Master Servant Relationships in ‘the Tempest’ and ‘Dr Faustus’
Master-Servant Relationships in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Dr Faustus’ Prospero, in ‘The Tempest’, resides on the island with his daughter Miranda and two mythical creatures; his favourite being Ariel who performs magic for him and is a trustworthy servant- this would cause controversy with the audience as magic was a concept both feared and believed in at the time this play was performed.
The other is Caliban, son of Sycorax- the witch who used to ‘own’ the island; he is more suited to the role of reluctant slave. Again, this is very relevant to the time as the ‘new world’ was being explored and consequently the native people were falling victim to the power of the explorer. Whereas Dr Faustus has a servant that he acquires through magical conjuring- the devil Mephistopheles. But is Mephistopheles really a servant? Or rather the manipulative master of Dr Faustus in a subordinate disguise.
Dr Faustus was also seen as very controversial for the time, Britain was still very religious and the Church of England would be wary of the mention and portrayal of devils in Christopher Marlowe’s play. The first meetings of the characters in the master-servant relationships are essential to how their relationships are shaped. In the Tempest the formally Sycorax-owned island had only a few remaining inhabitants, one of them being Caliban.
When Prospero, the Duke of Milan, was exiled from his country with his young daughter Miranda he arrived on the island to find Caliban a ‘savage and deformed’ monster. To be described in this way was a normal reaction from an explorer to his ‘discoveries’, they did not believe that the people they found on their way to their riches were equal to them at all and were in need of being colonised for their own good. Caliban was living on the island alone and since Sycorax did not pass on her magical abilities onto him Prospero would have thought him an easy ‘power’ to overthrow.
He effectively colonised the savage and took over the island by lulling Caliban into a false sense of security by treating him with kindness and as an equal, as people did when discovering America , masking their real motive-greed, ‘When thou cam’st first, thou strok’st me and made much of me… and then I loved thee’. Whilst their first meeting seemed harmonious, the events that took place shortly afterwards set a negative tone for their relationship.
Prospero accused Caliban of raping his daughter Miranda. ‘Lodged thee in mine own cell, till thou did’st seek to violate the honour of my child’. It is questionable whether he did take advantage of Miranda or not as it was not uncommon for a coloniser to accuse a native of raping one of his women, whether this was due to fear or to simply keeping the man in his place is subjective. Now Prospero had the upper hand and with the threat of his magic, Caliban became his slave, ‘I must obey.
His art is of such power’. Not through respect, he only submitted because of the threat of his powerful magic. Away from Shakespeare and the island the power could be weapons and those yielding them, money or education. It was different, however with Ariel. Prospero found Ariel imprisoned in the trunk of a tree, ‘she did confine thee… into a cloven pine… thou did’st painfully remain’. The witch Sycorax had put Ariel into there as she was his master previously.
So from the very start Prospero was the one with the power, he had set Ariel free so the sprite was in his debt, this does not stop Prospero from threatening to put him back into the tree however, ‘If thou murmur’st , I will rend an oak and peg thee in his knotty entrails’. Ariel is obedient and seemingly happy to do Prospero’s deeds, ‘That’s my noble master. What shall I do? Say what: what shall I do? ’ To call Prospero his ‘noble’ master it hints that he knows that Prospero is the former Duke of Milan and this commands respect from him.
Ariel’s servitude may be because he is genuinely scared of being put back into a tree trunk or is happy to serve this master as he does not mistreat him like his last master and is ‘guaranteed’ freedom from Prospero. Of course Ariel may believe this is an equal relationship but he doesn’t know any better, he has been submissive his whole life. In real-life colonising situations it would be rare that the slave was offered such a good deal or was willing in the first place without being tricked into it through promise of education and money.
Both servants are threatened by Prospero but the difference between them is that Ariel has not acted in a way that has scared Prospero like Caliban has- the supposed attempted rape of his daughter or the fact that a sexual being might want to ‘taint’ his precious virginal daughter. Caliban has effectively dug his own grave, possibly through no fault of his own and is not offered the freedom that Ariel is promised. That is what distinguishes the happy and not so happy relationship that Prospero has with his servants.
On the other hand ‘Dr Faustus’ has a more complex relationship, the one between Mephistopheles and Dr Faustus. They first meet when Faustus gets frustrated about his everyday-life , gets extremely power-hungry and decides to conjure up a devil who can fulfil his every desire, ‘I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live, To do whatever Faustus shall command’. He is very demanding; this may be because of his ever-growing pride and perhaps to cover-up his fear. Mephistopheles is informal when addressing his ‘master’ ‘Now, Faustus, what wouldst thou have me do? Thou is historically an informal term of ‘you’ would be sued to address a companion or someone of a lower-class to you. This suggests that Mephistopheles is humouring Faustus as he addresses him with such an informal term and then the formal term master. He is just acting as a servant when really he knows that he is in control. The use of dialogue between the characters shows us a great deal about how they feel towards each other. Prospero has a lot of derogatory vocatives that he uses to address Caliban; ‘poisonous slave’, ‘dam’, ‘Hag-seed’. By using these names he is asserting his authority over Caliban.
The need to put him down constantly stems from a fear of Caliban, being a sexual-threat to his daughter, and consequently his bloodline and being the powerful being that he is- indicated by all the manual work he has to do ,overthrowing Prospero and possibly harming his daughter. The fact that Caliban is treated in an abusive manner and is mystified by Prospero’s magic keeps him in-line. This does not hinder his hatred towards his master, ‘All the infections that the sun sucks up From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall, and make him By inchmeal a disease! However straight away Prospero hears this treachery and shows his anger through his control of the island’s elements, ‘A noise of thunder heard’, and Caliban is fearful once more. On the other hand Ariel is praised by Prospero and has, contrasting to Caliban’s horrible nicknames, rather affectionate pet names; ‘my dainty Ariel’, ‘my bird’, ‘my Ariel, chick’. The constant use of possessive determiner ‘my’ stresses how he owns Ariel who is in debt to him but instead of coming across as a tyrant he speaks to Ariel how somebody might speak to a child or a pet.
Ariel addresses Prospero as ‘my commander’, ‘my master’ and ‘sir’, which shows his respect and his acceptance of servitude under Prospero. The fact that he uses ‘my’, just like Prospero, expresses the nature of their healthy, functioning relationship. This is also seen at the end of the play when Ariel convinces Prospero to forgive. Prospero is set on finalising his revenge, ‘Lies at my mercy all mine enemies’ but Ariel reminds him that it would not be a noble thing to do, ‘The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance’.
The fact that Prospero listens to his advice shows he respects Ariel’s opinions. In Dr Faustus ‘my’ is also used by Mephistopheles, ‘now my Faustus’, this gives evidence that Faustus is wrong in thinking that Mephistopheles is his slave. Later in the play he even threatens Faustus, ‘Thou traitor, Faustus… Revolt, or i’ll in piecemeal tear they flesh’. He is happy to play Faustus’s game of conjuring up wives and annoying the pope but when the contract is threatened and Faustus’s soul may be taken from him , he gets aggressive and steps out of his servant character.
Faustus recognises this more and more throughout the play and is often begging for forgiveness, ‘Sweet Mephistopheles… pardon my unjust presumption’. To conclude, both ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Dr Faustus contain complex master-servant relationships that help us better understand the characters and their role in the authors’ portrayal of theoretical views on the outside world and creating a drama with many themes. Bibliography: * The Tempest- WilliamShakespeare * Dr Faustus- Christopher Marlowe * Jens super special Tempest and Faustus Revision booklet-Jen * www. sparknotes. com