A post-colonial criticism of The Tempest.

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post-colonial criticism of this play would focus on the themes of geographical exploration and settlement. This is particularly relevant to this text as it was written in a time of notable voyages of discovery and conquest undertaken by English and other European seafarers such as Sir Walter Raleigh, and settlement of English colonies abroad, most notably in the Americas. In time this would become a fully-fledged empire covering a quarter of the globe.

According to such a reading Prospero is a leading colonist, while Caliban, in his ugliness and surliness, represents the native races often enslaved by European conquerors, who regarded them as inferior and sometimes even subhuman,and often labelled them savages. However,Caliban is also seen to exhibit the more positive traits that those supposedly lowly races were sometimes thought to have, in being simpler and closer to nature than the overbearing Europeans. This fits in with the idea of the 'Noble Savage', free from the taints and artificialities of European civilisation, popularised later by such figures as the eighteenth-century French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

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The Tempest

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