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The Tempest

By dcampos93 Dec 10, 2012 1448 Words
A statement that many could agree with is: nothing in this world feels better than successfully plotting revenge against someone who has harmed you. In Shakespeare’s last full play, The Tempest, he takes on the task of tackling several acts of betrayal amidst the characters. It seems to be that every character has experienced some sort of conflict with another character pushing them to want to act upon it. If revenge is the best way to overcome a betrayal, can it be concluded that all the characters in the play are reciprocating the pain at the people that hurt them? From the beginning there is a strong dispute between Antonio and Prospero who are in a struggle for power over Milan. Prospero, who formally was the duke of Milan, was being robbed of his position from the person that was supposed to care for him the most, his own blood brother. It is evident that Prospero is deeply affected by Antonio’s betrayal as he proclaims: But what my power might else exact, like one who having unto truth, by telling of it, made such a sinner of his memory to credit his own lie, he did believe he was indeed the Duke, out o’ th’ substitution and executing th’ outward face of royalty with all prerogative. Hence his ambition growing dost thou hear? (10) As Prospero is sharing this distress with his daughter Miranda, he is making sure she catches every detail of it. He strongly discusses his concern for his loss of power and the well being of the people of Milan now that they are under the power of Antonio, who is a traitor in his eyes. As a result of this mistreatment, Prospero leaves his beloved Milan and relocates on an Island where he changes from being the oppressed to the oppressor. Since Antonio betrayed him, Prospero is forever scarred by this strong deception affecting the way he treats others and attempts to claim power over things that are not in his possession. Prospero’s new oppressing persona is portrayed as soon as he comes on to this new island. Since he abruptly left Milan, his necessity for power grew rapidly, forcing him to overthrow Caliban and appointed himself the new possessor of the island. Caliban fought against his power hungry predecessor by attempting to claim back what rightly belonged to him by saying: “The Island’s mine by Sycorax my mother, which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first, thou strok’st me and made much of me” (19). Caliban conveys to Prospero and Miranda that he feels as if they have been disloyal to him because ever since when they first stepped on to his land they have done everything in their power to colonize him. Their attempts at teaching him new things to eat and new ways to speak were just as overbearing as their actions to take over his properties. Even though, Caliban seems very hurt by what these two did to him, Miranda still has the Audacity to make him feel as if he were being ungrateful for all the “help” they had provided for him: Abhorred slave, which any print of goodness wilt not take, being capable of all ill! I pitied thee, took pains to make thee speak, thought thee each hour one thing or other: when thou didst not, savage, know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like a thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes with words that would make them known. But thy vile race, though thou didst learn, had that in’t which good natures could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou deservedly confined into this rock, who hadst deserved more than a prison. (20) Although this dialogue from Miranda is long, it is a very significant piece of the play in which there is a clear division drawn in social classes amidst Prospero and Miranda as a whole and Caliban. The two seem to think that they hold better positions than Caliban does because they have the ability to speak eloquently and have better “table manners.” They are justifying that the betrayal they have done against Caliban is not harmful at all and it is for his own good that they have even taken the liberty to waste up some of their precious time to reach out to him. But, in all honesty, the only reason that they have mistreated him is because they come from Milan where they were in power and accustomed to have slaves and such. An aspect that Prospero did not consider was that Caliban has complete potential to fight back for what he has done to him. Caliban has caught on to his secret and knows that Prospero gains some sort of magical powers through his books, and in order to plot revenge against his power, he must first confiscate these from him. Caliban plots this: “Having first seized his books, or with a log batter his skull or paunch him with a stake, or cut his wesand with thy knife. Remember first to possess his books; for without them he’s but a sot, as I am. (53) Caliban feels so strongly about his revenge and will stop at nothing until Prospero is dead for all that he did to him. He confides in Trinculo and Stephano to help him with his plot, but does not realize that Ariel, Prospero’s worthy servant is present at the time he is sharing his plan with his accomplices. Ariel, being the eyes and ears of Prospero, goes to share the dirty details of Caliban’s plot with Prospero giving him enough time to stop the plan and making it work in his favor instead. All these instances are examples of how these characters have acted upon people that have done them harm. It is interesting to observe whether or not they have successfully gotten revenge on those who have plotted against them. The first example, the conflict amongst the brothers, gets resolved in the end. Although at the beginning of the play Prospero was ripped of his precious Milan and his power as Duke of this territory, after his beloved daughter is married off to Ferdinand he is given the ability to return to Milan and possibly take his spot back as Duke. This happiness did not come easy to Prospero; he first had to forgive all who had wronged him and accept that everything that occurred was for a predestined reason. At the end of the play Prospero says this: “Go, release them Ariel. My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore, and they shall be themselves. (72) He has made the wise decision to stop his magic and restore peace to all the people that he had cast spells upon, this including Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano who had plotted to kill him. Caliban, on the other hand did not have a revenge as successful as Prospero’s. His plan to kill to kill Prospero failed due to Ariel’s involvement in the plans and his loyalty to tell his master. However, the positive outcomes Caliban did receive from this experience is that he learned how to be more civilized and in the end got to keep the island that was rightfully his. He got very lucky that Prospero decided to spare his life rather than banishing him away with magic at the first moment of hearing that Caliban was going to kill him. Whether or not Caliban chooses to accept it he was greatly benefited by the arrival of Prospero and Miranda, and his life would’ve never been the same without them. Since he had to defend his island from conquerors this one time, if someone were to try to take over his territory again he has experience that will help him stand his ground and hold power over his place. Considering all of this, it is feasible to say that all the characters are not necessarily reciprocating pain to the others that have harmed them, but definitely making attempts to get even whether they are successful or not. Revenge may be the best way to get back at someone who has caused you harm, but at times plans do not come out accordingly. Characters in The Tempest learn that by plotting revenge they can attempt to get what they want but it does not always work out in their favor. The only character that actually got even and ended up the happiest was Prospero. He forgave everyone, claimed back his lands, left magic to live a pure life, and even got the privilege to see his daughter happily married. Although peace was restored, this island will never be the same.

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