A Tempest, by Aime Cesaire, has been the center of controversy for over twenty years now. The argument is not concerning whether the play has substance, or whether its themes are too racy; the criticism is about its parallel to another work. The work in question is that of The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Cesaire has been bluntly accused of mirroring, misrepresenting, and misinterpreting Shakespeare's last play. I challenge these critics to research Cesaire and his works, rather than pick apart this most insightful play. It is pertinent to understand a few key ideas when examining A Tempest because Cesaire was not attempting to mirror Shakespeare; he was merely using him as a reference. Cesaire, who understood that Shakespeare is an icon of the Western world, himself is iconoclastic. He knew by adapting The Tempest to his own voice, he would draw attention from the West and raise awareness of his intended audience, the oppressed blacks of the world. But valuing this idea requires the reader to be aware of who Aime Cesaire is, what ideas he embraces, and the message he wishes to convey to his readers.
Aime Cesaire was born in Martinique, that time an island under the rule of the French. He was heavily involved in the politics of his colony, being mayor of Fort-de-France, a member of the French Communist Party, and later founder of his own party, the Parti Progressiste Martiniquais (Davis). Cesaire grew up in the 1960's, a time when his country was fighting for independence, many African nations were doing the same, and blacks in America were pushing for the equality of races. He was a strong advocate for independence, and understood the effe...
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...uld take another look before rejecting one of the most profound works in Caribbean literature.
Achebe, Chinua. "The Novelist as Teacher." Commonwealth Literature: Unity and Diversity in a Common Culture. Ed. John Press. London: Heinemann, 1965. 201-05.
Allison, William "A Legacy of Greed, Slavery, and Racism" Available at http://www.cas.ilstu.edu/English/Strickland/215/f96/allison.htm
Cesaire, Aime. A Tempest. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: UBU, 1992
Davis, Gregson. Aime Cesaire. United Kingdom : Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.
Hirsch, E. D. "Objective Interpretation." PMLA 75 (1960): 463, 470-79. Rpt. in Contexts for Criticism. Ed. Donald Keesey. 3rd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1998.
Sarnecki, Judith Holland, "Mastering the Master: Aimé Césaire's Creolization of Shakespeare's The Tempest" in The French Review
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