magic have worked again, since Miranda has fallen in love with Ferdinand. This time however, Prospero used his daughter as bait in order to draw Ferdinand closer in the hopes of getting them married. He wants to regain his title as the Duke of Milan.

Prospero presents himself as a victim of injustice, however his belief of justice and injustice is somewhat contradicting. He takes advantage of this authority over other people and situations he encounters while using his integrity and compassion to mask his dangerous plans and to retain love and respect. The Tempest in the end suggests that love and compassion are more effective political tools than violence, hatred or even abusive magic.

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