Shakespeare’s The Tempest is often classified as a castaway narrative, due in large part to Miranda’s status as an exile. Yet it is also a colonialist narrative, as Prospero has taken control of both the island and the island’s inhabitants (i.e. Caliban and Ariel). This is made clear when Prospero recalls that Sycorax had imprisoned Ariel within a cloven pine and “when I arrived and heard thee, that made gape / the pine and let thee out” (1.2 327-347). As a spirit confined to a tree, Ariel is representative of the spirit of nature or the spirit of the island as a whole. Prospero’s enslavement of Ariel is both the enslavement of a singular living being and the spirit of the island; Prospero’s “claim” or possession of Ariel parallels Prospero’s taking control or “colonizing” the island. In this essay, however, I do not merely situate The Tempest within narratives of European transatlantic colonization. Instead, I reclaim The Tempest as a narrative of resistance by shifting my focus away from the colonizer and/or the enslaver and instead recuperating the stories of colonized/enslaved. I argue that both Ariel and Caliban function as zombies, or within what Sarah Juliet Lauro calls a “zombie dialectic” which centers narratives of enslavement and resistance instead of the plot surrounding Prospero’s revenge (Lauro 5).
Hyre, Kelli, "Shakespeare’s Zombies: The (un)Dead, the Contagious, and the Resistant" (2018). Undergraduate Research Awards. 44.