Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest: Slavery and Racism

           In both The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe, we see slavery and racism occur at its most. Both novels involve a character/characters being treated unfairly or as a servant by another character in the novel. In comparison, they (slavery and racism) both occur similarly and differently throughout the two novels. In The Tempest, both racism and slavery centers aroung Caliban, who is constantly teased about his appearance and called a beast while being enslaved. In Robinson Crusoe, we see slavery occur when Crusoe’s ship is taken over by the Moorish pirates and he becomes enslaved by them.

        Slavery is similar in these two novels because in both novels, a character is taken into enslavement by another individual. In The Tempest, Caliban is a servant of Prospero and in Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe is a slave of the Moorish pirates. They differ because Caliban is only one of the many servants Prospero has, whereas Crusoe is the only slave of a group of pirates. Throughout Robinson Crusoe, we see him trying to escape towards freedom. 

     Racism occurs in both novels as well. We see Caliban being teased and called a “beast”, not even considered being a human. Then Crusoe after being captured as a slave by the Moorish pirates, he still classifies himself as “above” his owners. He looks down on most throughout the novel, feeling he is the “best” and no one comes above him. He even teaches his parent to become self-awared of him and recites “Poor Robin Crusoe…where have you been?” This quote goes to show Crusoe is very aware of hisself and wants others to be so, as well.

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3 responses to “Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest: Slavery and Racism

  1. smboehm

    In expanding the above post, I’d like to say that the ideal of slavery and racism towards slaves is very prevalent, actually to the point that both main characters, Prospero and RC, own slaves themselves. RC becomes so desperate for a slave (also a companion) that he rescues a native in effort for his own benefit, yet still feels the need to talk him down seeming that he isn’t English. The need to be the dominant individual is seen in both of these readings not only through slavery, but through the fact that they both consider themselves rulers/kings of the islands upon which they dwell. Slaves, although viewed inferior by both characters, truly give each character a feeling of leadership and companionship.

  2. gpwestland

    In addition to the blog. I would like to say that indeed slavery is an important theme. However it seems to me that both authors differ in how they go about adressing this issue.

    It seems to me that in the Tempest, Shakespeare constructs a character, Calliban, through wich he strongly wants to vent his opinion on Slavery. Most interpretations see this as shakespeare’s motive.

    In Robinson Crusoe, I feel that Defoe does want to adres the issue of slavery but not as sternly as Shakespeare does.

    Also Defoe depicts Slavery fro an opposite point as Robinson gets enslaved by the Pirates. While being enslaved Robinso still feels superior to the Pirates. Thus, Defoe emphasizes western pride and undelines the pirates savageness. In the Tempest it is more the other way around. Shakespeare shows Prospero as the cruel enslaver en Calliban as more or less the victim.

  3. vrosengrant20

    In addition to the slavery and racism discussed in the post, the racism in both texts affects how the enslaved characters are portrayed. For instance, Caliban, a native, is portrayed negatively with his beast-like appearance along with how he tried to rape Miranda and corrupt Stephano into killed Prospero. This causes the audience to hate Caliban and be happy when he is punished. In contrast with Caliban is Crusoe who is a European and portrayed as hard-working and intelligent. This characterization provokes the audience into rooting for him as he escapes his moor owners. While both characters have been enslaved, their race affects how they are characterized in order to have the audience indulge their racism and only support the freedom of their own race.

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