Summary: The Tempest is not a Condemnation of Colonialism

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Shakespeare was an epic english poet, actor, and playwright. Known to be one of the greatest writers of all time, a person can spend their entire life studying his work. Nearly all of Shakespeare's writings have a deeper meaning than simply for entertainment, because of this our educational institutions teach, analyze, and debate his work. Shakespeare's play The Tempest is among the most controversial and debatable writings of all time. This play mirrored many colonial practices of the Euopeans, and it connected the real world to the art of theatre. Modern-day colonialism began in the early 1500’s and continued on to the mid-1900’s. Colonialism is known as the practice of acquiring partial or full political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and economically exploiting it. During the years of colonialism, European countries expanded their lands westward, with the help from people like Christopher Columbus. Shakespeare's play The Tempest enlightened his audiences with the true power of the European Empire.

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The Tempest is a story about Prospero, a skilled sorcerer and Duke of Milan, who fled from his land with his daughter Miranda for their protection. Prospero’s brothers Alonso and Antonio had conspired against him, to kill him and take his place as Duke. With the help of his trusted lord Gonzalo, Miranda and Prospero set to sea eventually landing on the remote island that The Tempest took place on. They soon discovered that there was another person living on the island, Caliban. Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, had also practiced magic, so she was exiled from her homeland and crossed the seas while pregnant with Caliban. Sycorax had died long before Prospero and Miranda landed on the island, leaving Caliban as its only inhabitant. At first, the relationship between Prospero and Caliban was civil, even somewhat kind. Their relationship remained equal until Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. Prospero’s only concern since the moment they landed on the island was to take back his dukedom. Prospero used his magic to lure Alonso and his men to the island, where he played tricks with their minds and disoriented them. Throughout the rest of the play, Prospero uses his magic to control the men, eventually regaining his political power and rightful role as Duke.

Some people believe that Shakespeare is condemning colonialism throughout the play, but he makes it evident that Prospero’s only agenda is to find justice. When Caliban attempted to rape Miranda, Prospero enslaved him to ensure that he would never jepordize Miranda’s safety again.

Caliban’s slavery is his consequence for committing a crime, he is not being exploited by Prospero. Shakespeare using slavery in his play mirrors many Europeans who participted in the slavetrade, and he is assuring his audience that it was necessary for their expansions to be sucssesful. Included below is a portion of Act 1 Scene 2 of The Tempest, this is the encounter between Caliban, Prospero, and Miranda, where they declare why Caliban is being punished.

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