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Historical analysis of The Tempest and Othello - Essay Example

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A Historical Analysis of The Tempest and Othello. Your Name Student Number Course Number Due Date A Historical Analysis of The Tempest and Othello. A historical analysis of the works of arguably the greatest playwright in history would reveal many interesting aspects of his drama…
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Historical analysis of The Tempest and Othello

Download file to see previous pages... A competition for colonies had begun among these countries. However, there was also an increasing knowledge regarding the customs and cultures of different parts of the world as a result of such explorations. Apart from the knowledge that had been gained from the crusades, this knowledge enabled the Europeans to gain a better understanding of the ways of other cultures and thus broaden their horizons geographically as well as culturally. The importance of these geographic explorations in the way in which the world and English society were understood by Shakespeare is talked about by Robert Mayhew in his essay, “Was William Shakespeare an eighteenth century geographer? Constructing histories of geographical knowledge” talks of the importance of understanding Shakespeare’s plays as documents of an understanding of geography as it existed in his time. This, he places in opposition to understandings that were based on improvements in geography in later eras (Mayhew). The understanding of geography that we see in a play like The Tempest is not very refined if one looks at it from a modern point of view. The Tempest talks of an island that is far away from Italy, where the main characters of the play hail from. The exotic island is enchanted and is full of spirits. The only residents of the island, Sycorax and her son Caliban, are looked upon as sub-human. In these portrayals of the exotic other, the forms of colonialism that were practised during the Elizabethan period are very evident. The exoticization of the other is visible in the attribution of the presence of spirits to the island. This island is thus, not the abode of humans like Europe is and is thus, unnatural. Western descriptions of eastern lands often and till recently, followed such trends of portrayal. The European man is however, the one who comes and dominates the proceedings in such an island. The importance of Prospero’s domination lies in his representing the European man who was thought to be the pinnacle of civilization by people of European races. The person who was a part of the island, Caliban, is subjugated in a manner that is reminiscent of the way in which people of other lands were suppressed by the English during their voyages abroad. Shakespeare however, also manages to improve the situation in a certain way, in a remarkable manner, he anticipates how the natives learning the language of the coloniser would lead to their emancipation in a certain sense. This can be seen to be evident in this speech that is given by Caliban during the course of the play. You taught me language, and my profit on’t Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language! (I.ii.366–368) Shakespeare anticipates how the historical movement of colonialism would culminate as early as the Elizabethan period. The prejudices and the false information that had given rise to many of the racial conflicts of this age are thus treated with great sensitivity and critical understanding by the playwright. Another play in which this is visible is Othello. This talks of the story of a man who is unable to believe in the fact that a white woman could fall in love with a man of a darker skin color. The story ends in the death of both the main characters and this is largely due to the effects of the prejudices of the mainstream community that ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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