365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

208. Rulership in “The Tempest”

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On my Shakespeare final exam, there is a section with several options for essay topics. One of them is as follows:

Discuss the importance of the theme of rulership in The Tempest.  Prospero currently rules the island, and many characters talk about ruling it; how do their plans or claims compare with one another, and what do they suggest about the nature and responsibilities of rulership.

When I think about it, the characters that come to mind are of course Caliban and Prospero. Their motives for keeping control of the island remind me, unsurprisingly, of the colonization of the Americas centuries ago: Caliban can be an allegory for the Native Americans, wanting the land that has been theirs for all of history to remain so by birthright, and Prospero could arguably be the settlers, claiming the land by divine right.

Though Caliban can argue “I was here first”, Prospero can argue “I saw it first”. We have all heard children use these phrases to try and keep whatever toy they are playing with away from jealous friends. To them, either argument is a valid one.

Of course, I am boiling this all down to the most basic elements of the power struggle in The Tempest, but I really do think there is something there. At least, I hope so, since that was pretty much what I argued on my final exam…what are your thoughts?

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Written by Caroline Mincks

April 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM

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