Free Tempest Essays: The Comic Sub-plot

Free Tempest Essays: The Comic Sub-plot

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The Importance of the Comic Sub-plot in The Tempest

 The comic sub-plot has various uses for the play. It brings light

relief&ndash without it, it would be a very dramatic play, if not boring.

As because Prospero controls the whole island we know that nothing can

really happen that he doesn&rsquot want to, so the play is lacking

tension and the comic sub-plot prevents it from being a very boring play.

Drunkness is amusing anyway, they fall about and say stupid things which

is entertaining for us, plus this is Caliban's first drink and we

recognise the feelings he expresses for this&lsquo celestial liquor&rsquo

and makes it all the more funny. That Caliban sees these two fools as

kings also makes it amusing&ndash&lsquo I prithee, be my God&rsquo as

Trinculo says&lsquo A most ridiculous monster, to make a wonder of a poor

drunkard!&rsquo. When he sees what they are later he is disgusted with

himself&ndash&lsquo What a thrice-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard

for a god, And worship this dull fool!&rsquo

 As well as providing humour, this trust of Caliban&rsquos echoes his

former trust for Prospero. He hasn&rsquot learned from when Prospero

turned on him, his naïvety shows through his trust and adoration of the

wine. Through the&lsquo aside&rsquo comments of Trinculo and Stephano we

know they are using and teasing him. Its in this situation we feel almost

sorry for Caliban, this&lsquo abhorred slave&rsquo, this&lsquo

demi-devil&rsquo is still very trusting and doesn&rsquot he have reason

to hate Prospero? He is an animal, with animal instincts and cannot be

trained otherwise. Though Prospero is understandably angry that he

tried&lsquo to violate the honour&rsquo of Miranda, but he is overly

harsh with him. The sub-plot shows us how Caliban is trusting yet again,

and we can see how affectionate he would have been to Prospero when he

first arrived on the island, and how understandably bitter he would be

when his master turned on him.

 This is an echo of the theme of usurpation, Prospero usurped from his

dukedom, Caliban usurped from his island&ndash Prospero tries to get his

dukedom back and Caliban tries to get his island back at the first

opportunity. It would seem at the end that justice has prevailed,

forgiveness over vengeance, good over evil, but really just Prospero has

prevailed, he successfully usurped and successfully got un-usurped.

Caliban is shown as the most naïve of the three, but he is the cleverest.

He knows Prospero&rsquos power is in his books, he knows that the robes

Stephano and Trinculo are duped by are&lsquo but trash&rsquo and above

all he speaks some of the most beautiful poetry of the play.

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This shows

Shakespeare has sympathy with the character and wants us to feel it also.

 This is linked to the issue of colonisation, Prospero assumes he was

doing good for Caliban when he tried to educate him, but&lsquo You taught

me language; and my profit on&rsquot is, I know how to curse&rsquo.

Prospero thinks Caliban is completely ungrateful for what he did for him,

but he came and immediately took charge as he thought he was superior,

taking Caliban&rsquos island from him. The sub-plot makes us give thought

on why Caliban has reason for seeking to kill Prospero, other than just

assuming he is evil.

 The comic sub-plot also echoes the theme of man&rsquos greed for power.

Sebastian and Antonio have an obvious greed for power, Stephano and

Trinculo do as well. They are just a butler and a jester, when the

possibility for power arose they took it immediately and without

conscience about using Caliban. I think the theme of class and&lsquo

natural hierarchy is there also, they are duped by the trash Prospero

sets for them, indicating that they aren&rsquot cut out for power

naturally, if they were meant to rule they would see that it was

superficial and real power is more than that. Which is presumably what

Prospero would see as he is meant to be in power.

 What the sub-plot also touches on is the idea that left unattended evil

will grow. Sebastian and Antonio at the end aren&rsquot remorseful, they

stop because they are caught not because of their conscience. Evil has to

be watched constantly or else it will start to work. This applies to

Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, it is the idea that because they are away

from their masters they all plot together to overthrow them. This

reflects the mistrust and disrespect the&lsquo noble&rsquo men of the

time had for their servants.

 Overall the sub-plot is a comical undramatic version of the main events,

giving relief to the fiery vengeance of Prospero and allowing comparisons

to be drawn&ndash why do we think Prospero should have his revenge but

not Caliban his?

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