The Tempest - Relationship Between Prospero and Caliban

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With close reference to appropriately selected episodes write about the dramatic methods Shakespeare uses to present the relationship between Prospero and Caliban.

‘The Tempest’ was the last play written by Shakespeare and is widely regarded to be his greatest play. ‘The Tempest’ is thought to have been written about the year 1610. All of Shakespeare’s previously used genres are in the play: romance, tragedy, comedy and history. ‘The Tempest’ adheres to the three classical unities, unity of time, action and place. ‘The Tempest’ takes place in a twenty-four hour time period which abides by the unity of time. Unity of action is adhered to by the fact there is only one main plot being Prospero’s attempts at regaining his dukedom. Disregarding the ship at the beginning of the play, the unity of place is used by the player being staged on an island the whole time. A multi-sensory experience is created on stage by Shakespeare’s use of sound, exotic images, music and the traditional masque, making it very popular with the aristocratically seventeenth century audience. The play focused on different themes including magic, nature versus nurture, harmony/disharmony and colonialism. In this essay, I will be writing about how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Prospero and Caliban. In the Tempest, nearly every scene in the play conveys a relationship between someone who possesses a great deal of power and someone else who is admittedly a subject of the power. The play explores the master-servant dynamic most harshly in cases in which the harmony of the relationship is or has been threatened or disrupted in some way, as by the rebellious nature of a servant or the exclusion of a master. In the opening scene of the play the ‘servant’ is angry towards his ‘masters’, whose exclusion threatens to lead to a shipwreck in the storm. As time passes in the play, master-servant relationships become more dominant. “What cares these roarers for the name of King? To Cabin: Silence! Trouble us not.”Act I Scene I. The play explores the dynamics of a powered relationship from a variety of angles such as the generally positive relationship between Ariel and Prospero, the treachery in Alonso’s relationship with his nobles and the generally negative relationship that I will be writing about in the essay between Prospero and Caliban.

Like the dynamic opening, Prospero’s books are a symbol of the sheer power in which he possesses. “Remember/ first to posses his books,” Caliban says to Stephano and Trinculo, “for without them/ he’s but a sot. Act III Scene II. The books also, however, are symbol of the desire that Prospero possesses in order to displace himself from the world. It is this devotion to study that has made him content to raise Miranda in isolation. Although, Miranda’s isolation has made her somewhat ignorant of where she came from and Prospero’s own isolation provides him with little company. Prospero will have to let go of his magic to return to the world where his knowledge means something more than power. Prospero is one of Shakespeare’s more perplexing protagonists. Prospero is a considerate character in that he was wronged by his usurping brother, but his absolute power over the other characters makes him difficult to like. In our first glimpse of Prospero, he appears puffed up and self-important, and his repeated insistence that Miranda pays attention suggests that his story is boring her. “Dost thou attend me?” Act I Scene II. Once Prospero moves on to a subject other than his consumption in the pursuit of knowledge, Miranda’s attention is captivated. Prospero is quite a foreboding character dealing out punishments and treating his servants with contempt, raising questions about his morality and fairness. Both Caliban and Ariel want to be free of their master which suggests he is not easy to work for. “Thou did promise to bate me a full year.” Act I Scene II. Ariel is more willing to do Prospero's work in exchange...
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