First thing, is it just me or is the Tempest a prologue of the American colonization? So far this play is screaming out British settlers and Native Americans to me.
Caliban is a native of the island the play takes place in. He is deformed, and disfigured. Caliban’s physical appearance symbolizes primitive, unchanged culture. Prospero and the characters on the shipwreck (Ferdinand, Stephano, Trinculo) represent the polished, civilization (settlers) and the spirit Ariel who is light represent the European immigrants.
As we learn more about the relationships between Caliban, Ariel, Prospero and his countrymen in the play we can see the american colonization theme even more. Prospero finds out all about the island from Caliban; Stephano and Trinculo from the shipwreck also does this by offering him alcohol. After Caliban gets everything (mainly knowledge) from Caliban, he imprisons him. Prospero tries to change Caliban by teaching him his language, just like settlers tried to change the Native Americans by converting them to Christianity. Ariel however used to be imprisoned by evil witch, Prospero frees him. Ariel representing the European immigrants who is freed and accepted by the settlers. The way Prospero and his countrymen look at Caliban is the way “civilized” cultures look at “primitive” culture. Caliban’s innocent, trusting nature also reflect the Native Americans’ accepting nature towards the settlers. Stephano, Trinculo, Prospero all represent the manipulative civilized settlers.
After reading this play up to act II, I really wonder if the Mayflower had The Tempest on board as a mandatory reading.
Secondly, the thing that caught my attention was the use of magic and illusion in this play. Midsummer Night’s Dream comes closest to the level of using magic but still doesn’t compare to The Tempest. also, we are not in Rome anymore! All jokes aside, the magic and fantasy works here because the whole island works as a green space.
The play opens with so much confusion of characters and action that it sets the mood for a messy play. But all the characters and their motifs start to come out from under the cloud as the play develops. Shakespeare plays usually open with introduction to our plot or main theme. For example Othello opens with Iago’s jealousy, King Richard III opens with his evil planning.This play starts with the tempest in action, which is actually responsible for bringing the people in the ship on the island, the central plot of the story.