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The Tempest: Postcolonial reading of William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest

The Tempest: Postcolonial reading of William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest

The Tempest: Postcolonial reading of William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest

Q. Attempt a postcolonial reading of The Tempest

Answer: A postcolonial reading of William Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" offers a critical perspective on the themes of colonialism, power, and identity. Written during the early 17th century, the play can be seen as a reflection of the European colonial expansion of that time. However, while going through the play, we can consider various themes of postcolonial elements in the play, "The Tempest":

Colonialism and Power Structures:

The character of Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, can be seen as a colonizer who has established his authority over the native inhabitants of the island. His use of magic, much like the advanced technology of colonial powers, symbolizes his control over the environment and the island's inhabitants.

Caliban, who is referred to as a "savage" and a "monster," represents the colonized subject. His treatment at the hands of Prospero mirrors the dehumanization and oppression that indigenous peoples often faced during colonial encounters.

Language and Identity:

Language is a significant theme in the play. Prospero uses language and education as tools of colonial control. He teaches Caliban and Ariel his language and imposes his own cultural norms on them.

Caliban's attempts to speak the colonizer's language can be seen as a struggle for identity and autonomy. His famous speech, "You taught me language, and my profit on't is, I know how to curse," reflects the tension between assimilation and resistance to colonial rule.

Subversion and Rebellion:

Caliban's initial rebellion against Prospero represents resistance to colonial oppression. His desire to overthrow Prospero is a reaction to the injustices he has suffered.

Ariel's character also raises questions about freedom and servitude. Despite being a spirit, Ariel is bound to serve Prospero, highlighting the complex power dynamics within the colonial context.

Cultural Clash and Hybridity:

The encounter between Prospero's world and the island's native inhabitants leads to a clash of cultures. This clash creates a space for the exploration of hybrid identities and the blending of different cultures.

The play's masque scene, featuring a celebration of love, can be seen as an attempt by Prospero to impose European culture and values onto the native characters, highlighting the cultural imperialism inherent in colonialism.


The resolution of the play, with Prospero ultimately deciding to leave the island and return to Milan, can be seen as a form of decolonization. It implies the end of colonial rule and the possibility of self-determination for the native characters.

A postcolonial reading of "The Tempest" underscores the themes of power, colonization, and the consequences of empire-building. It invites us to consider how Shakespeare's play reflects and critiques the colonial mindset of his time and how these themes continue to resonate in discussions of postcolonial literature and identity today.


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πŸ‘‰ Sonnet No. 116 | definition of 'Love' 

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