The Tempest – Injustice Essay

In the play ‘The Tempest’ written by William Shakespeare, one very clear idea that can teach the reader many lessons is injustice. Throughout the piece multiple characters are either the victim or perpetrator of injustice, or sometimes both. These characters may or may not see the injustices they cause as injustices, resulting in some characters trying to correct their mistakes and other characters simply being unaware. Each injustice sends several messages to the reader in a sometimes clear or unclear way. These messages include the importance of treating people how you want to be treated, people’s greed will blind them and lead them into having no remorse for their injustices, and that people can be hypocritical with the idea of injustice.
From the idea of injustice, the reader can learn that treating a person badly can cause bad outcomes as the person searches for justice in revenge. For example this occurs in ‘The Tempest’ after Prospero is removed from his position as Duke of Milan and is cast out into the sea by his younger brother Antonio and Propspero’s arch-nemesis Alonso, King of Naples due to neglecting his duties to pursue learning magic. The quote “By foul play, as thou sayst, were we heaved thence” which Prospero says to Miranda as he explains what happened to them in Act One portrays Prospero feeling betrayed by not only his enemy but his brother, his flesh and blood. Because of the decisions Antonio and Alonso made, Prospero schemes to create a tempest that causes the two of them to land on the island so that he can get his revenge, and to also confront the men on their wrongdoings. In carrying out this plan of creating a tempest, he causes Antonio, Alonso and all the other men to believe that Ferdinand is dead. This of course causes great pain and sorrow, teaching the reader that mistreating people will have consequences that are severe.
Another thing the reader can learn from ‘The Tempest’ is that greed leads people into injustices simply because they only have eyes for what they want. An obvious example of this in ‘The Tempest’ is when Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill Alonso, so that Sebastian could become the next heir of Naples as they believe Ferdinand is dead. As Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and all the other lords land on the island, Alonso is grief-stricken about the apparent death of his son. Gonzalo tries his best to keep spirits high by discussing the island’s beauty, but his positivity is undermined by the malicious sarcasm from Antonio and Sebastian. After a while of bickering Ariel arrives and plays music that puts everyone to sleep, everyone apart from Antonio and Sebastian. While the others sleep Antonio persuades Sebastian into killing their sleeping group. Sebastian is at first cautious, but eventually is sold and intends to go through with the plan and the two draw their swords. Just before they can get on with the job, Ariel warns Gonzalo in his sleep and wakes him. Antonio and Sebastian come up with a quick story about hearing lions and trying to ward them off to cover their tracks, which fools the group. One quote of interest is when Sebastian asks Antonio about his guilty conscience, as the Duke did a very similar thing to his own brother Prospero. To this question Antonio replies “Ay, sir. Where lies that? If ‘twerp a kibe, ‘twould put me to my slipper. But I feel not this deity in my bosom”, which is essentially Antonio saying that he does not feel any guilt or shame for wronging his brother Prospero. This shows the audience that he has no sense of right or wrong, will continue to commit injustices and talk other people into committing also. The lesson the reader learns is that some people are are blind to their own injustice, and this allows the reader to come up with their own theories about wether or not the character should be excused from their injustices, as the character has no idea the weight of what they do.
Also, from ‘The Tempest’ a reader can learn that hypocrisy can often when people are faced with injustice, deciding that they have been treated badly yet keep treating others in similar ways. The most common example of this in ‘The Tempest’ is Prospero’s relationships with Ariel, Caliban and Antonio. Prospero was wronged by his brother Antonio when he was exiled from Milan, and understandably continues to hold a grudge for another twelve years. This is shown when Prospero says to Miranda “I pray mark me, that a brother should be so perfidious”, which essentially means Prospero still can’t believe his brother was so disloyal. And although most would agree that Prospero was treated unfairly, he does not see any wrong in enslaving Caliban and Ariel using his magical powers. Despite the fact that Caliban and Ariel were on the island first, he deems himself the ruler of the land. Caliban’s relationship with Prospero when compared to Ariel’s is generally more volatile. Caliban is understandably angry about having to serve a master and Prospero constantly threatens and insults him with no remorse, saying things like “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam, come forth!”. This shows that Prospero clearly does not care for anyone but himself and Miranda, forcing Caliban to do his biddings unfairly. Although Ariel is more complacent and willing, Prospero still takes advantage of Ariel as a resource and keeps him past his already unfair sentence. When Ariel says to Prospero “Remember I have done thee worthy service, told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings”, and reminds him of the promise he made to take a full year off of his sentence, he responds with changing the subject to what he freed Ariel from, covering his tracks of injustice and making Ariel feel guilty. From this injustice Prospero inflicts on Caliban and Ariel, the reader learns that Prospero is a hypocrite and is almost as bad as his brother. However at the end of the play Prospero also realises his own injustices and sets Ariel and Caliban free, meaning that the reader can also see character development from Prospero as he corrects his mistakes.
In conclusion, ‘The Tempest’ strongly portrays the theme of injustice in a way that enables the reader to learn important lessons. Multiple characters are either the victim or perpetrator of injustice, or sometimes both. These messages that the reader receives are very similar but each have their own individual purposes, things such as the importance of treating people how you want to be treated, people’s greed will blind them and lead them into having no remorse for their injustices, and that people can be hypocritical with the idea of injustice.


2 thoughts on “The Tempest – Injustice Essay

  1. You have shown a convincing understanding of the idea of injustice. To improve, discuss the author’s purpose and reasons for including this theme. Does it reflect any injustice that was happening in the world at the time the play was written? **

  2. It seems that I may have been unjust in the marking of your essay. I still think that you need to include the author’s purpose but you have made some insightful judgements which means I can give you 🌟🌟🌟

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