The Tempest and Hamlet Essay

          (1)                                                     The Tempest:

The greatest name that comes into mind when one speaks of English literature is William Shakespeare. His works stand tall in the golden pages of English literature, influencing most people of his generation, and many more to follow. Shakespeare painted and breathed life into each character of his plays with his magical artistic skills. Such was the greatness and purity of the artist that he is believed to have given birth to a completely new form of classical writing that the English language is so proud of.

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In all probability, The Tempest was the last play by him. Shakespeare’s character Prospero, weaves the plot around himself. The Tempest is a marvelous creation of Shakespeare, abounding in supernatural illusions, magic and revenge. The play is remarkable for the profound power of language, aptly worked upon to create dramatic effect. Prospero is the legal Duke of Milan. The magical atmosphere that the Bard creates through Prospero, in The Tempest, is one of the play’s defining qualities and, according to critics; this element of magic pervades many of the key thesis in the work.

However, Hamlet’s character can be considered to be one of evil as the number of deaths become recurrent because of him. His way of seeking revenge differs from that of Prosperos. There may occur many other defects in Hamlet as there are many more noble virtues in them. One of them outweighs all the virtues and brings about the ruin of the hero. Although many people lose their lives as a result of their own self-centered blunders, there are others whose death is a result of exploitation from the sovereigns. This is the case of Polonius’ family. The real tragedy of Hamlet is not that of Hamlet or his family but of Polonius’ family because their deaths were not the consequence of sinful actions of their own but rather by their innocent involvement in the schemes of Claudius and Hamlet. The first character to die in Hamlet is Polonius. Although Polonius often acts in a deceitful manner when dealing with Hamlet, it is only because he is executing plans formulated by the king or queen to discover the nature of Hamlet’s malicious plans.

“Claudius: Where is Polonius?
Hamlet: In heaven; send thither to see. If your messenger find him not there, seek him i’ the other place yourself. But, indeed, if you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby”(scene iii )

“Hamlet: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
Claudius: What dost thou mean by this?
Hamlet: Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.”(scene iii )

On the other hand, the force of his magic and eloquence pervades the primary mode of seeking revenge in The Tempest. His command over occult, reigns with a mixture of playfulness and seriousness. Bereft of his dukedom, Prospero grips himself in supernatural power and gains control over the spirits of the island. He vitiates the political arena even there through the might of his eloquence and occult. The storm evoked by Prospero to summon his enemies, deals with the supernatural. Here, Shakespeare caters to the taste of the Elizabethan audience who hungered for the strange and mysterious. The unexpected and mysterious tend to happen because of the magic that Prospero creates with his psyche.  The spirits of the air are at the zenith. They include Ariel, Ceres, Iris, Juno, as well as the nymphs.  Each ingredient of the magic symbolizes a certain part of the island.  The spirits of the air and that of the earth blend to yield to Prospero’s enchantment.   The goblins, the dogs and hounds  were used to disease Caliban and his associates.

 “Our natures do pursue, Like rats
that ravin down their proper bane,

 A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die.[Act 1, sc. 2]) .

Yet another  form of the earth spirits are the nymphs (Prospero: “Go make yourself like a nymph o’ th’ sea.  Be subject To no sight but thine and mine, invisible to every eyeball else.  Go take this shape and hither come in’t.  Go!  Hence with diligence!  Exit [Ariel].  Awake, dear heart, awake!  Thou hast slept well.  Awake! {Act 1, sc. 2}

The Tempest at the beginning has its own dramatic significance and portrays Prospero as an enchanter with occult power. The play is tremendously influenced by colonialism. Prospero characters the complexity, arrogance and obsession of a colonizer. He forms the most impressive and important protagonist in the play. He pervades the whole play with his unbridled magical spell and revenge. Colonialism is depicted as Caliban falls prey to the mechanization of Prospero who with the tact of his magic overcomes him.  Hence the strength of supernatural magic is the exclusive preserve of Prospero who matches its richness with the elegance of thematic complexities. Prospero’s force of magic is like a double edged sword.  It incites hatred and inflames the passion of the inhabitants of the island.  He takes Caliban under his domain and tries to make him articulate, humane and modest. Prospero alleges to give Caliban the gift of language and the gift of knowledge. However he gains authority by means of his supremacy and occult. He subjugates over Aerial more or less in the same way. His knowledge of the ‘secret arts’ bestows him unbridled strength. He wants to transform the more of a savage’s life and provide incites into a human life.

