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Parallels and contrasts in Shakespeares play The Tempest

As with Shakespearean commentary generally, criticism of The Tempest


throughout history has increasingly emphasized the plays richness and
complexities. For many critics the key to an appreciation of the dramas
intellectual or philosophical content centers around our understanding of
Prospero. Many Twentieth-century authorities especially have considered the
exiled Duke in various roles as artist, magician, priest visionary and tragic hero,
relating his part in the dramatic action to such themes as reconciliation and the
connection between reality and illusion. A series of parallels can be drawn
keeping Prospero in the center of discussion and he can also be contrasted
against a multitude of other characters, ideas and visions. Throughout the play,
there are many analogies that create a parallelism between different characters
or actions. Not by chance does Shakespeare include such similar situations, it is
his intention to make the reader focus on certain themes relevant at the time the
play was written.

Prospero has been frequently paralleled with Shakespeare himself, as, since the
Nineteenth century the possibility that Prospero represents Shakespeare himself
has been a focus of scholarly concern, together with the question of what The
Tempest apparently the last of the dramatists unaided works may disclose
about its creators view of his life and art. For instance, Thomas Campbell
compared Prosperos renunciation of his rough magic mirrors Shakespeares
withdrawal from the theatre after the play. Critics also emphasized Prosperos
capacity for forgiveness, his self- mastery, and his serene view of life, remarking
that these are the very qualities Shakespeare himself demonstrates in his final
group of plays.

Critics also have paralleled Prospero with European colonists. They frequently
read The Tempest as a parable of colonial expansionism in the early modern age,
equating Prospero with Europeans who exploited the new world and Caliban with
persecuted or enslaved Native Americans. On the other hand the character of
Ariel is compared to the reformed other in the eyes of the colonizers. Ariels
servitude is directly contrasted to Calibans. Critics contended that Ariel who
represents the reformed colonized, emerges unscathed from Prosperos service
because he is faithful to his master, while the rebellious Caliban suffers physical
torments reflecting the condition of enslavement to which he was born: the
whole nature of slavery being one cramp and cretinous contraction.

Prospero has also been paralleled with Sycorax. Both magicians have been
banished to the island, and both because of their art; Prospero gave himself so
much to the study of magic that he lost hold of the reins of his dukedom : Sycorax
was criminal in her practice of magic. Prospero brought his infant daughter to the
island: Sycorax gave birth to Caliban soon after her arrival, so that he is a native of
the island.

Mirroring Caliban and Ariel, Trinculo and Stephano are the royal servants let us
consider Shakespeares use of prose in these two characters, depicting them as
people from the lower class who offer a bit of fun to the play itself. As second
characters, they do not appear until act 2, scene 2, where they meet Caliban;
before this scene nothing is said or described about them. In the case of Ariel and
Caliban, they are subjugated by Prospero, who, in need of survival, he overpowers
the only inhabitants on the island. However, as for Trinculo and Stephano, they
may not be slaves in terms of colonization but, in fact, they may represent those
from the lower class who were subdued to serve their superiors. (Stephano) I
thank thee for that jest; here's a garment for't:/wit shall not go unrewarded while
I am king of this/country. 'Steal by line and level' is an excellent/pass of pate;
there's another garment for't . After Caliban has proclaimed servant of Stephano,
both Stephano and Trinculo feel powerful and decide to put on some pieces of
clothes they have found, which make them stronger and more vigorous. The
dumb show is well portrayed in this excerpt: as an irony, they disguise as rulers
but, actually, they will never be positioned in that social status, they will never be
part of nobility because their duty within upper class is that of being a jester
(Trinculo) and a butler (Stephano). Their enslavement is part of a social system in
which the most powerful controls the weaker deficient conditions in industrial
jobs and child labour were usual problems in the 1600s society since the
dominant one exploited those who were vulnerable, ignorant or moneyless.
Although they are hardly alike, Caliban, Ariel, Trinculo and Stephano correspond
to the same pattern, that is, servitude, either by a consequence of colonization or
due to a social organization in which they must serve a superior. Their condition
of slaves will never change, they will be servants forever. In act 1, scene 2, Caliban
ponders I must obey: his art is of such power,/It would control my dam's god,
Setebos,/and make a vassal of him .

Although he is rebellious and defiant, in his inner thoughts, he feels a strong need
of obeying, not only because of the constant threats made by Prospero, but also
because it is Prospero who has cultivated him he taught him language, for
instance. Shakespeare portrays two big issues of the world at that time, two
problems that are entirely intertwined the master/slave binary opposition well
corresponds to the ambition of the man to expand and have an absolute control
over anything and, as a consequence, their need to manipulate someone else.

Throughout the play, Shakespeare includes several analogous patterns that help
us discover and well understand the main themes of The Tempest. Many scenes
in the play show the ambition that mankind possesses in order to get what they
want. Shakespeare also includes another problem that the world was
experiencing, particularly, in the new lands that were discovered slavery.
When Prospero arrived on the island he enslaved its inhabitants and the power
struggle for colonial control began in turn raising issues of fairness in The
Tempest. Although, at first, Prospero is portrayed as the noble man who looks
for vengeance, it is him who makes Caliban and Ariel his slaves. This double bind
of Prospero shows us a different perspective on him he wants power and to be
the master. Slavery in not only portrayed as far as colonization is concern, but it is
also part of a social issue that, to some extent, still exists nowadays the
dissimilarity in social classes. All the parallel constructions well determine the
themes that Shakespeare wants to denounce, that is, power, betrayal and slavery;
by recognizing the analogies inside the play, the reader will be able to understand
the main issues of that time regarding The Tempest as an everlasting
masterpiece .