How is Patriarchal and Gender Power shown in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'?

Essay by zomgliekwtfHigh School, 11th gradeA, September 2009

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The ideas of patriarchal and gender power are illustrated extensively in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' through the relationships portrayed in the play, and the play's symbolic depiction of colonialism.

First and foremost, 'The Tempest' was written in the Jacobean period - a period where society was still most strongly patriarchal. This can be seen as 'the Tempest' is set in a completely patriarchal society; where all positions of power are held by males. In fact, 'The Tempest' has only one visible female character, Miranda, whilst other women, such as Caliban's mother Sycorax, Miranda's mother, and Alonso's daughter Claribel, are only mentioned. Miranda is typically viewed as being completely deprived of freedom by her father, her only duty in his eyes being to remain chaste. The less-prominent women of the play are also seen as inferior, as they are only described through the men of the play.

For example, most of what is known about Sycorax is told through Prospero. The women of the play are never responsible for moving the action forward, but serve only as a ground upon which the action moves forward.

The relationship between Prospero and Miranda strongly depicts the ideas of patriarchal and gender power. At first, when Prospero tells Miranda of his exile from Italy, it is her passionate youth that the reader sees in her exclamations of concern, "O the heavens!" and "Alack, for pity!" (Act I, scene ii). This scene shows the audience how tender, yet astonishingly one-sided the relationship between Prospero and Miranda is, as although Prospero has lived alone with his daughter for twelve years, he has not told her why they live alone on the island. Miranda plays a role of only social value as company to her father as he has complete control over what...