 A usual Shakespearean play abounds in metaphors and similes but the Tempest differs as comparison is expressed through reoccurrence. The world is made of four elements, the references of which are repeatedly made. Both Sycorax and Caliban are representations of the Earth.  Ariel finds Sycorax’s commands too earthly to perform. Caliban is addressed as thou earth. In his time, Shakespeare’s company reigned supreme and his plays were a hit at the theatres. The audience lacked formal education but were full of wit to analyze and capture each and every move of the play. The spoken word was the most important and the only device to mesmerize the audience. The variety and mastery of language used by Shakespeare for his character Prospero is note worthy. He portrays Prospero as a representative of art and occult and Caliban that of nature. “And that most deeply to consider is The beauty of his daughter. He himself Calls her a nonpareil. I never saw a woman But only Sycorax my dam and she, But she as far surpasseth Sycorax As great’st does least” (3.2.94-98).

Being the king’s Lord Chamberlain, it is his duty to obey the king and queen’s wishes and it is this loyalty that eventually proves to be fatal for him. “How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge!”(Hamlet, scene iv ).An example of  Polonius’ innocent involvement with the royalty results in his death can be found at the beginning of Act III, scene iv, when Hamlet stabs him while he is hiding behind the arras in Gertrude’s room. This explains how Polonius, a man unaware of the true nature of the situation he is in, is killed by a member of the royalty during the execution of one of their schemes. Polonius’ death further proves Hamlet’s malevolent schemes.

The daughter of Polonius and Hamlet’s lady love, Ophelia is a character created to cultivate a submissive femininity in the play. Her facade is emblematic of the position that women were placed in at Shakespeare’s time. Her relationship with Hamlet is supposed to be romantic and meaningful, but is marked by misunderstanding, distrust, and brutality She is loving, understanding and romantic. She is finally dejected and bereft of love in her life. She is despised and betrayed by Hamlet. She evolves as a pathetic, self expressive and docile figure full of passionate love for Hamlet, who advances towards her, and   instructs her to get herself to a nunnery. Aroused to the highest point of lividity, Hamlet says “there should be no more marriage”, and exits. This shatters Ophelia’s love, hope and aspiration and she is left intimidated, distressed, and tormented. Ophelia is torn apart by Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy,

“To be, or not to be, that is the Question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the minde to suffer
The Slings and Arrowes of outragious Fortune,
Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles,…

.. With this regard their Currants turne away,
And loose the name of Action” (HAMLET,Act III, scene I)

As an enchanter, Prospero invokes the natural powers in a variety of tones.
“But release me from my bands With the help of your good hands” In  his conciliatory tone while he confronts the Neapolitan party, he  proves his ability to manipulate and wield power. The central theme of The Tempest is implicit in the very title. Prospero’s creation of the storm symbolizes his position in the plot. The second scene in the first act, questions in the mind of the audience as to who the nobles were and why they were on the sea. It is not a natural storm to cause the ship wreck but it is a mortal who raises it. It is then that Prospero explains to Miranda about the people and his conspiracy for them.  He leads almost an unprincipled life though he is wronged by his brother Antonio, his character earns more contempt than sympathy from the audience. The power of magic by which he provokes Caliban, shows a complete lack of moral fiber in him. His character is surcharged with audacity, vanity and self importance. He succeeds in camouflaging his real motive but proves more sympathetic than vindictive at the end.

Hamlet depicts the apparent genetic disparity between men and women, used as a rationalization for forcing them into different social roles which limit and shape their outlook and action. The two women in the play, Ophelia and Gertrude have been the two dictating characters, adding radiant hues, thereby making the play eloquent. In contrast to the wicked image portrayed by Hamlet, Ophelia depicts a blissful portrayal of the very essence of women. Both Ophelia and Gertrude are the ones whom the men engage in their culpable plots. Prone to influence, they both are maneuvered more or less to the same extent by Hamlet.

Thoroughly manipulated, the fatality of Ophelia’s character is brought about towards the closure of Act IV, Scene. Ophelia emerges as the first maneuvered woman in the male dominated play, Hamlet. Ophelia’s fatality is ruinous because of her complete incorruptibility and virtuousness. Her father, Polonius, in all probability is cursed to have his end because of his diplomacy and treason in dealing with Hamlet.  Ophelia is wholly contrived and used by Hamlet and the king for their own selfish motivation and political manipulation. She, thereby falls prey to their sly mechanization. Despite the exploitation by the men in her lives, she remains ever loyal to them. Her love tinges with ceaseless rapture for her father. Torn apart by remorse, after his death and the subsequent betrayal of her love, she loses her sanity and obscures herself.

An analysis of the Shakespearean plays reveals that, revenge is sought in different ways by the protagonists of the plays. Both Prospero and Hamlet are the most powerful character in politics, portrayed as evil men with qualitative defects or flaws. Despite belonging to the superior gender and as men in hold of power, they can be exposed as malicious. Hence Hamlet and Prospero seek their revenge in their own ways and make  memorable characters with all their vices.

Reference:

Shakespeare, William, Hamlet Publisher: Barnes & Noble; Pub. Date: January 2007

Shakespeare William, The Tempest, Arden Edition, ISBN: 0-416-10190-9