Caliban. William Shakespeares play The Tempest is a brilliant masterpiece of the classic literature revealing major problems of humanity, the problem of good and evil, obedience and power. The plot of the play is built on the difficult relations between Prospero and Caliban. Shakespeare in his usual manner succeeds to put a bunch of problems of the interpersonal relations into a plot of a play. Some scholars compare the relations of Prospero Caliban with those of colonialist native thus making the parallel to the later history stressing attention that Shakespeares play has a prophetic feature1. Caliban is twisted both by body and by mind.
This is one of the favorite methods of Shakespeare to make a reader or a spectator reconsider the bad deeds committed by the negative personages. Shakespeare described them as ugly creatures to make the reader find some positive in their characters. This method was applied in Richard III, and the same is used in The Tempest regarding Caliban. The conflict between Prospero and Caliban may be viewed as a conflict between the successful Prospero, though he suffered of the shipwreck and a master of an island who saw the threat to his reign over the island. Caliban can not be judged very severely because he is punished by the nature being given twisted mind and appearance. Ariel and Caliban are two sides associated with Nature.
The theme of slavery is coming throughout a play. Prospero liberates Ariel and Caliban just to enslave them. But this slavery may be judged not as slavery in the traditional sense of the term, i.e. slavery of the human being by the human being. Prospero tries to enslave the Nature itself represented by Caliban. If it is accepted that Caliban is a part of Nature, one of its side, i.e. wildness, then it is understandable the relations between Caliban and Prospero.
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The wildness of Caliban is expressed by Shakespeare even in its name; Caliban is almost a homophone to a cannibal. The Nature rebels against the occupant. Ariel may be judged as a part of nature as well, but this side is the friendly attitude of Nature towards the newcomers which dont bring any harm to it. Calliban is an earth itself. His brutality is the brutality of Nature. He is neither bad nor good he is just a side of Nature like storm, thunder, rain etc. Shakespear describs the brutal mind of Caliban in contact with the pure and original forms of nature; the character grows out of the soil where it is rooted, uncontrouled, uncouth and wild, uncramped by any of the meannesses of custom.
It is “of the earth, earthy.” It seems almost to have been dug out of the ground, with a soul instinctively superadded to it answering to its wants and origin2. The cruelness of Caliban is melted when he speaks of the Nature, Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices, That if I then had waked after long sleep, Would make me sleep again; and then in dreaming, The clouds methought would open, and shew riches Ready to drop upon me: when I wak’d, I cried to dream again3 There is a real poetry in the words of Caliban when he speaks of Nature. The more remarkable is to listen to such words from the savage. The relations between Caliban and Prospero sharpen because Caliban used to be the master of the islands Nature, i.e. the island itself. Prospero is stronger and Caliban has nothing to do but either become a slave or resist Prospero whom he considers the invader. But he is ruled by the law of Nature, i.e.
the law of self-preservation. It would work perfectly if Caliban were just a creature, but he is a human being that is why he rises against the attempts to make him a slave, to seize his small universe i.e. island, Master of which he used to be before the newcomers landed on it. His mother left the island for Caliban. The problems of the newcomers are that they dont even consider Caliban to be equal human being. He is offended constantly by everybody. The more, people even do not realize they offend Caliban.
... be their task as they are on the island. Prospero uses some of his most intriguing magic spells ... 2) [Prospero talking to Caliban] Caliban was also related to the many illusions that were created on the island. Many of ... hounds that were used to disease Caliban and his associates. (: 'Our natures do pursue, Like rats that ... It may not even be a force of nature that creates these illusions it is in fact ...
The change in the Calibans life is significant. Caliban was an owner of the island prior to strangers arrival. That was his own universe which he enjoyed according to his own laws. No doubt Caliban is a negative creature but he had been free before Prospero came to enslave him. Actually there is no much difference in the very essence of Ariel and Caliban. They are both slaves of Prospero. The main difference is that Ariel took the slavery as it is and Caliban tried, though awkwardly to resist the destiny of a slave.
