The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Does Shakespeare present enslavement as a negative or positive concept in the key scenes of The Tempest?

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Shakespeare provides a range of perspectives on enslavement in The Tempest. Caliban, of course, speaks of it harshly; he might be seen as speaking with the voice of the enslaved. At the same time, Caliban gets drunk in and, in Act III scene 2, calls Stephano his king, essentially admitting he cannot run his own life. Ferdinand is enslaved through magic, but manages to keep a positive perspective through thinking of love, giving a more positive perspective. Ariel was imprisoned for not obeying the witch's commands, and is enslaved for a time by Prospero, but he frees Ariel at the end, essentially communicating the idea that freedom is superior. Finally, Prospero takes his right to enslave for granted, as a given, suggesting a natural inequality among men (and all humans).


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