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The Utopian Solution In The Tempest

2600 words - 10 pages

    The entrance of The Tempest into theatres between 1610 and 1611, signifies a possible correlation between Shakespeare's play and the colonization of the ideal New World. Before analyzing the courtly order and utopian theme in The Tempest, it is important to understand the politics and culture of the court in the early 17th century. The society that Shakespeare emerges from plays an important role in the themes portrayed in The Tempest, because it leads to the utopian solution to the political and class conflict.

    The definitions of politics and culture have changed drastically since the 17th century in Great Britain. The freedom of Americans to play an active role in politics and government greatly contrasts the role of the English during the time of The Tempest. Shakespeare lived in a time of government sovereignty, where the role of the people in politics was dependent upon their social (class) status. In "Political Culture," David Harris Sacks asserts that, "the 'sovereignty of state,' consisting solely in governmental powers, is understood to be a feature of a commonwealth, not the commonwealth as a whole" (Sacks 118-19). The lack of involvement of the majority of the commonwealth supports a problematic issue that the role of the people in government was dependent upon their social class, which presented an obvious inequality amongst the political system. The problems facing the commonwealth and the government lead to conformity and complacency amongst the people, but Shakespeare had writing to overcome the ceiling on social class. Shakespeare's plays, specifically The Tempest, test the boundaries of politics and class order and tend to portray Shakespeare crossing from a conformist to a humanist. Shakespeare uses The Tempest as a vehicle to address and present resolution to  these political issues of class order in the government through the idea of Utopia.


The Conventional Court

    The court is a small entity of the commonwealth that assumes the most powerful role. The courtly life is a place of high society dependent upon many conventions, such as education, money and family heritage, that erect the governing structure. The courtly conventions are in exact contrast to the deserted island in the The Tempest, because the order, class and structure serve as the building blocks of the court. The court is composed of men led by a King or Queen, who makes and enforces the laws. These laws establish order, but class also plays a key role in establishing structure. Membership in the court is dependent upon the level of education and manners a person portrays. In order to obtain the proper courtly education and social etiquette, a person must be of a certain class, established through family lineage and wealth. The different classes make the structure of the court.


Disorder of the Court

    Shakespeare immediately throws the audience into a court that is not unified and strictly divided by political...

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