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The Theme Of Colonialism In Shakespeare's Tempest

2640 words - 11 pages

The Tempest, by Shakespeare, offers the reader a variety of themes. The one theme that stands out the most is that of colonialism. During the time of Shakespeare, many European countries such as Spain, France, and England, were expanding their borders by taking over less developed countries, referred to as colonies. During this time of exploitation, there was skepticism concerning the possible success of the colonies. While some scholars believe that the play is about the Americas, I argue that the play reflects on colonialism in general and how it is destined for failure which is shown through the character’s relationships throughout the play.
During the 1600’s the English decided to have people colonize in the Americas for the potential resources and wealth that they may find. During this time Spain, France, Portugal, and the Dutch have already began trade and exploration in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. England hearing of their riches, didn’t want to miss out of the opportunity. However, during these expeditions, there has been various news beforehand of the strong oceanic storms that would sometimes destroy ships or mislead them from their destinations Such news was not uncommon but due to the storms, many of the people knew the dangers of the journey and would often doubt the success of these explorations. For example, “ In may 1609, nine ships carrying 500 colonists under Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Summers had set sail to America to reinforce the colony at Jamestown. In an unusual storm, Gates and Summers were driven on the Bermudas, before managing to sail to the mainland” (Honan 371). News such as this was widespread throughout England and amongst these would be news of the encounters with natives. For example, “In 1609, some in London had argued on good evidence that Virginia had been settled by natives who therefore owned the land along the James River, and whom Europeans had no right to supplant.” (Honan 372). Due to these debates, it’s possible that Shakespeare has contemplated on the different views on colonization and decided not only to create the setting of the play on an island, but uses the storm in the first act as way to create excitement and danger and also to reference to the perils of the struggle of exploration. Also the title of the play is The Tempest which also hints how powerful the storms of the ocean are, that it can determine the fate of many people as seen in the play; and is relatable to real life events such as the one described earlier. The Tempest also reflect the concerns of the times such as the exploration of foreign lands and struggles for power and the colonization of lands as seen in the role of the characters in the play.
The roles the characters have in the play are an essential in the expression of colonization and how it destined for failure. In The Tempest, Shakespeare shows hints of colonization problems in a subtle manner. The character Prospero, for example, can be seen playing the...

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