The Tempest: Comparing the Cultures in the Tempest and Ours

Topics: The Tempest, Race, William Shakespeare Pages: 3 (1211 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Tempest: Comparing The Cultures in The Tempest and Ours

"All men are created equal" is one of the declarations that American culture is built on. This declaration means that all men no matter of race, religion, or creed are equals in the eyes of society, as well as the law. This was not always true in history, especially not in Shakespeare's day and age. During this time, society had levels of classification where men were considered "superior" to other men. Shakespeare gives us a taste of this hierarchical culture through his play The Tempest. He shows us how "superior" men perceived themselves in contrast to lesser beings due to their race, financial status, and gender. We also are shown those who had reason to feel superior yet treated others equally and with the respect due to them.

The Tempest reflects Shakespeare's society through the relationship between characters, especially between Prospero and Caliban. Caliban, who was the previous king of the island, is taught how to be "civilized" by Prospero and his daughter Miranda. Then he is forced to be their servant. Caliban explains "Thou strok'st me and make much of me; wouldst give me Water with berries in ‘t; and teach me how to name the bigger light, how the less, That burn by day and night; and then I lov'd thee, And show'd thee all the qualities o' th' isle,... For I am all the subjects you have, which first was mine own king."(I,ii,334- 354). We see he is treated as a lesser being because he is not of the same race as Prospero and Miranda. Prospero describes him as "A freckled whelp hag-born - not honour'd with a human shape."(I,ii,282-283) Clearly, the people of different races were treated as inferior human beings in Shakespeare's time. In this culture, because someone is different, they are less of a human than you.

Financial status also plays a major role in social classifications. During the time of The Tempest, Dukes and Earls, who were among the nobles, were considered to...
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