The Theme of Usurpation in The Tempest by William Shakespeare
The Tempest is a late romance, which is a mixture of comedy and
tragedy and during the play Shakespeare puts across his Church of
England views on usurpation.
Before we discuss how Shakespeare ensures that the theme of usurpation
and its consequences runs throughout The Tempest, we need to define
the meaning of the term usurpation. Usurpation is when someone
wrongfully seizes/assumes the power or the throne. An example of
usurpation was when Napoleon usurped/seized the power from Louis XVI.
The main plot of the play is to do with Prospero seeking revenge on
his brother for taking his place as the Duke of Milan and leaving him
and his daughter Miranda adrift in a boat to die. Prospero wants order
to be restored and for him to be back as the Duke of Milan.
During the play there are also two subplots involving a couple of
people wanting to usurp the King of Naples and a group of three people
wishing to usurp Prospero.
Some aspects of the idea of usurpation occurs in nearly every scene in
the Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" The theme also occurs in a verity
of different circumstances and between different groups of people all
wanting to overthrow the rightful person for there own benefit. The
main way that Shakespeare has ensured that the theme of usurpation
runs throughout the play is through repetition.
The first usurpation's started way before the play began. For example
his own brother Antonio usurped Prospero the rightful Duke of Milan;
also Prospero usurped the island from Caliban for when Sycorax his
mother died the island became his. There is proof of this in the play
when we are first introduced to Caliban and he states that "Which at
first was mine own King: and here you sty me. In this hard rock, while
you do keep from me. The rest o' th' island". However some Victorians
may argue that in fact Caliban is lower than Prospero in the chain of
being and there for Prospero did not usurp power. Although a modern
audience would not see it this way and be sympathetic towards Caliban.
The play starts with Prospero usurping control of the king's ship
through his servant Ariel and the boatswain no longer was in charge of
what was happening to the ship.
The sea was in control of the ship and although the boatswain was
trying to keep everybody safe, Antonio and Sebastian did not realise
that while onboard the ship the boatswain was the person who gives the
orders and not the King. They do not appreciate the way things should
be and had no respect for authority. When Antonio challenged the
boatswain he quite rightly argued that "What cares these roarers for
the name of King?" Although Sebastian was arguing that the king should
be in charge he really wanted to be in control him self. There is
proof of this...