Caliban In Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay

1868 words - 7 pages

Missing Works Cited

The Tempest, considered by many to be Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatre, has of all his plays the most remarkable interpretive richness. The exceptional flexibility of Shakespeare’s stage is given particular prominence in The Tempest due to its originality and analytic potential, in particular in the presentation of one of his most renowned and disputed characters, Caliban. Superficially portrayed in the play as a most detestable monster, Caliban does not evoke much sympathy. However, on further examination Caliban presents himself as an extremely complex character and soon his apparent monstrosity is not so obviously transparent. The diverse range of presentations of him on stage exemplifies Caliban’s multifarious character.


Although Caliban attempts to rape Miranda, appearing initially to be nothing more complex than a degenerate beast and so should be presented as such, Caliban is in fact a human being and not a monster, misunderstood only because Prospero, the colonizer, has unjustly depicted him as being merely a primitive native.

At the time of The Tempest, settlers began moving out of Britain to colonize America, Africa and parts of Asia. Laying a claim to overseas territory was becoming increasingly important to national identity and power. The voyages of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama sparked what has come to be known as the age of European Expansion, when England and the rest of Europe began devoting their energies to exploring and developing markets overseas. When The Tempest was written, these immensely important social events were on the top of everyone’s mind, including, presumably, Shakespeare’s. It is for this reason that the play is often considered an allegory of European discovery and in particular, colonization: Prospero is deemed the colonizer of the island and Caliban and Ariel the colonized. In the introduction to Critical Essays on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, Editor Alden T. Vaughan describes how the commonly accepted view of Prospero’s character was that of “a wise and rational ruler [who] could govern the forces of disorder that undermine the family and the state”. Indeed, before the beginning of the nineteenth century Prospero was presented as thus, while Caliban as an abominable, inhuman beast. As the play drew a greater audience worldwide however, that view began to change and post-colonial interpretations began to present themselves in which Caliban was cast in a more empathic light. These critics noted how easily the figure of Caliban converges with the image of the cannibal, the mythical ‘savage’ whom many European travellers claimed to have encountered. The name Caliban even seems to be a pointed anagram of ‘cannibal’. Since that time, views have changed on the savagery of those natives and with it, on the savagery of Caliban.

In the 1978 Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Tempest, David Suchet played a humanized, though exploited, ‘third-world’...

Find Another Essay On Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest

The Characters of Prospero and Caliban in The Tempest

1591 words - 6 pages The Conflict between Passion and Intellect in The Tempest      During the time of Shakespeare, society had a hierarchical structure. In Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, the characters of Prospero and Caliban, represent two different extremes on the social spectrum: the ruler, and the ruled. Their positions on the social hierarchy are largely due to the fact that Caliban responds almost wholly to passions, feelings of pleasure -- his senses

Relationship between Prospero, Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest

1478 words - 6 pages Relationship between Prospero, Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest    Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest is set on a mysterious island surrounded by the ocean. Here the magician Prospero is ruler of the isle with his two servants Caliban and Ariel.  Caliban is the abrasive, foul-mouthed son of the evil witch Sycorax. When Prospero was shipwrecked on the island Prospero treated him kindly but their relationship changed when Caliban tried to rape

Caliban Portrayed as a Child in The Tempest

1914 words - 8 pages then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming, The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me...                         Overall, it is apparent that in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, Caliban is portrayed as a child.  There are many reasons for this, including the contrast he provides to Prospero and the fact that children are often complex beings to understand

Prospero's Relationship with Caliban and Colonialism in "The Tempest"

1442 words - 6 pages The relationship between Prospero and Caliban is a perfect demonstration of the dependence relationship between a coloniser and the native of whichever colony he set his eye upon. Colonialism was a subject easily related to by Shakespeare's contemporary audience; with James on the throne the British Empire was beginning to thrive and would soon become the largest in not only the 17th Century world, but one of the largest in history. At the time

"The Tempest" by William Shakespeare- caliban

577 words - 2 pages Caliban the deformed savage on the island from his first appearance in the play is more animal than human. Prospero first refers to Caliban by calling him a, "tortoise" (1.2.318). This sets the tone for Caliban's character in the play as he is labeled as a semi-beast in the play. But interestingly despite Caliban's deformed body and animal like appearance he possess remarkable eloquence that gives him power. Prospero, a renaissance prince even

