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Introducing The New World Through Shakespeare

1348 words - 6 pages

The Age of Exploration is a time period where Europeans discovered the America’s and they were eagerly exploring them in the hopes of finding trade routes, knowledge, and riches. During this time period many accounts of the New World were recorded through things like letters and journals, describing the land and the people found in the America’s. A lot of the information in these accounts was featured in works of literature during this time period, such as in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, providing a window into the Age of Exploration as well as the interaction between the Old and New World. This is evident in The Tempest as observed through the interactions between the characters. We can see parallels of interactions between indigenous people in the play and indigenous people as described in travel journals, as well as the interactions that the Europeans have and the varied opinions of the natives they hold.
In The Tempest there are two characters that can be considered to be, and compared to, indigenous people. These two characters are Miranda who is the daughter of Prospero, the main character of the play, and Caliban who was born on the island that Miranda and Prospero are exiled on and is essentially a slave to Prospero. Miranda can be compared to being indigenous in the way that the island is the only thing she knows and while she has been educated by her father, which Prospero claims ‘Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit Than other Princes can, that have more time For vainer hours and tutors not so careful.’ (Act I, Scene II, Lines 206-208), she is obviously kept ignorant as in the way that he chooses to tell her about how they arrived at the island in Scene II of Act I for the first time in the twelve years of them being on the island and also how he is willing to put her to sleep in the same scene in order for him to further his own plot. She is also ignorant in the way that the only people she has ever come into contact with are her own father and Caliban. Caliban, while similar to Miranda in the way that they both are ignorant and have not seen many people, is truly described as the sort of savage one would think about when concerning native people. He is obviously learned, speaking in a kind of prose and having been taught at the beginning by Prospero, but he is often described as monstrous and uncivilized by multiple characters throughout the play. Miranda is obviously thought of as a gentle indigenous person, while Caliban is the one considered a ‘savage’.
Using other documents and comparing them to The Tempest shows the interactions between the Old and New world. The first example of such interactions in scene in Act 2, Scene 2 of The Tempest where Caliban exclaims ‘These be fine things, and if they be not sprites. That’s a brave god and bears celestial liquor. I will kneel to him.’ (Act II, Scence II, Lines 120-122) after he sees Stephano and Trinculo for the first time and they give him wine. ...

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