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The Tempest is full of different themes that work perfectly to bring out the mastery of Shakespeare. However, two themes that stand out in the play, and they have been the source of much debate over the years. Both themes are backed with incredible, pinpoint accurate evidence over the dominance of the other. Over the years, scholars have found it hard to settle on one theme being dominant over the other, but with an analysis of the evidence presented on both counts, the decision is left to the reader of the play or the audience for that matter.
The first theme that stands out is; spiritual redemption and goodwill. It can be explained in the play through the character Prospero whereby he struggles, loses his kingdom, finds another and learns from his past in order not to have history repeat itself. In the world crested by The Tempest, through Prospero, Shakespeare tries to examine the human condition of sin, redemption and goodwill. At the beginning of the play, the audience is made aware that Prospero was a Duke of Milan but his brother Antonio, with the king’s consent, took his Dukedom away from him. During his tenure as Duke, Prospero was more concerned with education and magic than he was ruling his kingdom. For this reason, Antonio was able to take advantage and win over the hearts of the people of Milan, which consequently led to the usurping of Prospero from his dukedom, but with help from the King of Naples.
Prospero was then exiled with his daughter Miranda, on a wrecked boat where they ended up on an island. Here, Prospero learned the values of authority by turning Caliban into a slave under his command. At one point, his slave alongside two other men tried to kill him but he manipulated them and changed their minds completely. When the shipwrecked men had been brought to him, he could have chosen to exact his revenge and kill them, but he was kind to them. In so doing, Prospero found redemption for his sin as a previously failed ruler.
The other theme that stands out is that of Colonial Abuse of Power. In almost every scene, there is a portrayal of power whereby there is a character that has power over the other. The relationship of Prospero and Caliban is that of master and slave and this stands out throughout the play, where Caliban submits to Prospero. The Tempest brings to light the theme of colonization when in 1610, the Sea Adventure to Virginia ended in shipwreck in Bermuda. Also, the anagram of the name Caliban is derived from the name cannibal which shows a difference in cultures. This also shows that Caliban was the native of the island that Prospero had asserted himself as king. Propsero’s relationship with Ariel also demonstrated the intense theme of power. Ariel is a spirit but she is submissive to Prospero, by saying “All hail, Great master”
In both themes, there is enough evidence to warrant a discussion, but to my opinion, I think that the theme of spiritual redemption and goodwill is most dominant. Primarily, this is because the use and abuse of power is an age-old tradition that never seizes. However, the act of Prospero showing mercy stands out because as royalty, there is a need to show humility and making decisions not out of feeling, but out of reason. Thus, the theme of spiritual redemption and goodwill is most convincing in all manners and rights.