The Different Views on Slavery by Shakespeare and Defoe

Powerful Essays
Literature has always been a source of exploring the world and the history of mankind. Two literary works of roughly the same age written by Daniel Defoe and William Shakespeare use the concept of slavery, race, and class in their works The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. These two works have a common theme that can be found in both compositions; the problem of class, race, and slavery underlies the themes of servantship and slavery. The master-servant relationship in Robinson Crusoe is healthier compared to Prospero’s master- servant relationship because of the way that Crusoe addresses the issue of slavery, race, and class.
In the works by Defoe, Crusoe is shipwrecked and ends up on a deserted island where he spends nearly thirty years in solitude and is destined to meet a man who would become his faithful servant and slave name Friday. When Friday first encounters Crusoe; Crusoe saves him from being eaten by other cannibals “[…] and he came nearer and nearer, kneeling down every Ten or Twelve steps in token of acknowledgement for my saving his Life.” (Defoe, 223) The relationship between Crusoe and Friday is a unique type of bond. Friday seems to be very grateful to Crusoe for saving his life. He willingly becomes a servant to Crusoe, “kneeled down to me, seeming to pray me to assist him, […] and he became my servant.” (Defoe, 218) Crusoe’s attitude towards Friday is warm and inviting “I smiled at him and looked pleasantly, and beckoned to him to comes still nearer: […] (Defoe, 234). Teaching Friday English provides Crusoe with a conversational partner “[…] and having taught him English so well that he could answer me almost any question, I asked him […]. (Defoe, 234) Friday is a “servant” in the conventional sense of the world...

... middle of paper ...

...ased the tension between the masters and their servants. John Robert Moore explores the similar traits of the two stories and finds the evidence for the statement above in the ways how both Prospero and Crusoe are getting ready for their return to the civilized society: while the magician asks for his hat and a rapier, Crusoe simply dresses into the other clothes. (Moore, p. 52)

Works Cited

Defoe, Daniel. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. S.O. Beeton, 1862. Print.
Jericho, Jeremy. William Shakespeare's “The Tempest.” Barron's Educational Series, 1986. Print.
Moore, John Robert. The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. The Review of English Studies January 1945, 21(81): 52-56. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Nelson Thornes, 1988. Print.
Wheeler, Roxann. “My Savage,” “My Man”: Racial Multiplicity in Robinson Crusoe. ELH Winter 1995, 62(4): 821-861. Print.
Get Access