How Are Themes of Colonialism and Imperialism Most Clearly Shown in Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

Shakespeare included the themes of colonialism and imperialism in The Tempest for a reason. Moreover, they are most clearly represented through Prospero and Caliban’s relationship in the play. Prospero is pictured as a typical colonizer who doesn’t respect the locals and only wants to take over the land for personal benefits.

Among the literary themes represented in The Tempest, colonialism and imperialism appear to be some of the most crucial ones. Shakespeare decided to follow the trend of his times which everyone discussed. The topic of discovering and conquering the new lands was quite intriguing but tarnished by a rather destructive attitude to it. Shakespeare tried to show that the usual approach was not practical and needed correction. It was not uncommon for colonizers to disregard the local culture and proceed to use force. The aim was to take the land and utilize its recourses.

The audience should have recognized that pattern in Prospero‘s behavior. From the first day of his arrival on the island, he was showing disrespect towards the locals. Caliban lived there peacefully until Prospero showed up and enslaved him. The magician could only see him as an uneducated savage and decided that suppressing and taking control over him would be the best. Naturally, the islander had a different opinion and tried to resist, which led to a significant conflict. However, since Prospero possesses greater power, Caliban had to obey but sought revenge. Therefore, they are the most precise representation of colonialism and imperialism in the play. Through portraying their relationship this way, Shakespeare tried to show how armed conflicts and the use of force are not as effective as peaceful trade.

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