Slavery and Freedom in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essay

Slavery and Freedom in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essay

Length: 1965 words (5.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Slavery and Freedom in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”


The subtly comedic interactions and juxtapositions between masters and slaves in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” generate a question which has been the source of much controversy throughout history: are the hierarchical classifications “slave” and “free” reflections of a person’s fundamental nature, or are they social constructions based on bias and self-interest which have nothing to do with absolute truth? This question is crucial because the way that we answer it has the potential to either justify or condemn the widespread practice of enslaving certain individuals. A close look at Shakespeare’s portrayal of masters and slaves in this play suggests that although those who enslave others would like to believe that slave and free are natural categories, they seem to be socially constructed.

In his essay “The Ancient Comic Tradition”, Bernard Knox states that “Slave and free were not so much separate classes as separate worlds: Aristotle could go so far as to claim that they were separate natures” (131). While the concept that slave and free are separate worlds is defensible given the vast differences in lifestyle between the two, the idea that they are separate natures is not a logical extension of this fact, but rather a separate idea altogether. Fundamental nature has nothing to do with one’s political or social situation, but rather one’s innate capabilities, motivations, and morality. Our task, then, is to determine the degree of similarity (or lack thereof) in the innate capabilities, motivations, and morality of the masters and slaves in this play.

Through close examination of Prospero and Caliban, it becomes apparent that although Caliban ...


... middle of paper ...


...hich those who have insight into the situation may affect change, one of the most powerful of which is through fiction. Skilled writers can convey the flaws in the system through their narrative without explicitly stating them, thus engaging the reader to think through the implications of the narrative on their own. This way, any conclusion arrived at feels like the reader’s own insight, making it more plausible than if the conclusion is thrust upon the reader by an overtly didactic text. In “The Tempest”, Shakespeare never explicitly states that enslavement is not logically justified, but instead subtly implies it through his narrative. I believe that it is in part because of writers such as Shakespeare who have—whether intentionally or not—used the medium of fiction to expose the problems in their society that our world is gradually moving towards social justice.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Tempest By William Shakespeare Essays

- The Tempest, provided insight into the hierarchy of command and servitude by order of nature. This play uses the relationship between its characters to demonstrate the control of the conqueror over the conquered. It also shows how society usually places the undesirable members at the bottom of the chain of command; although they may be entitled to a higher social status. One of the crucial themes displayed in The Tempest is the duality of nature and civilization. This is made obvious through the character of Caliban....   [tags: The Tempest, Moons of Uranus, Slavery, Prospero]

Powerful Essays
1278 words (3.7 pages)

William Shakespeare 's The Tempest Essay

- Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Shakespeare’s The Tempest contains many contrasts and mirrors. Prospero’s Dukedom has been usurped, but he in turn steals Caliban’s Island. Prospero’s desire for revenge on his brother is mirrored in Caliban, who desires revenge on Prospero and Miranda. Ariel the airy spirit, who is also enslaved by Prospero, can also be compared and contrasted to Caliban. Prospero disparages Caliban, enslaves him, sends his magic to torment him and generally mistreats him, actions which he justifies because 1) Caliban tried to rape his daughter, 2)Caliban is a witches’ son and 3)Caliban is deformed....   [tags: The Tempest, Moons of Uranus, Prospero]

Powerful Essays
897 words (2.6 pages)

The Tempest By William Shakespeare Essay

- As some of essays about The Tempest would conclude, the core of The Tempest seems to be the colonialism. Then without any question, the most crucial character under this conclusion, Caliban becomes the symbol of oppressed occurs of colonialism. However, did Shakespeare address this issue intentionally. Is colonialism just an interpretation from a modern perspective. Probably we assert the statement too fast to contemplate author’s focus of his work. As Vaughan mentioned in his essay: “... most Third-World authors who borrow emblems from The Tempest ignore, as irrelevant, Shakespeare’s sources and intentions....   [tags: The Tempest, Caliban, Moons of Uranus, Prospero]

Powerful Essays
933 words (2.7 pages)

