The son and father of English literature, William Shakespeare wrote over forty plays in his life and through those creations has proved an always relevant, valuable author to millions of readers and scholars. It is evident through his works never-ceasing popularity and analysis of such that in their often ancient seeming context his use of core themes and language features, often hidden create links to the modern world of which we live, thus creating a footbridge of familiarity from his world to ours.
Four hundred years ago, Shakespeare wrote the Tempest, a dramatic fantasy still valued for it’s language and relevance today as are all Shakespearian plays. Focusing on power through dictatorial characters and greed, the Tempest is shown to be continuously valued for it’s timeless characterisations and use of naturally occurring themes of human nature. The character of Prospero demonstrates best the use of power through dictatorial characterisation in the Tempest through the power he holds over his daughter, Ariel his servant and over the storm which brings his master plan into play.
From his first appearance, we understand that Prospero is in control of his daughter Miranda; ‘Be collected: No more amazement: tell your piteous heart’ is the first line we hear him speak, his response to his daughter whose ‘piteous’ thoughts for those many ‘strangers’ lost at sea have already confirmed that her character, through her concern and Shakespeare’s use of patronising language in Prosperos treatment of her, was a stereotypical woman of the time, not necessarily stupid though ignorant enough to let her fathers plan subconsciously guide her to his thought-out life for her.
The use of anastrophy by Shakespeare has also been inserted to instate the educational advantage Prospero holds over Miranda, another form of power. This ultimate power over Miranda is shown once again when Ferdinand offers to make Miranda the Queen of Naples, and Prospero tells lies about suspecting him a spy from Naples and threatening to “manacle thy neck and feet together: sea water shalt thou drink”, simply so he can test Ferdinand’s love.
His use of statements as orders through direct language show Prospero already as the most powerful character in the Tempest, and later on in scene II this theory is only strengthened as we see the verbal interactions of Prospero with Ariel, his reluctant servant: ‘“If thou murmur’st, I will render an oak, and peg thee in his knotty entrails, till thou hast howl’d away twelve winters. ” This use of blatant intimidation through threat of physical harm shows the real power behind Prospero, as Ariel runs off to do his bidding momentarily we understand this was a true threat, that must have been proven before.
Prospero is a man with magical abilities, he brought the ship to be wrecked in act I to his island, bent on avenging his crown by his brother Antonio who did steal the title and banish his brother to the land years ago with intelligence, described by Prospero his methods; “A mark so bloody on the business, but With colours fairer painted their foul ends. ” This assonance is used by Shakespeare to create rhythm in his text, while allowing Prospero to explain his brothers cunning in hiding his intentions with ‘colours fairer’.
Through this theme of power we find that the Tempest has been valuable to the world since it’s creation;dealing with dictatorial persons such as Prospero, his methods of intimidation and condescending behaviour could easily be compared to many of the dictators of the 21st century such as Nicholas Tsar of Russia in the early 1900s, and whose meddling behaviours could be held in any parliament in the modern world. This theme shows Shakespeare’s understanding of human nature, a trait valuable in any author, allowing him to see indirectly the forces of humans, what we are capable of and what we will continue to do for centuries to come.
One of the deadly sins, greed has been a common theme in many works of literature since the time of Shakespeare, in any context it is versatile and easily interpreted by humans, as we so often fall victim to it. In the Tempest greed is best exercised as a sin by Antonio, Prosperos brother and wrongful king. As supported by the text, Antonio is not only greedy though psychologically cunning as Prospero describes; “To credit his own lie, he did believe, He was indeed the duke “ The use of end rhyme makes this sentence roll off the tongue while enforcing Prosperos belief that his brother was mentally devious.
Later in the play, we see Antonio poison Sebastian with his greed, convincing him that in the sudden death of Alonso he will become King of Naples; “Here lies your brother, No better than the earth he lies upon,If he were that which now he’s like, that’s dead; Whom I, with this obedient steel, three inches of it, Can lay to bed for ever; “ In this bout of persuasive language, the personification used in ‘obedient steel’ shows Antonio’s comfort in dealing with such things; this evidence that he values his sword as an obedient friend allows us more information abut this character than meets the eye.
Later used in the Picture of Dorian Gray, the reason for too many wars and a theme found dipping in and out of most lives, greed will always be relevant as it is a characteristic of human nature, found in all of us. As both power and greed would be relevant anyway, the floral language used by Shakespeare to convey these themes is only one reason why we will continue to value his works; the use of techniques, characterisation and human nature are merely the vessels upon which we will interpret his ideas as they continue to be read all over the world.