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How Feminism Applies To The Tempest

Precisely defining the term feminism is rather difficult; hence various authors have postulated different definitions. According to Tandon, feminism encompasses women acting, speaking out and writing on issues regarding their rights, dealing with social injustice, and bringing their unique viewpoint on different issues. From another dimension, feminism is a movement to end sexism, oppression and sexist exploitation. Simply put, feminism involves attempts to empower women by a giving them a voice so as to end different forms of exploitation by men against them. This essay looks at how the phenomenon applies to The Tempest, a play written by William Shakespeare.

In the The Tempest, feminism is depicted by the fact that there is only one female role named Miranda (even though there are occasional hints to three other women: Miranda’s mother, Claribel – Ferdinand’s sister, and Sycorax – Caliban’s mother). This makes the play a truly feminist one. Miranda’s position in the play is unique because at the time the play was written, women were not given roles like hers. Miranda is the only female in The Tempest because there are no women, and indeed no mothers who graced places on Prospero’s idealistic desert island.

Miranda is a subordinate figure in the play yet her role is critical for the development of events in the cast. In the play, Miranda is not only depicted as an item of physical use but is also frequently reminded of her place. Her father, Prospero, uses her as a sexual enticement and prize to attain his goal of vengeance. He arranges the love affair between Ferdinand and Miranda (without the knowledge of the two) and controls Miranda’s fate. He continually objectifies Miranda’s sexual purpose. Prospero’s character thus portrays the society’s general depiction of women as sexual tools.

Even though Miranda is generally repressed, her power is seen when she teaches Caliban language and thus gives him the gift of articulation. Consequently, Miranda can argue that she has civilized Caliban since language is seen as the basic distinction between humankind and beasts. Miranda also turns away from Caliban because of his sexual threat. That Miranda can make such moves thus depicts feminism’s desire to end sexism, oppression and sexist exploitation even though Miranda is still subject to her colonizing father. In conclusion, feminism applies to The Tempest in the sense that the play has only one female character, Miranda, who plays an active role. Even though she is objectified as a sexual enticement by her father, Miranda embodies feminism by teaching language to Caliban and turning away from him (Caliban) when he makes sexual advances.