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Essay Comparing The Tempest And The Lion King

0:51 Essay Comparing The Tempest And The L…. X Essay Comparing The Tempest And The Lion King By William Shakespeare, born on April 15, 1564, left behind a legacy when he passed away four hundred years back, on April 23rd, 1616. It was through his work, that Shakespeare created his own empire of sorts. An empire that still lives on through the many poems, sonnets and plays he wrote. Over the years, many of his plays, especially The Tempest (1610) have been reimagined and rewritten, allowing the play to keep up with the changing times. These adaptations either challenge, extend or reinforce Shakespeare’s work.

One such adaptation is the film The Tempest (2010) by Julie Taymor. Julie Taymor, born on December 15, 1952, in Newton, Massachusetts, is an Academy Award-nominated playwright, designer and a director of the theater with her much-known work being Broadway’s The Lion King. By looking at elements such as gender, sacrifice, and sexism, in this essay, I will analyze Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Julie Taymor’s adaptation and focus on how this movie challenges the gender hierarchy seen in Shakespeare’s The Tempest by comparing Prospera, Prospero and Miranda.

Furthermore, I will establish that the changes made in the movie, empower women rather than show them as subordinate to men. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero, the protagonist is a powerful sorcerer who is banished to an island along with his daughter Miranda. On this island, he enslaves Caliban, a monster, and Ariel, a spirit. The whole play revolves around Prospero’s plot of revenge against his brother Antonio, who took the title “Duke of Milan” from Prospero and forced him to flee his country.

In order to take his revenge, Prospero creates a tempest for the boat carrying onboard the King of Naples, Ferdinand, Antonio, Alonso and Gonzalo, who were returning from a wedding from Italy. Hence the title of the play, The Tempest is an important element of the play since the storm not only symbolizes Prospero’s anger towards his brother, who took away his rights and privileges of a Duke but enforces Prospero’s need for revenge. Furthermore, the entire story depends on this storm.

Without the tempest, the king and the men against whom Prospero was upset, would have never reached the island, since the tempest allows these characters to reach the island, inhabited by Prospero. With the knowledge of magical powers and help from his slaves, Prospero plots his revenge against his brother, only to forgive him and the others, freeing his slaves Caliban and Ariel and returning back to Milan at the end. Four hundred years later in 2010, Julie Taymor directed “The Tempest”, an adaptation of the play.

The majority of the plot is the same as the play, and some might even say that the movie is “a straight film version of Shakespeare” (Ralph) with the same themes such as forgiveness, sorcery, revenge and slavery. However, Taymor makes changes in the movie that helps explore concepts such as female power and challenges the idea of gender hierarchy visible in the play. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest Prospero, the protagonist is a powerful male sorcerer, however in the movie, Taymor casts Prospero as Prospera, a female lead played by Helen Mirren.

By doing so Taymor not only explores “female leadership” (Turner 690) but also “makes a gender reassignment and stitches together” (Turner 691) the story through Prospera and Miranda’s perspective, making them powerful characters and allowing the film to focus more on female dominance and power, rather than male supremacy. The era in which Shakespeare wrote, The Tempest was an era where male dominance was very prominent. Women were given less or hardly any rights at that time and were bound by the male figures in their life, either their fathers or husbands.

Women were not allowed to gain any profits from the land that they owned, they were not allowed to write their will without the approval of their husbands and “a mother had no legal right over the guardianship of her children” (Rose 293) if it was not mentioned by the husband in his will. This can be clearly seen in The Tempest where Miranda is depended on her father to protect her and teach her, showing not only the subordination of females to males but also their dependency on them.

In short, Shakespeare’s era was a patriarchal society and it is therefore not surprising to see that The Tempest and other Shakespeare’s plays have strong and controlling male roles and subjugated female roles. Since The Tempest was written during a time where men were considered to be the dominant figures and women were oppressed, it is not astonishing to see that Miranda is the only leading female character in the play. She lives on the island with her father and does everything he instructs her to do. In the play, Prospero briefly mentions Miranda’s mother who “was a piece of virtue” (Temp. . 2. 56) and Sycorax who Prospero considered to be a “devil” (Temp. 1. 2. 318). Throughout the play, Sycorax is considered to be a threat by Prospero. Sycorax, a strong female of color and the ruler of the island before Prospero, threatens the concept of a patriarchal dominant society and goes against the idea of the conventional woman in Shakespeare’s era. While Sycorax, signifies a powerful colored woman, Miranda symbolizes the women of Shakespeare’s day, a white, innocent, shy, dependent girl who looked for her father’s approval for everything.

