To what extent do you agree that The Tempest is a power struggle between the old and the new world?
Shakespeare’s Plays II
Rocío Corral García
It is generally accepted that Shakespeare’s Play The Tempest is complex in many senses, but it cannot be denied that it is especially rich in terms of interpretation. A huge variety of critical analyses have been written about Shakespeare’s last play suggesting different possible approaches to it, such as human salvation, magic, colonisation and power. This essay will focus on the struggle between the old and the new world, which is one of the major themes in this play and that can be easily applied to politics and conspiracy in their more broad sense. Prospero is a European who dominates the island on his own and he is able to do so because he has magic powers. In this way he controls the island and its inhabitants by combining threats of force, promises of freedom and all kind of techniques characteristic of a proper dictator. He takes charge of the island which does not belong to him and exerts his power over the inhabitants, forcing them to serve him as slaves. It is almost impossible to draw a parallelism between this situation and the European colonial power in North America during the XVII century. Thus, it may be assumed that the old world stands for Europe and all its common practices and customs while the new world is represented by the uncivilised island. Throughout the whole play the reader is able to find several occasions in which the struggle between the new and the old world is very noticeable. In the first scene of the play, for example, we find the exchange between Prospero and Miranda talking about what has been left in the old world: dukedom and serving women. For them, living in the island means abandoning all these things and implementing facets of the new world. Miranda has been educated by her father following the old world rules but at the same time she has learned the secrets of the island by Caliban. Caliban is a native of the island who rails against language and is forced to submit. He reveals against all those things related to the old world, since he belongs to the new one. This fighting is constant along the play. Then, on the second act Shakespeare presents the difference between the new and the old world in terms of appearance. That is to say, the green and the light of the new world contrast with the European world. The new world is wild and uncivilised. Gonzalo has his own dream which is labelled as a utopian view of the island. He portrays it without order and hierarchy. In his new world there would not be chaos because everyone will be happy: I' the commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things; for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation; all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure;
The reader may acknowledge this as the internal fight men had in this era. Following this scene we find the metaphor of the drunken servant men that come to the island and they imagine that they are able to rule it, thinking that they will secure the loyalty of a native through gifts and the promise of benevolent ruling. This metaphor is made on the basis of a strong parallelism with the real accounts of the colonisation. So, there cannot be any reading of The Tempest without considering it as a study of colonialism. During the colonisation the struggle between the colonizers and the colonized world was a constant feature, so this view support the idea that The Tempest is a clear example of the struggle between the old and the new world. The English colonial project is on Shakespeare’s mind throughout the play, as almost every character, from Gonzalo to Stephano, imagines how...
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