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Power and Authority in William Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’: Compare and Contrast Essay

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Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’ textual converse with Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’ examines the gradual descent of power and authority in society, infecting individuals with merciless corruption leading to disastrous consequences. Through the dramatic plot and characters, Shakespeare represents the volatile aspect of the human nature, reflecting the complex issue of power and authority related to the context of rising political power and the downfall of religious authority. On the other hand, Atwood’s personal context reframes this idea through a modern political lens on the battle for women's rights and criticism of the government power due to its fiscal policies.

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Prospero’s desirable ambition for power and authority transforms his ideologies, influencing him to act mercilessly out of vengeance against his opposers, due to being dethroned from his dukedom: “Pox o’ your throat, you blasphemous, incharitable dog”. Through the implementation of violent animalistic imagery, Shakespeare portrays the role of power on catalyzing corruption and revenge in individuals, hence revealing Prospero’s aggrieved sentiment, which is symbolic of his vengeance. This foreshadows the upheaval in the play and highlights Prospero's merciless attitude through his slave master relationship with Ariel. In contrast, Atwood offers a more contemporary view of power and authority in ‘Hag-Seed’, as it is translated from the court to a professional vocation, and then to politics. In addition, the consistent application of Prospero’s magic as a motif is symbolic of the Renaissance context of how the portrayal of magic in a theatrical performance was risky. This extends to the indirect motif of dark political power throughout the play, “Till thous hast Howl’s away twelve winters”, revealing Prospero’s threatening and authoritative tone, portraying the dark nature of his power. Also, the hyperbole speaks to the long-term repercussions of his actions, and the cold imagery is symbolic of his immoral attitude. Another recurring motif throughout the play, represented in the hellish imagery in the language of biblical allusion, “Hag born dam” and “hell is empty and the devils are here”, further highlights Prospero's hypocrisy due to his evil nature. However, the biblical allusion relates to the Renaissance due to the fall of power in the Roman churches during the Renaissance.

Overall, the ideas of power resulting in the destruction of one’s humanity is examined within the textual converse of Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’ and Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’, reflecting how the resonances and disparagements portray the context and values of both texts holistically through the lens of a contemporary audience.

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Power and Authority in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’: Compare and Contrast Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Power and Authority in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’: Compare and Contrast Essay.” Edubirdie, 19 Sept. 2023,
Power and Authority in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’: Compare and Contrast Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 11 Dec. 2023].
Power and Authority in William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hag-Seed’: Compare and Contrast Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 19 [cited 2023 Dec 11]. Available from:
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