However, in Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest, Miranda is subtly given more power through the opening scene where the audience can see Miranda holding a sandcastle, which is dissolving in her hand due to the rain, caused by storm Prospera creates. The dissolving sandcastle in Miranda’s hand symbolizes that the end of Prospera’s empire on the island lies in the hand of her daughter, since it is due to her marriage to Ferdinand, that Prospera leaves her empire behind to move back to Milan.

Here, instead of showing Miranda as weak, Taymor gives her the ability to control the future of her mother’s empire, symbolizing hat even though women might seem harmless, they are in fact potent. In the play, Prospero is more focused on getting his revenge rather than being a father, and gives a lot of importance to Miranda’s virginity, a sign of her purity. This is clearly visible when Prospero tells Ferdinand, “If thou dost break her virgin-knot before, All sanctimonious ceremony” (Temp. 4. 1. 15-16) warning him not to break Miranda’s virginity before marriage. The idea of being a virgin before marriage was an important notion that was followed by the Shakespearean society.

Women who were not virgins before their marriage were considered to be impure and it was uncommon for them to get married. Furthermore, Prospero uses Miranda as a way of getting back to Milan by planning to get Miranda married to Ferdinand, using Miranda as an object to create an alliance between the King of Naples and himself. Rather than taking control of Miranda’s virginity like Prospero did in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospera is aware of the feelings Miranda is going through as a youthful virgin and tries to be a protective and caring mother, showing the soft and caring side of women.

In the movie, Prospera is shown as a mother who makes multiple sacrifices in order to get what is best for her child, Miranda. All of Prospera’s actions lead to Miranda getting married to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples. Which ultimately leads Prospera to give up her power and freedom, and return to Milan, where perhaps she once again needs to follow the rules of society, rather than make the rules herself. By transforming Prospero to Prospera, Taymor not only creates a strong motherdaughter bond but also changes the story from revenge to that of a “mother’s self-sacrificing love for her daughter. (Turner 695). Showing that Prospera does not allow her personal vendetta come in between her duties of a mother. Another major change made in this adaptation is the last scene, where in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero gives up his magic and asks the audience for their forgiveness and in Taymor’s movie The Tempest, Prospera breaks her magic wand, a symbol of her power and stands there in silence, signifying her loss of power and leadership.

The end scene makes the audience wonder whether Prospero, who neglected his duties as the Duke, deserved his dukedom back, compared to Prospera. When Prospera was a Duchess, she never allowed her love for her books interfere with her duties as a Duchess. The reason Prospera had to flee her country was because of Antonio, Prospera’s brother who in order to take the throne from Prospera, after her husband, the Duke died, falsely accused her of being a witch who used black magic.

Changing the back story of how Prospera was banished, Taymor not only justifies Propsera’s return back to Milan but also shows that it was easy for women to be blamed for being a witch and using witchcraft and black magic for destructive purposes, “especially a female who moved beyond the traditional sphere of her gender” (Turner 692) like Prospera, a well-educated woman, in a time when women were not given much importance.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero is old but powerful both physically and due to his magic while Prospera is powerful due to her knowledge of spells. When the camera focuses on to Prospera’s face, her wrinkles and weak physical demeanor are visible. Furthermore, when she tries to manipulate the wind in order to create the tempest, she stands on top of the rocks sweating and panting, showing her physical weakness.

Despite being portrayed as old, Prospera controls Caliban, who is presented as masculine and strong, shedding light on the fact that despite being physically weaker than Caliban she is able to control him. By showing Prospera as weak yet capable of controlling a strong Caliban, Taymor tries to signify that women do not need to be physically as strong as men in order to be in power and a position of authority.

In the 21st century, women are independent and no longer in the background, dependent on their husbands. There is nothing that a man can do that a women cannot. Even though many still think that women are weaker than men, who can be represented by Caliban when he says Prospera belongs to the “weaker sex” (Kimo 5), there are plenty of successful women, like Julie Taymor who prove them wrong. Furthermore, these women are not only role models for younger generation girls and boys but also empower them.

Through her adaptation of “The Tempest”, Taymor tries to prove that women now face the same conflicts men face and are capable of the same, helping women all over the world achieve gender equality Both Shakespeare’s version and Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest reflect issues that take place in the society at the time of when they were written or produced. During the 16th century, when Shakespeare wrote his play, the social construct of England was where men were higher on the social hierarchy and women were the subordinate ones who were supposed to look after the household, kids and please their husbands.

By reassigning Prospero’s gender, Taymor represents Prospera in a position of authority “commonly associated with female leaders in today’s world” (Turner 692). Furthermore, changing Prospero’s gender to Prospera, shifts the focus of the movie from revenge and forgiveness to feminism, sacrifice and women empowerment, reflecting on the changing social contribution of society from male dominated to one where there is equality between both male and females

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