Shakespearian empowerment and ideological discourses in The Tempest

“Delicacy and intelligence come from blood because the purer and thinner your blood is, the more you can feel sensations[1]”: this was a straightforward justification, an objective and neutral “truth” used during aristocracy by the so-called ‘pure bloods’ to exercise power over the ‘thick bloods’. Indeed, the aristocratic ideology theorized that the best people were the best people because they had fine spirits, delicate bodies and so understandably, better blood, one, which was thin and pure. Following this logic, the people with thick blood were considered less smart, less good. In society, at this point, there was only one absolute truth, which only the class of “pure bloods” possessed. Soon, everyone interiorized this “truth”, and sociologists called this phenomenon “the interiorization of inferiority/superiority”. In a similar way,  racial theory presents itself as neutral and objective, and profits the superior races. It was used in slavery to justify objectively a whole social order based on the superiority of some men over others. And a theory that presents itself as neutral and objective but which satisfies by fact the interests of a group, is nothing else but ideology. Ideology is always a matter of power and is often non-conscious for those who benefit from it, and/or from those who suffer from it. Slaves and indigenes suffered greatly from colonization. For years, the only discourse shared in Europe was the one of the colonizers. In the second half of the twentieth century one of the main concerns of post-colonial writers was to give voice to the non-colonizers: slaves, indigenous etc… The point was to undermine the dominant discourse, by pointing at the emergence of those other voices. Shakespeare’s The Tempest, published in 1638, has also been interpreted in a post-colonial approach, suggesting a foucauldian discourse analysis. Philosopher Michel Foucault analyzed how the social world, expressed through language was affected by various sources of power. Foucault traced the role of discourses in wider social processes of legitimating power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them (Wikipedia). Prospero colonized Caliban’s island and enslaved him. Since then, Prospero, with his magic, controlled the discourse on the island; he decided what could be spoken of; where and how Caliban may speak; and the privileged who may speak (Ariel). Writers like Aime Cesaire felt the need to rewrite the play for black theatre, in order to demystify Prospero’s discourse, presented as an absolute truth, and claimed the value of Caliban’s discourse. But filmmakers too have readapted the Shakespearian play to the cinema, like Julie Taymore, discussing once again the power relations and how Prospero’s discourse was affected by his to will to possess power. In their different interpretations and adaptations into film and black theatre of The Tempest, Aime Cesaire and Julie Taymore suggest that the play is structured on the struggle for power, the will to resist it, and its invisible ideological social reality. This allows several discourses from the colonized to emerge and claim their truth over Prospero’s colonialist dominant discourse.

The Tempest is a play about power relations and its various interpretations have all stressed this major aspect. Gonzalo’s order ‘Use your authority!’ (The Tempest, I.1) in the very first scene of the play to the boatswain sets the major theme of the play : power. The struggle for the control of the island invites socio-political readings of the play. All the characters are looking for some sort of power in the play (Poulard, 1). They are all carrying weapons, insults with them for the sake of politics (being king), familial issues, sexual desires (Caliban raping Miranda), or romantic love (Ferdinand and Miranda). All those powers are used to achieve one end; that of being wealthy, rich, prosperous (Prospero!), surrounded by women or climb the social class ladder; goals meant to increase their power. There are many examples in the book of this quest to power: political, intellectual, supernatural, physical power. That is why so many characters in The Tempest are shown to try to keep their high ranks if they have them, or try to usurp others’ high ranks, or dream of having the highest rank. There is a class war in the play that the film adaptation of 2010 displays through costumes and many high or low angle shots according to the high or low social class. In A Tempest, by Aime Cesaire, the class war is exemplified in the characters’ discourses. Caliban for example, yells that without Prospero, he’d be the king: “as simple as that. The king of the island! The king of my island I inherited from my mother Sycorax” (19). Caliban wants power, he wants to be the king. This is why power is often regarded as “the origin of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy, just as it is regarded as the origin of Creation” (Poulard, 2). All the characters from the original play follow Nietzsche’s logic of having the will to power, to gain more power. Prospero constitutes the total, unlimited and supreme power of the island. As his name suggests, and as do the numerous allusions to “Prosper” in the play, he wants to prosper. To prosper is one of the consequences of exercising well your power (Wikipedia). Prospero knows that possessing power is pointless; you need to exercise it. Therefore, he exercises it on the island after being sent there. He is the alchemist controlling every single power on the island ; even sexual love, a strong power, a power occasionally even stronger than political or military power. Although he doesn’t manage to stop Caliban from raping Miranda, he stops two lovers from having sex with one another. This is huge. Prospero’s exercise of power is so massive, the island transforms itself in a Panopticon. “A Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behavior constantly” (Panopticon, Wikipedia). In Discipline and Punish published in 1975, Foucault used the panopticon to illustrate his theory on modern disciplinary power. At this time and still nowadays, our “disciplinary” societies have the pervasive liking to observe and normalize. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more. A contemporary reading of The Tempest allows us to assimilate the island to a panopticon. Indeed, technology (magic), which controls everything invisibly and constantly, has allowed on the island the deployment of panoptic paranoia. Indeed, building on Foucault, contemporary social critics often assert that technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society (Panopticon, Wikipedia). On the island, the prisoners (Caliban and the Italians) are now held under strict surveillance, discipline and punishment. Ariel symbolizes the agent that supervises everything; makes visible but yet unverifiable the different imprisonments (Tung, 15). He represents Prospero’s invisible pragmatic power. But Ariel also represents in a way all these humans’ souls. He is the one who humanizes the exercise of power and the people on whom he is exercising the power, who pushes them to acting good; all of this invisibly. He makes the Panoptican successful: all guilty and mischievous criminals are disciplined there in time, and everything just goes smoothly there in complete accord with Prospero’s ideas. Caliban mentions to the drunkards his fear of Ariel, of Prospero, that he is watching. His paranoia only confirms the realization of the panopticon. Prospero is indeed the governor, and the play is “patterned around ideas of governing, of the master-servant situation in its multiple aspects” (Godshalk, 166). This is particularly illustrated in the film. The high camera angles, the alternation between both extreme close ups extreme long shots of Ariel or Prospero give them all their symbiotic power.

