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Shakespeare's plays represent cautionary messages about the use and abuse of power.
Demonstrate your understanding of this statement with close reference to your prescribed text.
You must provide evidence and detailed analysis of your play, including reference to language and dramatic devices.
The idea of power is naturally intriguing to individuals as an instinctual act, however it can blur one’s moral compass and judgement when their intentions are impure. Throughout the tragicomedy play by William Shakespeare, The Tempest, one of the most prominent themes is the use of power and how it can be abused if misused. Given it being a versatile concept in terms of bending with the nature of the character who holds it, power held up the most important character developments in the play. Shakespeare has successfully presented the theme and correlating message of the use of power throughout the play by alluding shipwrecks from the Jacobean Era. This was the central plot of The Tempest and corresponded with different characters and their respected power. Using such techniques, one is able to gain an understanding of the ideology of the use and abuse of power.
Individuals who withhold great inherited power may become corrupt and rise from their mistakes. Shakespeare introduces this with the protagonist, Prospero, an enchanter who seeks revenge after his brother for being exiled. Using an aside to explicitly inform the audience of Prospero’s plans in Act 3 Scene 1, Shakespeare integrates this dramatic device to further outline the significance of Prospero’s power, especially over his daughter, Miranda, “Poor worm, thou art infected! This visitation shows it”. Prospero takes advantage of his great power and control within this play, which modern readers may understand to be cruel and evil. This therefore generates some intrigue as a result of the narrative lens in relation to this character, due to him being multilayered, which reflects his morality and his developing moral compass. The message of his improper use of power engages the audience even more since the characters and their ability to relate to the audience, drive the action and will tell them more about Prospero’s character through asides. The controlling and twisted mindset of Prospero is evident in the exclamatory sentence, where his lines are punctuated to connote his fascinated tone. The fact that the topic at hand is Prospero’s daughter depicts how the power he holds has corrupted him to act this way. However, near the end of the play, he redeems himself and admits to having abused his power. Shakespeare incorporates these realistic qualities through the contrasting tone of Prospero, a man who starts off by being controlling and sly to someone who questions his morality and ability to be compassionate “Yet, with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury do I take part. The rarer action is in virtue, than in vengeance”. Shakespeare draws attention to the fact that Prospero actively tried to restore his humanity after manipulating his enemies with his power by utilising the contrasting nature of the words ‘virtue’ and ‘vengeance’, reiterating the extensive development that Prospero has gone through. This substantiates the significance of the amount of power Prospero wielded and the extent he was willing to go to in order for him to gain control over himself. The idea of remorse is thereby created as Shakespeare reveals a different side of Prospero’s character; one who is sympathetic and only uses his power for the better. While Shakespeare draws on Prospero’s abusive conduct of power throughout most of the play, he adds layers to Prospero through the charitable tendencies he possesses, sending a cautionary message to the audience by definitively crafting the consequences of the mistreatment of power.
When an individual allows power to manipulate them, their downfall is inevitable. The deceitful duo of Sebastian and Antonio manifests the consequences of misused power when they plot the murder of their superior, Alonso. Antonio deviously encourages Sebastian into murdering Alonso and uses theatrical metaphors and comparative sentences to further enhance his scheme, “And by that destiny to perform an act Whereof what’s past is prologue” Act 2 Scene 1. Shakespeare’s usage of a metaphor in “what’s past is prologue” and “destiny to perform an act” provides personal insight into Antonio’s mindset of imagining the murder as a ‘play’, with the prologue being the setting of the scene and the act representing the rising action of the murder as the plot. Shakespeare utilizes this quote to increase the significance of one’s deceiving and twisted nature, which further sends cautionary messages about the use of power when placed in the wrong hands. Despite the bitter choice of words by Antonio, readers can’t help but wonder if Antonio is correct in his judgement and proceeds to influence the audience as well as Sebastian, triggering a warning signal about Antonio’s active abuse of power. The comparative sentence structure used to juxtapose the setting in which Antonio and Sebastian are situated in the prologue of an inferred play and comparing the act of killing Alonso to the first act in the same play, suggests that Antonio makes direct connections to his imaginary play to persuade Sebastian. This perception of a twisted play that reflects the realistic future of what is to come directs the audience’s attention towards the contorted mentality of Antonio, as an immediate impression of the newfound power he has gained. Hence, Shakespeare’s plays send cautionary messages about the use and abuse of power with correlation to the type of characters centering it.
In conclusion, Shakespearean plays inevitably display cautionary messages about the use and misuse of power, for the messages in this play reflect the extensive characterisation of individual characters which Shakespeare insightfully explored. This admonishing intrigue surrounding the mentality of these characters and the evident consequences they face therefore spreads to the audience, triggering warning signals about the use and abuse of power.