The Tempest

The idea of isolating a group of people on an island is a popular one for authors to express their views of human nature. Perhaps the most well-known examples are Lord of the Flies, by Golding, and the opposing Island, by Huxley. Though Shakespeare’s The Tempest does not especially debate the topic of the inherent good or bad in human nature, it certainly presents the seeds of later utopic and dystopic writings. The way Shakespeare does this is through his characters’ perception of the island. Many view it as a new beginning with possibilities for the lives they dream of leading. The Lord Adrian admires the island’s natural beauty, speaking of it as “of subtle, tender and delicate temperance” (II.i.41) and continuing that the “air breathes upon us here most sweetly” (II.i.45). Antonio, during the same scene, detests what Adrian adores, calling it “tawny” (II.i.47) and “perfumed by a fen” (II.i.47). The old Gonzalo sees possibilities for change and argues that if it were under his control; it would become a place of purity, leisure, and abundance without labor. In other words, a garden of Eden. Caliban sees the island as his home, the place he has always lived and on which he would like to reside in peace (III.ii.40); and Ferdinand would like to make the island his home (IV.i.130). Finally, the butler Stephano would like to take the island over by killing Prospero and becoming king. Considering the characters’ opinions about the island and its fate, if Shakespeare had human nature in mind when he wrote this, what might be his own views?

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