Power, Control and Manipulation in Shakespeare’s the Tempest

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William Shakespeare’s The Tempest centers on power struggles and how various characters in the play try to dominate or control others. The lust for power is widely shared by the characters in the play. Caliban wants to regain his island from Prospero; Prospero wants his status back as the Duke of Milan. Sebastian also tries to kill his brother Alonso, so that he will be next in line to the throne. The play consists of a series of treacheries and conspiracies against authority. At the center of this power struggle is Prospero, who is the protagonist. He is driven by vengeance after he is deposed by his brother Antonio and he wants to get his throne back. A deeper analysis of the play reveals that Prospero uses his magical powers to manipulate and control others, benefit only himself and achieve his goals. At first glance of the play Prospero can be seen as a character who uses his power for the benefit of other characters. He can be considered as a ruler who used his knowledge of magical powers to release Ariel from the cloven pine and also give him total freedom at the end of the play. Prospero can also be seen as a benevolent ruler who took over the island and educate Caliban. His orchestration of the meeting of Ferdinand and Miranda which ended in marriage is also a way that Prospero uses his power as a form of benefit to others. He brings a happy ending to the play. However Prospero’s ability to bring a happy ending to the play is because of the absolute power over other characters which helped him to manipulate others and achieve his own goals. Prospero’s manipulative power is manifested in his use of magic. When he was banished from Milan, Gonzalo “furnish'd him with books from his own library which he prized above his dukedom” (1.2.165). His books became the source of his magic and power, which he used to gain control over the inhabitants on the island.

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