Essay on Social Hierarchy in The Tempest

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Social Hierarchy in The Tempest

During Shakespeare's time social classification was much more rigid than today and some members of society were considered superior to other members. Shakespeare provides an example of this rigid social structure through his play, The Tempest. Shakespeare illustrates how superior men differentiated themselves from lesser beings on the basis of race, financial status, and gender. Through the character of Prospero, Shakespeare provides and example of one, who had reason to feel superior, yet treated others equally and with the respect due to them.

The Tempest reflects Shakespeare's society through the relationship between characters, especially between Prospero and Caliban.
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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 treated

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