In Shakespeare's time, the social order was as powerful and rigid as law. Shakespeare provides an example of this social structure in his play, The Tempest. In the course of his play, the reader sees superior men dominating lesser beings on the basis of race, financial status, and gender. Not all upper class are completely corrupt, however. We see a semi-virtuous hero in the character of Prospero. Prospero has every reason to feel superior and exercise his social power, yet he doesn't always treat others disrespectfully. Although he does have some sense of charity, Prospero is still a good example of the social condition of the time.
One way in which The Tempest reflects Shakespeare's society is through the relationship between characters, especially between Prospero and Caliban. Caliban is the former king of the island, and Prospero and his daughter Miranda teach him how to be "civilized." Immediately thereafter, Prospero and Miranda enslave Caliban and he is forced to be their servant. Caliban explains "Thou strok'st me and make much of me...
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...otte Porter and Helen A. Clarke (eds.) Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. 1903.
Knight, G. Wilson. "Shakespearian Superman" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
Murray, J. Middleton. "Shakespeare's Dream" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
Palmer, D.J. Shakespeare's Later Comedies: An Anthology of Modern Criticism. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. 1611. Ed. Stephen Orgel. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.
Tillyard, E.M. "The Tragic Pattern" The Tempest D.J. Palmer (ed.) Macmillan & Co. 1968
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