Can you describe power and control in The Tempest as a reflection of Elizabethan society?
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One of the striking aspects of this brilliant play is the way that, on the island, Prospero is shown to have absolute control over everything that goes on through his magic. Many critics have likened him to a stage manager, or to the figure of Shakespeare himself, as he effectively uses his powers to separate the other characters and isolate them, and then trick and manipulate them. Prospero is presented as having control over his subjects, namely Ariel and Caliban, and he uses Ariel to carry out his plans and devices. Note how Ariel presents himself to Prospero in Act I scene 2:
All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality.
We could relate the absolute rule that Prospero has and the way that he uses his minions to carry out his wishes to the way in which Elizabeth I was believed to be God's appointed ruler and therefore had the same kind of power in Elizabethan society. Whilst clearly she did not use magic to maintain this power and to control others, the belief of divine rule gave her the absolute authority that we see in Prospero.
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