Searching for Meaning in Shakespeare’s Tempest

Searching for Meaning in Shakespeare’s Tempest

Length: 1247 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Searching for Meaning in Shakespeare’s Tempest


        Shakespeare lived and wrote in the Elizabethan age, a time when his

society was branching out and making itself known throughout the world by

colonizing other cultures. Great Britain was reaching for new heights of power.

In the play Shakespeare questions the value of this new concept of British

imperialism. The Tempest is called Shakespeare's American play, because he

calls into question England's right to colonize other nations, much as American

colonists did with America 200 years later.


        The Tempest  was Shakespeare's last play. For his entire life he had

written plays to please the Queen. For this play it appears he made a

controversial statement by challenging the values of his Queen and his country.


        Evidence of this is abundant in the play. The story rotates around the

fact that Prospero, a European noble, had imposed himself on an island, already

inhabited. Prospero is depicted as a worthy man, who was usurped from his throne.

The reader has automatic sympathy for the character. This allows him more leeway

for wrong doing by creating room for it within the reader's mind. Prospero came

to the island with his daughter to find it already inhabited by two savages.

Upon arrival, Prospero brought his “new” ideas with him, and began to force them

upon these two savages, Sycorax and Caliban. He believed that his new ideas were

better, such as slavery opposed to freedom, which he imposed on Caliban.


               “Dull thing, I say so; he, that Caliban,

               Whom now I keep in my service.”

                               (Act. I, Sc. II, Ln. 285,6)


This view of whose ideas were better is an obvious matter of opinion, one of

the biggest drawbacks to transforming old ideas into new.


        Prospero was the first male that Caliban had seen in his life. As a “

lower being” Caliban worshipped and praised Prospero, as the quote below shows,

until Prospero began to mistreat him.


                “I know it by thy trembling: now Prosper works upon thee”

                                      (Act II, Sc. II, Ln. 81-3)


        This worship caused Prospero to act as a ruler above him, eventually

pushing him to be the tyrant over Caliban, including robbing Caliban of his

freedom. Keeping within his worship, Caliban lost his self-confidence and any

drive for good deeds. Because Prospero had imposed himself upon Caliban,

Caliban's life began to decline. Without drive, or freedom for that matter,

Caliban turned to a vegetable only working as a slave to Prospero. Again, the

act of asserting that your ideas are superior can cause indelible harm to the

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Searching for Meaning in Shakespeare’s Tempest." 15 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

The Hidden Meaning in the Tempest Essay

- Shakespeare’s The Tempest is similar to the colonization of the Americas because they both involve foreigners coming to natives land and enslave them: but they differed in that The Tempest, they enslave a native for a crime, whereas they just enslave the natives for work in the Americas, and Caliban was created as an allegory to the natives that Europeans were enslaving. There are too many similarities in The Tempest to the colonization of the Americas to be coincidental. Shakespeare may have been trying to show a deeper meaning....   [tags: shakespeare, the tempest, americas colonization]

Research Papers
651 words (1.9 pages)

Shakespeare's The Tempest - The Meaning of Brave Essay

- The Tempest: The Meaning of "Brave" The word "brave" or a form of the word is used eighteen times in The Tempest by William Shakespeare and has numerous meanings. The first occurrence of the word is when Miranda is speaking to her father and calls a vessel "brave." The first one is always easy, the foot note says it means "splendid." This note makes much sense in this passage, making the boat sound to be big and larger than life, in other words, splendid. It also makes sense to have the first usage of the word "brave" to mean something positive, especially since Miranda is the one saying it....   [tags: Tempest essays]

Research Papers
607 words (1.7 pages)

Essay about William Shakespeare 's The Tempest

- In the comedic, yet thrilling play, The Tempest, William Shakespeare uses characters such as Caliban, Alonso, and Ariel to show Prospero’s immense cruelness and pure monstrosity. Moreover, these Shakespearean characters are also used to highlight Prospero’s change in character into a kinder and more forgiving person. Prospero starts the play out as a vengeful monster, after an illuminating moment however, his persona transforms into his true identity of a compassionate man. Prospero’s relationships with others prior to his personal epiphany were highly unpleasant to say the least....   [tags: The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Caliban]

