The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does Act III, scene 2 of "The Tempest" explore the theme of power?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this scene, Caliban offers Stephano and Trinculo earthly, carnal power in return for exacting revenge on Prospero. Caliban tells Stephano that he can become ruler of the island and have the beautiful Miranda for his wife if he will only kill Prospero. Stephano responds by saying:

Monster, I will kill this man. His daughter and I will be king and queen—save our graces!—and Trinculo and thyself shall be viceroys

Caliban presents violence as the sure route to power. He states that all Stephano has to do is drive a nail into Prospero's head or bash in his head in some other way and burn his magic books, and the island will be his.

What is notable is that power, as understood by Caliban and the other men, is completely carnal: it is obtained through violence, and it brings purely worldly rewards, namely, a kingdom and a woman. It is not surprising that this viewpoint comes from Caliban, a "monster," or that the drunken Stephano and Trinculo fall for it. These three characters are tied too strongly to earthly pleasures. In the next scene, Ariel will present a version of power that is much different: one based on sincere repentance for one's misdeeds. This form of power, Ariel will demonstrate, is more potent than violence. The kind of violence Caliban and the others contemplate leads, Ariel notes, to divine punishment, which may be delayed but will doubtless come.

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malenig eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Stephano's absurd exploitation of Caliban is a parody of the relationship between ruler and subject. At the same time, Caliban, who is willing to fulfill the role of servant to Stephano, tells of his tyrant master, Prospero.  If Stephano agrees to murder Prospero, Caliban will serve Stephano, or so he says.  Stephano relishes the idea of ruling a kingdom with Caliban and Trinculo as "viceroys."  All the while, the three malefactors are under the control of Ariel, who knows their every move and ultimately foils their plot.

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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 This scene explores the theme of power in many ways. First, it shows a portrait of scheming to get power. Second, their drunkenness is a metaphor for the intoxication a desire for power carries. Third, the interactions of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo show us a society in microcosm: how different individuals claim power and authority, and how they threaten violence almost casually. Fourth, the inability to see Ariel demonstrates the blindness of many who plot for power.

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