Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender in the Tempest

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ENG 225 C
(De) Constructing the Other

Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender in The Tempest

In Shakespeare's play, ‘The Tempest’, the characters of Prospero and Caliban, represent two different extremes on the social spectrum: the ruler, and the ruled. Their positions on the social hierarchy are largely due to the fact that Caliban responds almost wholly to passions, feelings of pleasure; his senses, while Prospero is ruled more by his intellect and self-discipline; his mind. Within ‘The Tempest’ there are obvious social implications regarding this social hierarchy, with the representations of characters such as Caliban and Prospero.  During Shakespeare's time social classification was much more rigid than today and some members of society were considered superior to other members. Shakespeare attempts to provide an example of this rigid social structure. Shakespeare illustrates how superior men differentiated themselves from lesser beings on the basis of race, class, and gender. Through the characterization of Prospero, Shakespeare provides an example of one, who had reason to feel superior and often did voice his superiority, yet at times treated others on a more holistic level and even forgave other’s wrong doings.

In the closing scene of William Shakespeare’s, ‘The Tempest’, through dialogue with Antonio, Prospero states “This thing of darkness I/ Acknowledge mine” (V.1.275-6). This statement by Prospero is simply stating what Prospero genuinely believes, that he is rightfully the master of Caliban and the rest of the island because he colonized it. Prospero had one attribute many, if not all, of the other inhabitants of the island did not posess; a wealth of knowledge. The source of all his power, in both ways of his magic and his obvious control over the other inhabitants in the play comes from his books. While he firmly believes he has power over almost everyone and everything in the play, Prospero has a very empathetic side as well. In the...
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