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February 12, 2007

Obedience school for humans

Watson explains the need for historical context by not so much telling, but by showing examples of Gonzalo's acts of relating to the political climate of the Jacobeans and Elizabethans at the time. "He assumes that his acts have meaning only in terms of a larger hierarchical structure which includes the political, natural, and cosmic worlds (43). Watson mentions that political obedience sometimes undermines moral judgement. People do obey out of fear and not always with what they feel is necessarily right, yet should we go against the government for moral reasons? This got me thinking more about political issues than historical context, but because they are so closely related, I appreciated what Watson's reading brought to my first reading of "The Tempest."

Posted by ErinWaite at February 12, 2007 8:34 PM


This is a useful observation, Erin, especially in light of our American heritage (a nation founded by a bunch of rebels). I think the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust (in which many "good" people willed themselves to accept atrocities because the Nazi machine was so effective at generating consent) also tell us quite a lot about our relationship to power.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 14, 2007 11:53 AM

That's true. As you said before, many Hitler was an effective speaker. People may not have agreed with what he said, but they were sucked in by his words, not so much his deeds.

Posted by: Erin at February 15, 2007 9:16 AM

I agree, I thought about the obidence psychology test. Those participating in the test were told to ask questions to another unseen (as they thought) participant. If the other participant answered incorrectly, they were to shock them on higher and higher levels. The study showed a huge number of people - because they were told repeatedly to continue testing - giving extreme shocks. In itself that is scary; just how much people will do in the face of power.

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at February 15, 2007 3:05 PM

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