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The Tempest by William Shakespeare develops the notions of power, control, authority and moral order through the representation of imaginative journeys.
Ariel and Prospero's great Art and magic is first seen in the opening scenes, when they create a storm; a theatrical coup, in which he seeks vengeance on those who usurped him from his dukedom. He shipwrecks them, placing them on a distinctly sensory journey. It is a dramatic device used by Shakespeare to illustrate Prospero's deceptive nature and evil intent as well as his powers of manipulation and perceived ability to control the events around him. However, towards Act 3 it is evident that Prospero only wanted them to repent and acknowledge their wrong doings. It is “the ordination of civility, control of appetite, transformation of nature and means of Grace.”
In contrast to good powers, Antonio and Alonzo are considered villains for their past treachery. Prospero was usurped and Antonio seized his great power through underhanded acquisitions. Any disruption or chaos to the social and moral order is viewed as evil, thus both figure's use of power in order to gain authority was wrong and bad; this concurrently named them villains. However, not knowing any form of magic or Art ultimately makes them subordinate to Prospero. This also sets up the theme of power struggle and art versus nature.
A parody of stupidity towards power exists within Stephano and Trinculo, as they have such absurd ambitions of being “king o'th'isle”. However, with the “celestial liquor” they bear and their state of drunkenness, they do go on an imaginative journey thinking they were the rulers. The power of the imagination with the liquor gives them the opportunity to believe they were of higher power and status.
Control and authority is another apparent notion that is evident with the powers Prospero attains. Prospero's power is not as justly attained as he keeps Ariel in unwilling bondage, like Sycorax did. Ariel is under Prospero's absolute rule and he has full authority over him. He must beg for liberty and freedom, but it doesn't succeed as Prospero continuously repeats Ariels past and embedding it in their mutual history; “Dost thou forget/ From what a torment I did free thee”. As a result, Ariel feels indebted to Prospero even though he deserves the freedom. Prospero even threatens him, “If thou more murmur'st, I will rend an oak,/ and peg thee in his knotty entrails, till/ Thou hast howl'd away twelve winters.” Thus, Prospero uses Ariel's memory and induces guilt and his fear of physical torment to manipulate the spirit.
Although, Ariel and Caliban are both subjected to Prospero's servitude, they are different. Ariel calls him “noble master” out of fear and loyalty, Caliban curses Prospero, saying, "All the infections that the sun sucks up/ From bogs, fens, flats, on Proper fall.” Prospero respected and treated him favourably, to gain his loyalty. But once Caliban tried to rape Miranda, Prospero took tyrannical methods of control and punishment; threatened his authority on the island and imprisoned him. Even though, condemned to a life of slavery and misery, he is able to disobey his orders and challenge his authority with the history of his life. He is able to attest his own story and cast Prospero to be the tyrannical oppressor like Sycorax.
Prospero through his powers, has Ferdinand and Miranda under his control. Using them as commodities, in order to attain and solidify his position. Ferdinand on a journey of speculation that his father has drowned, and this is furthermore guided by Ariel's music, “Full fadom five thy father lies/Of his bones are coral made/Those are pearls that were his eyes.”
The play contains rebellions, political treachery, mutinies and conspiracies. There are many challenges to authority, however, the text resolves these problems in the end by having peace, harmony and order restored, with the rightful ruler placed back in his position of power.
Boatswain rejects the social authority order and commands the King and Noblemen whilst taking control over the ship. Also, Prospero's relationships with the other characters all turn on question of command. Prospero's magic books and cape are a symbol of his power, but also a symbol of his dangerous desire to remove himself completely from the world. He seems to prefer the life away from that which was stolen from him by his own brother. His devotion to his magic is overpowered by his love of Miranda. The only way for them to return to the world they were usurped from is for Prospero to let go and leave behind his magic.