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The Abuse Of Power In Shakespeare's Play, The Tempest

992 words - 4 pages

The play, The Tempest, by William Shakespeare is a very cleverly thought out piece of work. Shakespeare very deliberately inter-relates several different forms of power during the course of the play. There is political power, shown through the plethora of political characters and their schemes, while at the same time parodied by the comic characters. The power of magic and love, and its ability to reunite and absolve also plays a major role in the play. Throughout the play, Prospero, the main character, takes great advantage of his power and authority, both properly and improperly. The epiphany of this however, is realized at the end of the play.

Nearly every scene in the play, either intentionally or unintentionally, portrays a struggling relationship between a figure that possesses power and a figure that is suppressed by that power. The play explores the relationship between master and servant very dynamically. In the opening scene, the boatswain (servant) is very oppressive towards the noble men (master) due to their sophomoric attitude in a dangerous situation like that. This is especially visible when Antonio, the usurping Duke of Milan, asks the boatswain where the master is, to this, the boatswain replies, “Do you not hear him? You mar our labour. Keep your cabins! You do assist the storm,” (1.1.11-12). After being told to be patient, the boatswain once again replies with strong attitude, “What cares these roarers for the name of king/None that I more love than myself,” (1.1.14-17). This shows that despite the noble men having great amounts of political “authority” over the boatswain, they do not have enough “power” to substantiate that. This authority is not gained by strength or inheritance, but knowledge. In the next scene, Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, is stranded on an uninhabited island, which he claims is his property. He seeks for control in his nemesis towards his brother Antonio, control of the fate of his daughter Miranda, and the control of his servants Ariel and Caliban. Prospero uses force and debt to have greater authority over the spirit Ariel. When Ariel asks for his freedom and “liberty,” Prospero brings up the “damn’d witch Sycorax” from whom he saved him (1.2.247-264). Sebastian and Antonio also abuse their powers by plotting an attack on Alonso, the King of Naples, so they could gain even more political power in the real world. Eventually after all the words of encouragement from Antonio, Sebastian finally says, “Thy case, dear friend, shall be my precedent. As thou got’st Milan, I’ll come by Naples. Draw thy sword,” (2.1.270-272). The desire for political power and authority becomes the core from which other minor themes develop in this play. This improper use of power eventually only harms everyone, not benefit.

Magical powers play a tremendous role in supporting Prospero’s ambitions. Once again, Prospero...

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