Most people know about Shakespeare and his work such as the Tempest. But have you heard of a real life and arguably improved version of Prospero? No, well I thought so too, until yesterday while I was scrolling through Netflix, I noticed the Netflix original show Juana Ines. Boom. My mind suddenly flashed back to AP Spanish and to an even younger self asking my uncle who’s face was on the 200 peso…
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a self taught Mexican feminist poet during the seventeenth century. It was a time where only men were considered to be intelligent due to the predominant Catholic culture who used the bible to support the claim of male superiority. Because she was so determined to learn, she was challenged by high ranking men who believed a woman had no place with books. Her passions for books and the unfortunate events that follow in many ways make her similar to Prospero, yet she used her magic of words to help against oppression.
Prospero was shunned for his love of book and therefore neglect of Milan. Yet upon arriving on the island, he does not bother to learn the language of Caliban, and imposes his own language on him. Juana Ines on the other hand, was able to communicate with indigenous people with Nahuatl, their own language. We often heard in hum core lecture that language was the partner to empire, but why was it that Shakespeare did not consider Prospero learning the native language of the island he inhabited for years? If he had learned Caliban’s language their relationship would have been perhaps less hostile and their “Empire” could have been far greater.
Juana Ines in many ways could also relate to Caliban, because she too was oppressed, knew two languages, and was unable to live her life the way she desired. Her knowledge gained her in popularity, but the Catholic officials did not like the idea of a young girl having so much secular knowledge. Ironically she joined the convent. Many commonly say that she joined the Convent so that she can continue her studies instead of getting married. However, it could be that since she was born out of wedlock she would not have been able to marry anyways. Therefore the convent was a last resort, and an illusion for her to keep her studies going. Once becoming a nun she realized that the Catholic Church had no intention of allowing her to freely pursue her secular studies.
The main difference between Juana Ines and Prospero is that she had a complete desire to learn about all aspect of the world not just the ones deemed to be worthy. Prospero had knowledge yet was exiled because he was not good leader anymore meaning that all the knowledge he had gained was wasted and not put into use. We often hear that knowledge is power, but what good is that power if you don’t know how to contribute in a positive way to society?
Juana Ines is someone that I admire, she spent her life relentlessly fighting for her right and women’s right to gain an education. Her poems reflect themes of her oppression, and the struggles of her life.
Nicolás Enríquez de Vargas,. Eighteenth-Century Portrait Of The Abbess Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz (1648-1695). 1750. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz”. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. N.p., 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.