The Battle for Political Power in The Tempest Essay

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"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." -- Abraham Lincoln

Shakespeare's "The Tempest" forms a world within itself. Within this world, many topics regarding government, power and colonization are addressed. Shakespeare tackles the discovery of new places and races, the relationship between the colonized and the colonist, old world ideologies on new soil, as well as theories on civilization and government. These aspects at the core reveal a very clear struggle for political power. Prospero's first major monologue creates the foundation of such a theme. In 1.2 lines 30-175 Prospero tell his story recounting the usurpation of the power he had as Duke of Milan, then quickly renews his power on the island. Prospero beings his story with an authoritative tone stating: "Obey and be attentive" (1.2 48). Desiring political power and authority becomes the core from which other themes derive.

Power as the Central Theme:

Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, so enthralled “In dignity, and for the liberal arts” (1.2 73), twelve years prior lost his dukedom to his brother Antonio. Antonio, in turn, betrayed Prospero’s trust by forming an alliance with the enemy, the King of Naples Alonso. This treaty gave Alonso “annual tribute, [to] do him homage, Subject his coronet to his crown, and bend The dukedom, yet unbowed—alas, poor Milan—To most ignoble stooping” (1.2 113-116). Ultimately, Milan gave up its freedom and became subject to Naples. Prospero, whose “library/ Was dukedom large enough” (1.2 109-110), lost his position as the Duke of Milan and he and his three year old daughter Miranda were sent “abroad a barque bore…to sea” (1.2 144-145). Eventual...

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...cance to be defined.

Works Cited:

Brown, Paul. “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.” Political Shakespeare. Dollimore, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfield eds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Cohen, Walter., et al. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2008.

Frank, Mike. “Shakespeare’s Existential Comedy.” Essays—Shakespeare: Late Plays. Tobias, Richard eds. Ohio University Press, 1974.

Hirst, David. The Tempest. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1984.

James, D.G. The Dream of Prospero. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

Madison, James., et al The Federalist Papers. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Mannoni, O. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. Great Britain: Richard Clay and Company, 1956.

Traversi, Derek. Shakespeare: The Last Phase. California: Stanford University Press, 1965.

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