The Different Views On Slavery By Shakespeare And Defoe

1817 words - 7 pages

Literature has always been a source of exploring the world and the history of mankind. Two literary works of roughly the same age written by Daniel Defoe and William Shakespeare use the concept of slavery, race, and class in their works The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. These two works have a common theme that can be found in both compositions; the problem of class, race, and slavery underlies the themes of servantship and slavery. The master-servant relationship in Robinson Crusoe is healthier compared to Prospero’s master- servant relationship because of the way that Crusoe addresses the issue of slavery, race, and class.
In the works by Defoe, Crusoe is shipwrecked and ends up on a deserted island where he spends nearly thirty years in solitude and is destined to meet a man who would become his faithful servant and slave name Friday. When Friday first encounters Crusoe; Crusoe saves him from being eaten by other cannibals “[…] and he came nearer and nearer, kneeling down every Ten or Twelve steps in token of acknowledgement for my saving his Life.” (Defoe, 223) The relationship between Crusoe and Friday is a unique type of bond. Friday seems to be very grateful to Crusoe for saving his life. He willingly becomes a servant to Crusoe, “kneeled down to me, seeming to pray me to assist him, […] and he became my servant.” (Defoe, 218) Crusoe’s attitude towards Friday is warm and inviting “I smiled at him and looked pleasantly, and beckoned to him to comes still nearer: […] (Defoe, 234). Teaching Friday English provides Crusoe with a conversational partner “[…] and having taught him English so well that he could answer me almost any question, I asked him […]. (Defoe, 234) Friday is a “servant” in the conventional sense of the world because he performs duties for his Master Crusoe and helps Crusoe with everyday duties around the island. Not only does Crusoe view him as a servant but also as a companion. Crusoe considers Friday as his man “I took my man Friday with me, […] (Defoe, 227).

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest the situation is a little bit different from Robinson Crusoe, there is a different view on slavery. The plot of this play dwells upon the story of betrayal; where Prospero is exiled form his kingdom and gets to a far away land. Unlike Crusoe’s story Prospero has his daughter with him and that the island he “colonizes” is inhabited by Caliban son of an evil witch and Ariel an imprisoned servant. Prospero gets Ariel and Caliban to serve him while Crusoe had only Friday as a servant. Ariel is a good spirit; he proposed his services to Prospero on his own. Then there is Caliban who was made to serve Prospero and later attempts to betray him, however both Ariel and Caliban are united by their ambitions towards the freedom they desire but cannot get it from their master. Even Ariel who is a faithful servant to his master asked for his freedom but Prospero answers:
Dost thou forget
From what a torment I did free thee? (Shakespeare,...

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