Research Papers
1062 words (3 pages)

Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - A Jungian Interpretation Essay

- A Jungian Interpretation of the Tempest   Shakespeare’s Tempest lends itself to many different levels of meaning and interpretation. The play can be seen on a realistic plane as a tale of political power and social responsibility. It can be seen as allegory examining the growth of the human spirit. The Tempest investigates marriage, love, culture. It is symbolic of man’s rational higher instincts verses his animal natural tendencies. This is a play of repentance, power, revenge and fate that can also be seen as fantasy, dream, imagination, metaphor or magic....   [tags: Shakespeare The Tempest]

Free Essays
2401 words (6.9 pages)

Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - The True Villain Essay

- The True Villain of The Tempest On June 2, 1609, five hundred colonists set out in nine ships from Plymouth in association with the imperial Virginia Company. It was the aim of this expedition to fortify John Smith's colony in Virginia. While eight of the party's vessels securely arrived at Jamestown, the flagship, called the “Sea Adventure” , was conspicuously absent. This ship --which carried the fleet's most valuable cargo, the admiral Sir John Somers and the future governor of Virginia Sir George Somers --was separated from the other eight during a fierce storm off the coast of Bermuda, the legendary Isle of Devils, dreaded by superstitious sixteenth-century sailors....   [tags: Shakespeare The Tempest]

Free Essays
993 words (2.8 pages)

Post Colonial Interpretations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essay examples

- Post Colonial Interpretations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest “…do we really expect, amidst this ruin and undoing of our life, that any is yet left a free and uncorrupted judge of great things and things which reads to eternity; and that we are not downright bribed by our desire to better ourselves?” – Longinus Since the seventeenth century many interpretations and criticisms of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest have been recorded. Yet, since the play is widely symbolical and allegorical Shakespeare’s actual intentions behind the creation of the play can never be revealed....   [tags: Shakespeare Tempest]

Research Papers
1910 words (5.5 pages)

Shakespeare's The Tempest as a Microcosm of Society Essay

- The Tempest as Microcosm of Society       The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's most universal plays and, not coincidentally, is very much concerned with human behavior and emotion. As John Wilders observes in The Lost Garden, “Prospero’s island is what the sociologists call a ‘model’ of human society. Its cast of characters allows Shakespeare to portray in microcosm nearly all the basic, fundamental social relationships: those of a ruler to his territory, a governor to his subjects, a father to his child, masters to servants, male to female, and the rational to the irrational within the human microcosm itself" ([London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1978], 127)....   [tags: Shakespeare The Tempest]

Research Papers
1254 words (3.6 pages)

The Role of Language in Shakespeare's Play The Tempest Essay

- The Role of Language in Shakespeare's Play The Tempest 1 The role of language in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” is quite significant. To Miranda and Prospero the use of language is a means to knowing oneself. Caliban does not view language in the same light. Prospero taught Caliban to speak, but instead of creating the feeling of empowerment from language, Caliban reacts in insurrectionary manner. Language reminds him how different he is from Miranda and Prospero, and also how they have changed him....   [tags: The Tempest William Shakespeare Essays]

Research Papers
1137 words (3.2 pages)

Shakespeare's Tempest - A Tired and Dated Work? Essay

- The Tempest: Immortal Classic or Tired and Dated Work. Why do educators hold the works of Shakespeare in such high regard. Should The Tempest be considered an "immortal classic". Indeed Shakespeare's works had great significance in the evolution of English literature, but these works, including The Tempest are mostly devoid of significance and literary value in the present day. One can expect to gain little appreciation for fine literature from the reading of Shakespeare's works for reasons enumerate....   [tags: Shakespeare Tempest]

Free Essays
1045 words (3 pages)

Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay

- The Tempest raises many questions regarding the formation of authority and power. Is hierarchy understood as natural or as constructed. Also, what are the consequences when authority is usurped. This paper will attempt to answer these questions in a succinct manner using textual references to solidify its arguments. As the play progresses, Prospero constructs the hierarchy in such a way as to return things to their "natural" state. Any type of usurpation, whether attempted or successful, will always end up with power back in its rightful place, and most of the time with a lesson learned....   [tags: Tempest Shakespeare]

Research Papers
1719 words (4.9 pages)

Related Searches

recipient of that opinion.


