05 Sep 2009

Simple Essay: The School Of Prospero

The greatest name that comes into mind when one speaks of English literature is William Shakespeare.. Shakespeare painted and breathed life into each character of his plays with his magical artistic skills. Shakespeare’s character Prospero, weaves the plot around himself. He can be perceived as the Bard himself designing the fate of the play. His superb gift of language has hinted at the statesmanship of an English colonialist.

The Tempest is a marvelous creation of Shakespeare, abounding in supernatural illusions and magic. The play is remarkable for the profound power of language, aptly worked upon to create the effect of real statesmanship. Prospero is the legal Duke of Milan. The scene opens in a remarkable way with the word “Boatswain”. There is a huge confusion prevailing on the deck of the ship as it has been capsized by a tempest. It was carrying Alonso, Ferdinand, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stefano, Sebastian and Trinculo, who are on their way to Italy after coming from the wedding of Alonso’s daughter, Claribel, to the prince of Tunis in Africa. Meanwhile, the raging of the tempest calms down an even more raging mind. The statesman in Prospero makes a confession to Miranda and the audience that the germ of the conspiracy, its growth and progress leading to the ship wreck were all conceived in his mind.  His usurpation by his brother Antonio motivates him to seek vengeance from the conspirators. Prospero’s statemanship is portrayed with his rich stock of images, anecdotes and illusions. The force of his authority and statemanship pervades the primary theme. His power of statemanship, reigns with a mixture of playfulness and seriousness. Bereft of his dukedom, Prospero grips himself in supernatural power and gains control over the spirits of the island. He vitiates the political arena even there through the might of his eloquence, authority and occult. The storm evoked by Prospero to summon his enemies, deals with the supernatural. Here, Shakespeare caters to the taste of the Elizabethan audience who hungered for the strange and mysterious.

The play is tremendously influenced by colonialism. Prospero characters the complexity, arrogance and obsession of a statesman and a colonizer. He forms the most impressive and important protagonist in the play. He pervades the whole play with his unbridled magical spell and empowerment of language. Colonialism is depicted as Caliban falls prey to the power of statemanship of Prospero who with the tact of his language overcomes him.  Hence the strength of statesmanship is the exclusive preserve of Prospero who matches its richness with the elegance of thematic complexities. Machiavelli’s clarion call in Chapter 15, says he “departs from the orders of others” and says why. He stresses on moral fiber present in the ruler. He says that moral qualities are qualities “held good” by the people; so, if the prince must conquer, and wants, like the Medici, to lay his foundation on the people, who are the keepers of morality, then a new morality consistent with the necessity of conquest must be found, and the prince has to be taught a new about the nature of peoples “. The prince or the ruler must learn to rule according to the ruled and use this ability or not according to his own obligation.  Morality had meant not only doing the exact accomplishment, but also doing it for the right motive or for the love of God. This concise statement is most effectual. However in the depiction of Prospero’s character Shakespeare uses anti- Machiavellian principles.. Prospero alleges to give Caliban the gift of language and the gift of knowledge. However he gains authority by means of his supremacy. He subjugates over Aerial more or less in the same way. His knowledge of the ‘secret arts’ bestows him unbridled strength. He wants to transform the more of a savage’s life and provide incites into a human life. Prospero, with the power of his language and speech has conquered the physical bodies but not the hearts of the inhabitants of the island. Trinculo, a jester, and Stefano, a drunken butler, are two minor members of the shipwrecked party. They endow with a comic foil to the other, more powerful pairs of Prospero and Alonso and Antonio and Sebastian. Their drunken boasting and petty greed reflect and deflate the quarrels and the statesmanship of Prospero and the other noblemen.

Materialism and its ills dominate when Prospero takes the prince of Naples, Ferdinand, prisoner who falls in love with Miranda.”We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.”(Act 4, Sc. 1, Lines 173-175). Prospero imposes his authority over Ferdinand by accusing him of being a spy. Miranda is so overwhelmed in his love that she defends him and ends up monopolizing his attention for her. It is through this manipulation that Prospero happens to gain control over Ferdinand.  Ferdinand continues to be overpowered by Prospero. He does so just for the sake of Miranda. Prospero’s only motive is to get back his dukedom and seek vengeance from his conspirators.. It is through his occult that he arouses a tempest, brings Ferdinand to Miranda and creates a sumptuous banquet for the wedding of the couple.. Prospero’s position of statesmanship works as an intoxicant in the island. Caliban and Ariel, Prospero’s magical agent, have a common suffering. They are both under the oppression of Prospero. Being no biological brothers, they address each other as ‘brothers’.  . Both are enforced servitude with Prospero as their master. They contribute very much to the dramatic theme and spectacle. Ariel is an inhabitant of air, who raises the storm and sets the ships afire. Subject to Prospero’s tyranny, they both carry their servitude differently but seek liberty from him in some way or the other. Prospero has an authoritative command over Caliban. He is revengeful with him and asks the spirit that he may be pinched whenever he curses him. He portrays an ambiguous character who manages to generate the plot of the play himself. His authoritative and autocratic voice demands for applause. He reigns central to Shakespeare’s narration.  His control over Caliban represents him as a very shrewd and tactful speaker. He plays with the feelings of Caliban and succeeds in enslaving him. The savage’s surrender to him showcases the resourceful statesmanship that he uses to have domination over the inhabitants.. He arouses the sympathy of the audience for the unfortunate son of Sycorax. He however is beseeched by Aerial for his release to which Prospero willingly states “Let them be hunted soundly. At this hour Lies at my mercy all mine enemies. Shortly shall my labors end, and thou Shalt have the air at freedom.  For a little Follow and do me service.” (Act 4, Sc. 1 Lines 291-295).  . The variety and authority of language used by Shakespeare for his character Prospero is note worthy. He portrays Prospero as a representative of art and Caliban that of nature. “And that most deeply to consider is The beauty of his daughter. He himself Calls her a nonpareil. I never saw a woman But only Sycorax my dam and she, But she as far surpasseth Sycorax As great’st does least” (3.2.94-98).  In his conciliatory tone while he confronts the Neapolitan party, he proves his ability to manipulate and wield power. Prospero’s creation of the storm symbolizes his position of a statesman in the plot. It is not a natural storm to cause the ship wreck but it is a mortal who raises it The statesmanship in him  provokes Caliban, shows a complete lack of moral fiber in him. His statesmanship is surcharged with audacity, vanity and self importance. “Though with their high wrongs I am stuck to th’ quick, Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury Do I take part.  The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.” Act 5, Sc. 1 Lines 32-36   He makes a memorable character with all his virtues and vices.

References:

Joseph, Sister Miriam. “Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language”. New York: Columbia University Press, 1947.

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