Comparing Power in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Othello’
Both plays are about the ultimate struggle for power. Power can be shown in many ways such as race, gender, ‘others’, social class, and most importantly through use of language. Power can be shown in both plays through the use of ‘otherness’. This can be associated with power as characters such as Othello or Caliban are ‘others’ because they are from ‘elsewhere’. One such character who could be described as an ‘other’ is Othello. Bill Bryson suggested that ‘before he reworked it ‘Othello’ was insipid melodrama’ and perhaps it was the addition of ‘others’ by Shakespeare that added to the drama. Characters such as Othello and Caliban were considered dangerous and unnatural because they
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Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, cannot believe that his daughter had fallen in love “with what she feared to look on”. In the 17th Century, marrying a person of another colour was seen as dangerous; Desdemona shows her disobedience to her father by not only marrying Othello, but leaving her father. Othello has insecurities stemming from racial prejudice, questioning Desdemona’s love for him as he states, “Haply I am black and have not these soft parts of conversation”. Lack of power is shown through Othello’s insecurity, and can also be seen in Caliban. The audience is first introduced to Caliban through Prospero’s description of which as “a freckled whelp, hag-born, not honoured with a human shape”. Shakespeare is already demonstrating to the audience that Caliban will be the character that is the outcast from the rest of the characters in the play. Similar to how Othello is described with various racial terms, such as “thick lips” which a 21st Century audience would find very offensive and insulting. So Prospero has power over his daughter, unlike Brabantio over Desdemona, this would be respected by the contemporary audience. However, Prospero’s power is more complex than this, These two opinions show that Prospero can be seen in different ways by audiences and critics alike. Caliban is discriminated in the play, treated like a slave.
Prospero appears to hold the