The Tempest can be seen as an allegorical play on colonialism and its effect on both coloniser - Prospero - a guardian figure - coloniser/settler who flees his homeland to conquer the new primitive world to lord over its captive subjects, dilusionally fulfilling the “white man’s burden to civilise the world. Caliban, the indigenous savage slave, represents the ungrateful recipient of paternalistic imperialism, sometimes portrayed as the “noble savage”. Shakespeare gives him the most poetic lines to this “barbaric” captive colonial subject.
Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not,
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That if I then had wak’d after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d
I cried to dream again.
Caliban refuses to submit to the colonisers, “I know how to curse”; he dreams of escape as testament to indigenous pride, dignity, self-worth, yearning and triumph - a capacity to create beauty in the face of impotence. Caliban recreates himself through the power of language - poetry.
Imaginative Journeys in the Tempest #
Journeys are undertaken for a variety of reasons; to explore new territory, for adventure, to escape, to look at life from a different perspective and above all as a Quest for knowledge, to discover who we are. Karl Jung, a student of Freud, examined the archetypal journey of the hero who proves his valour on a long journey performing impossible tasks, battling monsters, solving unanswerable riddles and overcoming insurmountable obstacles to save the kingdom and perhaps marry the princess. The hero, in passing from innocence (ignorance) to adulthood (maturity) goes through three stages, separation, transformation and return. Journeys enlighten us. There are three kinds of journeys; Physical, inner, and imaginative. We will deal with literature’s imaginative ones.
Imagination is derived from the word image, a mental picture. Our imaginations need to be stimulated with images or triggers that allow the mind to suspend reality and float through a series of random thoughts. Word association, images and incantatory spells grip us and we are carried along in magic imaginary journeys with the composer.
Creative writers extol the power of the imagination over that of logic. Logic appeals to the mind, but imagination is more holistic, affecting the mind, the senses, the emotions and the visceral. Through imagination we are taken on journeys that pierce the exterior and penetrate to the core, and conceive the real essence of things, especially in nature. Through fantasy, illusion, myth we can escape dreary reality and fancifully live in an alternative world which can become more real to us than the actual one. Modern technology attempts to create artificial or virtual realities.