Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Prospero's Chimera of Indulgence: The Subaltern in Shakespeare's the Tempest

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Prospero's Chimera of Indulgence: The Subaltern in Shakespeare's the Tempest

Article excerpt

Colonialism brought with it the destruction of traditional societies, the denigration of indigenous identities and economic exploitation. In the opinion of Leela Gandhi, "Colonialism... marks the historical process whereby the 'West' attempts systematically to cancel or negate the cultural difference and value of the 'non-West'" (Genetsch, 2007, p. 12).

With the advent of postcolonialism, those formerly oppressed have tried to recover an idea of their respected histories, languages and traditions. In order to achieve this aim, the crippling images imposed on the native people by the colonizers had to be destroyed first. The core concern of the theory was to challenge the image of the colonial subject where they were always represented as the Other. As Said contended in Orientalism, the West has not only conquered the East politically but also appropriated the Orient's languages, history and culture for themselves. Said (1978, p. 204) puts it thus: "My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient's difference with its weakness.... As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth and knowledge."

The way different cultures were talked about within colonial discourse relied on the hegemonic and stereotypical concepts of race, age and gender differences. The association of "blacks" with notions of evil and bestiality and the rendering of "whites" as innocent and pure continually helped to justify the system of exploitation and the plundering and conquering of lands by the colonizers.

Postcolonial literatures are an articulation of the process of replacing structures/myths of power reshaping the dominant meanings. As Said (1992, p. 3) rightly observes, literature has massively contributed "as the shaper, creator, agent of illumination within the realm of the colonized" and also played a crucial role in the "re-establishment of national cultural heritage in the re-instatement of native idiom in the re-imagining and re-figuring of local histories, geographies, communities." As a part of this process of decolonization, postcolonial literatures dismantled the historical and textual records and demonstrated the various possibilities of alternative perspectives and texts. One such text under consideration in my paper is Shakespeare's swan song The Tempest (1611), where we see the most graphic representation of Prospero's commanding authority and brutality in relation to the treatment meted out to the two subalterns-Ariel and Caliban.

The term 'subaltern' is used in the postcolonial theory. It has been used variously to refer to the marginalized and oppressed groups struggling, anytime, anywhere against hegemonic power structure. It has been emphasized that the term 'subaltern' related to Antonio Gramsci (1881-1937) literally refers to any person or group of inferior rank due to one's race, class, ethnicity or religion. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak uses the word 'subaltern' in a more specific sense. She argues that

'Subaltern' is not just a classy word for oppressed, for others, for somebody who's not getting a piece of the pie... In post-colonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern-a space of difference. (De Kock, 1992, p. 29)

Similarly, Homi K Bhaba, a key-thinker in postcolonial thought, emphasizes the importance of social power relations of the 'subaltern' groups as oppressed minority groups whose presence was crucial to the self-definition of the majority group.

The present paper examines Prospero's nature of wish fulfillment fantasy that he engineers and accomplishes through the services of Ariel and Caliban. The monarch of the island maintains a colonial spirit which is strengthened by his deep study of magic and heuristic activities which he dexterously uses, to make his slaves perform all kinds of tasks from domestic chores to being agents of aid for avenging his enemies, who dethroned him. …

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