Exploitation of Minor Characters in the Hands of Power-Hungry Isolated Individuals

Between the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare and the novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, the two bear striking similarities while also displaying stark contrasts. In regards to the two protagonists of either work, Prospero and Robinson Crusoe, the works aim to reinforce the wrongful separation of both characters from their homeland, whether by natural occurrences or  the work of an orchestrated ostracism. Because of these similar tropes, the ideas regarding physical and other forms of separation and the idea of this separation causing one to invoke power and government; whether over oneself or others.

In both works, slavery is a principal factor in regards to the newly formed “governments” of either narrative. For example, althogough both Prospero and Robinson Crusoe are isolated on islands, the opportunities both view as to be beneficial to themselves is to seize power and manipulate and control their “subjects” in whichever way they see fit. This seizing of power manifests itself in the acquiring of slaves. For Prospero, Ariel becomes the vehicle by which Prospero conducts his magical activity; forcing Ariel to do his bidding and to beguile the other inhabitants of the island as he sees fit. For Robinson Crusoe, Friday. Both are in positions of servitude and essentially slavery due to the circumstances surrounding their “salvation”. Ariel is recovered from Sycorax by Prospero and is then enslaved and Friday is made safe by Crusoe after Friday is nearly consumed by his fellow cannibals. The situational aspect of both of these seemingly voluntary characters to be made servile is one of the most profound features of either work. Although Crusoe seemingly becomes a master of himself during his shipwreck and seizes power after he comes to the island, he cannot do so without subjecting others to slavery. Like in The Tempest, the context lends itself to Crusoe’s power-hungry nature having an alley through which to channel itself. “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 looked. First of all, the whole country was my own mere property…” This quotation truly emphasizes the degree to which Crusoe becomes infatuated with the idea of power towards the end of the novel. As he viewed Friday, the entire island was wrongfully viewed as “property”.

Throughout the two works, the wrongful assumption that individuals must be led and conquered is apparent while the main characters of both The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe subject those they view as “lesser” or “foreign” to be their slaves.

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One response to “Exploitation of Minor Characters in the Hands of Power-Hungry Isolated Individuals

  1. stperry1

    The connection described in this post between owning the land these individuals live on and having subjects to inhabit it is very interesting. I had not though that much about the fact that simply being “in charge” of the island wasn’t enough. Although both Prospero and Robinson Crusoe were essentially the most educated and productive individuals on the island, it was not enough to know they had control of their surroundings by utilizing their own minds. The thing that seemed to make both of them happier than anything was having a loyal subject to order around. For Robinson Crusoe having companionship was important, however, he did not truly view Friday as his companion which is clear by the fact that he taught Friday the word “Master” before anything else. Clearly being all powerful had to include subjugating other humans or else neither of these characters would have felt complete.

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