Power Struggles in The Tempest Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1161 Words
Date:  2022-03-07

Introduction: William Shakespeare's Enduring Legacy and the Dynamics of Power in "The Tempest"

William Shakespeare was a renowned writer, whose plays have been exalted to be ageless literary works. Shakespeare contributed to the theatre in such a substantial way. His works of art have been performed for centuries; as people can relate to the hardships and psychological realism in the play. The Tempest, written in 1610, describes the empowerment of knowledge and the importance of power during the period of the Renaissance. The Tempest is a play which contains and crystallizes the conflicts of power, magic, and male dominance; while portraying a story of privates, withdrawal, usurpation, banishment, and shipwreck. This paper, therefore, seeks to understand the dynamics of the struggles of power in The Tempest.

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Prospero's Controlling Nature and the Manipulation of Power

The protagonist, Prospero is overthrown as Duke of Milan by his brother Antonio. Prospero uses magic to attain his power back and also control the people around him. ). An example of Prospero's controlling yet careful attack on his former mates come in Act I Scene 2 when he says "The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touched The very virtue of compassion in thee, I have with such provision in mine art So safely ordered that there is no soul No, not so much perdition as a hair, Betid to any creature in the vessel (Act 1Scene 2)". In these lines Prospero is saying that everyone on the boat will be safe despite the wreck, all through the wreck has come at that hands of Prospero it is not done in malice, but yet more of a controlling mindset.

Knowledge as Power: The Power Dynamics Between Prospero and Caliban

Power is displayed through the idea of knowledge as seen throughout the play. Caliban exchanges his knowledge of the island for Prospero's knowledge of basic religion, ideals, and language. Prospero denies Caliban his rich traditional knowledge, deeming it 'no knowledge', yet appropriating it all the same (Wilson-Okamura, 780). Caliban had prospered from the knowledge taught by Prospero; however, he was still at a lower level than that of his master. Prospero only shared with Caliban the basics of his own education. A master refused to share all of their knowledge with their servants for fear that it would empower them and cause them to take over their power. The knowledge gained by Prospero was far more beneficial and of greater importance than the knowledge shared by Prospero. Caliban's information leads Prospero to flourish on the island. Although Caliban had neglected to realize it, Prospero was trying to mend Caliban into the person of whom he wanted him to be. Without Caliban's knowledge, Prospero was trying to eliminate all of his previous beliefs, morals, and ethics. Similar to the way that the Europeans tried to mend the minds of the Indians, forcing them to conform to the European way of life.

Magic Was a Key Component to the Theme of Power Displayed Throughout the Play

Without his magic, Prospero would never have been able to cause the shipwreck and gain back his right to the dukedom. The way which he had gained back his right to dukedom was through his daughter Miranda and her husband's relationship. Unknown to Miranda, her father had ordered his servant Ariel to capture a man by the name of Ferdinand and bring him back to the island to meet her so that the two could fall in love. Once they meet, Prospero carefully monitors and oversees every aspect of Miranda's new relationship, at the same time as directing and managing their feelings toward one another. Their marriage is all a part of Prospero's master plan to gain back his right to leadership. Ferdinand is the king's son, if he gets married to Miranda, Prospero will gain back all of his power over Milan. Prospero does everything in his span of control to ensure that a wedding between the prospected king and his daughter occurs.

The Role of Magic in Power and Control in "The Tempest"

Prospero uses magic as a form of power and control. He likes to control every situation and ensure that he always gets his way. He forgives his brother and the king for purloining his right to the dukedom. One believes that the reason why Prospero had forgiven his brother Antonio, and the king Alonso so easily is because he wanted to ensure Miranda's marriage to Ferdinand as well as reinstate his Dukedom. Through his magic and forgiveness, Prospero had secured his passage back to Milan and gained back the title of power through the marriage of his daughter.

In Scene V, the Epilogue Prospero states, "Now my charms are all overthrown, and what strength I have's mine own, which is most faint" (Shakespeare 1-5). He is stating that he is giving up all of his magical powers and moving on with his life. When Prospero states, "Which is most faint", he is referring to the weakness of his power. He is aware that his own power without magic is very weak and he intends to strengthen his power without the reliance of magic. One may ask oneself the question of why such a man of great magical power would relinquish all of their magic. The answer is quite simple. Prospero used magic to manipulate and change certain situations. His main goal was to regain his right to the crown, hence the reason that the storm was conjured. After he had forgiven his enemies and regained his rightful title the magic was deemed useless. He no longer needed to feel a sense of power with magic, rather he would soon be able to feel a sense of empowerment on his own.

The Tempest describes the empowerment of knowledge and the importance of power during the period of the Renaissance. The hunger for knowledge allowed colonizers to manually control and corrupt the colonized. The idea of superiority and knowledge leads one group to believe that they are supercilious to another. Power is craved among the colonizers and one would go through extended measures in order to obtain their right of leadership. Prospero believed that he was more powerful than Caliban and therefore tricked Caliban into conforming to his way of thinking. The role magic played in the play lead to both a loss of power for Prospero but also lead him to achieve his goal of regaining his role of power in the city of Milan.


In conclusion, the struggle for power was a rampant theme in the play. It can be seen through Caliban trying to find a new King and ascend from under Prospero's rule. It is also depicted through Prospero trying to position everyone strategically so they are of the utility to him and his plan. Everyone is searching for power. The power struggle is something that we all face day in and day out. Making sure we are in charge of our own fate. So, what's your power struggle?

Works Cited

Wilson-Okamura, David Scott. "Virgilian Models of Colonization in Shakespeare's Tempest." ELH 70.3 (2003): 709-737.

"The theme of power in the tempest." UKEssays.com. 11 2013. All Answers Ltd. 11 2018 <https://www.ukessays.com/essays/english-literature/the-theme-of-power-in-the-tempest-english-literature-essay.php?vref=1>.

William, Shakespeare. The Tempest. Lerner Publishing Group, 2015.

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Power Struggles in The Tempest Essay. (2022, Mar 07). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/power-struggles-in-the-tempest-essay

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