The Tempest written during the 1600s by one of the most influential writers of his time, William Shakespeare, takes us deep in to the Renaissance, in which questions of religion and man’s place in the world were the cause of much conflict. There are many insinuations that the character of Prospero is a cover for Shakespeare himself and through the protagonist, Shakespeare voices some of his views about the world he was living in. Along with themes of power, men and control, colonization also seems to be a main focus of Shakespeare throughout The Tempest, as almost every character ponders upon how he would rule the island on which the play is set if he were its king. Dr Faustus was written during the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I by Christopher Marlowe. It focuses on the main character, Dr Faustus, selling his soul to the devil in exchange for all the luxuries the world has to offer “twenty-four years of all voluptuousness.” Both plays present men questing for power and have left their mark on the modern world of literature.
Shakespeare highlights the dominant themes power and control through the characters of Prospero and Antonio. Throughout the play many of the characters are in constant battle for power and freedom sometimes resulting in them succumbing to malevolent deeds. Prospero personifies the imperialist omnipotent ruler as he enslaves Caliban son of Sycorax and rightful ruler of the island. He uses the informal pronoun and pejorative phrase “thou most lying slave” to demonise and demoralise Caliban. The play explicitly portrays relationships between a man who possesses power and a man who is subject to that power. Shakespeare presents these characters to us to convey the innate nature of men and contest their way of thinking in a Patriarchal society.
The relationship Prospero has with Caliban is full of hatred, anger and malice which we experience through lexis with violent pejorative connotations “thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself.” The audience experiences the malevolent side to Prospero that reflects the Medieval belief that if you are born into power you have the right to wave your wand of superiority over anyone you think as "lowly."They both come from two very different worlds as does Dr Faustus. Prospero is educated and civilized whereas Caliban is seen as uncivilized, which was the way the audiences during the Renaissance would have viewed him, yet, both Prospero and Caliban speak in blank verse “for every trifle are they set upon me; sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me and after bite me.” In the audience’s mind Caliban was perceived as inferior and had no place in the Elizabethan world order yet, he spoke in blank verse which only aristocrats in plays used as it is considered to be one of the most poetic and rhythmic forms of spoken language. Interestingly, Caliban only speaks a hundred lines in the whole play which are the most memorable lines that Shakespeare ever wrote.
At the time Shakespeare was writing the universe was seen as hierarchal chain of being. God at the top, followed by spirits then humans then animals. Shakespeare questions this ideological construct subliminally, suggesting that Prospero and Caliban are equal according to the chain of being as they are both humans, yet is it considered acceptable for Prospero to continually treat him like an animal. Prospero often insults Caliban with the use of pejorative noun phrases such as
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"Abhorred slave" and "a thing most brutish." Shakespeare's intention here is to highlight Prospero's malevolence whilst using Caliban to represent the victims of European imperialism and colonization. They were also exploited and subjugated. They were forced to take on the language of their conquerors and were torn between the indigenous