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Essay on the Importance of Language in The Tempest

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The Importance of Language in The Tempest

 
   In discussing Derrida's view of Western literature, Geoffrey Hartman writes that "Western tradition has been marked . . . by a metaphysics of light, by the violence of light itself, from Apollonian cults to Cartesian philosophies. In the light of this emphatic light everything else appears obscure; especially the Hebraic development of aniconic writing and self-effacing commentary of textuality" (xix). This point is well illustrated by the nature of Prospero's power in The Tempest for his control of natural and supernatural forces is achieved through book-learning the bringing to life of Logos. That which Prospero does not control completely is the vilified character of Caliban. The denigrated and unwilling servant seems to represent Prospero's shadow, and in light of the above statement, perhaps Caliban represents the shadow of our light-infused Greco-Roman style of domination of the material world. The text tells us that when Prospero first arrives on the island Caliban willingly reveals its secrets to him. Only when Caliban threatens the chastity of Prospero's daughter, Miranda, does the relationship turn into one of master and slave. Prospero thus draws the line between the shadow realm and purity. His action suggests that sexuality, too, must be kept in a role of servitude if one is to retain control of one's kingdom. In affirming this schism, Prospero simply enforces the dualistic nature of the Western tradition. In heaping scorn upon Caliban, Prospero embodies the West's extreme dualistic nature vis-a-vis its perceived schisms existent between light and dark, mortal and immortal, good and evil.

 

Caliban's transgression is thus never effaced and brings the diametr...


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...are Commentaries. (1877):787-800. Rpt.  Scott. 304-307.

Hartman, Geoffrey H. Saving the Text: Literature/Derrida/Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1981.

More, Sir Thomas. "Utopia." The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol 1. Ed. David  Damrosch. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1999. 637-706.

Platt, Peter. "Shakespeare and Rhetorical Culture." A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David  Scott Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999.  277-296.

Sacks, David Harris. "Political Culture." A Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. David Scott  Kastan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1999. 100-116.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Rex Gibson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Snider, Denton J. "A review of The Tempest." The Shakespearian Drama a Commentary: The Comedies. (1890). Rpt. Scott. 320-324.


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