Shakespeare's the Tempest and Chamoiseau's Solibo the Essay

Total Length: 923 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: -5

Page 1 of 3

Shakespeare's The Tempest and Chamoiseau's Solibo the Magnificent would seem to share little in common with one another. The former almost certainly takes place in the Mediterranean; the latter in the Caribbean. Yet both tragicomedies touch upon both the causes and the effects of European colonialism. After all, Naipaul dubs the Caribbean "Europe's other sea, the Mediterranean of the New World," (212). Shakespeare penned The Tempest well after European discovery of the New World. Therefore, the playwright may have contemplated the potential short- and long-term impact of colonialism on the indigenous societies of Europe's other sea. Because there is little to no Italian colonization of Caribbean islands, the Milanese context of The Tempest provides a relatively neutral framework from which to explore issues like language, colonialism, and racism. In Solibo the Magnificent, Chamoiseau focuses on the French Caribbean island of Martinique to offer a sardonic portrait of racism, language, and colonialism. Both Shakespeare and Chamoiseau highlight the multifaceted ways colonialism is the external manifestation of European cultural, economic and political hegemony.

Language plays a major role in both The Tempest and in Solibo the Magnificent. Language designates and demarcates social class, thereby being closely connected with social status and political empowerment. In Solibo the Magnificent, for example, French is the language of government and formal education. French is an elite tongue, contrasted sharply with Creole. Creole as the language of the people enables an ironic self-empowerment on the part of the indigenous and mixed-blood locals in Solibo the Magnificent.
The police look plain stupid because of their inherent lack of understanding of the language of the very island on which they live; their stupidity is the poignant point of ridicule that propels the narrative of Solibo the Magnificent. Chamoiseau reveals the irony in assuming French superiority; because the French-speaking police cannot solve their crime from their position of presumed cultural and linguistic superiority. In spite of their using the language of the Mother country, the police come across as being total buffoons.

In The Tempest, language is also a marker of social status. Prospero's elitist book collection represents linguistic superiority. Language, symbolized by the printed word, is a province of the elite only. In The Tempest, language becomes synonymous with learning and information. Prospero's power depends on the books in his collection, just as the policemen's power in Solibo the Magnificent depends on their being in command of Old World French.

Racism is also a cornerstone of both The Tempest and Solibo the Magnificent, although the latter addresses racism more overtly. Martinique offers a complex and complicated landscape on which to explore the theme of racism. Naipaul notes that "race has always been important" on Martinique, to the degree that the French maintain an actual system of pedigrees in….....

Have Any Questions? Our Expert Writers Can Answer!

Need Help Writing Your Essay?