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Monday, April 26, 2010

Oppression in The Tempest

In my initial reading of the play in the infamous C&T course I only looked at Caliban’s character as being oppressed, but witnessing the characters come to life in the play made me look at the play’s use of oppressor and oppressed differently. Not only did Prospero have Caliban as a prisoner, he also had the fairy Ariel as a slave laborer who, throughout the play, was in service to Propsero to pay off a debt of gratitude which arose from Ariel's rescue. Prospero’s reign of oppression did not stop at these two characters; he also controlled the actions of Miranda and Ferdinand, through the use of magic,as well as all of the other victims of the storm. Seeing the play acted out forced me to see that Shakespeare’s story of magic is actually a story of oppression and power.


  1. There was a significant difference between my reading of the play last year in C&T and my reading of it this year (I read it for ENG 216 and for the theatrical production, which I saw maybe eight or nine times). The oppression was definitely more noticeable this semester, and I think that may just be a result of the director's interpretation, though I might have to go back and read the play one more time to make sure. It's sort of difficult to catch the nuance when you're only reading straight from the text, and it's easier to adopt certain interpretations when it's being performed for you. This production seemed to make Propspero overbearingly oppressive, while I don't think we focused so much on that during C&T.

  2. I wondered during the entire course of the play why Ariel didn't just use his magic to work against Prospero. Even after he is just dismissed by his master, he leaves happily without another word. It makes you wonder to what extent was Ariel oppressed. Obviously, he had to do Prospero's bidding, but seemed fairly free otherwise. In the case of Caliban, however, the case is much different. Caliban is constantly physically and emotionally abused by Prospero because of his appearance. He is degraded solely because he looks different. As a result, he is much more defiant and eager to use violence against Prospero. It is interesting how the treatment of the oppressed affects their reactions toward the oppressor; both are still being held inferior, but one responds to violence with violence.

  3. I wrote my blog on Prospero's oppression of Miranda as well. It appears that this oppression occurs both subtly and blatantly. Your comment regarding how Prospero controls Miranda through magic is true because of the more subtle side of Prospero's oppressive nature: where Miranda is put to sleep when Ariel appears so she remains oblivious. It is more blatant when Prospero arranges for Ferdinand and Miranda to appear.