Shakespeare’s Universality: Here’s Fine Revolution Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Sep 26th, 2020


Shakespeare’s plays have inspired many outstanding writers, who have produced numerous fantastic works. One of such works is Shakespeare’s Universality: Here’s Fine Revolution by Kiernan Ryan. The author claims that Shakespeare’s plays can be interpreted from the egalitarian standpoint, i.e. such promoting the recognition of fundamental human equality from birth to death. However, he views Timon of Athens is best fitting for understanding the Shakespearean vision of his time and reality, which, in fact, was prophetic. Nevertheless, this essay will try to persuade you that it is The Tempest that best expresses “an egalitarian standpoint that is still in advance of our time” (Ryan 32).

The essay will set the scene for investigating the primary themes raised by Shakespeare in The Tempest. Its primary idea is to prove that it is the theme of judging colonialism that can be deployed for understanding egalitarianism. Moreover, additional attention will be paid to the relationships between parents and children and emotions as the essential condition of humanity in order to highlight that all people, in fact, are the same.

That said, the paper will pay specific attention to political, social, and spiritual egalitarianism and draw the connection with Shakespeare’s play. Finally, this essay will try to persuade that the startling uniqueness of mind highlighted in the struggle to find the balance between “utopian possibility and dystopian reality” (Ryan 61) is what made it possible to render the uncertainties of our world in The Tempest and turned the play into a prognostic masterpiece. Even though it is one of the strangest plays written by Shakespeare, it is still relevant and up-to-the-minute.

Your tale, sir, would cure deafness” (Shakespeare 13)

Reading Shakespeare is always a special experience because we do not see a separately taken person put in his or her time and environment. Instead, we see the unique condition of common humanity, which can be as well interpreted in the spiritual sphere, the field of emotions, which highlights that people are all the same (Mousley 173). They have the same fears. They feel the same emotions. They go down the same path of change and development throughout their lives. These things never alter. The only condition that changes is the picture on the background and the day on the calendar.

Nowadays, egalitarianism, the promotion of fundamental equality of people without regard to race, gender or religion, is a popular trend. Its traces can be seen everywhere because the society operates under constantly drawing the lines between equalities and inequalities (Bristol 56). The states’ policies and the news headings are clamoring about equal rights. However, reality is always different from what is written on the paper.

Here is when we might want to recall Shakespeare and his The Tempest, a beautiful combination of mystical knowledge, the origins of colonization, and the principles of social justice and freedom. The justification for mentioning it is that the work represents the foundations of egalitarianism, even though it is not mentioned in the play itself.

The brightest example of Shakespeare’s egalitarian standpoint in The Tempest is the memories of Gonzalo, who is the counselor of Prospero. He recollects the beauty of the island, the green grass, the blue waters, and the salty sea (Shakespeare, 44-45).

The picture looks perfect. However, there is one aggravating detail in his story – Gonzalo was kept as a prisoner on this island. He had not had an opportunity to enjoy the nature to the maximum extent. Together with these details, he points to the people, who imprisoned him, Sebastian and Alonso. He is astonished by the fact that even though they have the chance to rejoice the beauty of nature, they choose to mock Gonzalo’s mood and the love of the environment.

Is it not a true demonstration of the clash of the utopian dream with the dystopian reality? First, he highlights that the conditions on this island are perfect for establishing equality because the rich and the poor would be the same as well as the black and the white. Along with it, he dreams of governing the state, in which he would make no distinction between people and treat everyone equally – “Would I admit: no name of magistrate; / Letters should not be known: riches, poverty / … none” (Shakespeare 51). However, at the same time, he is imprisoned. So, there are people, who decide what to do with his life, the hierarchy.

This scene was written more than four centuries ago. Regardless of this fact, it is still in advance of the time we all live in because people did not change. Some of them are stuck in reality and live their lives as they are told to having no time and desire to enjoy the beauty around them or daydream about making the world a better place to live. At the same time, there are those, who are similar to Gonzalo, the dreamers.

Even living under the conditions of strict hierarchy, they do not forget about their nature and seek connection with the origins (Gregor 24). They might not have enough power to change the world at the larger scale, but they make their personal environment bright and positive.

Furthermore, the monologue of Gonzalo points to one simple truth: as long as the sovereignty exists, there is not a slightest chance to build the civilization, in which all people would be treated equally. What Shakespeare means under sovereignty is the absolute authority and power. It might be implemented at different levels from home relationships to international relations. The primary detail here is that sovereignty, i.e. authority, implies inequality because those, who have power, inevitably desire to obtain more resources, wealth, influence, etc., absolutely forgetting about human dignity and other spiritual values.

There are several ways to draw the connection between the Gonzalo’s monologue about sovereignty and the further historical events proving that Shakespeare’s The Tempest was prognostic. Of course, he had written his play keeping in mind absolute monarchies of that time and the reign of one monarch. Even though the number of influential states increased over time, there is one thing that remained unchanged.

It is as follows: what people witnessed in the course of the further historical development and what we see today is that those, who have significant authority and power, deploy it to become even more powerful at the expense of other people’s lives and welfare.

In addition to hierarchy, The Tempest raises the themes of slavery and tyranny touching upon the very nature of egalitarianism. The story of Gonzalo and Sebastian and Alonso mocking him can, in fact, be interpreted in the context of tyranny. It is, for the most part, the example of emotional tyranny, but still the fact remains. The theme of slavery is raised pointing to the fact that Prospero has two slaves and mentioning that Caliban is a slave himself – “Caliban, whom now I [Prospero] keep in service” (Shakespeare 24).

