The Tempest Paper
Critics and the Reader: Views on The Tempest The Tempest is a play written by William Shakespeare that displays many unique qualities of characters, a variety of symbols, and important themes. William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Shakespeare is regarded by many to be the best writer in the English language. Marrying Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare had a son and two daughters. Shakespeare died on his birthday in 1616. The Tempest was one of Shakespeare’s later plays. The Tempest, considered to be a comedy, has several plots.
Many themes and symbols can be spotted in The Tempest, along with many interesting character qualities. Critics discussed three important themes in The Tempest, including alienation. Being an outsider himself, Prospero comes to the island and enslaves spirits that are already on the island. The island itself shows alienation because nothing is around it. Caliban, who was previously the owner of the island, is forced to become an outsider because of his enslavement. Caliban is not just isolated physically, but also because of the alien and monstrous feeling he gets because of Prospero and Miranda.
The play shows that physical alienation can be solved with a good surrounding, but personal isolation is a whole different monster. It is not just Caliban who becomes enslaved, but many other island inhabitants are alienated because of Prospero (Angel). Ariel also has to deal with some isolation when Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, traps him in a tree (Shakespearean Criticism). Race was also seen as a big theme in the play. Prospero is both European and Christian, which right away makes him the island’s natural ruler, even though people like Caliban and Ariel are already there.
Prospero’s taking of the island shows that he believes Caliban is below him because of race and because his mother is a witch. There is a big difference between the culture of Prospero and Miranda and the culture of Caliban: Prospero and Miranda are high on words, either written or spoken, and Caliban is high on his life and the island (Angel). One of the bigger themes seen is The Tempest is love and marriage. In the play, Miranda and Prince Ferdinand fall in love at first sight, which pleases Prospero, who is said to have had the two set up to meet and fall in love. During Shakespeare’s time, most marriages were rranged, but the best ones involved a real love between the two getting married. It was considered a responsibility of the father to provide his son or daughter with a mate of which the child was forced to accept. Even though the marriage between Miranda and Prince Ferdinand is arranged, the two love each other, which thrills Prospero. The marriage is as definitely a political as well as a romantic one: it promises to keep Prospero’s family powerful in Italy’s city states. Prospero finally shows love to his brother at the end of the story as well, forgiving him of his wrongdoing (Overview: The Tempest).
Two major symbols were seen in The Tempest. One of the major symbols seen throughout the whole play is magic. Many magicians in Shakespeare’s day were involved in alchemy. This was a study devoted to converting base metal into gold, finding a cure for all illnesses, and lengthening human life. Around the time that The Tempest was written, alchemy was well-known in England as well as the rest of Europe. In the play, Prospero brings to mind an alchemist- magic with the soul and the body (Overview: The Tempest). Prospero practices both harmful magic and “white,” or positive magic.
Caliban’s mother, the witch Sycorax, uses black magic to trap Ariel inside the trunk of a tree which Prospero frees him from (Shakespearean Criticism). Religion is also considered to be a major theme in The Tempest. Ariel carries away the dinner of the villains while dressed as a harpy, and he then tells them that he is a “minister of Fate,” in that “the powers” have told nature to punish them for their sins. Nature is said to be God in this case, and it is in fact not true that God has made nature revolt against the villains. Prospero brags about revolting against the villains himself.
Derek Travesi says “The Tempest, with its insistence on ideas of penance and amendment that can only follow from acceptance of a personal, spiritual conception of Destiny, is conceived as nothing less than a counterpoise to this tragic process of ruin. ” Knowing he had made enough tragedies, Shakespeare wanted to use reconciliations (14 Bloom). Character development and interesting character qualities are key to The Tempest. The Tempest is centered around a dominant male figure, a tricky, all-but-powerful magician, who sometimes troubles for an arrogance or egocentricity, and even at time smugness.
This character is Prospero. Controlling everything, Prospero was able to twist the plot however he wanted. He provides himself with as much power as possible on the island, and even picks the man who his daughter shall marry. Prospero is not a married man, although Miranda is his daughter (70 Bloom). Prospero is thought to have been designed after Shakespeare himself (Overview: The Tempest). Prospero is a magician, and he uses his magic to free Ariel and enslave Caliban. Prospero then punished Antonio, his brother, and King Alonso of Naples by destroying their ships in a magical storm when they try to come to the island.
