Essay on Social Order in The Tempest

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The Social Order in The Tempest

In Shakespeare's time, the social order was as powerful and rigid as law. Shakespeare provides an example of this social structure in his play, The Tempest. In the course of his play, the reader sees superior men dominating lesser beings on the basis of race, financial status, and gender. Not all upper class are completely corrupt, however. We see a semi-virtuous hero in the character of Prospero. Prospero has every reason to feel superior and exercise his social power, yet he doesn't always treat others disrespectfully. Although he does have some sense of charity, Prospero is still a good example of the social condition of the time.

One way in which The Tempest reflects
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For I am all the subjects you have, which first was mine own king."(Shakespeare I,ii,334-354). We see he is treated as a lesser being because he is not of the same race as Prospero and Miranda. Prospero describes him as "A freckled whelp hag-born - not honour'd with a human shape."(Shakespeare I,ii,282-283) Clearly, the people of different races were treated as inferior human beings in Shakespeare's time. In this culture, because someone is different, they are less of a human than you.

Financial status also plays a major role in social classifications. During the time of The Tempest, Dukes and Earls, who were among the nobles, were considered to be superior even to other members of their own race. The nobles had servants and commoners who worked for them. Shakespeare shows us an example of this with the relationship between his characters of Sebastian and Antonio and of the Boatswain and the sailors. Sebastian yells at the sailors "A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!"(Shakespeare I,i,40-41), implying that they are inferior and are there to serve him. Antonio also shows he believes himself superior by stating to the Boatswain "Hang, cur! Hang, you whoresom, insolent, noise-maker. We are less afraid to be drowned than thou art."(Shakespeare I,i,43-45) These men were of the same skin color, hair texture, and eye color, but were

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