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Social Influence Behind Characters In The Tempest English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2434 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“The Tempest” has a special, unique position among the 37 plays written by Shakespeare. This is the most complex and multifaceted work of the plays created at the end of Shakespeare’s writings in 1611. In “The Tempest” Shakespeare reflected one of the biggest historical events of his era: the policy of colonial expansion.

By its style and general character the play belongs to the genre of tragicomedy, “Storm” certainly applies to the last period of Shakespeare, as his works “Pericles”, “Tsimbelin” and “Winter’s Tale”. It is known that the “Storm” was presented by Shakespeare’s troupe of the court theater on Nov. 1, 1611. Throughout probability, this was the first staging of the play, which was written shortly before.   In May 1613 “Storm” again was performed at court during the festivities on the occasion of the marriage of James I’s daughter Princess Elizabeth and Palatine Friedrich. While we don’t know much about other early productions of this play, but judging by the number of mentions of by critics, we can assume that the play was a success.( Herbert Coursen, 2000)

“The Tempest” is a crowning creation of synthetic tragicomedy genre – a tragedy with a happy end “. In the play again meet specific motives of recent works of Shakespeare. Yes, “The Tempest” first shows generalized image of the universe covered by spontaneous movement. Instability convey a sense of play to which the collapse of the traditional Renaissance philosophy leads.(Christine Dymkowski, 2000)

Shakespeare in the drama tends to combine different spheres of life, create a universal picture of the world, tending to a reasonable device and favorable time-resolving of all conflicts. The major place take elements of nature, and especially the vast sea space, may be as in many other Shakespeare’s plays. This nature in all its mysterious power constantly presents background, which is accompanied by reversal of the story and gives it an epic nature, as in the greatest creations of mythology.

Shakespeare has fully expressed the main ideas and socio-political view of his time, that was the time of Renaissance. The illusion of humanists were bound to dissipate, bourgeois “freedom” to which they had pinned such hopes, turned a new

more brutal form of exploitation of man by man. And the subject of criticism of humanists became not so much the vices of feudalism, as the cruelty of the new capitalist system. Humanists with anger criticised “hard times” that had not fulfilled their promises, and that was the reason of the crisis of humanism, which was observed in England at the end of XVI century. Such were the contradictions and social status of humanistic thought in England in the time when Shakespeare created his “The tempest”.

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Shakespeare’s work have absorbed all the major characteristics of his epoch: aesthetic (synthesizing tradition and based on the popular romance genre, Renaissance poetry and prose, folklore, folk drama and humanist) and ideological (showing the whole ideological complex in time: the traditional concepts of world order, the views of the defenders of the feudal-patriarchal and political centralization, the motives of Christian ethics, Renaissance Neo-Platonism and Stoicism, the idea of sensationalism and the Machiavellianism, etc.). This synthetic character in conjunction with comprehensive coverage of vital events and characters led to life-complete work of Shakespeare. 

 Socio-economic processes that have caused a cultural revolution, called the Renaissance in England began later and went faster than on the continent. The contradictions and contrasts of the era were identified sharper and brighter, and the milestones in the development of humanistic thought (belief in the near triumph of humanist ideals – and the rejection of her, a season of hope – and disappointments) were in England in the minds of a generation . Shakespeare was able to capture and expose contradictions of his time in very bright and strict way- in the dynamics and drama of his work, the saturation of the struggle, clashes, conflicts. Deep comprehension of trends and dynamics of time led to his relationship to reality, that along with increasing skill determines the evolution of his work.

In “The Tempest” Shakespeare reflected in the direct and extensive form one of the biggest historical events of his era: the policy of colonial expansion. This topic was very important for the development of the society of the time, so it was important and all the associated social and moral issues.

Older contemporary of Shakespeare, the French humanist Montaigne in his work “Experience” (1588) tuned negatively to rising around the feudal reaction, to a new order of time picture of the life of American savages. He idealized the fantasy about the blessed life of primitive people with no violence, ranks and grades, selfish impulses that afflict society of cultural Europeans.  Even earlier, Thomas More in his work “Utopia” (1551) turned to describing the life of savages, where he created a picture of an ideal unit of human society, where there was no state authority, no private property, no grave need, no oppression of man by man.

A somewhat different response to all this showed Shakespeare in his “The Tempest”. He seemed to agree, even justified the methods of colonial policy of natives. The author portrays Caliban as inherently stupid and spiteful person, mentally and morally inferior, that could only carry wood, and to take punishment. But Prospero is described as a “natural” ruler, the conqueror of the true culture of other countries. (Ernest B. Gilman, 1980)

It’s main topic is introduced by two initial episode, which perform a kind of prologue. This is a scene of storm and wreck of ship, which sailed the king and courtiers, and the story of Prospero, the former ruler of Milan, about his exile, wanderings and the accession to the island. Dramatic mood of the first scene creates a disturbing atmosphere, but the story of Prospero sets the tone for the even course of the narrative – the play has a lot of stories, thoughts, memories and various digressions. But the play also has another point of view, the opposite one. It is a curious primarily fantasy of Gonzalo – very reasonable and “positive” character in the play, after the Prospero. Gonzalo wants to create on this island state, where there will be no money, no trade, no grades, no inheritance, no “ring-fencing”, nor even the government … People took his words with laugh, but their remarks were stupid, as they themselves, and the sympathy of the author and the reader is completely on the side of Gonzalo.

