How Loyalty and Betrayal Affect The Tempest
Lies and deception can make for the worst situations and only cause pain and agony for those involved, but it makes for a great story. For example in the book The Tempest, the whole plot can be thanked for the dishonesty and betrayal between the characters. Even in the subplot lying and betrayal seem to be the main theme.
The themes of betrayal and loyalty go back and forth in The Tempest, Antonio betrays his own brother Prospero and steals his role as king, Prospero lies to his slaves about their freedom, and loyalty saves the lives of two characters, and a country. The whole story is based on lies, with the underlying help of loyalty.
Prospero who is the king of Milan, steps down from his position of king, handing it over to his brother Antonio. While away from the throne, Prospero is studying magic, more specifically, black magic or witchcraft. This is what I believe to be the first betrayal, and it is Prospero betraying himself and in trusting someone else with such a big role, without this the whole story wouldn’t of happened. However it’s no surprise that his brother Antonio refuses to give back his role as king and exiles Prospero to a small island with his daughter. Later on the island that Prospero is banished to, he uses his black magic to enslave a man named Caliban whom is native to the island and rightful king, also the son of a deceased witch named Sycorax. Not only does Prospero have Caliban enslaved but another man named Aerial. Aerial is a spirit who was rescued by Prospero, formerly enslaved by Sycorax, whom Prospero originally learned black magic from. In a way Sycorax’s teachings betray him because his teachings captured his son Caliban for Prospero to enslave.
Not as obvious as the sneaking and betrayal is in this story is loyalty. It is always been wondered if Prospero was not doing a good job of being king when he stepped down and handed it to his brother, Antonio, this shows Antonio’s loyalty to his country of Milan and how he wants it to be ran correctly. Scott Schneider of the Shmoop editorial team states a very good question about the events, How much of this betrayal is Prospero’s own perspective and convenient forgetting that Antonio was doing all the hard work?(Schneider 2008). This question brings up a good point about perspective in the story, and asks another question, is Prospero being honest about his past, being unloyal to his country and betraying his duties? Loyalty is a farce in the play; everyone follows the courtly rule of swearing loyalty, but gives up on the notion as soon as it is no longer convenient(Schneider 2008). However, Prospero also showed loads of love and loyalty to his brother which almost contradicts him being a bad guy. Trusting his brother with one of the biggest jobs in the world and knowing that he would take care of it in his absence, shows more loyalty and trust than is received or given to anyone else for the rest of the story. Unfortunately for Prospero his brothers betrayal costed him years of his life.
With all the betrayal going on in the story mostly affecting Prospero, he does acknowledge some help that he has received in his survival and making it to the island, Both, both, my girl.
By foul play, as thou sayst, were we heaved thence, But blessedly holp hither (Shakespeare 6). As he said this he is shining light on to the situation and thanking Gonzalo,Prospero has the distance and perspective of wisdom when thinking about how they ended up on the island. Antonio’s treachery put them there, but the help of the natural elements, and Gonzalo’s loyalty, allowed them to survive and prosper(O’connor 2009). Throughout The Tempest I believe that the theme of loyalty is something that helps the story go one without all the attention that betrayal receives. Everyone is surprised when someone does something dishonest or lies to another character for personal gain. However no one is excited about a character doing the right thing in a situation. Which makes these times all more important, and it’s also really important that Prospero acknowledged Gonzalo for his loyalty because it really does not occur in this story often. We must also not forget that Alonso and Prospero both may of been killed if it wasn’t for their friends loyalty saving them before it was too late, Ariel and Gonzalo. This was a huge boost to the story as if they were killed it could of been alot worse for the people involved bring in more unnecessary drama.
Betrayal really pushes characters to do drastic things and also open their minds up to the truth about their actions and how others truly are, for example when Prospero sinks the boat containing the king and his party, Ferdinand states a very famous quote narrated by Ariel from the story; Hell is empty and all the devils are here (Shakespeare 11). This quote is a great example if Ferdinand coming to his senses about what has happened to Prospero. He believes that God is punishing them for being disloyal to Prospero and they are being banished to hell for their actions. That doesn’t happen however it does make the characters realise their actions and how they really affected someone. This even reveals Alonso to be apologetic and regret being disloyal to Prospero in the past, once again betrayal and loyalty working off of eachother.
In The Tempest, betrayal and loyalty go hand and hand, feeding more fuel to the fire that is this crazy plot. One last quote that I feel really sums up my idea on this book is Loyalty is a farce in the play; everyone follows the courtly rule of swearing loyalty, but gives up on the notion as soon as it is no longer convenient. (Schneider 2008). The themes of betrayal and loyalty go back and forth in The Tempest, Antonio betrays his own brother Prospero and steals his role as king, Prospero lies to his slaves about their freedom, and loyalty saves the lives of two characters, and a country. The Tempest is truly a great story with many themes however betrayal and loyalty are the two most important, because they assist each other in progressing the story.
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