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Monday, April 26, 2010

Post-Colonial Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest

For all the unique aspects of the Wabash College production of The Tempest, the most striking feature about the play comes from the colonial issues raised by the text. Most particularly, the interactions between the natives Caliban and Ariel with Milanese Prospero elucidate the different yet similar ways in which the colonizer acts on the colonized. First, there are differences in attitude; Ariel’s almost eager obedience to Prospero is in marked contrast with the rebellious attitude of Caliban, who ultimately becomes enslaved by Prospero and more disgruntled with his role. I see it important that the nature of the two native inhabitants reflects the difficulty in colonization. To a Shakespearean audience not versed in post-colonial theory, let alone established views on colonization, Ariel becomes an ideal servant and partner in cultural interactions, accepting the rhetorical power and economic status of Prospero in sharp contrast with Caliban. However, it is important to note that Ariel is not true flesh but rather a spiritual construct by Shakespeare; Caliban’s human flesh and tangible disgust for his situation mirrors more closely to the common resistance of the colonized throughout history. The question here becomes this: which character is most revered through the public discourse of the time period? The use of Ariel to contribute to a safe resolution of the plot upholds Ariel, while Caliban’s contrived role in a plot against Prospero casts him negatively. Such a construct of values differs largely from Montaigne’s essay Of Cannibals, which argues against colonization.

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