Anti-Colonialism in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Play
Through The Tempest play, William Shakespeare weaves together a tale that is characterized by anti-colonialist sentiments. Prospero - the deposed Milan Duke - adopts a colonialist mentality by treating his colleagues as slaves who have no rights. Characters who suffer mistreatment under Prospero include: Ariel - the spirit creature; Ferdinand - the Naples Prince; and Caliban - Sycorax’s son. Prospero possesses much magical power which he uses to oppress his compatriots. Consequently, Prospero is portrayed as a colonial tyrant who abuses his immense power. Anti-colonialism feelings are especially evident through the actions, utterances and disposition and of Caliban, Miranda, Ferdinand and Ariel. To illustrate, Caliban berates Prospero for the former’s forced labor. Likewise, Ariel protests Prospero’s reluctance to release the former as earlier agreed. Miranda also expresses her dissatisfaction with Prospero’s unfair imprisonment of Ferdinand. Similarly, Ferdinand appears to challenge Prospero’s authority by briefly stopping dragging timber so as to flirt and chat with Miranda. The foregoing four characters exhibit conduct that highlights their displeasure with Prospero’s colonial-style authority over them. From the preceding expose, it can thus be concluded that Shakespeare’s The Tempest play is about anti-colonialism based on its depiction of Caliban, Miranda, Ferdinand and Ariel’s opposition to Prospero’s oppressive authority.
To expound, after running Alonzo’s ship aground, Ariel verbally demonstrates his opposition to Prospero’s forced servitude, thus alluding to the anti-colonial nature of The Tempest play. Believing that his master will free him one year earlier as agreed, Ariel has judiciously followed Prospero’s instructions. It however becomes clear that Prospero is not willing to let go of Ariel. Consequently, Ariel reminds Prospero of ‘what thou (Prospero) hast promised…..liberty’ (Shakespeare I.ii. 244-254). Ariel’s complaining remark shows that he does not approve of Prospero’s oppressive hold of the former. To confirm this idea, Loomba and Orkin (1998) observe that The Tempest play involves a colonialism discourse. The authors explain that the colonialism discussion is both historical and abstract (Loomba and Orkin 26).
Like Ariel, Caliban clearly demonstrates his dissent with regard to Prospero’s oppressive dominion, thereby reflecting the play’s theme of anti-colonial rebellion. Through word and deed, Caliban is firmly opposed to Prospero’s colonial-style control. Prospero has made Caliban a forced servant following the latter’s attempted rape of Miranda. The unwavering Caliban however verbally challenges Prospero’s dominion by asserting that the island on which the duo are belongs to Sycorax - Caliban’s mother - as well as to Caliban himself. Caliban indirectly tells Prospero that the latter is an unwanted intruder into the former’s life. He defiantly states that Prospero...