How is the concept of masculinity presented in The Tempest?

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In The Tempest, masculinity is presented as having power over events and other people in one's environment.

As such, Prospero is the chief figure of masculinity in the play. The implication is that he once forfeited some of his masculine powers by becoming too involved in books while Duke...

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In The Tempest, masculinity is presented as having power over events and other people in one's environment.

As such, Prospero is the chief figure of masculinity in the play. The implication is that he once forfeited some of his masculine powers by becoming too involved in books while Duke of Milan, allowing his brother to seize the kingdom. However, once Prospero arrives on the deserted island, he fully exercises his patriarchal prerogative by taking control of his surroundings. He does not rule the island co-equally with Caliban and Ariel, despite their being native inhabitants and having gifts and powers of survival. Instead, he takes charge and enslaves the two so that they are forced to bend to his will. He also, as one might expect, takes charge of his young daughter.

Prospero uses his magic to control his habitat and, when his friends and enemies shipwreck on the island, he is well poised to become the in-charge patriarch pulling all the strings. He is the only one who fully knows what is going on and, as such, manages to orchestrate events to suit his will.

However—and this is where it gets most interesting—at the end of the play, Shakespeare defines masculinity to include mercy. When Ariel feels sorry for the humans on whom Prospero has planned to wreak revenge, Prospero takes heed of Ariel's example and decides he will forgive and forget. Shakespeare very pointedly shows that a mature masculinity might have power but also chooses to refrain from using it in a vindictive and destructive way. Masculinity is being in control, but it is also being merciful.

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In protecting Miranda from seeing men, her father Prospero creates a sort of blank slate for her perceptions of the opposite sex. Prospero is a fatherly archetype: wise and kind but also aloof and distracted by his own concerns. But the inhabitants of the barren landscape are male archetypes as well: Caliban is ugly, a "monster" and thus could be said to address Miranda's apprehension of male sexuality. Ariel is often portrayed as androgynous or sexless; this archetype allows the posisbility that Miranda can develop both gendered sides of her nature, to find the male qualities within herself. When men (sailors) finally do arrive on shore, Miranda refers to the "brave new world" which has such creatures in it: this confirms the positive result of sexual balance, the presence of both genders completing Miranda's world and offering a hopeful vision of the future.

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