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May 3, 2007

Rough Draft/ thesis ideas/ help?!

"From Prospero's viewpoint, Gonzalo's obedience to his master (even though it entailed Prospero's suffering and near-death) is praiseworthy because political obedience guarantees the stability of government (Yachnin 42)." While political obedience was a strong issue during Shakespeare's life, especially between the Jacobeans and the Elizabethans (going along with the government seemed to indicate going against one's own conscience, or even worse being labeled as an accomplice) I believe that Shakespeare's feelings of what justice should be is more prevalent throughout the play than just his feelings about the government and obedience alone.
From the beginning Prospero presents himself as the one who deserves to serve this brand of justice to Alonso and even his own brother. While Yachnin presents the idea that Gonzalo's obedience is "praiseworthy" because of stability to the government and is forgiving (or so it seems), he's less than forgiving to the other men who usurped him (at least in the beginning).
First, he uses Ariel to create the tempest. Then, as if that isn't quite enough, he punishes them by having dogs chase them, has Ariel's music get them lost, and all the while, he has Alonso's son (whom he was probably very worried about). It's understandable that he's being like any modern politician and trying to use Ferdinand to stabilize his political position, but the methods he uses to get the rest of his revenge seem rather like the old phrase "an eye for an eye."
While revenge is never a new concept, the thought of serving justice in this manner does seem to make the reader question how Shakespeare must have felt about how justice should have been served during his time. Furthermore, does this mean that he believed (as Yachnin suggested) that people who went along with the government were just as guilty and deserved whatever their punishment was?
To answer that question, by taking a formalist approach, the readers could look directly to the work and see various pieces of the puzzle that is indicative of such an interpretation. Prospero's thought of injustice shows that he is somewhat of a hypocrite in the fact that he's angry with his brother taking over, but he believes it's just to use Caliban and Ariel to carry out his deeds. When Ariel asks for his freedom that Prospero has promised for years, Prospero doesn't hesitate to remind Ariel of all he's done for him and keeps making him serve. This goes along with his idea of justice, but also exemplifies how Shakespeare may have seen the world himself. He also believes that Caliban owes him and thinks that because he gave him "human care (1:2, 349)" he is nothing but a savage who is lucky to receive whatever justice Prospero gives him.
On the other hand, Shakespeare also liked to show his audience a good time and give the audience a sense of relief, at least during some point of his plays, so the "happily ever after" ending does perhaps indicate that Prospero's justice did work for him. It could work in the way that he gave up some of his power and freed those he promised he would, thus not making his revenge seem so unfair. While this does show that Shakespeare may not have been favoring the "eye for an eye" method, but when Gonzalo grieves over the way he's treated people, it seems that justice is really served because he went against his conscience.
"Him that you term'd sir, "the good old Lord Gonzalo,"/ His tears run down his beard like winter's drops From eaves of reeds (Yachnin 44)." Whatever Shakespeare felt about politics is an open debate, but it is clear in the text that each member truly received some form of justice whether it be through losing a family member, surviving a storm, being enslaved, or simply feeling the burning of one's conscience. Shakespeare did make it clear that people would receive some type of justice and the same man who caused it all could easily relieve their pain, just as Queen Elizabeth was able to during his time.
Shakespeare's full intent can never be completely clear, because the audience can only view what's before them, but they can look at the government in modern society and see punishments such as the death penalty and look back to Elizabethan times and see the suffering in The Tempest and perhaps strengthen the belief that justice (no matter how one-sided) is still an issue and a representation of Shakespeare's intent to demonstrate justice that neither goes against or celebrates the "eye for an eye" method.

Posted by ErinWaite at May 3, 2007 4:36 PM


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