Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe share many themes, notably the ideas of slavery and social class. In Robinson Crusoe, one of the first instances of slavery occurs during Crusoe’s second sea voyage in which he was captured by Moorish pirates, and then enslaved in the town of Sallee. Ironically, after having previously experienced being a slave himself, Crusoe becomes eager for slave labor and sets up an expedition to West Africa. I find this very troubling that a former slave could want to make another human being their slave. Slavery is also rampant throughout The Tempest, with the obvious slaves and other characters seemingly enslaved by Prospero.
Another account of slavery occurs when Crusoe saves a man, and in return he then vows total submission to him. Crusoe choose his name, Friday, and takes him as his personal servant. The separation in social class is made apparent between the two as Crusoe states, “I likewise taught him to say Master; and then let him know that was to be my name”. (Defoe 23) Crusoe never considers Friday as an equal or as a friend. The idea of social class is also apparent on the island of The Tempest as there exists a division between royalty and the others who are either servants, counselor, or slaves. In each of the texts, at some point a character thinks of themselves as a ruler or “king” of the island. This is seen with the arrival of the English ship and Crusoe believing, “My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looks” (Defoe 25). This theme of who is in charge goes hand in hand, with the ideas of enslavement and social class.