Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Banished Dukes

Both plays that I am focusing on right now, The Tempest and As You Like It, have banished dukes, so I thought that a comparison was in order for these dukes in these two very different plays.

Was the Duke of Milan.
Banished by his brother Antonio and fled for his life with his daughter Miranda on a boat.
Stranded on an Island and gains magical power on the island after losing it politically.
Seeks revenge on his usurpers by stranding them on his island.
Lets his daughter marry the King of Naples' (who helped his brother get rid of him) son Ferdinand.
Gets his dukedom back in the end.

Duke Senior:
Was the Duke of (Shakespeare doesn't tell us)
Banished by his brother
Frederick-did not put up much of a fight to keep his dukedom
Seeks refuge in the Forest of Ardenne with some trusted followers and more flock to him, including his own banished daughter Rosalind and Celia the
usurping duke's daughter.
Is content in the forest and says that he learns just as much from the forest than in a library.
Consents to his daughter marrying Orlando, especially because he was great friends with Orlando's father, Sir Rowland de Bois
Gets dukedom back because his brother decides randomly to become religious.

From doing this comparison, I think that Shakespeare preferred a character like Prospero over one like Duke Senior. He likes a character with a little fire in them - some revenge, some mischief, but good overall. Like Kate in the Taming of the Shrew, even though it seems like she doesn't get the better end of the bargain in the end. Duke Senior was content to start a new life in the Forest of Ardenne and just happened to get his dukedom back in the end because the play was a Comedy, whereas Prospero had to, first of all, work on his magic for twelve years in order to get revenge on his usurpers, and then put in a lot of effort to see all of his plans work out to be reinstated.

It might also be the Shakespeare's plays were getting a little more mature by the time he wrote The Tempest, which was between 1610-1611, and As You Like It was written between 1598-1600. Because he wrote so many plays, a lot of them are spin-offs or commentaries on others. Perhaps he liked the idea of the banished duke, and decided to take that idea further in The Tempest because it was not taken advantage of in As You Like It.


  1. Thanks for that historical reminder. I think that I often forget that or even do not take into consideration that the order and timing of his plays makes a difference. Now, I thought it was interesting how you mentioned his play becoming perhaps more mature. Could you help me understand that a little more? More mature in what way?

  2. I feel like his plays are more mature the more he writes. Think about Love's Labor's Lost and compare his rhetoric and social commentary to The Tempest. I just think that he had a lot of more work under his belt later on, and could therefore delve deeper into social issues. Do you have a different opinion?