Colonialism in The Tempest

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 406 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 406|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Play The Tempest has been the subject of much critical analysis over the years, with one of the most prominent themes being that of colonialism. The play, believed to have been written in the early 17th century, depicts the story of Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, who is exiled to a remote island and becomes its ruler through his magical powers. The relationship between Prospero and the native inhabitants of the island, particularly Caliban and Ariel, raises questions about power, control, and the impact of colonialism.

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One of the key aspects of colonialism in The Tempest is the portrayal of the relationship between Prospero and Caliban. Caliban, the son of the witch Sycorax, is described by Prospero as a "savage and deformed slave," highlighting the dehumanization of native peoples by colonizers. Prospero's treatment of Caliban reflects the paternalistic and exploitative attitude of European colonizers towards indigenous peoples, viewing them as inferior and in need of control.

Furthermore, Prospero's assertion of power over Caliban is symbolic of the colonial project, where the colonizer seeks to dominate and subjugate the native population for their own gain. Prospero's use of language and magic to control Caliban mirrors the tactics employed by colonial powers to assert their authority over indigenous peoples, often through force and coercion.

Another important element of colonialism in The Tempest is the character of Ariel, a spirit enslaved by Prospero to do his bidding. While Ariel is not native to the island like Caliban, his subjugation by Prospero raises questions about the impact of colonialism on all individuals, regardless of their origin. Ariel's desire for freedom and independence reflects the struggle of colonized peoples to assert their own agency and resist the oppressive forces of colonization.

Moreover, the relationship between Prospero and Ariel can be seen as a metaphor for the complex dynamics of power and control in colonial contexts. Prospero's manipulation of Ariel's loyalty and obedience highlights the ways in which colonial powers use divide and conquer tactics to maintain their dominance over subject populations, both native and foreign.

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The Tempest offers a nuanced and thought-provoking exploration of colonialism and its effects on individuals and societies. Through the characters of Prospero, Caliban, and Ariel, Shakespeare sheds light on the complexities of power, control, and resistance in colonial contexts. The play serves as a powerful commentary on the enduring legacy of colonialism and the ongoing struggles for justice and liberation in a world still marked by the legacies of empire.

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Colonialism in The Tempest. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from
“Colonialism in The Tempest.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
Colonialism in The Tempest. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 Jul. 2024].
Colonialism in The Tempest [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jul 18]. Available from:
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