Shakespeare’s Tempest debating Civilized Man vs Natural Man

Shakespeare wrote many works in his life. One of his most famous works is the Tempest. In the Tempest there is a big debate on whether “civilized man” or the “natural man” was the superior one. At first people of the past thought of the natural man as being savage, brutal, and in his mind he was noble and had just as much control as the civilized man[Williams, p.171].

Later people thought the natural man as being uneffected by anything which earned him the

term “noble savage”. He was also thought of as being corrupt and greatly effected by events[Williams, p.172]. Just as Montaigue says in his famous apologia for the natural man that it might be more barbaric to “mangle by tortures and torments a body full of lively sense under pretense of pietie and religion than to roast and eat him after he is dead”[Shakespeare, p.98].

Shakespeare does not take either side in the Tempest . The “natural man” is savage, intemperate, and brutal, incapable of higher reasoning and lacking the intelligence for nurture to “stick”[Barron, p.79]. While Shakespeare’s portrayal is not totally unsympathetic, Shakespeare is very far from being admirable and far from being a “noble savage”. However Shakespeare does show how Antonio’s conscious choice of evil even though he was suppose to have born of a “good womb” upbringing[Ching, p.147]. However Shakespeare does not show signs of corruption in the civilized world because that would suggest a side being taken to the argument.

With all of this the debate between art and nature takes place. Art prefers to Prospero’s magic, which he uses to control nature. However while Prospero’s art can be said to imply the self-discipline, temperance, and virtue required to practice it, “Art” can also refer, in a wider sense, to the enlightened, refined intellect that can only be found with the advantages that civilization offers[Ching, p.165]. Because of this Antonio’s intelligence can be thought of as just as much form as Prospero’s which is more a form for self-interest, and to sense evil. Because of this art is thought of as more dangerous[Ching, p.166]. “So much more terrible is the sun of the nobleman who abrases below the natural”[Shakespeare, p.123], Antonio replies at the end of the piece of literature. Antonio is more evil then others such as Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo combined. Also not because of the way he grew up but because of his form of art he must try to get Prospero good again as well[Barron, p.93].

Nature is shown in Caliban, even though he is to “indicate corruption and degeneracy in the civilized world”, and he is suppose to be a “virtuous shepherd of normal pastoral”, Caliban behaves in accordance with his instinctual urges[Ching, p.98]. But thankfully Caliban’s behavior is a lot less worrying then Antonio’s. He does not have any power or he will not when he is back in Milan. The same thing happens with Stephano and Trinculo, even though they are bound to “Nature”, there is not must intimidation by a
butler and a jester. All three lack because they can so easily be controlled. Their “natural” tendencies are, moreover, less distressing than antonio’s taste for evil, since none had the advantages of birth and breeding[Ching, p.157]. Caliban, because of parenting alone is at a disadvantage because he born of an incubus and a witch. This is leading to Caliban not even being human[Ching, p.159]. They can be accused of a lot of things but being evil is certainly not one of them although you can not say the same thing about Antonio. This fact may perhaps partially account for Prospero’s acknowledgement of Caliban at the end of the play and his relatively cold treatment of Antonio, whom he forgives, but does not speak much to[Barron, p.99].

With all this, the Tempest presents “nature” as being far from the idealistic image created by Montaigne and those who thought similarly[Ching, p.203]. Although if you really look at art then you will see that it can be just as dangerous if misused. If art is used properly, however, it can control nature and curb its baser urges or at least prevent them from being carried out[Ching, p.204]. While the need for control over nature is shown , the ending suggests that art must come to terms with nature, as shown when at the end Caliban;s relationship with Prospero seems to be more stable and more reassuring than the resentment-filled extremely uneasy jailor-prisoner relationship shown earlier [Ching, p.204].

Besides from Shakespeare’s later life his early life is quite interesting also. He was the parish register of Holy Trinity Church, and was baptized there on April 26, 1564; his birthday is traditionally celebrated on April 23. His father, John Shakespeare, was a burgess of the borough, who in 1565 was chosen an alderman and in 1568 bailiff. At the age of eighteen Shakespeare married “Anne Hathaway of Stratford”. Anne died after seven years of marriage. There are records that show that William had a daughter named Susanna, and later had twins named Hamnet and Judith [Gwinn, p.265]. In William’s private life he bought properties in London and Stratford. In 1605 he bought one-fifth of the Stratford tithes. Shakespeare’s will, which was made on March 25, 1616 is a very long and detailed document. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 so there is some speculation that William was on his death bed at the time of the will being written. No name was inscribed on his gravestone in the channel of the parish church of Stratford-upon-Avon. Instead thes lines were inscribed on it “ Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear to dig the dust enclosed here. Blest be the man that spares these stones. And curst be he that moves my bones” [Gwinn, p.266].