365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

267. Prospero

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“The Tempest”, one of the problem plays due to its inability to align with any of the three main categories of Shakespeare’s works (generally it is referred to as a comedy), is a story of love, peril, magic, revenge, and a story that is viewed by some critics as an allegory for the dangers of colonization.

Caliban, the island’s resident native, is represented as some sort of half-human (or at the least “subhuman” in some way, either through manner or physical disfigurement) creature. He is shown to be savage, villainous, and easily tempted by drunkenness and chaos. He curses Prospero, the old and powerful human resident, and Prospero’s daughter Miranda, though they say they once treated him kindly, teaching him their language. He attempted to rape Miranda. It is clear that Caliban is, in short, the bad guy – the native.

And then there is Prospero, the magician and the near-godlike man who has the power to cause dangerous tempests with his art. He is the human, the great man, the one who has brought civilization to the island. He is the settler here, the stranger to the land, and yet he is the one who is in charge of it. Prospero may represent English colonization, if some interpretations are to be believed, and all that comes with it. While the bravenew world may have such people in it that may bring some good – the English settlers ultimately founded an incredibly powerful nation – there is a great deal of bad that comes along with it (think of the Native American genocides).

Prospero is driven by his power, always eager to assert it and use his art to have his way and seek his revenges. He seems to long to be seen as a god, and is frequently portrayed as such. In fact, if the interpretation of “this play as colonization” is used, one may think back to the first colonists to land among the Incan people – they were thought to be gods at first sight. And surely the Native Americans of the states must have found wonder in much that the English brought along with them. Prospero’s magic is like the English muskets: new, powerful, and incredibly dangerous.

This is not to say that Prospero is an evil man. Certainly the settlers were not “evil”, but simply men who believed they had the right to settle and used the means they knew how in order to seek their God-given rights. Prospero is part self-made god and part man with an agenda, two things that are potent to the point of menace when combined.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

June 25, 2010 at 8:25 PM

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