Although William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is often categorized as his late romance, its plots reflect the major social movement of that time—the Europeans settling in the New World. As the Europeans eagerly set out to find the New World, they left behind hopeful citizens pondering over what they would find. In The Tempest, through the characters, we can infer that the Europeans’ intentions ranged from creating the perfect government to interacting with the inhabitants. They discovered that their idea of the perfect government in which everyone is equal failed to exist. Nonetheless, they were correct in their anticipation that the New World would already be settled—by savage ‘Native Americans’. They eventually integrated the Native Americans into their society as slaves. In their journey to the New World, the Europeans failed to establish an ideal government, yet succeeded in incorporating the natives into their own society.
One of the Europeans’ expectations of the New World was a perfect government in which everyone would be equal. In The Tempest, Shakespeare’s character Gonzalo describes it as a government where there would be “no occupation; all men idle, all;/And women too, but innocent and pure;/No sovereignty.” (II.1, ll. 154-156) Even as his comrades ridiculed him, he is steadfast in his belief, and simply labels them as “gentlemen of brave mettle.” (II.1, l. 181). This would seem like the ideal government, and would work in theory. In European society in the early seventeenth century, much emphasis was placed on class. The lower class faced many restrictions, and many citizens were infuriated with the class system. To the lower class, the hope of a perfect government in which everyone was equal was ideal.
Another one of their hopes was that the natives, although barbaric, would be of great use to them when they first settled. They hoped to incorporate the Native Americans into their own society. In The Tempest, Caliban, the original native of...
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