Throughout history individuals inpower, have attempted to manipulate society by the use of a corrupt politicalsystem, which seizes control of the citizens. Margret Atwood’s the Handmaid’sTale and William Shakespeare’s the Tempest, exemplified a dystopian societywhere the government creates a corrupt social system that marginalizedindividuals by class, oppressed women by male hierarchy and uses cult likeorganizations for political gain. Classism isdefined as holding prejudice or bias towards people in a particular socialclass. In the Handmaid’s tale the Republic of Gilead afuturistic world where its citizens are controlled through a group of classesknown as the caste system.All members of society are separatedfirstly by gender, then by rank.
Men are considered superior to all however, Womenare paced into categories that are represented by the color they wear thatdepends on one’s rank in society. Theelite wives wore blue to signify their superhot, the handmaid’s wore red tosignify sex and the pain of childbirth, infertile women wore green to signifytheir age and those who ranked the lowest dressed in brown. The classist colorrank uniform is illustrated in the novel when Offered states “Everything except the wings around my face is red: thecolor of blood, which defines us.
The skirt is ankle- length; full, gathered toa flat yoke . . . the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribedissue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen” Each maidenis cloaked in crimson, “the color of blood”.
” (Atwood. pg.8) Inthe Tempest, there is a display of class conflict that occurs throughout theplay because of the caste system that exists in the setting. The protagonist ofthe play is the King of the land; there is a constant power struggle for reignover the kingdom. Characters throughout the novel are ranked by class, which isbased on monarch government system. There is King Prospero and his rulingfamily, noble people, merchant people, the sailors and peasants.
Shakespeareanliterature often uses the feudal system to divide each character into separateclasses with the King at the top because of his “divine right” through God. Thetime period of the play indicates the rank of women in society, they wereconsidered to be second-class citizens with very little rights or freedoms. Inthe beginning of the novel, a storm occurs in the island, which many citizensof the island interrupt to be representative of unseen political turmoil. Shakespeareincorporates the use of witchcraft to illustrate the classist dynamo within theplay, Syrcorax an evil that is forever bound to king Prospero until he seesjust to set Syrocrax free. This exemplifies power that the rank gave Prosperoover the other characters in the play. Female oppression is a theme canbe seen in both texts, women are considered to be less then their malecounterparts.
The handmaid’s Tale theocratic society exemplifies genderinequality and dehumanization of women numerous times throughout thenovel. The Gilead regime forbids womenfrom reading or education; they do not have access to any books including thebible. Additionally, females do not have access to writing implements; the non-reading edict is enforced through the villages where signs are put up to representthe writing. The lack of knowledgeallows, the regime to brainwash the females and stops all women from escapingthe regime because of their lack of education. This ban of female education isillustrated when Offered states, “This isn’t astory I’m telling.
It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell,rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in anycase forbidden. But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it tosomeone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. “(Atwood. Pg. 36) Moreover, women do not have privacy or autonomy overtheir own body, Young,pre-menopausal women undergo extensive medical testing in order to determinewhether they’re fertile; if so, they become Handmaids and are subjectedgrooming to become vessels of life.
Femaleoppression is illustrated throughout Shakespeare’s The Tempest; male charactersdisplay extreme male dominance and superiority in spectrums of power andgender. The protagonist Prospero exemplifies his dominance as king; the onlyfemale within the play is Miranda Prospero’s daughter. Male dominance and poweris shown through the relationship between Prospero and Miranda. Miranda’s worthand virtue is dependent on her virginity, a specially constructed concept. Althoughher father loves Miranda, she is treated like property and in order to maintaincontrol over her Prospero must keep Miranda isolated from the world. This isexemplified in the play when Miranda becomes Beth roved to Ferriday Prospero tells Ferdinand, “then, as my gift,and thine own acquisition / Worthily purchas’d, take my daughter” (Shakespeare IV.I.
13-4). Additionally, Prospero physical orders and insistence for herattention ensures continuation of his patriarchal beliefs as does hereducation. Miranda’s learning relies solely on what her father chooses to teachher; he controls her intelligence, her education is based on learning to be a Goodwifeand mother. Prospero is considered thegovernment within the play and the corrupt views he has towards women has beenexemplified throughout history, where male hierarchy is common which evidentiallyharms society. Theabuse of religion is a theme that is portrayed within. The handmaid’s tale isset in a theocracy where the Gilead regime exploits values of Christianity andIslam to control their citizens.
The classification of people within the castesystem also represents religious symbols such as “Martha’s” that are servantsfrom the New Testament. Additionally, the Gilead uses the Bible to establishand embed a woman’s purpose in life; this is shown through the quote “Befruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” which shows that women shouldbe used solely for reproduction. Additionally, Christianmisogyny, like the brainwashing at the Red Center and ceremonial scripturereadings preceding sexual intercourse in The Handmaid’s Tale, keeps its powerover women by twisting the meaning of Biblical scripture. Modesty is practiced within the new regimewhere women should cover their head and wear long cloak like gowns to coverthem self, this is a direct reference to Islamic values. In the novel Jewishpeople are seen as threats to society, this is illustrated in the novel when Offeredsays, ” You don’t get hanged only for being a Jew though. You get hanged forbeing a nosy Jewish who don’t make the choice or for pretending toconvert”(Atwood. pg.
251) The novel exploits religion in order to retain powerfor the new regime. Unlikethe Handmaid’s tale, in the Tempest characters abuse the use of magic in order toseize control over society. Prospero seeks control over his rival brotherthrough the use of this loyal servants Caliban and the sorcerer Ariel. Prosperoforces Ariel to use her powers fro evil and to help him gain power over hisbrother Antonio.
In the first chapter Prospero commands Ariel to create a stormthat may harm those who want to over throw Prospero. Additionally, Prosperobecomes a tyrant with the power he gains through the use of dark magic; he manipulatesAerial and becomes evil. Asuccessful society is built upon a stable government who puts the best interestedthe citizens first. However, it is evident that there is strong evidence thatboth texts that illustrate political corruption. Classism, gender inequality and abuse ofreligious power are the down falls that occur with political corruption andeventually lead to the breakdown of society. Citizens should be able to trust theirgovernment to help create a functional utopia unfortunately that is not alwaysthe case that is what Atwood and Shakespeare tried to convey to their readers.