Rex De Asis
Eng 399
Professor Buell
September 26, 2010

The Corruption of Technology and Power
In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest magic becomes a form of technology which man uses for his own selfish intentions. The play’s protagonist Prospero, engages in studying magic and loses focus on his duties as royalty. His fascination with books became more important than his obligations. Studying these books became his method to obtaining knowledge and control of magic as a technology. Throughout the story Prospero uses magic to dictate and control the lives of others to his own liking. He enslaves two characters Ariel and Caliban, using them as tools to improve himself. In addition Prospero dictates the lives of his daughter Miranda and her love Ferdinand into a destiny which the two have no control over. These selfish notions illustrate Prospero’s lack of consideration for the well being of others and their free will. His involvement with technology brings forth an emergence of a new character, one which is detached, corrupt and interested in using technology to meet his own desires.
When focusing on magic and technology in The Tempest it is important to understand the distinction between two types of magic, mystical magic and technological magic. The distinction between these two can be found by tracing the origin of that specific type of magic. Mystical magic is magic that has a “divine meaning that transcends human understanding,” while technological magic relates to human advancement pertaining to science or industry. Prospero’s magic resembles technology more than mystical magic. Magic is a “mystical force and a force of power.” Technology on the other hand is “advanced knowledge which evolves from the human desire to meet an end, designed and used to improve the lives of people.” It can involve science, mechanics and is either artificial or manmade.
The Tempest is a storm crafted and controlled by magic of Prospero and his servant spirit Ariel. However the foundation of Prospero’s magic is not Ariel alone but is taken from the technology of books. Prospero is able to read the content of books, store it as knowledge and later use it to create magic. The play opens with Prospero using the Tempest to destroy a ship and separate characters in order to carry out his plans. While storms are generally uncontrollable and somewhat unpredictable, Prospero is able to conjure and control its wrath through his knowledge of books. The Tempest is a form of technology Prosper uses as magic through literacy and comprehension of books. While knowing how to use the power of magic corrupts Prospero his focus on reading books and understanding magic aids his survival and ascendance on the island.
Detachment/Obsession
In the beginning of the play we find Prospero’s use of magic as a spectacle but we are not aware of his intentions or his past. Prospero involvement with magic leads to his detachment from obligation. Prospero was the sovereign ruler of Milan until his brother Alonso conspired with Antonio to remove him from his dukedom. They believed Prospero had flaws due to his priorities of reading books over his duties as royalty. When Prospero explains his past to Miranda and how they came ashore to the island, he certifies his true values of books.
“Gonzalo, out of his charity did give us, with rich garments, linens, stuffs, and necessaries which since have steaded much. So, of his gentleness, knowing I loved my books, he furnished me from mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom.” (I.II. 161-168)
Prospero admits to Miranda that he “prizes” his “volumes” above his dukedom. The idea that Prospero holds more value for his books over all the necessities Gonzalo packed for him seems absurd. These necessities included garments and other items key to their survival. In a logical sense reading is not a necessity to survival upon being stranded on an island thus illustrating the obsessed character of Prospero.
Shaping and Selfishness
Prospero’s daughter Miranda dwells in a realm where her freedom of choice has been revoked. Not only is Miranda’s life guided by fragmented and selected insights of Prospero’s memory but she is oblivious to her role in Prospero’s plan to marry her off to Ferdinand. Ferdinand, the son of Alonso, also mirrors Miranda who has a simple and naïve nature. Like Miranda he authentically falls in love without recognizing his love was all part of a plan constructed by Prospero. Prospero, who gives Miranda his personal insights to the world explains his life in the kingdom before being betrayed by his brother and set to die at sea. He discusses his evil brother Alonso who he criticizes for his selfish desires. He portrays the story with emphasis on his brother’s betrayal.
“O’erprized all popular rate, in my false brother awaked an evil nature; and my trust, like a good parent, did beget of him a falsehood in its contrary as great as my trust was, which had indeed no limit, a confidence sans abound. He being thus lorded, not only with what my revenue yielded, but what my power might else exact, like one who, having into truth by telling of it, made such a sinner of his memory” (I.II. 92-101)
By providing Miranda with selective memories Prospero is able to shape her personality and thoughts paralleling the way he is able to craft the storm, unnaturally. Knowledge and control are essential to his control whether he was controlling an element of nature or another human being. Prospero glorifies himself while creating the idea that justice has not been served. Miranda is susceptible to Prospero’s influence because he manages to instill his own beliefs into her mind. He manages to shape Miranda’s future with technology and control.
Tyranny and Selfishness
Magic transforms Prospero into a subtle tyrant who seeks dominance at the cost of others well being. He becomes selfish and using knowledge of magic as a corrupt form of technology. Knowing how to control magic gives its user power and control. While Prospero does not harm others he uses Ariel and Caliban as a stepping stone to improve himself. Ariel is not so much an individual but is used by Prospero as a machine. Ariel is like a computer because he takes commands, completes a task and monitors progress. When Prospero calls Ariel by saying “Come with a thought I thank thee, Ariel: come.” Ariel enters and says “Thy thoughts I cleave to. What’s thy pleasure?” This illustrates his obedience as a machine with no thought. Ariel becomes another form of technology to be used Prospero. This exemplifies the notion that magic can really detach any being essentially from being. Ariel’s nature becomes to just carry out certain tasks and duties, just as Prospero’s entire being becomes fixated on executing specific plans in order to achieve his goals.
When Prospero teaches Caliban language and civility he subjugates him to his control. Although Prospero improves Caliban’s literacy and manners, there is a strong feeling of animosity from Caliban as he parallels the colonized individuals of post-colonialism theories. Caliban states: “You taught me language; and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language!” (I.II.363-364) During times of post-colonialism, many colonized people feel they were better off with their status before the arrival of colonizers because they maintained their own values and beliefs without being under subject to outside control. Consequently, Prospero believes he is rightfully greater than Caliban and takes control of his island as well as Caliban himself. Prospero usurps Caliban of his island parallels Prospero’s own banishment from his dukedom. Caliban says to Prospero: “As I told thee before, I am subject to a tyrant, A sorcerer, that by his cunning hath cheated me of the island.” (III.II. 40-42) By now Prospero has become so corrupt that he does the same thing Alonso did to him.
Prospero devotes his attention to magic and books, Miranda follows the ideals of her father, Caliban obeys Prospero and Ariel displays his servitude to Prospero. Prospero has ascended higher than the regular man with his ability to control beings and create premeditated futures through his use of technology. He is technologically advanced and aware of innovations of books that he understands can benefit his daily life. This technology however can be harmful because it is derived from a hunger for power and control.
Conclusion
The main purpose of technology is to alter and improve nature, but Prospero uses this to shape and improve his surroundings to his liking. Prospero’s involvement with magic leads to his detachment, selfishness, and tyranny throughout the entire play. Magic detaches Prospero from society, duty, family, and obligation. It is only after completing his goals and meeting his ends is Prospero able to detach himself from that technology. Prospero’s actions with magic mirrors the Tempest he created because of its unnatural artificial existence. The fates of characters around Prospero had been influenced by his magic and manipulation. Prospero deprives others of natural existence by manipulating them and tampering with their fates. Prospero led a corrupt life because his desires influenced him to use magic for self interest without regard for others. While Technology had corrupted Prospero, by the end of the play Prospero sets his peasants free, rids himself of magic and faces the audience for judgment. Disengagement from technology brought Prospero to a moral state away from selfish desires.

