Exile and Colonialism in The Tempest: Prospero’s Powers and Identities Revisited

Yi-chin Huang


Among the wide and diverse readings of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last complete full play, much attention has been drawn to its colonialist implications and aspects. Prospero, the deposed Milanese Duke, is a European subject who has been exiled to an alien island and then become the ruler of the people and creatures there. The play’s representation of Prospero’s relations and interactions with the earlier inhabitants of the island, Ariel and Caliban, and most importantly its contemporary context of the onset of Europe’s colonial activities, reveal the significance of the underlying colonial discourse. When it comes to Prospero’s multifaceted relations with Ariel, Caliban, and the island, however, a reading focussed on his identity as an exile provides more insight into the play’s representations of the intersected issues and undertakings of exile and colonialism. Given the significant overlap of Prospero’s state of exile with his identity as a colonizer, it is worthwhile to see his encountering and interactions with the island’s earlier inhabitants through the prism of exile, with consideration of the ideological significance of exile in Shakespeare’s time.


exile; colonialism; The Tempest; Shakespeare studies; political power

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