The Tempest Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How is the theme of usurpation central to The Tempest in act 1?

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The theme of usurpation runs throughout Shakespeare's The Tempest and is central to the play.

Interestingly, the term "usurp" itself appears only once in the play: when Prospero accuses Ferdinand of usurping the name of Ferdinand's father, the king of Naples, who Ferdinand assumed had been killed in the shipwreck. Prospero also accuses Ferdinand of being a spy:

PROSPERO: Thou dost here usurp
The name thou ow'st not; and hast put thyself
Upon this island as a spy, to win it
From me, the lord on't. [1.2.540–543]

Nevertheless, the theme of usurpation—political, social, and personal—underscores the action of the play, as well as the related themes of betrayal, natural order, and revenge.

As Prospero explains to his daughter, Miranda, in act 1, scene 2, twelve years ago Prospero was the Duke of Milan, until his brother, Antonio (with the help of the king of Naples) betrayed Prospero, usurped his dukedom, and seized his power.

PROSPERO: The King of Naples, being an enemy
To me inveterate,...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 807 words.)

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