The Interdependency of Foucauldian Concepts of Power and Knowledge in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Document Type : Original Article


Academic Staff Member, Shahr-e-Rey Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shahr-e-Rey, Iran



Shakespeare’s The Tempest is an outstanding theatrical microcosm representing the unavoidably overwhelming Foucauldian power relations in all human civilizations and their intricate interdependency of such power relations with the possession of knowledge and construction of reality. The fictional world of The Tempest is thoroughly endowed with the mechanisms of an intense web of power struggles and domination fixations which typically have been, are, and will be characteristic of any human society throughout history. For the sustenance of such a complex texture of power structures and for the manipulation of the overall balance to the advantage of a specific minority, the pivotal function of a constructed reality is as substantial in the story as the real life. Prospero, the central character, successfully manages to subdue all other dangerous, power-thirsty rivals by making use of his superior knowledge enabling him to shape the subjectivities/beliefs of other characters by different means including language and masquerades in an induced world of realities on the island. Shakespeare’s text can well be drawn on to reveal the stealthy workings of different social, cultural and especially moral institutions in recruiting subjects to their malignant power/knowledge network and duping the individuals with the desired notions produced constantly by the institutional apparatuses leading to the construction of an exploitive ‘truth.’


Archer, J. Sovereignty and Intelligence: Spying and Court Culture in the English Renaissance.  Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 1993.
Chomsky, N., and Foucault M. The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature. New York: The New Press, 2006.
Foucault, M. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Sheridan, A. (Trans.), New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Greenblatt, S. Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England. Gloucestershire: Clarendon Press, 1997.
O’farrell, C. Michel Foucault. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005.
Shakespeare, W. The Tempest. Las Vegas: ICON Group International, 2005.
Wilson, R. “Prince of Darkness.” in Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows. London: Routledge, 2007.