Works Cited
1. Shakespeare, William. Peter Hulme and William H. Sherman. The Tempest: Sources and Contexts, Criticism, Rewritings and Appropriations. New York: Norton
Print 2004.
2. “magic.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Oct. 2010. .
3. “technology.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Oct. 2010. .

Add comment October 4, 2010

Summer Solstice, New York city

Sharon Olds poem Summer Solstice, New York City

Summer Solstice, New York city The fact that this poem occurs on the longest day of the year signifies the speakers feeling of time. For he “could not stand it” The day was unbearable making him desperate and suicidal. His life hung on the edge of a building as others witnessed his desperate action. As cops came to assess the situation, the speaker viewed them in their “suits blue-grey as the sky on a cloudy evening” referencing that he associated the cops with nature as they blended in with the color of the clouds. As the cops began to “lurk toward the man who wanted to die” they used technology to try and stop him from killing himself. The ironic part is that the man is using a building, one of the most significant forms of technology that has formed the scenic New York society while another form of technology, while the “hairy net” was being implemented to try and save his life. The juxtaposition of life and death through the use of technology illustrates both the good uses and dangers of technology to mankind. While a man became desperate to die, the net serves as a the controller of fate. This net was “stretched as the sheet is prepared to receive at a birth” showing that if the suicidal man did jump off the ledge this net would have intervened and stop his journey to the afterlife.

After halting this man’s suicide attempt we could normally expect to find punishment or resentment for his actions but this was not the case. They didn’t punish him as “a mother whose child has been lost will scream at the child when it’s found” instead the cops lit a cigarette and they all smoked together. In my opinion this final moment together illustrates that the society was just happy to be together. The cigarettes were described as lit, red, and having glowing ends which burned like the tiny campfires we lit at night back at the beginning of the world. They reference back to fire being used as one of the first forms of technology for warmth and survival. The idea of all the men smoking the cigarettes together signifies a higher understanding for the involvement of technology in our societies.

2 comments October 4, 2010

Summer Solstice, New York city

Rex De Asis

Sharon Olds poem Summer Solstice, New York City

Summer Solstice, New York city

The fact that this poem occurs on the longest day of the year signifies the speakers feeling of time.  For he “could not stand it” The day was unbearable making him desperate and suicidal.  His life hung on the edge of a building as others witnessed his desperate action.  As cops came to assess the situation, the speaker viewed them in their “suits blue-grey as the sky on a cloudy evening” referencing that he associated the cops with nature as they blended in with the color of the clouds.  As the cops began to “lurk toward the man who wanted to die” they used technology to try and stop him from killing himself.  The ironic part is that the man is using a building, one of the most significant forms of technology that has formed the scenic New York society while another form of technology, while the “hairy net” was being implemented to try and save his life.  The juxtaposition of life and death through the use of technology illustrates both the good uses and dangers of technology to mankind.  While a man became desperate to die, the net serves as a the controller of fate.  This net was “stretched as the sheet is prepared to receive at a birth” showing that if the suicidal man did jump off the ledge this net would have intervened and stop his journey to the afterlife.

After halting this man’s suicide attempt we could normally expect to find punishment or resentment for his actions but this was not the case.  They didn’t punish him as “a mother whose child has been lost will scream at the child when it’s found” instead the cops lit a cigarette and they all smoked together.  In my opinion this final moment together illustrates that the society was just happy to be together.  The cigarettes were described as lit, red, and having glowing ends which burned like the tiny campfires we lit at night back at the beginning of the world.  They reference back to fire being used as one of the first forms of technology for warmth and survival.  The idea of all the men smoking the cigarettes together signifies a higher understanding for the involvement of technology in our societies.  During this final scene technology manages to unite men without condition.

Add comment September 20, 2010

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