Essay on Had I Plantation of This Isle: Colonialism in The Tempest

Essay on Had I Plantation of This Isle: Colonialism in The Tempest

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The role of colonialism in Shakespeare's late Romance The Tempest is difficult to ignore. Cast off on a remote island, Prospero uses magic to conquer his new territory, making all of those that lived there before him fall under his command. There is a sense of revolution about Caliban, one who seeks to reclaim his homeland for his own and separate himself from the rule of his master. However, critics like Barbara Fuchs wish to pigeonhole this sense of colonialism into domestic issues, such as the British relationship with Ireland, while ignoring the relationship the play shares to the beginning of Britain's expansion into the New World--a world that had only been unlocked some one hundred years previous to the writing of the play. Fuch's notes in her essay that, "It is an axiom...that The Tempest is a play about the European colonial experience in America" (265). This relationship of colonization is an easy one to prove. First, by looking at the pattern of British colonization beginning in the late 16th century it is possible to begin drawing ties between the reality of Shakespeare's time and the fiction of Shakespeare's world. Second, the slave Caliban exhibits all of the characteristics of a conquered native--or one who is forced to give up his right to his land for the sake of a new master. Third, Prospero's treatment of both the island and its inhabitants are extremely reminiscent of the British colonialist experience, to such a degree that it is hard to not draw a connection between the two. At its core, The Tempest is a play about conquerors and the conquered, and its connections to British colonialism are easily seen.
British colonialism followed a pattern in conquering colonies that is important to recognize before it i...


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...ng Islands: Contextualizing The Tempest." The Tempest. Ed. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.
Kearns, Gerry. "The Imperial Subject: Geography and Travel in the Work of Mary Kingsley and Halford Mackinder." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22.4 (2004): 450-72. Web. 25 Apr 2010.
Kermode, Frank. "Art vs. Nature." The Tempest. Ed. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.
Knight, G. Wilson. "Prospero's Lonely Magic." The Tempest. Ed. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.
Lamming, George. "A Monster, a Child, a Slave." The Tempest. Ed. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Norton Critical ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. Print.

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