This shows one of the ways that Prospero used his magic for cruelty. In the last scene, Prospero leaves the island under control of Caliban, turns away from his magical powers, and returns glorious to Milan. Prospero’s critics say that the main key to completely understanding the play’s message comes along with understanding Prospero (Ed. Michelle Lee). Caliban is an extremely interesting character. Caliban is portrayed as both a creature of earth and water, and he is also portrayed as a deadly man-beast. Prospero says that Caliban is the son of the witch Sycorax, which he is, and also the son of the devil himself.
Caliban’s attempt to rape Miranda is a major reason for his enslavement by Prospero on the island. During Caliban’s enslavement, Prospero uses his magic to give cramps and other pains to Caliban (Overview: The Tempest). It is suggested that the known superiority of European languages provides a reason for Caliban’s enslavement. According to Ian Smith, the fact that Prospero and Miranda teach Caliban to speak their own language has to deal with turning him into a complete and obedient slave, rather than just altering the personality of Caliban during the time of his enslavement on the island, which he is eventually freed from (Ed.
Michelle Lee). Many critics seem to forget about Miranda’s importance, and they think she is “an archetype of pliant womanliness or as an allegorical, sentimentalized figure for the tender and fecund aspects of untamed nature. ” Miranda is a bigger character than just a tool to show her father’s power when he arranges her marriage. During the play, Miranda, both strong and independent, shows that she can say what she wants and can stick up for herself.. Shakespeare’s representation of Miranda is two-sided on the outside. She is shown as somewhat perfect on the outside, but on the inside, she is tortured by some rhetorical devices.
Miranda also challenges her powerful father to save lives on the ship (Ed. Michelle Lee). The reader agreed with many of the critics’ thoughts. Alienation is most definitely a major theme in the play. Caliban shows some frustration about his enslavement while talking to Caliban, saying “For I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king. And here you sty me In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me The rest o’ th’ island” (Shakespeare 21). Prospero is angry that he is locked up and can’t go anywhere on what used to be his island. Caliban also gives some sketchy remarks about the island to Prospero.
Caliban says “And showed thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle, The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile” (Shakespeare 21). Calian talks about saltwater pits and barren places that can make the island seem alienated. The theme of race was also seen in the Tempest. Prospero talks about being duke in his home territory and having a good education in his place back home, where in Caliban’s home he never really got that education. Prospero said “And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed In dignity, and for the liberal arts Without a parallel” (Shakespeare 9).
Prospero, proud of where he came from, says in this quote that he is famous for his dignity and his education that he could not have gotten if he were born on the island. Prospero, due in part to his race, thinks he is superior to everyone including Caliban. He even calls Caliban names, like when he says “Come forth, I say! There’s other business for thee. Come, thou tortoise! When? ” (Shakespeare 20). Prospero calls Caliban a tortoise, which can be easily taken as an insult to Caliban. The theme of love and marriage was probably the most crucial theme in the play.
It can be seen in many places, including the love at first sight between Miranda and Prince Ferdinand. At first, Miranda cannot even believe she is seeing Prince Ferdinand, saying “What is ‘t? A spirit? Lord, how it looks about! Believe me, sir, It carries a brave for. But ‘tis a spirit” (Shakespeare 24). Ferdinand displays the same affection for Miranda when he says “Most sure, the goddess On whom these airs attend! -Vouchsafe my prayer May know if you remain upon this island, And that you will some good instruction give How I may bear me here.
My prime request, Which I do last pronounce, is-O you wonder! -If you be maid or no” (Shakespeare 25). Both lovers cannot even describe how beautiful they think the other one is, and Ferdinand even asks Miranda if she is a maiden or a goddess. Prospero shows love to his brother at the end of the story, forgiving him, saying “For you, most wicked sir, whom to all brother Would even infect my moth, I do forgive Thy rankest fault, all of them, and require My dukedom of thee, which perforce, I know, Thou must restore” (Shakespeare 91).
