The Tempest is a pastoral tragicomedy that was written in the Elizabethan period. It is the last full-length play written by Shakespeare and was first performed in the 1600s. In the play, Prospero, the ousted Duke of Milan, lives with his teen daughter in an isolated island where they have been stuck for twelve years. In their company are Ariel, a mystic spirit and Caliban, a local monster of the island, who have been enslaved by Prospero. The play open with the tossing of the ship which is wrecked into the island. Once on the island, Prospero works through trickery, magic, and intimidation to avenge and reclaim his status as the Duke of Milan. He finally succeeds and is restored to dukedom where he reveals Antonio's treachery and safeguards marriage of Miranda to the King's son, Prince Ferdinand. The themes of the story render the play relevant as it was today as it was when it was written. The essay seeks to examine how the relevance of Tempest in modern society.
The play I relevant in showing how immigrants behave in their new settlement and place. The Chinese, Mexican and Muslims immigrants in the US have been known to retain their cultures and even at times taking embracing the more. The Tempest highlights this case with a small group of characters who end up on an isolated island that is completely cut off from their home societies. The play establishes that individuals will continue to conduct themselves as their communities have taught them to. Though they may have an idea of creating a fresh society which is better, their actions will still imitate their old society's morals. Gonzalo advocates for a utopian society free of riches, poverty, and geographical boundaries, "No occupation: all men idle, all;/And women too, but innocent and pure;/No sovereignty" (157-158). Prospero, however, fights to control the island, to get his dukedom back even when this is a new society. The bidding for dukedom is based on the thought that that is the way it should be. None of the characters breaks free from their past societal behaviors.
Caliban remains a slave to Prospero for being a bastard child, horribly malformed as well as unpleasant and irritated. Despite being in a remote island, Caliban is imperilled to a lower status in the society owing to circumstances of his birth. Prospero holds that Ferdinand and Miranda should not touch each other until they have married. Prospero gives up all his power and his island to return to his rightful place as Duke. Stephano says, "Monster, I will kill this man; his daughter /and I will be King, and Trinculo/ and thyself will be viceroys". However, the attempt and failure by Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano to escape their low place in the society show inability to argue with the society's expectation. The Tempest is relevant even today in that people always conform to society's standards regardless of worse or better circumstances.
The power struggle has also emerged in the play. The issue is relevant in modern societies which are characterized by the opposition and many interested parties pushing for a share of power as a way to be heard. From the play, we see that Prospero's brother Antonio had seized dukedom and exiling him. Sebastian remarks, "I remember/ You did supplant your brother Prospero". Antonio replies unremorsefully, "True/ And look how well my garment sits upon me". His conscience is not bothered by the treacherous act. Antonio also advises Sebastian to murder his brother, Alonso, to be the succeed the throne. Caliban had also endeavoured to gain power by trying to rape Miranda. The act is interpreted as an effort to gain power. Caliban affirms, "Thou didst prevent me, I had peopled else/This isle with Calibans" (349). Caliban's intended to produce more like him with the aim of outnumbering Prospero and Miranda and thus have greater power. Prospero continued the enslavement of Ariel is a power struggle. Upon request for freedom, Prospero tells Ariel, "Dost though forget/From that I torment I did free thee?". Prospero twists reality in his favor, so that makes Ariel believe that by enslaving him, he is helping him. The power struggle is relevant today in politics and society struggle to exert authority over others.
The Tempest in modern times embodies the pertinent issue of the misunderstanding and violence that accompany cultural exchange. At the friendly phase of the relationship between Prospero and Caliban, one can observe cultural exchange. Caliban remarked, "I'll show thee every fertile inch o' th' island" (147). On the other hand, Prospero would reward Caliban with "Water with berries in't..." Stephano gives Caliban the wine from the wicked, inexhaustible bottle which he repays by with flesh from the marmoset. The exchange of the two discourse of foods is suggestive of cultural exchange. Caliban learns Prospero's language through cultural exchange. The misunderstanding of cultural exchange arises when Caliban feels cheated. In exchange for learning Prospero's language, Caliban provided vital information essential for survival on the island. Caliban laments, "Cursed be I that did so!" The curse is rendered in exchange for the deception he has experienced from Prospero lack of reciprocation. He further remarks, "You taught me language, and my profit on't/ Is I know how to curse?" (365). Caliban acknowledges the teaching process has left him in chaos and in meditation over the misery and loss of liberty. These factors aggravate his suffering. The model of exchange in this context is that of taking advantage of the other's information they have provided. In the twenty-first century, an imbalance in cultural exchange would be termed as cultural appropriation. Evidence of poor cultural exchange is evidenced by the accusation of cultural appropriation of ethnic food by white-owned restaurants. The restaurants did not adopt the culture to appreciate it or pass it on to others but for profit, ownership and wealth purposes. The restaurants hamper efforts by genuine ethnic food restaurants by modifying foods to authenticate them. For example, Mark and Spencer (M&S) was accused of cultural appropriation for its vegan biryani (Petter). The serving by M&S went against the traditions of Indian Cuisine which typically has no such thing as veg biryani.
The essay has found several aspects of the Tempest that make it relevant today. The issues it covered that find relevance are immigration into new worlds, power struggle, and misunderstanding that come with cultural exchange. Foreigners are depicted find it hard to drop their behavior and mannerism in the new worlds. Misunderstandings of cultural exchange in the Tempest finds its meaning in the modern world through cultural appropriation while power struggle finds its place through constant struggle by politicians to get elected.
Petter, Oliver. "M&S Accused of Cultural Appropriation over 'inauthentic' Wrap." The Independent, 30 Jan. 2019, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/marks-spencer-biriyani-wrap-cultural-appropriation-m-s-a8753661.html.
Shakespeare. The Tempest. Pearson Education India, 2009.
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