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Throughout history individuals in
power, have attempted to manipulate society by the use of a corrupt political
system, which seizes control of the citizens. Margret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s
Tale and William Shakespeare’s the Tempest, exemplified a dystopian society
where the government creates a corrupt social system that marginalized
individuals by class, oppressed women by male hierarchy and uses cult like
organizations for political gain.


Classism is
defined as holding prejudice or bias towards people in a particular social
class. In the Handmaid’s tale the Republic of Gilead a
futuristic world where its citizens are controlled through a group of classes
known as the caste system.

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All members of society are separated
firstly by gender, then by rank. Men are considered superior to all however, Women
are paced into categories that are represented by the color they wear that
depends on one’s rank in society.  The
elite wives wore blue to signify their superhot, the handmaid’s wore red to
signify sex and the pain of childbirth, infertile women wore green to signify
their age and those who ranked the lowest dressed in brown. The classist color
rank uniform is illustrated in the novel when Offered states “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the
color of blood, which defines us. The skirt is ankle- length; full, gathered to
a flat yoke . . . the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed
issue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen” Each maiden
is cloaked in crimson, “the color of blood”.” (Atwood. pg.8)

the Tempest, there is a display of class conflict that occurs throughout the
play because of the caste system that exists in the setting. The protagonist of
the play is the King of the land; there is a constant power struggle for reign
over the kingdom. Characters throughout the novel are ranked by class, which is
based on monarch government system. There is King Prospero and his ruling
family, noble people, merchant people, the sailors and peasants. Shakespearean
literature often uses the feudal system to divide each character into separate
classes with the King at the top because of his “divine right” through God. The
time period of the play indicates the rank of women in society, they were
considered to be second-class citizens with very little rights or freedoms. In
the beginning of the novel, a storm occurs in the island, which many citizens
of the island interrupt to be representative of unseen political turmoil. Shakespeare
incorporates the use of witchcraft to illustrate the classist dynamo within the
play, Syrcorax an evil that is forever bound to king Prospero until he sees
just to set Syrocrax free. This exemplifies power that the rank gave Prospero
over the other characters in the play.

            Female oppression is a theme can
be seen in both texts, women are considered to be less then their male
counterparts. The handmaid’s Tale theocratic society exemplifies gender
inequality and dehumanization of women numerous times throughout the
novel.  The Gilead regime forbids women
from reading or education; they do not have access to any books including the
bible. Additionally, females do not have access to writing implements; the non-
reading edict is enforced through the villages where signs are put up to represent
the writing.  The lack of knowledge
allows, the regime to brainwash the females and stops all women from escaping
the regime because of their lack of education. This ban of female education is
illustrated when Offered states, “This isn’t a
story 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 any
case forbidden. But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to
someone. 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 over
their own body, Young,
pre-menopausal women undergo extensive medical testing in order to determine
whether they’re fertile; if so, they become Handmaids and are subjected
grooming to become vessels of life.

oppression is illustrated throughout Shakespeare’s The Tempest; male characters
display extreme male dominance and superiority in spectrums of power and
gender. The protagonist Prospero exemplifies his dominance as king; the only
female within the play is Miranda Prospero’s daughter. Male dominance and power
is shown through the relationship between Prospero and Miranda. Miranda’s worth
and virtue is dependent on her virginity, a specially constructed concept. Although
her father loves Miranda, she is treated like property and in order to maintain
control over her Prospero must keep Miranda isolated from the world. This is
exemplified 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 her
attention ensures continuation of his patriarchal beliefs as does her
education. Miranda’s learning relies solely on what her father chooses to teach
her; he controls her intelligence, her education is based on learning to be a Goodwife
and mother.  Prospero is considered the
government within the play and the corrupt views he has towards women has been
exemplified throughout history, where male hierarchy is common which evidentially
harms society.  

abuse of religion is a theme that is portrayed within. The handmaid’s tale is
set in a theocracy where the Gilead regime exploits values of Christianity and
Islam to control their citizens. The classification of people within the caste
system also represents religious symbols such as “Martha’s” that are servants
from the New Testament. Additionally, the Gilead uses the Bible to establish
and embed a woman’s purpose in life; this is shown through the quote “Be
fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” which shows that women should
be used solely for reproduction. Additionally, Christian
misogyny, like the brainwashing at the Red Center and ceremonial scripture
readings preceding sexual intercourse in The Handmaid’s Tale, keeps its power
over women by twisting the meaning of Biblical scripture.  Modesty is practiced within the new regime
where women should cover their head and wear long cloak like gowns to cover
them self, this is a direct reference to Islamic values. In the novel Jewish
people are seen as threats to society, this is illustrated in the novel when Offered
says, ” You don’t get hanged only for being a Jew though. You get hanged for
being a nosy Jewish who don’t make the choice or for pretending to
convert”(Atwood. pg. 251) The novel exploits religion in order to retain power
for the new regime.

the Handmaid’s tale, in the Tempest characters abuse the use of magic in order to
seize control over society. Prospero seeks control over his rival brother
through the use of this loyal servants Caliban and the sorcerer Ariel. Prospero
forces Ariel to use her powers fro evil and to help him gain power over his
brother Antonio. In the first chapter Prospero commands Ariel to create a storm
that may harm those who want to over throw Prospero. Additionally, Prospero
becomes a tyrant with the power he gains through the use of dark magic; he manipulates
Aerial and becomes evil.

successful society is built upon a stable government who puts the best interested
the citizens first. However, it is evident that there is strong evidence that
both texts that illustrate political corruption.  Classism, gender inequality and abuse of
religious power are the down falls that occur with political corruption and
eventually lead to the breakdown of society. Citizens should be able to trust their
government to help create a functional utopia unfortunately that is not always
the case that is what Atwood and Shakespeare tried to convey to their readers.

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