Themes Of The Tempest By William Shakespeare

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Being exiled from one’s home and having to adapt somewhere else is difficult and requires sacrifices and changes, for better or for worse. In the play, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, the ideas of freedom, colonization, and men over women are all big themes and keep significant importance in the play. In the play, Miranda is seen as lesser than her father Prospero and lover Ferdinand due to their massive difference in power and intelligence.          

Inequality between genders remains a key theme of the play, especially from Miranda’s point of view. Since Miranda can remember, she has been stuck on an island with men only, and these men are more powerful and have more authority over what happens. Prospero, Miranda’s father, can do magic and possesses a considerable extent of knowledge of speech and of things that Miranda a never seen. “… y Brother, and thy Uncle, Antonio, to whom I trusted than the manage of my State, while I was with secret Studies: That false Uncle (dost thou attend me Child?)…” At this time, Prospero is prompting Miranda of how much power he had, that he was a grand duke and was backstabbed by his brother Antonio. In this part of the play, it is obvious that Miranda has much less time to talk and that her speech is much less descriptive and more basic than her father’s. Because Prospero had a proper education while living on the mainland, he can make himself clear with what he says, whereas Miranda has nothing but the education of hearing and being taught by her father. Having a better sense and ability of communication and intelligence gives Prospero more power over Miranda as he knows more and has the ability to communicate and pass orders clearer. Another example in the play of men being superior to women is when Ferdinand tells Miranda that he loves her, she answers with; “[I weep] at mine unworthiness that dare not offer what I desire to give, and much less take What I shall die to want. But this is trifling, and all the more it seeks to hide itself the bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning, And prompt me, plain and holy innocence. I am your wife if you will marry me. If not, I’ll die your maid. To be your fellow you may deny me, but I’ll be your servant Whether you will or no.” By saying this, she is saying she belongs to Ferdinand if he does not marry her or if anything happens. In this scene, Miranda displays the idea that women like her, are less than men and that if a man does not wish them anymore they should stay to do as they say and should not be free.     

Another overarching theme in this play is the idea that freedom is earned and not a basic right. In this plot of The Tempest, Prospero deprives two creatures of their freedom, the first being Ariel whom he freed from the witch on the island, and the second one Caliban, the rightful heir of the island. In this play, Prospero makes these two creatures believe their freedom can only be earned and given to them through hard work and obedience. Although Prospero takes away their freedom, he was not the first to restrain Ariel; “This blue-eyed hag was hither brought with child and here was left by the sailors. Thou, my slave, as thou report’s thyself, was then her servant, and for thou wast a spirit too delicate to act her earthy and abhorred commands, refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee.” Before being on the island and saving Ariel, the spirit had been kept locked up and used by the witch hag Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, as her other servant could not complete such things anymore. When Prospero released Ariel, they brokered a deal that Ariel would serve Prospero for a year, though Prospero abused his power and made the spirit serve for longer. “I prythee, Remember I have done thee worthy service, Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, served Without or grudge or grumblings. Thou didst promise to bate me a full year.” After Ariel says that Prospero claims that the spirit should serve him much longer because “Dost thou forget From what a torment I did free thee?” This is both an example of lack of freedom and respect and abusing the power he has on the island. In this particular scene, it is obvious Ariel has served its time-serving, only Prospero does not allow it to be free as he has now changed his mind with no choice given to Ariel. Ariel was not the sole character to have been enslaved through Prospero’s arrival. Caliban had no choice but to give in to what Prospero told him to do as he could not do anything against his magic. In a particular scene, Caliban curses at Prospero for teaching him all he has taught him as realizes now it was all for one purpose, not to help him personally, but so that it would make it easier for Prospero to order him around. “You taught me language, and my profit on it is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language!” Not only does this display Prospero’s complete disregard for the people on the island with him, as at his arrival Caliban showed all the extraordinary parts and secrets of the island to Prospero, however also demonstrates how colonialism seems great at the beginning but ends up messing everything up and taking everything from the natives.      

A final and primary theme in the play The Tempest is the importance of colonialism. When Prospero arrived at the island after being exiled from his home, he enslaved all the people living there. Caliban, the one true native of the island welcomed Prospero as a voyager and showed him all the secrets of the island, how to survive, and gave him food and water. Like in the era of colonialism, Prospero uses his power to overthrow Caliban and seized everything for himself. When Caliban realizes all the good that Prospero has taught and given him was only to take it all away from him, for Caliban to show Prospero all the secrets of the island, he becomes enraged and starts cursing at Prospero telling him that he is not the rightful king of the island that right belongs to him; “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, which thou from me. When thou camest first, thou me and madest much of me, wouldst give me Water with berries in ‘t, and teach me how to name the bigger light and how the less that burn by day and night. And then I loved thee, and thee all the qualities o’ ‘ isle, The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile. Cursed be I that did so! All the charms of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you, for I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me in this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me the rest o’ ‘ island.” Caliban realizes he has been completely played by Prospero. All this time Prospero has taught Caliban things to gain his trust to find out all there is to know to afterward just turn him into his slave. All the tasks Prospero has educated Caliban were just, so he could do them for him in the future. At the beginning of the play, Caliban’s first words when he realized that Prospero had taken all the power from Caliban were “I’ll show thee the best springs. I’ll pluck thee berries. I’ll fish for thee and get thee wood enough. A plague upon the tyrant that I serve! I’ll bear him no more sticks, but follow thee, Thou wondrous man.” This quote displays that Caliban and Prospero have basically almost always hated each other. Caliban showed him food and water, how to survive, just, so he could do it again for Prospero. He cries out that he is forced to do as Prospero says although he absolutely does not want to, and that Prospero has taken all his freedom and confined him to only what he allows him.      

To wrap things up, The Tempest written by William Shakespeare presents the ideas of restraint and freedom, the equity of power and knowledge between genders, and the significance of colonization are all major themes and are very crucial in the play. In this play, the reader recognizes morals and how things went in past times like these. Prospero and the plotline of The Tempest are an accurate description of the past as all the themes talked about were major ideals in history.         


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