By making Helen Mirren, a woman, play Prospero’s role, and changing Prospero’s name to Prospera, Julie Taymor does not decrease Prospero’s phallic power. On the contrary, this is a much more powerful approach; Prospera represents the mother figure, with both political power and social power. Women are very much discriminated. Therefore, switching Prospero’s gender demonstrates that women can obtain political power in society. Furthermore, this version allows us to assimilate Prospera to a witch that has escaped from being burnt. The film is a modern adaptation that illustrates women’s empowerment nowadays and how our society is much more open to female power. In the scene where Miranda and Ferdinand confess their love, the deep focus allows us to see Prospera in the back, fully focused. This intensifies the power she has over them. She is the invisible guardian of the Panopticon.

If Prospero ended exiled, it was partly because he neglected his duty as king. Why did he do so? Prospero had everything back in his hometown. He had the highest socio-political power you could ever have in the human world. Yet he wanted knowledge. He spent his time in the library reading books. Knowledge is an instrument of power; it helps to exercise power. Nietzsche theorized that the will to know depends on the will to power. When people want to acquire knowledge, it is not just for the sake of it; it is a matter of power, of mastering. Therefore, Prospero’s alchemy has no other goal than gaining more power over nature. This allows him not to control only humans anymore, but also the nature surrounding these humans. And this alchemy will have more sense on the island, as it has only four people living on it. Consequently, Prospero seems to be the absolute power, one that knows the truth behind the nature of things, and who can transform materials in his own way. He can shape forms at his own will, transmute nature. In the 2010 film adaptation of the Tempest, Prospero’s power over nature is clearly stressed. The aim of having such a natural set is to stress fact that the island hasn’t been culturally colonized yet. Many special effects added during the editing create this feeling of absolute control over the island, the people, the time and even the world. The accumulations of shots, their superposition, fade ins and fade outs create an atmosphere of overmuch. Prospero’s supernatural powers are overly. However, even though Prospero has power, thus knowledge, he does not have the absolute truth. Knowledge is not an “objective” reality. It is “a process of subjective interpretation serving the will to power” (Tung, 5). According to Nietzsche, there is no absolute truth: all truths are interpretative “fictions”. For him, discourse goes with power while knowledge is power transmitted by discourse under the control of power. Powerful individuals or institutes are capable of making truth, morality, and values that come from false consciousness or “regime of falsity” in Foucault’s terminology (Tung, 7). Thus, real truth can be ascertained only when it is disinterested and in the absence of power relations (Hoy, 131). Thus, we can conclude from this that there is never one absolute true discourse and that any reality is always viewed through the lenses of ideology, as Zizek would put it. Furthermore, Prospero seems to have superpowers that prevent him from being human: he has more supernatural powers than moral ones. It is as if his control over nature made him blind of the beauty of it. Prospero does not seem human anymore. This is why Cesaire’s Caliban yells: “Prospero is the Anti-Nature and I say down with the Anti-Nature!” (III, 2, p.42). His superpowers ended up blurring his heart, and consequently, his “humanity”. Even though Prospero has absolute power, it seems like technology (knowledge, alchemy) made him blind to moral power. At Shakespeare’s time, moral power had a huge importance in society. Morality makes humans human. Prospero’s lack of morality and compassion when he decides at first to get his revenge on his fellow human companions shows the dangers of technology and ideology. It is only when Ariel admits pitying them that Prospero starts regaining his humanity and acts “morally”. Indeed, Ariel is not human; he is a fairy. However, he seems to have more moral attitudes and humanity than Prospero himself.

