Similarities Between Principal Characters in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

January 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

In almost every respect, Gonzalo’s ideas on how best to govern an island relate directly in some form to Prospero’s existing reign. Gonzalo, an honest, sage, aging councilor first openly asserts his vision of a perfect society while meandering with his comrades on the sandy beach of some uninhabited, distant isle. Prospero’s own notion on how a society should be set up and governed is evidenced most clearly through his current rule over the island he had long before washed ashore on. In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Gonzalo’s vision of ruling and maintaining a commonwealth mirrors that of the actual rule of Prospero.Gonzalo first states that, in contrast to ordinary custom, trade in his commonwealth would be completely abolished. He undoubtedly believes that the benefits of self-reliance far outweigh the gains made by engaging in trade with neighboring isles. Prospero oversees no traffic on his isle more out of necessity than by choice. Branded an outcast and banished to an uninhabited island after his exile from Naples, Prospero is left alone with only his infant daughter, Miranda, and precious few resources to survive on. He engages in no trade because he has not the means, the goods nor the desire. Prospero owns no seafaring vessel to carry him to neighboring shores. He has no workforce to gather or cultivate resources worthy to be traded. And he undoubtedly feels that the best revenge against those who attempted to destroy him is simply to come through and provide for his daughter and others all on his own, without outside aid, through sheer willpower and keen intellect. Therefore, Gonzalo’s call for the abolishment of trade on his imaginary island is seen in reality through the rule of Prospero.Gonzalo also envisions a society without a magistrate of any kind to judge the law and punish criminal offenders. He boldly declares that a judge would not be a needed or useful element of the paradise he visualizes. Prospero also does not have an official to ponder the intricacies of law and deliver verdicts on cases heard in court. The magician, himself a wise, learned man, obviously feels confident enough in his own abilities to decide on what is just and who is to blame when problems of the law arise.Gonzalo also asserts that on his isle, “Letters should not be known” (2.1.155). He does not feel children need to have any form of structured schooling to prove successful in the everyday life of his society. Prospero does crave knowledge from the books he reads voraciously and loves, but this pursuit of higher learning differs from the formal education both men strive to eliminate. Prospero, like Gonzalo, holds formal schooling in high disregard, as shown through the care of Miranda. Prospero tells his precious daughter, “ÖI, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit / Than other princess can, that have more time / For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful” (1.2.172-175). He is explaining to Miranda that the quest for knowledge in a broader sense is far more lasting and tangible than toiling for years in the classroom to earn a specialized degree. This view is shared by both men, in respect to the governing of their commonwealths. Both Gonzalo and Prospero believe that there are far more important lessons to be learned about life and how we live it outside of a laboratory or classroom.Gonzalo’s vision of rule is also unique in his call to eradicate the class structure separating rich, poor and servant peoples found in nearly every other society on earth. This assertion compares directly in some aspects to Prospero’s actual rule and contrasts sharply in others. Gonzalo envisions a population infused with the spirit of equality, thereby acting as a catalyst to make each individual work together for the common good, instead of for personal profit or gains. Gonzalo is avowing that no one should have the power over others merely through the accumulation of wealth. Moreover, no one should be destined to live a life of misery and solitude in the service of others. Prospero’s rule is similar in that he has no separation of wealthy and poor among the small population he governs. Yet, a striking dissimilarity in the ideologies of the two men presents itself in the form of Caliban, a savage and deformed slave, who lives his life in the service of Prospero and Miranda. Prospero openly admits that, “He does make our fire, / Fetch in our wood, and serve in offices / That profit us” (1.2.311-313). Ariel, a water nymph with the gift of invisibility, also serves as a slave to Prospero, in the sense that he must work to repay him for saving his life long before. Both Prospero and Gonzalo show abhorrence for the separation of rich and poor but differ somewhat on the issue of servitude.Gonzalo also calls for an end to the common occupation. He instead asserts that on his isle, each man shall remain idle and unmarried, and that women shall stay innocent and pure. Instead of having work as a necessity to provide shelter and food, Gonzalo envisions a commonwealth in which nature produces the bounty and provides the comfort. Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, are prime examples of people who are unencumbered by work, instead incorporating idleness into the very fabric of their existence. Even more, Miranda is the quintessential example of feminine innocence and purity. She, of course, is chaste and even further has, until events are set in the motion during the play, set eyes on only two men in her entire life. Also, Prospero revels in his afternoon naps and scholarly books, thereby allowing nature to provide every ounce of nourishment for his survival. Gonzalo’s words regarding idleness, innocence and the abundance of nature are mirrored exactly by the rule and daily life of Prospero and his daughter.Finally, Gonzalo boldly asserts that there will be no sovereignty, metal, corn, wine, oil, sword, pike, knife, gun or engine of any kind on his island. Prospero also does not revel in, or seek out, the extraneous pleasures and sense of comfort found in fine food, tasty drink and deadly weapon. He dines from the simple abundance nature dispenses and sees no need for artificial light or mechanized tools. Weapons simply aren’t of use on an isle in which dangers don’t lurk and enemies don’t plot. Without violence, the weapons Gonzalo wants to do away with truly are futile and unneeded. The matter of sovereignty is where each man differs in thinking and deed. Prospero is, without question, the sovereign ruler of his commonwealth and he unabashedly would admit as such. Gonzalo, himself, contradicts his own ideology in regards to sovereign rule. He calls for no such hierarchy but at the conclusion of his conversation with his comrades says of his isle, “I would with such perfection govern, sir / T’ excel the Golden Age” (34.172-173). A society needs some form of government, some measure of authority and power and on his island Prospero assumes the rule of both. Gonzalo admits to this need, although possibly unbeknownst to him, with his obvious contradiction.In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero’s actual rule directly mirrors Gonzalo’s vision of ruling and maintaining a commonwealth. The similarities between Gonzalo’s ideas and Prospero’s reign exist in almost every respect. The men differ slightly in their respective thinking with the question of servitude and the issue of sovereignty. Yet overall, both Gonzalo and Prospero share a very similar opinion of how best to govern a commonwealth.

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