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The Tempest is a play written by Sir William Shakespeare believed to have been written around the year 1610. The story begins as a play about justice, but develops into a play about art and an author, Prospero, building a story around him. Power is used with Tempest to describe supernatural abilities and essence as well as physical prowess, from the power of love, to the destructive power of the storm conjured up by Prospero, to the physical defiance of Ferdinand against Prospero. These powers demonstrate forces that characters in the play can not control, with the exception of Prospero, who is by far the most dominant character in the play. There are three different types of power: supernatural for good, supernatural for bad, and physical power, all of which are placed at a certain rank in the power hierarchy and each affecting characters and events in their own unique way.
First, power in Tempest deals with supernatural for good. There are multiple pieces of evidence to support this claim. Many times is power associated with a higher being such as God or Gods. Such comparing often refers to Prospero who has God-like powers. For instance, Miranda states, "Had I been any god of power, I would Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere It should the good ship so have swallowed and The fraughting souls within her (1.2.10-13)." This is significant for two reasons: one; it associates magical power with a god, a supernatural being, and two; it places Prospero in a category of supernatural ability, since he can do all these things that's gods can do.
This is expounded upon when Caliban, in his misery confesses, "I must obey. His (Prospero) art is of such power, I would could my dam's god Setebos, and make a vassal of him" (1.2.435-439). This statement places Prospero's above Setebos, a god (believed by many scholars to represent Satan) that Sycorax, Caliban's mother worshipped. This asserts that this power is more than human, and that only certain, especially capable beings are capable of wielding it. There is also a theme of divine ordination associated within the text in regards to the term power.
In the beginning of the story, Prospero confesses to his daughter, "Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,/ Thy father was a Duke of Milan, and a prince of power" (1.2.63-65). Given the fact that power in this story is directly related to divinity, this statement concludes that it was god's will that Prospero be noble. And when Prospero was denied this nobility, god blessed him with knowledge and magic via his books. This statement coincides with the belief in Shakespeare's time that nobility was handed down from god.
Second, power in The Tempest directly affects the characters in that it bends them, in some way or form, to act or to behave in a certain way, especially bad supernatural power. It is important to note that there are two different kinds of supernatural power in The Tempest. This is demonstrated when Prospero speaks of his brother's treachery:
But what my power might else exact, like one Who
having into truth, by telling of it,/ Made such a sinner
of his memory,/To credit his own lie, he did believe/
He was indeed the duke; out o' the substitution/And
executing the outward face of royalty,/With all
prerogative: hence his ambition growing--/ Dost
thou hear? (1.2.116-123).
There is the power of Prospero, which is good and righteous, no doubt the power of god, and the power of Sycorax, which is bad and inferior to the magic of Prospero. This magic is the power of witchcraft and the devil and therefore is wrong and overcome by "good" powers. Eventually Prospero's power triumph's over his brother's usurped power.
Third, the physical power is a more worldly, more human power that is associated with the word power online once. This is shown when Ferdinand tries to overpower Prospero with physical, worldly power, "No; I will resist such entertainment till Mine enemy has more power" (1.2.555-557). Of course, Prospero prevails easily by freezing Ferdinand in place, showing good supernatural power's dominance over physical strength.
Fourth, supernatural power displayed throughout the novel is out of every character's control, with the exception of Prospero who has been given divine privilege. Prospero and other supernatural powers affect events in the story and the way characters react to each other and the way the plot unfolds. For instance, In the scene where Prospero tries to set up Miranda and Ferdinand, "They are both in either's powers; but this swift business/ I must uneasy make, lest too light winning/ Make the prize light.(1.2.535-539). This power of love between Miranda and Ferdinand, which is also supernatural and ordained by god, is out of either of their hands.
It is so strong in fact, that Prospero feels it necessary to slow down their relationship. Being a divine character Prospero is able to hinder Miranda and Ferdinand's love for one another long enough to keep it from destroying itself. There is even a time when supernatural powers are called on to act in the need of Gonzalo. He states, " All torment, trouble, wonder, and amazement/ Inhabits here. Some heavenly power guide us/ Out of this fearful country!(5.1.103-15). Here Gonzalo begs god to help get him and his companions off of the island. He is begging for the good supernatural power of god to intervene in his dire situation.
Fifth, The hierarchy of power is quite clear at the end of the play when Prospero claims Caliban as evil, and identifies the other two plotters:
Mark but the badges of these men, my lords,
Then say if they be true. This misshapen knave,
His mother was a witch, and one so strong
That could control the moon, make flows and ebbs,
And deal in her command without her power.
These three have robbed me, and this demi-devil-
For he's a bastard one-had plotted with them
To take my life. Two of these fellows you
Must know and own. This thing of darkness I
Acknowledge mine (5.1.312-321).
This is the final triumph of good over evil as Prospero asserts his recognition of the inferior plotters as well as his own superiority. This defines the importance of the three powers in the play, physical power is the lowest, then bad supernatural power which makes men behave immorally, and then rational, good supernatural power that is used for good and righteousness.
Finally, the word power has many important functions in The Tempest. The three types of power, supernatural for good, supernatural for bad, and worldly power all have their place in the distinguished hierarchy in The Tempest. Physical power and bad supernatural power both succumb to the power of good and righteousness. Each scene that includes power demonstrates the genius that is William Shakespeare's The Tempest.