Fear or Love: Which is Stronger
Every country in the world has some type of ruler. Weather that leader is a president or dictatorship or military power, those leaders have to find a way to rule over there people. Niccolo Machiavelli explores how one should rule in his essay titled “Of Cruelty And Mercy, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared, Or The Contrary” and Shakespeare pulls from Machiavelli’s ideas in his play “ The Tempest”. Shakespeare takes what Machiavelli is saying, acknowledges it, and then turns away for it; which is displayed in the character of Prospero. Prospero goes through a journey of leadership that, in the end, change him as a person.
In Niccolo Machiavelli scandalous essay titled “Of Cruelty And Mercy, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared, Or The Contrary”, Machiavelli discusses whether a prince should be loved or feared as a leader. Machiavelli explores cruelty to which he concludes that a prince must be cruel or the people will start to bring disorder. Once that conclusion is established he begins to explore whether a prince should be feared or loved. Fear, Machiavelli says, is a part of this equation; fear is needed to keep the prince is a loving position with his people instead a position of hatred. .Machiavelli, in the end, believes that people love at their own will while fear is at the will of the prince.
The struggle of whether to be loved or feared is present in “The Tempest”; Prospero confronts this question throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, Prospero chooses fear over love which can be account for the fact that as Duke of Milan he did not do anything and then was overthrown. Due to this betrayal Prospero has lost trust for those who are below him. This sense of fear can be seen when Ariel or Caliban start to speak negativity or doubt Prospero:
Prospero: If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak
and peg thee in his knotty entrail till
Thou hast howled away twelve winters(1.2 295-297)
and then the same language can be seen when Caliban refuses to do work:
Prospero: If thou negle’st or dost unwillingly
What I command, I’ll rack thee with old cramps,
Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar
That beasts shall tremble at thy din(1.2 371-374)
In both of these instances, Prospero feels as though his rule was being threatened as it was in the past so to keep Ariel and Caliban in line a punishment is exclaimed to which both characters respond in the same way:
Ariel: Pradon, master. I will be correspondent to command
And do my spriting gently(1.2 298-300)
Caliban: No, pray thee
(Aside) I must obey. His art is of such power(1.2 374-375)
Both Ariel and Caliban would much rather bend to the will of their ruler than face the punishment at hand.
Though Prospero does not speak or show himself to the court until the end of the play, he still is able to strike fear into them thought other means. Such as sending in Ariel disguised as a harpy:
Ariel: I have made you mad;…
Can be at once, step by step attend
You and your ways; whose wraths to guard you from-
Which here, in this most desolate isle, else falls
Upon your heads- is nothing but heart’s sorrow
And clear life ensuing(3.3 55-82)
What Ariel is doing in this lengthy speech is voicing what Prospero wants to say to the people who have wronged him all those years ago. He is focing the court to confront that he is the cause to all the madness that has gone on since they have landed on the island. He also comes forward to state that the island is what is causing all of the negative thoughts that everyone has been holding in for so long to come forward and be thought about. By thinking about these thoughts, a unspotted life or one that is no longer tainted by these thoughts should come forward.
Prospero at this point has Machiavelli’s idea that fear is more important than love but Prospero has one major flaw with is fear. Machiavelli stated in his essay that with the fear a prince should make sure that hatred does not befall on him. Caliban expresses his hatred for Prospero throughout the play:
Caliban: All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs,fens,flats, on Prosper fall, and make him
By inchmeal a disease! His spirits hear me
And yet I needs must curse.( 2.2 1-4)
This hatred stems from the fact that Prospero has taken the island from who is the rightful ruler of the island. So unlike Ariel who has something to keep him loyal Caliban just wants to have his island back which he knows he is not going to get. With this hatred present, Machiavelli states that there will be an uprising with the people and that is what ends up happening, Caliban convinces Trinculo and Stephano to kill Prospero.
There is yet another way that Prospero goes against the ideas Machiavelli presents in his essay. Prospero in a dialogue between Ariel realizes that fear is no longer needed:
Ariel:”That if you no beheld them your affections
Would become tender.
Prospero: Dost thou think so, spirit?
Ariel: Mine would sir, were I human
Prospero: And mine shall…
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance.(Lines 18-28)
Here Prospero is coming to the conclusion that he no longer needs to use fear but instead needs to switch to love. Prospero acknowledges that the wrongs that have been done to him are high but good actions are better than bad actions. Prospero is saying that enough is enough; he feels as though he has done what he needed to do in order to receive his dukedom back.
So can the concepts found in Machiavelli’s essay still be applied to today’s leaders? I would have to say a hard yes;many leaders today do not follow Machiavelli’s ideas well at all. Take for example our current president; Trump does strike fear with ideas but many people in this country do not like him. Instead of fixing that and appealing to the people, he just keeps pushing his ideas forward. I do not think that the presents of social media is helping with leadership either. With social media, your thoughts and opinions reach a wider audience quicker and those words become a permanent fixture; once you put your words out to the world there is no turning back. By Trump choosing Twitter as his main way of expressing himself, he is also adding to the fire of hatred quicker. In “The Tempest”, Ariel a citizen on the island Prospero’s rules is the one who is able to change is mind about how to rule. In the world we live in now, our leader is not listening to the people and just doing his own thing. For me, the world that I live in is full of fear and hate; fear of what is to come in the future and hate for the one who is running our country. This fear and hate needs to turn into a more of a common understanding and listening to others. My ideas might not match what Machiavelli’s ideas but times have change and the way one rules needs to change as well.
The Tempest. William Shakespeare. A Case Study in Critical Controversy Graff,Gerald and Phelan,James. Second Edition. Bedford/St.Martin’s. 2009
The Prince. Niccolo Machiavelli. Of Cruelty And Mercy, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared, Or The Contrary. Chapter Seventeen.