Prospero ends up throwing away his magic in the end of the play. Why so? There are various explanations. The first explanation is a foucauldian one. Firstly, you can only exercise power on beings that are free because they have the possibility to resist. Resistance is the legitimizing instance of power (Poulard, 15). Freedom is both a condition and an effect of power (Foucault). Prospero controls everyone on the island. But everyone on the island is under Prospero’s power. They are all slaves at his mercy. Resistance seems vain because they are all overpowered and enslaved. Prospero realizes this and understands it is pointless to exercise power again on them (Tung, 24). This is why, in the end of The Tempest, all the other characters are so overpowered by him that it becomes meaningless to exercise power again on them. He forgives them, and by forgiveness, “reassures his state of sovereign” (Derrida). The second explanation is a broader post-structural one. Considering that Prospero is blind to his own ideological position, and only reprimands others’ positions; he doesn’t see the truth that is inherent to any ideological discourse. He becomes a simple medium to the diffusion of his own ideology. “Because everything in the system contributes to the dehumanization of the colonized, the colonizer has no choice but to identify himself more and more to his system, without which he is nothing” (Crépon, 46). Prospero realizes his submission to his own system of thought, to his own will to power, and that his power can be transgressed, and contains its own excess (Poulard, 12-13). Žižek expressly refers to ideology as ‘a social reality whose very existence implies the non-knowledge of its participants as to its essence’. Prospero’s illusion of power underlies the principle of invisibility (the term in psychoanalysis is “sublimation”). His knowledge of nature does not feed his social power (although it does have a positive impact on it). It is his ‘non-knowledge’ of his ideology that feeds his power and gives him substance. As the powerful ruler, he becomes the very condition of social reality. « While ideological sublimation underlies, regulates, and in the end justifies power relations, this constructive principle has an intrinsic flip side: by conditioning the whole of social experience, sublimation also necessarily embodies self-destruction » (Poulard, 13). We can conclude from this that the only reason why Prospero abandons his magical power, is because they destroyed his humanity (as demonstrated above) and made him face the Real, as traumatic as the Lacanian Real. The Real refers to “that which is authentic, the unchangeable truth in reference both to being/the Self and the external dimension of experience, also referred to as the infinite and absolute—as opposed to a reality based on sense perception and the material order” (Wikipedia). Lacan defines it as « the state of nature from which we have been forever severed by our entrance into language » (Definition the Real). The truth behind Prospero’s ideology has threatened his perception of reality, and his reality itself. He blames it on his magic. Thus, he decides to be more humanist and moral. Prospero used to see his power as absolute, and his discourse as an absolute truth. This is why the Real is so destructive and traumatic: it is because the perception of reality is not true; he does not control everything. When Prospero finally sees his discourse as ideological, it destroys him. His power is self-destructive, just like any power. Thus, we can finally conclude that Prospero does not have absolute power, as first observed above, but a limited one.

The Tempest, as being a play about power, is logically a play about resistance, since any exercise of power will inevitably result in some form of resistance as a reaction. “To exercise power on a non-resisting slave in chain is not to exercise power at all” (Tung, 27). Therefore, there can only be real power if there is at least someone resisting it. The most accurate example to illustrate this is the chess game. In chess games, to exercise power is not just to capture the other set of pieces. The power can only be considered as power if there is some form of resistance coming from the other player. In Shakespeare’s play, the first confrontation between Caliban and Prospero ends with Caliban obeying to Prospero after cursing him. There is not much physical resistance illustrated there. But there is a more important one: a resistance in language.