These themes are connected to the theme of colonialism. It is understood from the broader context because we realize that the ship, which had escaped the storm, was returning from some distant lands, i.e. Africa, to Italy, and only having the historical background contributes to becoming aware of the depiction of the Old and the New Worlds in the play (Kastan 172). The instants of slavery as well as keeping Gonzalo imprisoned are drawn as the consequences of colonialism.

That said, the play might have been written as the warning of potential outcomes of choosing to take over other people’s land. In fact, taking a closer look at the further historical development of this issue, Shakespeare was a prophet because he depicted what would happen to those, who would be ruled by colonizers. At the same time, it is possible to interpret colonialism as the manifestation of tyranny. So, what is depicted in the play is the negative influence of tyranny on emotional as well as economic, social, and physical wellbeing of those oppressed.

Except for the emotional tyranny over Gonzalo when he was laughed at because of his love of nature, there is also the instant of emotional tyranny in the family. The brightest example is Prospero and Miranda, a father and a daughter (Gregor 22). The primary idea here is that Shakespeare stresses on the fact that parents often think that they have the right to bring up their children without taking into consideration the desires of their kids.

Sometimes, they forget that their children have grown up and keep on interfering with their lives. Here, we see the same situation with Prospero and Miranda. He is powerful and mighty, so, has the right to decide what is better for his daughter. Miranda, on the other hand, does not have enough authority to oppose him. The cases of Miranda and Gonzalo and their tyrants are the instances of social and spiritual egalitarianism.

The social aspect of it is that people are not equal in their access to resources such as wealth and, to a particular extent, freedom. As of the spiritual dimension of egalitarianism, it implies that people should be equal in their right to choose what they want to do with their lives, and everyone else should acknowledge this right. However, what we see nowadays is that this right is ignored, and prejudice, not equality rule the society.

Egalitarianism can be viewed not only from the perspective of treating other people equally but also from the standpoint that every person has a lot of commonalities. For example, no one can control unexpected feelings or the inner changes throughout one’s life. The instance of striking love is the case of Miranda and Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples, who later decide to marry (Shakespeare 35).

Because Ferdinand is the son of one of Prospero’s enemies, Alonso, the fact that his daughter is in love with the prince, changes Prospero to the better because he finally forgives Ferdinand’s father. The Tempest is also the story of finding the way and inner strengths to forgiveness and emotional transformation. Shakespeare demonstrates that no matter what an individual is and what are his or her motivations in life, sometimes there are conditions that change the internal world of a person, and such changes are usually momentous and instantaneous.

Finally, The Tempest detects the obscurities of the world we all live in and its poverties. Even though it was written four hundred years ago, it highlights the fact that people are interested only in their own welfare and authority. Moreover, the states strive for obtaining more powerful positions in the global arena that they already have and are ready to fight for it ignoring one simple detail – the cost of similar struggles is the human life, which is impossible to bring back. That is why, it is the most valuable resource. It is the human life that should be preserved and it the quality of life that should be upgraded, not the acres of land, because these are the people, who make up the state and might contribute to the state’s prosperity.


In the conclusion, it should be said that it is The Tempest that represents the Shakespeare’s egalitarian standpoint. Bearing in mind that egalitarianism is the acknowledgment and promotion of human dignity and fundamental rights to equality granted to all human beings, it can be mentioned that there are several dimensions of this phenomenon such as political, social, spiritual, etc. The most significant justification for making the initial statement is that all forms of egalitarianism mentioned above are present or implicated in the text of the play to a particular extent.

What is even more paramount, The Tempest is still relevant today, so, everything that was written more than four centuries ago is still applicable as if it were produced yesterday. This simple fact turns Shakespeare into a prophet because this play is prognostic.

The representation of the political egalitarianism is the most significant and the brightest throughout the story. It is seen in the growing popularity of colonialism, highlighting the existence of slavery, and tyranny. As of the social aspect of egalitarianism, it can be found in the inequality of access to wealth and power. Again, it is seen in the very fact of slavery and speculation on the nature of sovereignty and the barriers to happy society dwelling in equality.

Finally, the spiritual dimension of egalitarianism is depicted in the relationships in the family and other instances of emotional tyranny. In addition to it, this type of egalitarianism can be interpreted in the manner of writing. What is meant by this statement is the unique style of Shakespeare hinting that all people are the same because they have the same fears and feelings.

This simple fact can be deployed for highlighting the very nature of egalitarianism and answering the question: if people have the same feelings, does not it mean that they are the same, so, they should be treated in an equal way and their right to equality should be guaranteed? For these reasons, I am strongly inclined to believe that The Tempest should be put to the center of Shakespeare’s work because it is the startling masterpiece that best expresses “an egalitarian standpoint that is still in advance of our time” (Ryan 32).

Works Cited

Bristol, Michael D. Shakespeare’s America, America’s Shakespeare. New York, New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Gregor, Keith. Shakespeare and Tyranny: Regimes of Reading in Europe and Beyond. Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2014. Print.

Kastan, David Scott. Shakespeare After Theory. New York, New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Mousley, Andrew. Re-Humanizing Shakespeare. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Print.

Ryan, Kiernan. Shakespeare’s Universality: Here’s Fine Revolution. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. n.d. Web.

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