The Tempest Analysis

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The Tempest is a play that is fixated with the concept and theme of imprisonment. This fixation, both literal and figurative, can be seen as the play manifests this concept in a number of various ways. Literally, the play centres on the story that Prospero and his daughter Miranda are exiled to a remote island and forced to live there in solitude. Prospero goes on to enslave Caliban, the island’s only native inhabitant, as well as freeing and ‘rescuing’ Ariel, a sprite, from imprisonment in a pine tree, to do all of his bidding. This literal theme is continued figuratively through the epilogue of the play, whereby Shakespeare suggests that throughout the play, the actors and playwrights are kept captive through expectations set by the audiences who may or may not even approve of Shakespeare’s work, whereby Prospero states that the audience must “release [him] from [his] bands.” (Shakespeare, 2011, Epilogue). Does the term ‘slavery’ then refer to the characters in the play, or rather to the audience, and how they interpret the play? This essay serves to uncover this problem of slavery within the play, as well as discussing the many instances of slavery, and how this play challenges them. The occurrence of slavery in this play helps to provide the atmosphere for the play, as the three main protagonists in the play, namely Prospero, Ariel and Caliban, are involved in a triangular relationship between ‘slave and master’. Prospero adopts the role of ‘master’, with Ariel and Caliban acting as his slaves. This, in Caliban’s eyes, is seen as an injustice, as he believes the island to be rightfully his. This can be seen when he says: "This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother, which thou takest from me." (1.2.3) However, this role adopted ... ... middle of paper ... ...ospero adopting the leading role of master. The topic of slavery in The Tempest is seen as a problem, as it is compared to the slavery practiced in the new world at the time, whereby the victims of European colonization are closely related to Caliban. The many parallels in comparison seem to emphasize the suffering of the victims, as the character of Caliban shows the exploitation, disinheritance and subjugation of the nation. Like Caliban, they endured enslavement by European usurpers, Prospero in the play, and too were torn between their own indigenous culture, and a culture that was forced on them and superimposed by their conquerors. It can thus be concluded that this play harps on both a literal and figurative fixation on slavery and imprisonment of the times, and simultaneously offers a critique by Shakespeare on the European colonization and their victims.

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