        Throughout these ordeals, Prospero thought that he was helping Caliban,

(again opinion) while actually destroying him. But these supposed “helpful”

teachings to Caliban eventually turned on Prospero. Near the end of the play,

Caliban finds Stephano and Trinculo on the island. These men appeared to be much

like Prospero in dress, and in speech. Because he had been trained by Prospero

to worship and follow, he immediately began to worship Stephano and Trinculo.

This is what turned against him. By that time, Caliban had developed a deep

hatred for Prospero and sought revenge against him. He discussed killing

Prospero in his sleep with Stephano and Trinculo, which they agreed to because

they would gain control of the island. Prospero escaped death by a hair, in that

he had a sprite, Ariel, to spy on the plotting Englishmen. This was an example

of his own imperialistic ideas turned against him, leading almost to his death.


        But these wrongs did not stop at Prospero and Caliban. New ideas were

imposed also by Ariel, Prospero's servant sprite. Ariel was a lively spirit that

was immortal, and therefor capable of much more than any human. Ariel proposed

new ideas to the king, Alonso and all of his men, Gonzalo, Antonio, Sebastian,

Adrian and Francisco. These men had perceived themselves as almighty as they

paraded around the island in fear of nothing. Ariel enlightened them to their

fault and may have even shown them their mistakes.


                “You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,---

                That hath to instrument this lower world.......

                ...Your swords are now too massy for your strengths,

                And will not be uplifted....

                ...that you three From Milan did supplant good Prospero:...

                ...him and his innocent child...”

                               (Act III, Sc. III, Ln. 53,4/67,8/68-70)


The harshness of Ariel's speech throws the nobles back, but contests their power.

As Europeans, they view themselves greater than any, which is challenged by

Ariel, who obviously posses more power than them. This is displayed by Ariel

forcing them to drop their swords, through his magic. Ariel also brings about

their faults, making them seem less divine. Ariel does that by bringing up moral

issues, such as their dethronement of a Duke, and his exile into the sea with

his sole child, alone. And not only does this bring up the moral issues, but

also forewarns them to Prospero's wrath, for Ariel made it clear to the nobles

that he was under the assignment of Prospero. This speech obviously raised doubt

within the king's, and especially Antonio's mind, as he resigned his position in

the end of the play. These new ideas proved to be well worth it, for the great

chain of being was to be restored.


        New ideas can serve good as well as bad. This is the case with Miranda.

Miranda, the sole daughter of Prospero, grew up in a world knowing only her

father and a beast. This allotted her only a few of the emotions or experiences

normal children have during growth. She had been raised almost as a queen, and

knew of nothing else. One of the newest ideas to her was love, which was brought

on by Ferdinand. Ferdinand also fell in love with Miranda, who followed him

unconditionally for she knew of nothing else, besides her fatherly relationship.

This proved to be good for her, for now she had protection as she would soon be

entering a new world of community and civilization. But new ideas also may have

a poor effect on her.


        Because Miranda had no outside contact, she was amazed by the sight of

more than one man.


                “O Wonder, How many goodly creatures are there here!

                How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has

                such people in ‘t!”

                                      (Act. V, Sc. I, Ln. 182-5)


This true amazement and awe for mankind may cause her harm later in life for not

all people are as kind to her as she had been treated by Prospero and Fredinand.

Specifically, the group that Miranda labeled as “goodly” is a group of corrupt

and drunken old men, not men of worth. This proves to us that she is not

prepared for the world, and by seeing these men as good, she will have a warped

view of evil versus good.


        All throughout The Tempest, representations of new versus old are

mentioned, most in poor nature, although there remains a small case for

transforming old ideas into new, but in general simplicity will work best. I

think Shakespeare tried to make a statement with this play that might stir up

something in the reader's mind, possibly even question the basic concept of

advancing on in life.
Return to