Justice is the pursuit of righteousness and moral good standing within an individual or a group. Shakespeare, however, gives new perspective to this idea of justice in his work, The Tempest. Shakespeare critiques justice and portrays it in way in which justice is defined as the rule of the majority, and governed by the person with most power. Through the actions of the main character, Prospero; this new viewpoint of both justice and mercy emerges.
Prospero, once the Duke of Milan, seeks revenge for the usurpation of his throne by his brother. In Act One Scene Two, we see Prospero admit he creates a storm in order to shipwreck his enemies' vessels. Prospero's means through which he seeks justice for himself involve conniving, manipulating actions, not only towards those who he wishes to punish but also towards Ariel and Caliban. Prospero expresses his sense of betrayal due to Antonio in Act One, Scene 2 where he says to Miranda,
Being once perfected how to grant suits
How to deny them, who t' advance and who
To trash for overtopping, new created
The creatures that were mine, I say—or changed 'em,
Or else new formed 'em—having both the key
Of officer and office, set all hearts i' th' state
To what tune pleased his ear, that now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And sucked my verdure out on ’t. (1.2. 79-87)
In this quote, Prospero’s fervor for justice is seen in his anger towards Antonio’s betrayal. Although Prospero justifies his actions with his brother's betrayal, his end, being justice, does not justify the means because ultimately, Prospero is using injustice to fight for his own justice.
The injustice done to Prospero is the main catalyst of the play and this gives Prospero the power to create the general perspective of justice for the entire play. The form in which Shakespeare chooses to depict justice gives way to the idea that his intent was in fact to provide social commentary. The Tempest was...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document