The Tempest Film Analysis Essay

- The process of discovery encompasses the experiences of realising something new, lost or concealed. This can invoke a range of emotions for those involved and for broader society in the process, often challenging long standing beliefs and ideas possessed by the individual, thus prompting a renewed world view. The power of discovery to transform lives in a variety of ways, is evident in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest (1611), which explores how the discovery of the hardships of others can influence individuals to alter and transform the way they perceive others and the world around them....   [tags: The Tempest, Slavery, Steven Spielberg]

Powerful Essays
1222 words (3.5 pages)

Aime Cesaire's A Tempest Clarifies Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay examples

- Cesaire's A Tempest Clarifies Shakespeare's The Tempest       "Negritude, originally a literary and ideological movement of French-speaking black intellectuals, reflects an important and comprehensive reaction to the colonial situation of European colonization" (Carlberg).  This movement, which influenced Africans as well as blacks around the world, specifically rejects the political, social, and moral domination of the West.   Leopold Senghor, Leon Damas, and Aime Cesaire are the three pioneers of the revolution.  The founder who expresses his ideas more broadly, though, is Cesaire, who uses literary works to express his viewpoint on colonization.  An excellent example of such a tactic i...   [tags: Tempest essays]

Powerful Essays
1684 words (4.8 pages)

Conflict and Harmony in The Tempest Essay

- Conflict and Harmony in The Tempest     William Shakespeare describes a 'utopic' world saturated with supernatural images and ideas which works to create the mysterious island where The Tempest takes place.  This is one of Shakespeare's best examples of how a natural harmony reveals itself through the actions of discourse and confusion.  To illustrate this idea best one must examine the historical context upon which The Tempest is based.  Because this play was published in the early 1600s, controversial cultural and political events undoubtedly surface.  Furthermore, by analyzing the sub-plots in the play, the reader has a better understanding of Shakespeare's purpose for including mult...   [tags: Tempest essays]

Powerful Essays
1382 words (3.9 pages)

Essay about Quest for Power In The Tempest

- Quest for Power In The Tempest      I suggest that engraved into humanity's essence is the intense desire for power. William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest not only depicts this concept, but breaks it down for the reader; enabling effective analysis of this concept. Through notable characterization, Shakespeare is able to convey key concepts regarding the idea of power versus ambition. Specifically, the role that ambition and the moderation of one's ambition play in the effectiveness of control....   [tags: Tempest essays]

Powerful Essays
1205 words (3.4 pages)

European Colonialism and Imperialism in Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay examples

- European Colonialism and Imperialism in Shakespeare's The Tempest William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest reveals how ideologies of racial ‘otherness’ served to legitimize European patriarchal hegemony in Elizabethan England. In the Elizabethan/ Jacobean times of England there were many relevant ideologies relevant to this play. In examining the values and ideologies this text endorses and challenges, the society of the time (Elizabethan England), and a knowledge of how it operated serves a great purpose in analyzing these relationships....   [tags: Tempest Essays]

Powerful Essays
942 words (2.7 pages)

tempcolon Confronting Colonialism and Imperialism in Aime Cesaire's A Tempest

- Confronting Colonialism in A Tempest     A Tempest by Aime Cesaire is an attempt to confront and rewrite the idea of colonialism as presented in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  He is successful at this attempt by changing the point of view of the story.  Cesaire transforms the characters and transposes the scenes to reveal Shakespeare’s Prospero as the exploitative European power and Caliban and Ariel as the exploited natives.  Cesaire’s A Tempest is an effective response to Shakespeare’s The Tempest because he interprets it from the perspective of the colonized and raises a conflict with Shakespeare as an icon of the literary canon....   [tags: Tempest essays]

Powerful Essays
1397 words (4 pages)

The Tempest Essay

- The similarities and differences between Aime' Cesaire's ATempest and William Shakespeare's The Tempest gives the reader an idea that it is a political response. From the way that both of the titles of these works of literature differ, an idea of concept is offered. They share a similar story line yet, after some one has read A Tempest : a different perspective is gained. A Tempest is actually considered a post colonial period piece of writing and one can acquire and prove this by the forms in which Aime' Cesaire portrays the characters and switches around their personalities and their traits,the time periods and the acquisition of language, and the ways power is used reveals that it is...   [tags: Literary Analysis, Shakespeare, Classics]

Powerful Essays
1753 words (5 pages)