Sample Literature Essay Paper on Oppression in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Tempest

            The epic of Gilgamesh poses as the oldest serving literature piece that weaves through a narrative of a tyrannical king who gradually changes to an admirable, noble, upstanding, and benevolent king of the ancient city of Uruk (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”, 2011). Through his outstanding character, the author reveals different themes through Gilgamesh’s multiple faces of seeking harmony. The epic narrative is crafted around the cruel manner of leadership, search for immortality, and eventually a revered ruler. Gilgamesh, an extraordinary prominent king reveals some of the standards of kingship held in high regard in ancient Mesopotamia. William Shakespeare’s poem of The Tempest narrates the story of an exiled ruler who uses supernatural powers to restore the status and power of his daughter. The ruler makes a declaration that those in power ought to show mercy for the less privileged. The Tempest makes close associations to the consequences of European settlement and dominance in the new world. Common in the narrative is the position of power and influence through their characters. The two authors instinctively use their characters to reveal the underlying themes of injustice and reigning oppression that evidences in the social organization and status of each community. Both narratives introduce rulers and ruling systems that manifest unequal status and oppressive dominance in the society. Common in the colonial and post-colonial era, oppression in the two texts serve relevance to a contemporary reader and can easily be integrated with the issues of the post-colonial era.

            The Epic of Gilgamesh introduces Gilgamesh as King of the Uruk. Gilgamesh possesses some admirable qualities of great kings. Although kings do not own all the ideal characteristics, most maintain a majority of admirable traits. Unlike typical kings, Gilgamesh did not have many of admirable qualities. Although he appears as a strong king, he is perceived as a great king. His character reveals some good characteristics like leadership, fighting evil powers, and the liberation of the community. Nevertheless, his poor behavior is manifested in the way he tormented those under his authority. His manipulative rule encompassed oppression and exhaustion of the ruled in daily life and combat.  The most annoying character is the declaration of his right to sleep with any unmarried women (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”, 2011). These traits manifest his oppressive nature that belittles his admirable qualities as a ruler.

            Gilgamesh was a tyrant and very persistent in his journeys and endeavors, which made him a hero. However, many of the contemporary generations would describe him as a dictator and a vicious manipulator compared to true heroes like Enkidu. Although Gilgamesh contributed massively in rebuilding his society as a warrior and a noble ruler, his downsides emerge in his dictatorial way of governance. Gilgamesh ruled with an iron fist and used power to achieve his desires. The epic introduces Gilgamesh as an oppressive king, which angers the gods. The gods send Enkidu to tame his growing influence and tyrannical rule (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”, 2011). However, although he was a dictator, he demonstrates noble character in the way loves challenges, adventure, and his unusual style of accepting defeat. Although successful in most of his pursuits, Gilgamesh is humble enough to admit defeat in several instances.

            Oppression is vastly manifested in Shakespeare’s piece, The Tempest, in various acts. The entire sections introduce the use of supernatural powers by rulers to influence their ruling generation. The author uses Caliban to reveal the harsh way of life of Prospero (Shakespeare, 2010). Prospero not only feels that Caliban is indebted to him, but uses manipulative stances by trying to act beneficial t Caliban needs. This in a way relates to the oppressive rule of the European during the colonialism era. Prospero embodies the characteristics of colonialist settlers who through their in cunningness asserted their influence over their colonies. Imprisoned in his island, Caliban becomes a prisoner of Prospero and is subject to his will. Caliban is an embodiment of an innocent and native individual whose misfortunes are a result of the oppressive rule imposed on him (Shakespeare, 2010). Shakespeare uses Caliban to represent the oppressed natives while Prospero resembles the manipulative and oppressive power of knowledge. The harsh design of Prospero parallels the technological advancement of Europeans that enabled them to gain dominance over Africans. Placing Caliban at the will and subject to Prospero analogous with European colonizers oppression of Africans. 

            More dominance that is oppressive is captured in the way Prospero treat fairy Ariel as a slave laborer, who throughout her life serviced the debt of gratitude for her rescue. Besides Ariel, Prospero also employed oppressive stances over Miranda and Ferdinand using magic. The Miranda-Prospero relationship exposes the different arrangement of women in the entire article. The relationship invites a discourse of sexuality, which offers crucial nexus for various domains of colonialism (Shakespeare, 2010). The link establishes some patriarchy that commonly identifies with the women position in Shakespeare’s article. In his post, Prospero advances his authority and influence over Miranda and her sexuality too. Prospero demonstrates authoritative love in the application of wisdom, magic, and education of Miranda and Caliban. Power over Miranda denies her freedom of choice as she can only comply with her father’s demands. Just like Ariel and Caliban, Miranda is without choice and freedom and subject to Prospero’s magical control.

            The two pieces are very relatable with the contemporary and post-colonial generation. The two historical articles reveal several characters who fall victim for oppressive dominance. Manifested in numerous scenes of the two pieces, oppression along sexual lines has created a rape culture in modern generations creating a negative perception and abuse of women. Other practices prevalent in this generation include sex trafficking that epitomizes the inequality between women and men. The misconceived treatment of women as sexual objects is exploitative and demeaning. Nevertheless, society has liberally accepted these practices as norms. This has somehow institutionalized rape culture in today’s society creating negative perceptions of sex trafficking that ultimately leads to women oppression. 


The Epic of Gilgamesh. (2011). Retrieved from

Shakespeare, W. (2010). The Tempest: Entire Play. (2010). Retrieved from