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February 11, 2007

Great job, Gonzalo

Yachnin, ''Shakespare and the Idea of Obedience: Gonzalo in The Tempest -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"From Prospero's viewpoint, Gonzalo's obedience to his master (even though it has entailed Prospero's suffering and near-death) is praiseworthy because political obedience guarantees the stability of government. Prospero's own experience with disobeident and treacherous subjects (Antonio and Caliban) underlies his praise of Gonzalo, whom he finds "good" both because Gonzalo tempered his immortal act by charitably providing food and other necessities and because Gonzalo did not allow for his charity to violate the terms of the assignment..."

I agree with Yachnin that Prospero is aware of hte guilt of theman he chooses to praise and this suggests the fullness of Prospero's acknowledgement of the moral cost of preserving political hierarchy. Especially during the time this story was written, obedience of politics was a priority and failure to do so could mean death.

Later in the essay it is said that Gonzalo's charity was conducive to Prospero's survival as well as preserved political hierarchy and "suggests that although Gonzalo's act was tragically culpable, it has nevertheless been redeemed by the providential ordering of history."

Since I only watched "The Tempest" in video form, it was hard to comprend what exactly Gonzalo did to Prospero and why Prospero valued Gonzalo so much.
Yachnin's essay on obedience and Gonzalo clarified a lot of my questions and brought to my attention an idea as profound as this one.

So Shakespeare was endorsing political obedience, thanks Yachnin.

Posted by Denamarie at February 11, 2007 11:09 PM

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To get the full effect of what happened with Gonzalo and Prospero, focus on the quotes that Yachnin provides (he's got key parts of the argument pulled out for you! :). If you can get a copy of the text (even online...) you can read lines before and after the quotes in this essay to get a better perspective. I think that'll help you a lot.

I hope that movie was good...

Posted by: Karissa at February 12, 2007 7:32 AM

It is important to note that Gonzalo is obedient at every point of the play. When he is conspiring against Prospero or aligning himself with Prospero, Gonzalo is always obedient to those he feels he serves.

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 12, 2007 9:49 PM

I think that Shakespeare was trying to show that everyone should not have power in a monarchy. This was a time period that had many quarrels between Catholics and Protestants, and although I am not sure which one the English Royalty was, the other ones were outcasted or even killed. There were many religious and political uprisings, and maybe Shakespeare's message shows that not everyone should have power, because it could be used for evil or wrongful purposes. But we shouldn't forget that Prospero was not always using his power for good, so maybe that is a warning to the higher monarchy. Just a thought.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 14, 2007 4:16 PM

Jay, just to clear it up: Queen Mary was Catholic and Queen Elizabeth was Protestant.
I think Gonzalo is, as Dave pointed out, the type of character that will listen to the powerful around him - no matter who they are.

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at February 15, 2007 3:14 PM

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