'The Tempest' and the Discourse of Colonialism

G.A. Wilkes


If the study of Shakespeare itself can be viewed as an act of cultural imperialism, a play like The Tempest can readily be seen as a text which is complicit with colonial power. Prospero is the usurping invader, nervous about the legitimacy of his rule, and Caliban is the representative of the subjugated race, his language lessons seen as an attempt to eradicate his own culture, or to bring it under imperialist control. The best way of entry into this debate is still Stephen Greenblatt's essay of 1976, 'Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century', though its implications may not yet have been fully grasped.

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