Prospero’s Daughter



In The Tempest, William Shakespeare explored how the world of social class and education strays from its defining stature, named “civilization,” using poignant dialogue and humor to create potent satire. Elizabeth Nunez has moved the setting of Shakespeare’s play to a familiar scene in pre-independence Trinidad. Prospero is Dr. Gardner, a criminal doctor turned mad scientist in exile. He claims his innocent daughter, Virginia, is the object of lust of a native Trinidadian, Carlos Codrington, who wants to impregnate her. That’s all it takes for a criminal case to open, and Inspector John Mumsford is sent to question the doctor and bring back the criminal.

Sounds simple? Not quite! For this spineless, indeed pathetic, inspector is forced to face the colonial attitudes of innocence by superior racial identity, and assumption of guilt of any woman violated sexually in word or deed. Indeed, the British authorities blatantly deny that the colonial residents may be just as equal in intelligence as any white person. As in so many other British-occupied territories, the prevailing government personnel and residents appear surprised when educated natives begin intelligently and potently rebelling.

Forced to disown their land and pride, the natives of Trinidad are depicted as strong and proud people who have reached this maturity because of suffering caused by foreign occupiers. Above and beyond all these ideas, the love between Carlos and Virginia surpasses the plotting of Dr. Gardner and the convoluted interpretations of Mumsford. The full grief caused by colonial civilization at the end of this tale will shock and grieve the reader, as well as praise this masterful writer, Elizabeth Nunez. A brilliant adaptation of a deeply moving conflict!



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