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 arranged, 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....
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