Shakespeare has staged a play that explores the human hierarchy of the
Elizabethan era. At the time dominance of one person over another was
part of a system, which kept the society going. The social hierarchy
consisted of the educated, kings, bishops, lords and noble men at the
top of the hierarchy, with the working class peasants at the bottom.
Everyone had a fixed status in society. However this is all physically
displaced on the island, as there is no social structure and it is
uninhabited and tropical. Shakespeare sets his plays mainly in Italy;
however in ‘The Tempest’ he has placed a group of civilised people
into an unshaped and uncivilised society. In a way he has challenged
the view that such a hierarchy works on a wild island. ‘The Tempest’
is seen to be a play that Shakespeare aimed at the arrogant King James
I. Instead of supporting the king’s views of being ‘God’ he staged
something that presented power as unpredictable and easily lost. In
fact, by challenging the Elizabethan hierarchy Shakespeare has given
an indirect warning of the dangers that may face the king.
Nevertheless, we know that even on the island there is a hierarchy,
which comprises of Prospero being superior and Caliban being inferior.
How characters gain and loose authority in ‘The Tempest’ is seen as
being very transient. The authority the characters have is not set in
stone nor will they have it forever. However we know that Alonso King
of Naples is the most authoritative figure and Caliban the most
inferior in the play. We first see how unstable authority is within
the hierarchy right at t...
... middle of paper ...
... we are shown how authority is very unstable and unrealistic it
holds ultimately very little power. The ranking one has in society
does not prove anything, as there are many inferior characters, that
maybe in some cases a lot more superior to those who do have an
authoritative status. Authority is a key theme in the play;
Shakespeare has achieved to get an indirect message not only to the
king but to people also. In a way the play shows how, no matter if you
are an authoritative figure or an inferior one they both have the same
amount of difficulties. Just because the rich hide them better doesn’t
mean there not there nor are they any better than the common people.
As we see how cunning and manipulative the rich and educated are, and
whether it is there education that earns them the right to have a
status that they do.
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