Compare and Contrast of Caliban and Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

1305 words - 5 pages In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, there are two characters who appear to be polar opposites. The characters of Caliban and Ariel both play very important roles in the play. The term caliban is defined as “a brutish or brutalized man,” and the term ariel is defined as “a spirit of the air” (Dictionary). The definitions of these two characters names even show the huge difference in the two characters before readers or viewers even get to know the

European Colonization in Shakespeare's The Tempest

1306 words - 5 pages No Critique of European Colonization in The Tempest    Since the 1960s, several critics have found a critique of colonialism in their respective readings of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The most radical of these analyses takes Prospero to be a European invader of the magical but primitive land that he comes to rule, using his superior knowledge to enslave its original inhabitants, most notably Caliban, and forcing them to do his bidding

Art and Nature in Shakespeare's The Tempest

1151 words - 5 pages also a force of nature upon which art is dependent.             Nature is also represented in The Tempest through the character of Caliban.  Caliban is a unique creation, one upon which nurture is lost.  Caliban is a savage being, incapable of reason or any of the developed and refined characteristics which art represents.  He is in essence the polar opposite of the refined Prospero.  Caliban's name itself may be an anagram for cannibal, a

Importance of Environment in Shakespeare's The Tempest

2000 words - 8 pages Importance of Environment in The Tempest    The island is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight,” says Caliban. The responses which the characters in The Tempest offer to their immediate surroundings reveal much about their individual traits, at the same time they allow the audience glimpses of Prospero's island as different parts of the island are isolated in the play. The island itself and the sea that surrounds it

Defending Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest

1796 words - 7 pages Defending Prospero in The Tempest      In William Shakespeare's The Tempest, the character of Prospero brings about a great deal of debate. Modern literary critics are quick to use him as a poster child for English colonial practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Many see him as person who desires complete control of everything around him from the fish-like monster Caliban to his spirit servant Ariel, even his own daughter

Mothers in William Shakespeare's The Tempest

2268 words - 9 pages Mothers in William Shakespeare's The Tempest Although Miranda’s mother and Sycorax never actually appear in The Tempest, their memories occupy a precarious position in Prospero’s will to power. Prospero invokes the memory of Miranda’s mother to legitimize his lineage, yet feels threatened by the control she exerts over it. His narration deftly erases his wife’s presence from Miranda’s memory, rendering him the sole purveyor of his

Similar Essays

The Character Of Caliban In Shakespeare's The Tempest

1820 words - 7 pages The Character of Caliban in The Tempest     'This thing of darkness, I must acknowledge mine' It is impossible to understand The Tempest without first understanding the character of Caliban. Despite numerous novels and poems praising the virtuous, the pure and the good, everyone has within them a darker side of depravity and evil thoughts. This makes us human. What distinguishes between good and bad people, though, is the way in which this

Shakespeare's Presentation Of The Relationship Between Prospero And Caliban In The Tempest

1755 words - 7 pages Shakespeare's Presentation of the Relationship between Prospero and Caliban in The Tempest Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ is set on a small island between Tunis and Naples. The play is initially based around Prospero; once Duke of Milan, a loving father to Miranda and inhabitant of the island for the past twelve years, after being usurped by his scheming brother Antonio. When exploring the relationship between Prospero and

Prospero And Caliban Of William Shakespeare's The Tempest

1034 words - 4 pages Prospero and Caliban of William Shakespeare's The Tempest   Within The Tempest, characters such as Prospero and Caliban share an intimate connection. Without some kind of malevolent force motivating the action of the play, none of the major characters would come into contact with each other. A violent storm, formed by Prospero's magic, subjects the foreign characters to the might of his mysterious power. Issues of control become a central

The Character Of Caliban In Shakespeare’s The Tempest

850 words - 3 pages The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Caliban is one of the most interesting of Shakespeare’s characters. For centuries, scholars have puzzled over the meaning and importance of this central character. Who or what is this creature? Is he a man or a beast (Peterson, p.2)? Most of the people who have debated this question take the question itself at face value. Caliban is either a man or a beast. The other characters in