Imperialism And Colonialism In The Tempest

1118 words - 4 pages

The Tempest was Shakespeare’s last play that was written shortly after England colonized Virginia in 1609. Throughout the play, there are many different references to imperialism and colonialism within the characters. The Tempest analyzes the imperialistic relationships between England and America but applies it to personal human interaction between the central characters. The island gives newcomers a sense of endless possibilities like claiming the land for themselves because of the belief in the Great Chain of Being and the seventeenth century being an age of exploration. The idea of ruling a colony lured many people into the idea that having that kind of power over a large group of people is attainable. Master-servant relationships are central in many scenes in the play. Nearly every scene consists of a person in possession of power and authority while another person is subjected to that power. For example, Caliban represents the native cultures suppressed by European societies, which Prospero is a symbol of.
This was also a time when an hierarchy world was attainable through means of colonization, imperialism, and slavery. The Great Chain of Being was an idea that all people and other creatures weren’t created equally. For example, the father is head of the household; below him, his wife; below her, their children. This idea can attribute to the mindset that was widely accepted back then where a master-servant relationship was common and some people were below others due to social status, wealth, and power. These ideas led to some people thinking its morally right to use other people below them to achieve success and prosperity.
The Tempest can also be seen as a critique of imperialism represented by the several situations in the play that make references to colonial power between the characters. The island in the Tempest has often been interpreted as the “brave new world” by many critics. There are several occurrences throughout the play that display the desires of all the characters who want to be in charge and have power over others on the island. Prospero, the main character, manipulates everyone around him to achieve his desires of gaining back his dukedom. Caliban, Prospero’s slave and the first inhabitant on the island professes that he used to be his own king (l.ii.344-345). Gonzalo also has a moment where he imagines his own utopian society on the island (11.i.148-156). Stephano has his own vision of what he wants too, “Monster, I will kill this man. His daughter and I will be King and Queen.. And Trinculo and thyself shall be my viceroys”(iii.ii.101-103).
Prospero, the main character, has a similar mindset to a colonist because although he ended up on the island accidentally, he still acts as superior to the inhabitants and he sees the island as something he can make profit from. Prospero probably wouldn’t fit the title of an imperialist invader because he came to the island as a fugitive and did not necessarily start a war with...

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