Caliban can’t fight Prospero physically, and he is forced to obey in order not to die. This is why Caliban must resolve himself to curse. “I must obey: his art is of such power, / It would control my dam’s god, Setebos, / and make a vassal of him » (Caliban, I,2). When Prospero mentions how Caliban is most unfit to live among civilized people because of his cursing, Caliban famously responds to his master: “You taught me language and my profit on’t is, / I know how to curse” (Shakespeare, I, 2). Cursing becomes the symbol of resistance for Caliban because it is the only thing he can do. And this resistance is particularly underlined in Cesaire’s version. The first word that Caliban says in the play is ‘Uhuru’, meaning ‘freedom’ in his native tongue. Prospero has prohibited Caliban of speaking his native tongue. Yet, Caliban still dares to utter them. His constant fight against Prospero in this adaptation illustrates clearly the theme of power struggle from the original play. Caliban represents the slave that becomes class conscious of the dominant ideology.

This quote is the first one in the play that introduces us to the concept of language, which is essential in theatre. In a play, the language and the discourse are the action. Likewise, each time Prospero asks Ariel to do something it is done immediately. It is as if Ariel became the action itself through Prospero’s orders. This is very well showed in the film, where Ariel is presented as a fairy that executes everything the second Prospero commands. The multiple successions of shots showing Ariel obeying and Prospero using magic illustrate this absolute power Prospero has. In the play it is a verbal power, but in cinema, this power is more than verbal. It constitutes the films and the shots themselves. Everything seems to be controlled by Prospero: the editing itself is directed by Prospero’s magic.

Prospero taught Caliban language with his books. Caliban expresses his awareness of the function of Prospero’s books as instruments of power and ideology by admitting: ‘First to possess his books, for without them / He’s but a sot’ (87-9). Foucault said that there is no absolute truth. In his mind, discourse goes with power while knowledge is power transmitted by discourse under the control of power. Here, the books represent knowledge. In Foucault’s logic, we can consider them to be instruments of ideology: they both liberate to a certain extent and enslave.[2] Language liberated Caliban. Caliban was taught language and therefore, got into society where he could communicate and socialize. In the previous quote, Caliban makes a good point at the violent responds of his master to his cursing: the only reason why he is cursing is because Miranda and Prospero taught him to use language. Caliban uses his master’s language against him: he seems to be more integrated in the colonial system of discourse. The slave now represents a dangerous threat to the established colonial system: he has appropriated himself “monstrously” the imperial language. Foucault theorized that power is an effect of difference. When Caliban learns the colonial language and uses it against his master, there is not much difference left between the two so-called different races. This similarity in language is really well illustrated in A Tempest by Aime Cesaire, where the speeches have the same register. This allows us to see more clearly the ideological differences, because we don’t need to pay attention to the different registers of the discourses. Actually, they speak in quite a colloquial language. Going back to the original play, we can see Caliban’s “coming of power” (social power that can liberate him) because the gap difference between him and Prospero is actually decreasing, and Prospero is considered to be the absolute power. Of course, this increase in power Caliban is subjected to is really negligible considering the absolute power of Prospero. They talk the same language but they have different discourses. This is why we talk of counter-discourse for Caliban, as he can express his ideological position in the same language as his opponent. Yet, as mentioned above, Foucault stated that power can only be power if there is something/someone to resist it. This is one of the reasons why Caliban’s counter-discourse only helps the dominant discourse to stay dominant. This makes Caliban a slave of the dominant discourse in a certain way. However, Caliban wins one thing as he creates a new discourse: Prospero’s discourse is not unique anymore, several discourses emerge; such as Ariel’s and Caliban’s. Unfortunately, we can’t neglect the fact that the presence of conflicting ideological discourses on the island is what allows a dominant ideology to sustain itself. The power of the ideological differences between the three subjects don’t rely much on language (they all talk the same language) but on the discourse.

Furthermore, if Caliban’s increase of power is so negligible, it’s because by learning the master’s language, he is learning to be a proper slave; that is, one which can understand his master’s orders. Cesaire stresses this reality; “You haven’t taught me anything at all! Except of course to jabber away in your language so as to understand your orders” (Caliban, I, 1, p.19). Prospero did not share his knowledge and power to his slave, precisely to maintain him in the status of slave. We can’t disregard the most relevant part of Caliban acquiring language: language enslaved Caliban. Caliban is not only a slave to Prospero but also to language, because language made him a slave. Caliban was taught with Prospero’s books. These books symbolize the language, and to a certain extent an ideological medium to spread the colonial discourse. All Caliban knows is how to curse: he is constantly resisting language, resisting the colonizer’s discourse to be free from it. Caliban is enslaved to Prospero’s books and, consequently, to language so he can’t free himself from the colonizer’s discourse. In A Tempest, Caliban seems to want freedom more than language or knowledge (and thus power): “What I want is (Shouting). “Freedom now!” (Caliban, 27). His freedom was destroyed by the colonizer’s language. « In this sense, the creature Caliban is the perfect medium for ideology as his whole social perception relies on the king/subject relation ». Caliban is unable to escape from the control of his master without finding an ideological symbol to substitute from Prospero’s: the bottle of alcohol, symbolizing anarchy. Stephano asks Caliban to kiss the book, pointing at the bottle. The bottle is the new ideology. Caliban is being subjected to a new ideology, which he welcomes gratefully: anything is better than Prospero. In the film, he kneels down to Trinculo, nearly kisses the two drunkards. He is a very sexualized and instinctive character.

