It is the love at first sight of Miranda and Ferdinand that demonstrates the themes of Authority and later, imprisonment. The higher power of Prospero becomes clear again when he sets down the ground rules for Ferdinand and Miranda’s relationship to which Ferdinand begs, “Might I but through my prison once a day behold this maid”. This action of Prospero ‘s demonstrates his powerfulness and dominance over all other existence on the island. Unfortunately this also means the taking away of Ferdinand’s freedom, or in other words, his imprisonment.
Considering that Miranda should know all too well what her father is capable of it is surprising what she still does, and it shows a reverse in authority when she sneaks out to be with Ferdinand. Although she may think she has the upper hand Prospero is all too aware of his daughter’s escapades behind his back, which shows his power on the island of knowing absolutely everything that is happening and where.
This is all thanks to his spiritual slave Ariel, whom Prospero uses as his spy.
The character Ariel plays a very important role in terms of the orders being carried out and causes nearly all of the illusions that baffle the sailors and the king’s party, he doesn’t however in the overall scheme of things have any real power. His discontent in still being Prospero’s slave is also visible when Prospero asks, “What is’t thou cans’t demand? ” to which Ariel replies “My Liberty”.
He is under the direct control of the all-mighty Prospero, to whom he must be eternally thankful for releasing him from his incarceration in the tree trunk, which leads to me Sycorax.
Sycorax was clearly was a very powerful figure on the island, whose evil and amoral leadership can only be compared to a wicked dictator. Her authority over everyone was however much more than that of Prospero, which is apparent in Ariel’s, words whenever the “foul, blue-eyed hag ” Sycorax is brought up. “And for thou was a spirit too delicate to act her earthy and abhorred commands”. A good description of the detestable tasks and inhumane expectations she had of Ariel.
This power clearly has had a lasting effect on Ariel, as he is very careful whenever he is addressed by Propsero or talking himself, this is evident in his very apologetic nature for daring to ask to be released. “Pardon sir. I will correspond to command and do my spiriting gently. ” Prospero generally greets Caliban and Ariel with the words ‘slave’ and ‘servant’. Prospero calls Ariel the servant and rarely uses Ariel’s name. Prospero also calls Ariel ‘spirit’.
It is quite apparent that Prospero feels that he owns Ariel, always calling Ariel ‘My brave spirit’ and ‘Why that’s my spirit’ using ‘my’ in these sentences when he speaks to Ariel, showing possession. This is reflected in what Ariel calls Prospero – ‘master’. Another discontented character on the island is Caliban, the “freckled whelp, hag-born – not honoured with a human shape”, in Prospero’s own words. He is clearly a very troubled character with much hatred for Prospero. One of his grudges is that Prospero taught him how to speak.
“You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language”. He feels he was better off not knowing how to speak as he feels it is no use to him because when he does talk, all he does is curse. His claim to the island is justified as it his mother who first arrived on the island, but it was taken away from him following his own actions. He clearly has much affection for Miranda as he does not utter a single word against her, but perhaps he took his affection for her by trying to “violate” her.
“Thou strok’dst me, and made much of me, would’st give me with berries with water in it, and here you sty me in this hard rock, whiles you keep from me the rest o’th’island. “, a true comment but well deserved, as Prospero explains, “I have used thee, filth as thou art, with humane care, and lodged thee in mine own cell, til thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child. ” It is through very sharp, quick answering such as this that Prospero retains his dignity and holds Caliban at bay. Prospero is obviously fonder of Ariel than he is of Caliban.
Prospero often slips in a kind or complementary word when speaking to Ariel, such as ‘Spirit, fine spirit’, Prospero however, only ever speaks to Caliban in a harsh and cruel way, the first greeting in the play to Caliban is ‘Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam, come forth’. So it is not even like Prospero just commands Caliban, he has to go into the cruel detail of how much he dislikes him. ‘You poisonous slave’ not only is he a slave, but he is so disgusting that he is poisonous too.
‘Got by the Devil himself upon the wicked dam’ in this sentence, not only is Prospero saying that Caliban’s father is the Devil himself, but he is also saying that his mother (the dam) is wicked and bad and the cruellest she could be. The cruelty that Prospero shows to Caliban may be because Prospero is revolted by Caliban, but it may also be because Prospero knows that he cannot treat Ariel in the same way as he treats Caliban as Ariel is the main source of Propspero’s power and he therefore wants to keep Ariel on his side. Prospero also congratulates Ariel when he has done something for Prospero.
Prospero gives out compliments such as ‘Spirit, fine spirit’ and ‘Delicate Ariel’ whilst Caliban’s efforts are often overlooked by Prospero. This shows how both Ariel and Caliban are Imprisoned, and how Prospero has a great deal of authority over them. This also shows however, that Propspero’s power is not complete without Ariel to do his magic and Caliban to do the menial tasks. An example of how Prospero uses his power ruthlessly is when he summons the bird for the sake of frightening people and how he scares Caliban. He uses his authority and power to create fear, and also protection, in the case of making the sailors sleep.
Caliban cannot be seen as a trustworthy character either. His immense shallowness becomes apparent when he is easily bought over by Trinculo and Stephano to be their slave just by offering him alcohol. This is meant to be a general criticism on mankind who, under the influence of alcohol, will do almost anything as long as they keep drinking, which is what Trinculo and Stephano do to Caliban “That’s a brave God and, bears celestial liquor. I will kneel to him”, whereby he imprisons himself by offering to kneel to Stephano and treat him as his God and hands all of his authority over to Stephano.
This can be portrayed as another criticism by Shakespeare of the human race as a whole. He is trying to say that although mankind will pledge their loyalty to one man or race, they can very easily be corrupted by other characters, in this case it is the alcohol that entices Caliban. The corrupt and devious Caliban does not put a halt to his mischief there, he quickly sprints back to Prospero when he realises Prospero is aware of what has been going on, in an attempt to escape punishment. He fails. Throughout the play there are numerous devious schemes and plotting which occurs.
The most scandalous of these plots is Antonio and Sebastian’s plan to murder the king. This was all in the name of gaining all the authority and freedom from the king who Antonio suspected had no longer an heir to the throne. “Draw together: and when I rear my hand, do you the like to fall it on Gonzalo” Which again shows how corrupt the human race can be, as here Antonio, the King’s loyal friend and second in command and Prospero’s brother is plotting to kill his leader. Just as Antonio plotted against Prospero to have him exiled out of Milan.
The theme of freedom only makes an appearance near the end of the play when Prospero allows Ferdinand and Miranda to be together. However the bigger development is Prospero’s decision to let go of his magical powers and Ariel. Finally Ariel gets his “liberty” which he had been working for since the day he started working for Prospero, the interesting thing is that Ariel had been through being enslavement by Sycorax, and to some extent Prospero and finally gained his Freedom and Authority over himself upon being released.
Prospero also felt he was being imprisoned by his magical powers and his ability to exert such a large amount of power over others, the snapping of his staff at the close of the play and removal of garments symbolises his freedom again. The irony of it all is that the only thing Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano wanted was to be free, Prospero left his mark on them and his continual authority over them by making his phantom hounds haunt the three on the desolate isle forever.
In conclusion I would like to say that although Shakespeare discusses a variety of themes, devious plotting and dangerous scheming in the play, he ends it all on a happy note where everything is back in its rightful place. Ferdinand and Miranda as the King and Queen of Naples, Propsero back as the Duke of Milan, Ariel finally free, and Caliban Stephano and Trinculo left alone on the island serving their punishment. This would have been to please his boss James 1 who would not have liked the audience to question having the monarchy from seeing what happens in the Tempest.
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