After holding a long grudge, Prospero finally forgives his brother, which shows that he truly does love him. Religion was a minor symbol, but it was seen in The Tempest. Prospero and Caliban have completely different religions, and Caliban even mentions one of the gods he believes in, saying “No, pray thee. I must obey, His art is of such power, It would control my dam’s god, Setebos, And make a vassal of him” (Shakespeare 22). Prospero is Christian, so he believes in one God. Caliban is racially different from Prospero, and also religiously different.
Ariel makes a reference to religion when she interrupts the villains dinner and says “You are the three men of sin, whom Destiny, That hath to instrument this lower world And what is in ‘t, the never-surfeited sea Hath caused to belch up you-and on this island Where man doth not inhabit, you ‘mongst men Being most unfit to live” (Shakespeare 70). Ariel mentions sinners and Destiny. Ariel says this because Prospero is Christian and does not likes sinners, and Ariel also told the men that destiny had brought them to the island where men do not live because they do not deserve to.
Prospero’s religion is also emphasized when he forgives his brother because forgiveness is important to him. Magic is the biggest symbol in the play, as it can be seen at many times. Prospero describes Sycorax’s magic when talking to Ariel, saying “Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee, By help of her more potent ministers And in her most unmitigable rage, Into a cloven pine, within which rift Imprisoned thou didst painfully remain A dozen years” (Shakespeare 18). Sycorax magically put Ariel inside of a tree, where he was saved by Prospero.
Prospero also displays magic of his own, using it to put pains and cramps in Caliban during his enslavement, he said “If thou neglect’st or dost unwillingly What I command, I’ll rack thee with old cramps, fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar That beasts shall tremble at thy din” (Shakespeare 22). The characters in the play were extremely unique. Prospero dominates Caliban throughout the play saying one time “Dull thing, I say so. He, that Caliban Whom now I keep in service” (Shakespeare 18). Prospero basically says that Caliban is his own possession on the island.
Once again, Prospero did show his love at the end of the story towards his daughter and her marriage, telling Ferdinand “Fairly spoke. Sit then and talk with her. She is thine own” (Shakespeare 74). Prospero tells Ferdinand that he is happy with the marriage, and that Miranda is Ferdinand’s. Caliban can be portrayed as a nice creature, and a deadly beast. Caliban can seem to get mad over little things, including the language that Miranda and Prospero try to teach him. Caliban says “You taught me language, and my profit on ‘t Is I know how to curse.
The red plague rid you For learning me your language” (Shakespeare 22). Prospero and Miranda were trying to help Caliban, and he still got angry. At the end of the play, when Prospero offers Caliban forgiveness, Caliban responds as quickly as possible clean Prospero’s room to get his forgiveness. Caliban said “Ay, that I will. And I’ll be wise hereafter And seek for grace. What a thrive-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard for a god And worship this dull fool! ” (Shakespeare 99). Caliban seeks for mercy when it is offered, which he should. Miranda’s strength is underestimated even though she shows it often.
She tells her dad to put an end to the storm, saying “If by your art, my dearest father, you have Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them” (Shakespeare 6). Only occasionally do people challenge Prospero’s strength, and Miranda challenges her powerful father’s decision, which shows great strength. Miranda also sticks up for Ferdinand in front of her dad, saying “O dear father, Make not too rash a trail for him, for He’s gentle and not fearful” (Shakespeare 27). Miranda is indeed not scared to say what she wants to her father. Many symbols, themes, and interesting character qualities were seen in this masterpiece by Shakespeare.
From religion to magic, The Tempest had it all. The critics were right about the themes and symbols found in the play. Not only were the symbols, themes, and character qualities shown in the play, but they were shown very often. Literature Cited Angel, Christina. “The Tempest. ” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. 2011 ed. Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare Comedies and Romances. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. “Overview: The Tempest. ” Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them. Vol. : Ancient Times to the American and French Revolutions (Prehistory-1790s). Detroit: Gale, 1997, Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004. “The Tempest. ” Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 84. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. “The Tempest. ” Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 104. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. “The Tempest. ” Shakespearean Criticism. Vol. 115. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.