However, Caliban’s conspiracies with the drunkards will necessarily fail as they keep Prospero’s ideology in the position of the dominant one. As several discourses emerge on the island, only Prospero’s side of the story seems to be taken seriously. “The emergence of several conflicting visions is what significantly allows us to identify ideology in The Tempest. Prospero’s dominant discourse feeds on the alternative voices contesting his authority, thus confirming the Foucauldian idea that resistance is the legitimizing instance of power” (Poulard, 15). Furthermore, language has power mostly because it tells truths, but it may have power, too, when it tells lie (Tung). As Prospero talks about his past in an informative discourse, he tries to justify his behavior and totalitarian use of power on the account of his moral duty. He rewrites the past, turns the story to his advantage, in order to construct a credible narrative that will justify his tyrannical actions against Caliban. This is pure ideology. Prospero rewrites the past in his advantage, describing Sycorax as a wicked, evil witch: “This damn’d witch Sycorax, / For mischiefs manifold and sorceries terrible ». In Cesaire’s version, she is described as “a hag! A witch from whom may God be thanked death has delivered us” (Prospero, I, 2, p.19). She is the one that put Ariel in a tree for twelve years, and he is the one who saved her, as a good moralist. In both versions, he constructs her portrait, as a way to look at his best: stressing her evilness, and indirectly his goodness. Sycorax is not there to contradict his story, so his power, discourse and status remain intact. Cesaire’s caliban points out to Prospero the consequences of colonialism: “you only think she’s dead because you think the earth itself is dead”. Prospero sees the land as his mean, already conquered “squeezed (…) and tossed away!” so dead (20). Prospero symbolizes the dominant ideology who uses the counter-ideology and the “moral duty” to turn situations in his advantage. ‘There is no ideology that does not assert itself by means of delimiting itself from another “mere ideology”’ (Zizek). When Prospero calls Ferdinand a “spy”, this lie permits him to pretend not knowing who Ferdinand is, and gives him a reason for challenging Ferdinand. When Caliban calls Prospero a tyrant, we have many elements in the play that points out the fact that Prospero is a truly tyrannical master. And even if Ariel denies it, this statement of Caliban justifies entirely his scheming with Stephano and Trinculo to kill Prospero. In Cesaire’s version, the frequent allusions to Prospero’s “thrashing” of Caliban, and to his “punishment” rationalizes Caliban’s search for emancipation. Plus, Ariel admits his master’s “injustice” (27).


Many post-colonial writers have interpreted The Tempest in a post-colonial way.


“I mean that if the island is inhabited, as I believe it is, and if we colonise it, as is my wish, then we must shy away, as if from the plague, from importing here our defaults, yes, what we call civilization. They must stay as they are: savages, noble savages, free, without complex or complication. Something like a pool of eternal youth where we could come at intervals to revive our drooping urban spirits.”

(A Tempest, Gonzalo, II, 2, p. 30).


