The Tempest

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The Tempest

William Shakespeare, one of the greatest play writes of all time, often uses the struggle for authority as a central theme within his plays. In his final and possible one of his greatest plays, The Tempest, the protagonist Prospero is the character plagued with this struggle. The play tells the story of a father and his fifteen-year-old daughter who through cruel fate have been marooned on an island. Suffering the hardships of his past tragedies Prospero becomes addicted to power, and feels that through knowledge he can have the ultimate authority over those around him.

When the father, daughter pair first land on the island they befriend the native, Caliban the beast like son of the witch Syocrax. In a sign of hospitality Prospero teaches Caliban his native language and customs, and in return, Caliban shows him all the natural resources of the island. Even though Caliban possess remarkable eloquence and a beautiful command of poetry, his inability to learn makes him appear “animal like” and “uncivilized” and thus Prospero enslaves him.

Caliban is reluctant to serve under Prospero for he believes that it is he who by birth is the rightful owner of the island arguing “ This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,Which thou takest from me” (1:2 390-391). Prospero forces Caliban to gather logs and complete the other tedious labor needed for his own survival.

Even though Caliban is determined to be free of Prospero’s control, he is fearful of the magician’s power. Prospero is able to keep Caliban in his place by fear of physical harm and verbal abuse. This is best seen in the conversation between Prospero and Caliban in act one scene two when Prospero orders Caliban to fetch wood or to suffer cramps. It is the fear of the threat of Prospero’s magic that causes Caliban to be subordinate.

Prospero.“ Hag-seed, hence! Fetch us in fuel; and be quick, thou'rt best, To answer other business. Shrug'st thou, malice? If thou neglect'st or dost...
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