The Tempest Patriarchal Analysis

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For millennia, human societies have mostly been patriarchal. Men have always been in dominant leadership roles where they have all of the power. Women, on the contrary, have been typically portrayed in literature as they would be in normal society: subordinate and weak. This is no different in 17th century England; however, The Tempest contradicts this. William Shakespeare wrote The Tempest in the early 1600s when this cultural stigma was present. The Tempest is a play about a former Duke, named Prospero, with magical powers on a mostly uninhabited island who uses his powers to shipwreck the person who stole his dukedom, Antonio. Prospero lives on the island with his beautiful daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the bastard son of the…show more content…
Little is known about Sycorax from the play. She is briefly described as being the deceased mother of Caliban, who came to the island from her home in Algiers. She is said to be a powerful and evil witch, who was banished for being a threat to society. Prospero doesn’t go in depth into his description of why she is evil, instead he consistently reminds Ariel of who she is: “Which thou forgett’st. This damned with Sycorx,/ For mischiefs manifold and sorceries terrible/ to enter human hearing, from Algiers.” (1.2 263-5) Since Prospero provides no evidence as to why she is evil or a witch, it is clear that men fear women who realize their own power and who can have power over men. All we can infer about Sycorax is that she was an independent and powerful woman. Men fear women who realize their power since they pose a threat to their own. Prospero’s fear is demonstrated through her name being mentioned multiple times and giving warnings to Ariel throughout the play. It is important to note that Sycorax is never actually present in any scene or the play in general. This indicates that Prospero isn’t just afraid of Sycorax herself, but the idea of any woman following Sycorax’s lead and realizing her potential. Furthermore, Prospero continuously imposes his power over Sycorax’s son Caliban, who is a constant reminder of Sycorax’s…show more content…
Women of 17th century England are supposed to be subordinate to men; however, Shakespeare reveals that it is the women who give power to men. The three women present in The Tempest exemplify this. Men are threatened by Sycorax, since she realizes her power and is an independent woman who refuses to give up her power to men. She is consequentially viewed as evil and a threat to society. On the other hand, Miranda maintains her role as the servant to her father and then Ferdinand. Despite this, her bachelorette status plays a key role in giving Prospero power over the Dukedom. Her marriage to Ferdinand gives Prospero the connection to Alonso he needs in order for his plan to be successful. Lastly, Claribel represents the ideal woman of England who obeys her father with her participation in an arranged marriage. Nonetheless, she has power, as she acquires political and economic ties between the two countries that only a marriage could achieve. The overall make-up of the play also factors into Shakespeare’s message because Claribel and Sycorax don’t have any lines. Similar to how women are subjugated despite their importance, Claribel and Sycorax are speechless throughout the play. However, these two female characters are powerful in that they lay the foundation for the entire plot. In conclusion, Shakespeare’s use of female characters in the tempest sends the message not

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