Power In The Tempest

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Language is one of the definitive advantages that allowed humans to become the dominant race on earth. Though many species may have effective forms of communication, none is as fluid and wide reaching as that which we use in everyday life. The depth in our array of languages has led to an increasing amount of disparity between the educated and uneducated, with a narrowing of opportunities for the latter. It is no coincidence that those on the in Shakespeare’s The Tempest with the greatest power are also the ones with the greatest linguistic skills. Language is a direct indicator of power; those who are adept in controlling the language are able to exploit the ignorance of those under them and thus assert their dominance. As demonstrated throughout…show more content…
As the play begins, it seems as if the massive tempest is simply a random occurrence, catching the mariners and nobility by chance. However, as the act continues, Shakespeare reveals that the tempest was actually the work of Prospero and his ghostly servant Ariel, who stirred up the seas and set fire to the masts (1.2, 193-194). This establishes Prospero as the executor of a mess of ‘coincidences’ ranging from Ferdinand stumbling upon his daughter Miranda to King Alonso and his party walking directly into the former duke’s cell. Though Prospero may have the same control over the English language as the other characters, Caliban points to his specific source of power. He says, “… for without [his books] / He’s but a sot as I am, nor hath / One spirit to command…”(3.2.85-88). All of these occurrences are empowered by Prospero’s collection of books, which enable him to speak the language of sorcery unlike any of the other character and endow him with otherworldly abilities. He uses these powers solely to carry out his plan of escape from the island by bringing Ferdinand and Miranda together. After his plans are successful, he renounces magic and becomes the same as any of the other members of the nobility, showing that magic was the defining characteristic of his might. Prospero’s decisive advantage in multiple language defines him as the center of power throughout The
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