Racism is the logical consequence of colonialism. Because it is out of the question to give the colonized the same rights as the colonizer, the whole system does not have any other choice than to treat them as subhuman. If it is true that the “racism is already there, put to power by the colonialist praxis, produced by the colonial machine, maintained by the relations of production” (Crepon, 46), we need to understand that the whole system has no other solution and no other purpose than of defining and keeping radically separated two sorts of people. To the colonial situation, Sartre applies after Memmi, the Hegelian dialectic of the master and slave: “Because everything in the system contributes to the dehumanization of the colonized, the colonizer has no choice but to identify himself more and more to his system, without which he is nothing” (Crépon, 46). To truly criticize the system, you have to demystify everything that the official dominant discourse of colonialism (its ideology) is claiming to fame. This is what Aime Cesaire does. As demonstrated earlier, there is no absolute truth. When several discourses emerge on the island, only Prospero’s so-called “absolutely true” version remains the dominant discourse despite its unreliability. This “bias” have allowed post-colonial author Aime Cesaire to counter-discourse Shakespeare in A Tempest. The Shakespeare’s Caliban has always been pointed out as referring to the word ‘cannibal’. Indeed, Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals was very famous at the time Shakespeare wrote his play so it is most probable that Shakespeare deliberately called his character so. Therefore, Caliban, portrayed as a half-animal slave, represents the emerging colonial discourse of the time. In Cesaire’s play, Caliban is a “brave monster” (Stephano, 43). In a similar way, in the film, Caliban seems clearly to be half animal and half human, half white and half black, adopting animal behaviors like climbing on the walls to escape from the burning dogs, whereas Trinculo and Stephano climb stairs (nature vs culture). It is really obvious that Caliban was not meant to be mean and evil, but brave and nice, waiting for a new gentle master to take care of him. In the original version, Caliban did not have to be black. In Aime Cesaire’s readaptation of The Tempest for black theatre, Cesaire explores the modern idea of “what if” Caliban was black (Rahman, 3). He tries to demystify the myth of the ‘niggers’ through negritude, by the characterization of Caliban in a counter discursive way. He pulls to pieces the dominant discourse. The dominant colonial discourse of the time was one of the colonizers. Cesaire rewrites the Tempest in his own style to express his post-colonial ideas, and becomes the alter ego of Caliban, character through which he counters Prospero, and Shakespeare’s misrepresentations about the blacks. [3] Ariel represents in this version the dominant discourse, the one who follows blindly the “American dream” waiting for the promise of his freedom. Caliban notices this and says : “A fine job: carrying out the lofty thoughts of the master” (II, 1, p.26). Caliban has become politically wise and aware. In politics, representation describes how some individuals stand in for others or a group of others, for a certain time period. ‘Representation’ politics produced the familiar, long term myths about laziness, deceit and inhumanness of slaves. We can see this fact from the power-knowledge point of view also. Michel Foucault argues that certain authorities who possess power in society produce knowledge about those who lack power (Nayar, 2008, p.55). Prospero produces the image of Caliban as an animal with his insults: “you foul monkey” (Césaire, I, 2, p.19).



The Tempest is a play about power relations and its various interpretations have all stressed this major aspect. There are several powers described in the shakespearian play: political, intellectual, supernatural and physical power. The class war is expressed in each interpretations and adaptations through discourse (Aime Cesaire), costumes and sets (Julie Taymor). All the characters possess the nietzschean will to power, to exercise power. The island has transformed itself in a Panopticon, where Prospero is the guardian, the eye of the island. His absolute power relies on his physical and ideological transparence, invisibility. The film illustrates this through major editing effects. Furthermore, it is a modern adaptation that illustrates women’s empowerment nowadays and how our society is much more open to female power. Indeed throughout history women have been seeking for power. In the original play, Prospero wants knowledge to exercise power over nature and human, to master in alchemy or witchcraft. He taught Caliban with his books so as his slave could obey him. This allows Prospero’s discourse to be maintained dominant for a while. Prospero has no other aim than to maintain the gap difference between him and his slave. Caliban has been liberated from language but enslaved too. He represents the figure of resistance to the established system, desperately seeking for a new master. When he starts cursing and resisting Prospero, his discourse is heard and Prospero’s one is questioned. Therefore, Cesaire rewrites the Tempest in his own style to express his post-colonial ideas, and becomes the alter ego of Caliban, character through which he counters Prospero, and Shakespeare’s misrepresentations about the blacks. Cesaire’s Prospero is similar to Taymor’s in various ways; they both seem to clearly stress Prospero’s hate for Caliban and add allusions to beatings and punishment.




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  • The Tempest. Dir. Julie Taymor. Perf. Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Reeve Carney, Alfred Molina, Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsou, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Tom Conti, David Strathairn and Ben Whishaw. Touchstone Pictures, 2010. DVD.


  • Césaire, Aimé, Richard Miller, and William Shakespeare. A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Adaptation for a Black Theatre. New York: TCG Translations, 2002. Print.


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[1] Sensations that can elevate you.

[2] Powerful individuals or institutes are capable of making truth, morality, and values that come from false consciousness or “regime of falsity” in Foucault’s terminology. Thus, real truth can be ascertained only when it is disinterested and in the absence of power relations (Hoy 131)

[3] Misrepresentations here mean the general western ideology and stereotypes of the other culture.