The Tempest Criticism
“The Tempest is more than romance, for its characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes, some of them becoming villains and heroes…The Tempest belongs not only to the world of romance, but also to the period of colonialism, written as it was in the early stages of the European exploration and conquest of the New World” (Mowat and Werstine). Mowat and Werstine’s idea that The Tempest is both a romantic novel and expresses colonialism is shown through the master mind of the story’s plot named Prospero.
Towards the beginning of the novel, Shakespeare depicts Prospero as a poor man who is automatically assumed to be the hero of the story after Antonio and Alonso unfairly uproot him from his position as Duke of Milan and abandon him with his daughter at sea. Prospero describes the event saying “In few they hurried us aboard a bark, / bore us some leagues to sea… / There they hoist us / to the cry of th’ sea that roared to us” (1. 2. 172-177). Once Prospero settles on the island with his daughter, Miranda, he begins to take control of the island, announcing himself as ruler.
The villainous aspect of Prospero’s character is apparent in the way he tortures Caliban after he enslaves him. Prospero’s negative attitude towards Caliban is shown when he says “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself / upon thy wicked dam, come forth! ” (1. 2. 383-384). In this excerpt Prospero calls Caliban a slave who is created by the devil, and beckons him to do his labor for him. Prospero’s character shows how The Tempest is a romance novel, in which he is originally made out to be the hero of the story, and then appears to become another villain along with Antonio or Alonso.
Prospero’s plan to take revenge against the usurpers of his dukedom also represents an idealized situation in which all of Prospero’s ideas fall perfectly into place, which also represents an element of a romance novel. Prospero’s ability to use and control magic also aids him in his plot for revenge, and also adds to the idea that The Tempest is a romance novel because magic represents an unworldly type of situation that isn’t common in every day life.
In addition to his involvement with the romantic side of The Tempest, Prospero also adds to the colonialism involved in the story. Before Prospero ends up on the island with his daughter, he controls and rules his own territory as the Duke of Milan. After having his dukedom usurped, Prospero has spent twelve years planning his revenge. While doing so, Prospero also shows his desire to control a territory as he decides that he must rule the island and control the only other inhabitants of the island, Caliban and Ariel.
Prospero uses his magical power to overtake the weak monster Caliban and uses the island to his own benefits and to his own advantage. Throughout The Tempest, Prospero is a beneficial character who plays the role in both the romantic and colonialist aspects of the story. Works Cited: Mowat, Barbara and Paul Werstine. Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The Tempest. By William Shakespeare. New York: Washington Square Press, 1994. xii-xiv.