Prospero Constructs the Tempest Hierarchy and Returns Affairs to a "Natural" State

1731 WordsDec 24, 20057 Pages
The Tempest raises many questions regarding the formation of authority and power. Is hierarchy understood as natural or as constructed? Also, what are the consequences when authority is usurped? This paper will attempt to answer these questions in a succinct manner using textual references to solidify its arguments. As the play progresses, Prospero constructs the hierarchy in such a way as to return things to their "natural" state. Any type of usurpation, whether attempted or successful, will always end up with power back in its rightful place, and most of the time with a lesson learned. The events that take place in the play are all made possible by the original usurpation against Prospero, the right Duke of Milan by Antonio, his…show more content…
Prospero usurped Caliban's position as king of the island, just as Antonio usurped his brother's dukedom in Milan. However, Prospero is not wrong in his usurpation because Caliban is a savage creature, and therefore unfit to rule. Prospero's usurpation of Caliban's throne is thus simply putting the hierarchy in a more "natural" state of affairs. We are especially receptive to the idea of Caliban being inhuman mainly because of the judgment Miranda gives of him even before he is formally introduced. She says, "'T is a villain, sir, / I do not love to look on" (12). We are further convinced of his inability to rule when Prospero says: Thou most lying slave, Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have used thee, Filth as thou art, with human care; and lodged thee In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate The honour of my child. (14) The tension between the two worlds of the play centers on the issue of "natural" man versus civilized man. Caliban represents "nature" without the benefit of nurture. When Caliban attempts to violate Miranda's honor, he cannot do otherwise because he is a "natural" man without the benefit of societal restraints. Thus was it natural for Prospero to usurp the throne from Caliban. Prospero constructs the hierarchy of the island by usurping it from Caliban. His motivation behind doing this is that by making the island his own, he is furthering his design by which he will exact his revenge on the aristocrats and regain

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