The ideas of patriarchal and gender power are illustrated extensively in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ through the relationships portrayed in the play, and the play’s symbolic depiction of colonialism.
First and foremost, ‘The Tempest’ was written in the Jacobean period – a period where society was still most strongly patriarchal. This can be seen as ‘the Tempest’ is set in a completely patriarchal society; where all positions of power are held by males. In fact, ‘The Tempest’ has only one visible female character, Miranda, whilst other women, such as Caliban’s mother Sycorax, Miranda’s mother, and Alonso’s daughter Claribel, are only mentioned. Miranda is typically viewed as being completely deprived of freedom by her father, her only duty in his eyes being to remain chaste. The less-prominent women of the play are also seen as inferior, as they are only described through the men of the play. For example, most of what is known about Sycorax is told through Prospero. The women of the play are never responsible for moving the action forward, but serve only as a ground upon which the action moves forward.
The relationship between Prospero and Miranda strongly depicts the ideas of patriarchal and gender power. At first, when Prospero tells Miranda of his exile from Italy, it is her passionate youth that the reader sees in her exclamations of concern, “O the heavens!” and “Alack, for pity!” (Act I, scene ii).
Lust for Power Any good story starts with an observation: an observation of the silent neighbor, the infamously loud aunt at the family reunion or the mysterious stranger, smiling at nothing. William Shakespeare always wrote of these observations. His characters in each of his plays represent some part of society or desire lying within society. "The Tempest", Shakespeare's farewell to playwriting, ...
This scene shows the audience how tender, yet astonishingly one-sided the relationship between Prospero and Miranda is, as although Prospero has lived alone with his daughter for twelve years, he has not told her why they live alone on the island. Miranda plays a role of only social value as company to her father as he has complete control over what she sees and hears through the use of his ‘Art’, further defining the manipulative nature of this father-daughter relationship. When Miranda appears in Act V, scene i, she appears only after being revealed behind a curtain by her father. Her final lines, “O brave new world / That has such people in’t” (Act V. scene i) while superbly hopeful, are also straightforwardly ironic. The isolation her life forced upon her has made her mistake a cast of males, which the audience knows only too well to be deeply flawed, for ‘brave’.
In Shakespeare’s day, most of the planet was still being ‘discovered’, and stories were coming back from distant islands, with myths about the Cannibals of the Caribbean, faraway Edens, and distant tropical Utopias. With the character Caliban, Shakespeare may be offering an in-depth analysis into the morality of colonialism. Different views of the morality of colonialism are also discussed through events such as Gonzalo’s Utopia, Prospero’s enslavement of Caliban, and Caliban’s following resentment.
The idea of colonisation is extremely patriarchal as it was the believed that a colony needed a patriarch in order to survive. Without someone in charge, it was believed that the ‘savages’ would become uncontrollable, and the settlers would be wandering around blindly. These attitudes led to paternalism towards the original owners of the land, meaning that the colonists would take ‘fatherly’ control of these people who they believed to be unable to act for themselves. This is exemplified in ‘The Tempest’ as the nearly uninhabited island presents the sense of infinite possibility to almost everyone who lands there.
The tone of the play, however, does not support the beliefs of the would-be colonizers. Gonzalo’s utopian vision in Act II, scene i is belittled by a sharp retort from Sebastian and Antonio. When Gonzalo says that there would be no commerce or work or “sovereignty” in his society, Sebastian replies, “yet he would be king on’t,” and Antonio adds, “The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning” (Act II, scene i).
The Term Paper on How Does Shakespeare Make the Balcony Scene (Act 2, Scene 2) Such a Powerful and Dramatic Scene in Romeo and Juliet?
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Gonzalo’s fantasy thus involves him ruling the island whilst not seeming to rule it, and in this he becomes a kind of parody of Prospero. Gonzalo first openly asserts this vision of a perfect society while meandering with his comrades on the sandy beach of an uninhabited, distant isle. Prospero’s own notion on how a society should be set up and governed is evidenced most clearly through his current rule over the island he had arrived on long before. Thus, Gonzalo’s ideas on how best to govern an island relate directly in some form to Prospero’s existing reign, further illustrating Gonzalo as being a parody of Prospero.
Whilst there are many representatives of the colonial impulse in the play, the colonized have only one representative: Caliban, whose name is widely accepted as an anagram of ‘cannibal’. However, Caliban is not a cannibal at all as he barely touches meat, confining himself more delicately to roots, berries and an occasional fish. His name seems more like a mockery of stereotypes than a mark of monstrosity. The audience may develop sympathy for him at first as Prospero seeks him out merely to abuse him, and as he is tormented by spirits. However, this sympathy is made more difficult by his willingness to degrade himself before Stefano in Act II, scene ii. Even as Caliban plots to kill one colonial master – Prospero – in Act III, scene ii, he sets up another – Stefano.
Thus, the relationships portrayed in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and the play’s allusions to colonialism illustrate the ideas of patriarchal and gender power extensively.
Bibliography:’The Tempest’ – by William Shakespeare.
Prospero Through the course of the play, Shakespeare presents us with a man who seems evil, powerful, and often tyrannical, but in the end, leaves us with a man who learns how to forgive and who can become a leader once again. He was betrayed by numerous people including his brother Antonio and Caliban who tried to rape his daughter Miranda when he brought him into his home. Prospero who is the ...