Imperial Language In Prospero's The Tempest

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One thing that has remained consistent across humans throughout history, is the concept of paying for everything. No kind favor can ever truly go unforgiven. This idea coined phrases like “you owe me one” and “you scratch my back, ill scratch yours.” Even though these phrases may have not been around in Shakespeare’s time, the idea was. Repaying a debt has been heavily conceptualized over time and is very prevalent throughout The Tempest. Prospero frequently holds teaching Caliban language and setting Ariel free, over their heads. He does this for a multitude of reasons, power, slavery, dominance, and self-glorification. The reason that is acknowledged the most in The Tempest is power. Prospero is established as the most powerful entity on…show more content…
He is a puppet master using his words to control his subordinates. He does this as a way to take possession of them. Bill Ashcroft et. al explores the idea that there are two immediate responses to the dominance of imperial language, rejection and subversion. Prospero proves this by rejecting Ariel and Prospero pasts and using subversion to convince them that he is helping them. This same principle was practiced by Christopher Columbus during the colonization era. Columbus came to North America and used his language skills to revive the area into his own land. He was able to reject the natives from their home land and subvert the land. He declared himself as the worthier and more powerful person and took what he believed was his from the natives. This was in part true, similarly to how Prospero was magical, Columbus had money and European heritage which was like the magic of the real world. This put him above the natives which he saw as uncivilized, barbaric, and uncultivated. He believed that he was helping them by teaching them manners, and in return they owed him their land. This is much like how Prospero taught Caliban language and freed Ariel in exchange for their…show more content…
During the colonial times, Columbus and all the settlers practiced this same technique. When Columbus discovered the new world, it was already occupied with natives, which Columbus has historically described as, barbaric, uncivilized, and suffering people. Columbus did exactly what Prospero did and ‘freed’ these people in return for their service. The settlers brought disease and war over from Spain and used those as persuasion techniques over the natives. These frightened people agreed to help Columbus and his men, because it was better than the alternative, just like Ariel and Caliban agreed to work for Prospero. Disease and war were the equivalent of Ariel’s tree and Caliban’s language barrier. Language is used to hold people accountable for their debts and establish hierarchies. These debts and hierarchies define power in colonial times as well as in The Tempest. Prospero and Columbus both reflected Ashcroft’s description of establishing power, for example, they used naming to demonstrate power. Prospero and Columbus used naming, debts, and fear to bring them to the top of their imaginary hierarchies, created and followed only by those afraid of the power that was made only with their words. In a world without language these debts and hierarchies would go

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