The complication of the play – is a storm, while which the ships were broken in the vicinity of Bermuda – the story was suggested to Shakespeare by real events of his time. In 1609 a British squadron, under the command of Admiral George Somers, was sailing to Virginia, the first English colony in America, and suffered a crash near Bermuda islands. Admiral’s ship had sprung a leak and was saved from destruction only by that Somers managed to make prosperous the landing on the shore of one of islands studded with sharp rocks.

Particularly unique piece is its main action takes particular person – the sage and philosopher, Prospero, which has a deep knowledge of magic: of course, “white magic” aimed to extract from nature all that is good and healing, but not sinister and deathful “black” magic. Prospero by his generosity will and harnesses the knowledge of selfish motives in himselves and in others, eventually direct the destiny of all others to their own and the common good. But all this happened without a struggle and conflict, played out by the wave of the magic of Prospero, who knows in advance when and what he should do and what would happen.

Island of Prospero is ideal, but not idyllic.  Prospero’s kingdom is so unique and that’s why it’s harmony is separated by the sea from the rest of world. Highlighting the uniqueness of the world in which characters live, Shakespeare did not convert it to a pastoral idyll. In “The Tempest” love of Miranda and Ferdinand plays a secondary role, the focus is no longer on natural human feeling , but on unnatural perversity of human nature. So negative characters make this play a pastoral tragicomedy, which immediately loses its former harmony.

Some scenes very brightly shows the social side of the topic. One of them is a remarkable demonstration of methods of “colonialists” in the scene where Stefano drugs the Caliban, who for “divine” drink Expresses its willingness to be forever his slave and give him all natural resources of his island:

“I’ll show thee every fertile inch o’ th’ island; 

    And I will kiss thy foot: I prithee, be my god”. (Act II, scene 2)

Belief in natural goodness of savages is one of the illusions of XVII century. The goodness of natural man who didn’t know the money, and generated by them inequality, was told by sailors in their diaries. Such hero is Honzalo, but his phrases immediately returns the viewer to English actually: in the utopian state there is no “fencing” lands.  Beautiful dreams of the old philosopher, however, is impracticable: having appeared soon, utopian images change monologues of general pastoral idyll in the bosom of nature. Considerations of Honzalo are naive and helpless, the whole episode is full of irony. Faith of the early Renaissance in eternal perfection of human nature have disappeared, destroyed the real contradictions of time.

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 And yet remarkable is another scene of rebellion of Caliban. Simplistic and awkward expresses Prospero his protest at first. This is followed by a direct rebellion. But not in the name of the absolute liberation (in this case it is Caliban is not available, although the op more just dreaming about it), but only for the replacement of a host of other, “the worst” in his opinion for “the best”. But still: he has the impulse to freedom, which finds expression in his frantic, truly a rebel song:

No more dams I’ll make for fish 

    Nor fetch in firing 

    At requiring; 

    Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish 

    ‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban 

    Has a new master: get a new man. 

    Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom! freedom, 

    hey-day, freedom! (II, 2)

It is interesting further how this uprising. Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo is sent to kill Prospero. On the way Ariel hangs beautiful clothes, which lured two of the Europeans. Caliban in despair, he begs his companions not to be tempted by this rubbish and not to linger, and go straight to his main goal – freedom, but his entreaties are useless. Caliban turns to be a head taller than Stefano and Trinculo, he is the only animated gust for freedom, he alone is a real rebel.

The Renaissance epoch often pushed poets to include in their works images, taken from various areas of life: politics, military affairs, economics, law.  Also work of William Shakespeare is full of the bright depictions of realities of life.  Shakespeare regularly uses the words of socio-political lexicon: slave, vassal, servant, serving, homage, sovereign, monarch, lord, owner, tyrant, reign, crowned, majesty, excellence, kingdom, politic.

“The tempest” shows that Shakespeare strictly feelt the comic and tragic aspects of life, but presented them in a very traditional way, Shakespeare uses a national tradition, and a European views in his humanist position, and the influence of patriarchal morality is also evident.

The topic of “The tempest” is the fate of the state, taken in historical perspective, the main conflict is based on the collision of public and private interests, and disclosed in the struggle of different social groups, which are represented by individual characters, outlined in a more schematic way, and also bright personalities. The basic idea of “The Tempest” is winning alegitimacy of centralized authority (absolutism) over the anarchic self-will – reflect the ideology of the humanists. The humanist views together with traditional notions of good and evil are seen in the characters of rulers and how rulers and subordinates are depicted. However, the identity of lord shows that Shakespeare knew how far from the ideal the real power was, and understood the illusory nature of the ideal of absolute monarchy in general.

Shakespeare was deeply and in various ways connected with the British reality, the power of his realism was above national framework that allowed him to realize and resolve in images the most important questions of historical development of Europe at that time.   In his critique of contemporary social problems Shakespeare exposes the obscurantism and vices of feudalism, but the center part had taken the criticism of the emerging capitalism, to show the incompatibility of humanistic ideals of the new bourgeois world of money and interests. One of the major evils that distort human relationships Shakespeare considered self-interest, greed and power of gold. In contrast to the feudal and bourgeois oppression Shakespeare sees the ideal of life based on freedom, justice and domestic equality of all people together. This ideal, because of its utopian, is vague and contradictory, but Shakespeare insisted on it through a complex system of its artistic images.

In “The tempest” social and moral issues become significant: the problem of social inequality, law and morality, with elements of satire and grotesque, the action is close to the tragedy and happy ending is formal.

In “The Tempest” Shakespeare reflected one of the biggest historical events of his era: the policy of colonial expansion. This topic was very important for the development of the society of the time, so important were and all the associated social and moral issues.


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