The Tempest, a novel written by William Shakespeare, focuses on the lives of a few characters on an isolated Island. The protagonist of the story, Prospero, claims to have been the Duke of Milan until his brother Antonio usurped his position. Now, having a chance to get revenge causes the tempest storm on the ship carrying Antonio, Alonso, and others. Prospero also claims the ruling rights of the newfound Island. The literature reviews after colonialism criticize Prospero for claiming the Island and turning Caliban, the native landowner, into a slave. This review focuses on the main points and the critics of the author’s thoughts. Therefore, the two readings portray colonialism and resistance from the natives, as implied by Prospero and Caliban.
Overview of Main Points
The first and primary source raises profound arguments about the plot of the story. The major argument made by the author is the ability to experience loss and find restoration. In his introduction, Shakespeare tells the roots of the main character, Prospero, where the character is narrating to his daughter Miranda (Shakespeare, 2016). Prospero demonstrates loss by narrating how he lost his title of being a Milan Duke. Kicked out of their land, Prospero and Miranda find an Island where they live as the masters of Caliban and Ariel. Prospero seeks restoration of dukedom by acquiring the powers of the Island and assuming the role of leadership.
Shakespeare also makes the argument that there is always a possibility of revenge and forgiveness, no matter the circumstances. The tempest storm was caused by Prospero as a way to revenge for his loss of duke title. Other characters, including Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, attempt revenge for the oppressing acts of Prospero but are stopped by Ariel (Shakespeare, 2016). Prospero asks for forgiveness at the end of the play as he assumes the leadership of the Island.
The second and secondary source, written by Ishfaq Hussain Bhat, summarizes the post-colonial critics by various experts. Bhat’s main argument is that the tempest story through Prospero and Caliban shows colonialism and resistance. In the short analysis, the author defends his claim that Prospero colonizes Caliban’s native land by making him a slave (Bhat, 2017). By learning the secrets of the land and knowing the weaknesses of Caliban, Prospero gains the power of the land natives. Caliban, unlike the surrendering Ariel, is defiant of Prospero’s move to claim the land. From the two sources, it is correct to claim that Shakespeare wrote the story based on the events of European colonialism.
Explanation and Interpretation of the Main Ideas
The two sources focus on their path of Prospero toward recovering the ruling power he lost. In the first scene of the primary source, Prospero talks to Miranda and Ariel about his banishment from Milan. Shakespeare here sets the ground for Prospera’s selfish actions throughout the story. The conversation is also directed to Miranda so that she can board the revenge mission with her father. Miranda is convinced and helps her father claim the Island by enslaving and humiliating Caliban. Caliban is resistant to Prospero’s mastership through verbal abuses and an attempt to end Prospero’s life (Shakespeare, 2016). Miranda and Prospero accuse Caliban of being ungrateful despite having taught him ways of civilization, including communication. Caliban, in return, uses the learned language to abuse the enslaving master and the two barely agree on any matter in their conversations.
Shakespeare illustrates Ariel, although a spirit, as a powerful revolutionary tool. Ariel works towards achieving freedom by causing friction amongst Prospero’s enemies, including the tempest storm and getting Caliban drunk. Ariel is used as a distraction strategy to smoothen Prospero’s path toward power restoration. Prospero uses colonialism tactics of first being friendly with the natives and later enslaving them. He begins by befriending Caliban, who then reveals all the secrets of the land. Propero later uses the attained knowledge to control the natives and take over the ruling power.
In the analysis of his main argument, Bhat includes the critics of Aime Cesaire, Anne Skura, and G. A. Wikes regarding the role of Prospero and Caliban. The three experts base their post-colonial argument on European colonization tactics (Bhat, 2017). In their explanations, the authors, together with Bhat, show how the dialog between Prospero and Caliban indicates colonization. Caliban regrets having trusted Prospero and all the secrets of the land to him. In response, Prospero admits to having used Caliban for his power-related gains but is not afraid of him. The conversation between the two characters is filled with anger and resentment, just like those of colonialists and resisting people. The colonialist wins the heart of the native people by enlightening them but later betray their trust by overpowering and enslaving them.
Synthesis of Conversations
The text by Bhat criticizes the ideas of Shakespeare by narrowing to the process of restoration. Thus, while Shakespeare tries to tell the story in terms of the ability to recover power, Bhat views it as the unmentioned method of colonization. Instead of focusing on the primary text, Bhat chooses to concentrate on other colonial-based critics. Henceforth, he reinforces the critics by implying that Shakespeare wrote a story that rhymed with techniques of colonization. The two sources connect by illustrating the tactics of acquiring power, especially in a foreign land.
Bhat builds on the primary text ideas while outsourcing other critics relating to the same. He does that by questioning Prospero’s right to claim the Island and the role of Caliban. Before Prospero arrived on the Island, Caliban was the leader of the land (Bhat, 2017). As the rightful native leader, Caliban should have remained in power while Prospero lived under his power. However, the text shows the betrayal and violation of such obvious rights when Prospero enslaves the landowners and takes over power. The critics of the main text begin with the use of magical powers and end by showing the humanity in Caliban. The text shows how Prospero tricks Caliban by using magical powers to give up the Island. Contrary to what Shakespeare displays Caliban, Bhat pictures him as a warm human with abilities to learn, reason, and acknowledge music and beauty.
Shakespeare’s text is strong because it delivers or accomplishes the purpose of showing the ability to lose and recover power. Allowing fate to direct him, Prospero uses the power of magic to restore the dukedom he had lost. Shakespeare also shows the struggles a leader faces before winning a powerful position. However, the author does not sufficiently meet the story’s goal of showing mercy and forgiveness. At the end of the story, Prospero shows mercy to his brother Antonio alongside other characters, including Alonso (Shakespeare, 2016). He also forgives them for banishing him from the Milan kingdom. Prospero requests them to forgive all his misconduct while conducting revenge and sets them free. He hopes that by forgiving them, he will, in return, be set free, but the story ends before Antonio and Alonso can forgive him. The theme of forgiveness is, therefore, not fully exploited, considering no person is said to have forgiven Prospero.
The text by Bhat is strong because it sufficiently meets its intended purpose. The purpose of the text was to support the critics that question the roles of Prospero and Caliban. The text affirms the claims of other criticizing experts by depicting how Prospero lacked the right to claim a foreign land (Bhat, 2017). The text also sketches Caliban from a positive view and contrary to the original text. Instead of looking at Caliban as a worthless slave, the author figures him as a capable man. The secondary source also outsources other experts’ ideas, thus strengthening its arguments.
The two sources, although written from different perspectives, indicate the path of colonization. While the primary source tells the whole story, the secondary text focuses on the role of two characters. Shakespeare employed the idea of colonization based on the methods used by colonizers and the resisting natives to tell a story. Being written after European colonization, The Tempest was a way for Shakespeare to interpret the methods of colonization to his suffering and enslaved readers. Post-colonial literature reviews unveiled the meaning of Shakespeare’s plot. Bhat, in his article, also affirmed that even though Shakespeare did not mention colonization in his text, it was evident that he related to ongoing issues after European colonization.
Bhat, I. H. (2017). A postcolonial reading of Shakespeare’s the tempest. International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences, 2(6), 29-33. Web.
Shakespeare, W. (2016). The tempest by William Shakespeare. (B. A Mowat & P. Werstine, Eds). Simon & Schuster.