If studied more precisely Ariel was not free on the island and his attitude towards Prospero is that he sees the hope for liberation. He serves new people hoping to be liberated. I prithee, Remember I have done thee worthy service; Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, served Without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise To bate me a full year4. Shakespeare raises the question of a crime and a punishment in his play. Caliban commits a crime attempting to rape Miranda. He should be punished.
But rape is the crime according to the social laws. Caliban is out of society, he is his own society himself. His crime causes nothing but sympathy. If Caliban is punished severely then it is accepted that he is a part of society, but he lives according to the natural law, i.e. he is ruled by his instincts. It is not absolutely correct to associate his attempt to rape Mirande with the revenge to Prospero. Caliban is not on the same social level as other people to be prosecuted according to the social laws.
Caliban behaves in a wrong way but is it his fault? Who taught him on a desolate island how to behave in society? What law should he follow to? There is no reason for Caliban to change any of his principles. The situation may be compared with that is, say somebody got into island alone inhabited by a number of calibans, what law would be superior in this case? Definitely, the laws of calibans would be ruling. Caliban does not deny new knowledge brought by the newcomers. What is more, Caliban uses the poetic language to describe his feelings if he wants to underline that he is not lower than those who enslaved him. What is it, hypocrisy or, on contrary his inability to hide his feelings? Stephano is the first who paid attention to the language of Caliban: This is some monster of the isle with four legs, who hath got, as I take it, an ague. Where the devil should he learn our language? I will give him some relief, if it be but for that.
... , much less its tongue. Miranda and Prospero take it upon themselves to educate Caliban in "civilized" language. Miranda says: "I pitied thee, ... they seize the native land. Though Caliban defends his rights when he says, "this islands mine by Sycorax my mother which thou ... of the other. Caliban is the original inhabitant of the island; it is his native land. But Caliban is ugly. Prospero claims that he ...
if I can recover him and keep him tame and get to Naples with him, he’s a present for any emperor that ever trod on neat’s leather5 They receive the answer from Caliban: You taught me language; and my profit on’t Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language!6 Caliban explains what the strangers brought to his island, the language and the art to curse; knowledge and offense; slavery and . nothing to oppose it. There is a question arises who is more moral, prosperous Prospero or the savage Caliban? There are similar words which Caliban uses to describe Miranda: And that most deeply to consider is The beauty of his daughter. He himself Calls her a nonpareil. I never saw a woman But only Sycorax my dam and she, But she as far surpasseth Sycorax As great’st does least7 And the island: Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices That if I 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, that when I waked I cried to dream again8 Why did Shakespeare put such poetic expressions into the Calibans leaps? If Caliban was just a monster would the poet grant him such high language? It is unlikely. It is more likely the great poet wants to underline that Caliban is not just a senseless monster; it would be too simplified approach for the great Master of poetry. Caliban is a slave, no doubt, but he has been enslaved not by Prospero, but by the circumstances. These circumstances were brought by the storm or the Tempest and not by Prospero. This maybe explains the title of a masterpiece, if there were no tempest; there would not be any moral collisions between Caliban and anybody else. At the same time Caliban even worth respecting in a way. Compared with Ariel he refuses to accept the slavery, he expresses his passive protest. Actually the newcomers did not succeed to enslave Ariel; he just changed his master in hope of liberation.
... those who are close to him especially Miranda. Throughout The Tempest Prospero slowly makes sure Ferdinand and Miranda s love wont fade ... a traitor just to make Miranda seem harder to get. Prospero forgives Caliban even though he tries to rape Miranda, turns against ... deceived him in the past too the island inhabited by Prospero and his slave spirits. Prospero in the beginning wants revenge, but at ...
The conflict between Caliban and people who came to island is the conflict between the virgin Nature and the civilized colonizers. Calliban can neither resist people who came to the island nor to accept their way of life, their laws. The Nature is his world while society is unfriendly and even hostile because it lives according to some unknown to Calliban laws and tries to implement these laws to him. It is interesting to study the relations between Caliban and Ariel. They are both in the similar positions, they are enslaved by Prospero they should be at least allies. But how can they be allies if Ariel had been enslaved by the Callibans mother, while Calliban was a king of his own. I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,. For I am all the subjects that you have, Which first was mine own king9 Caliban is in isolation. Ariel can not be ally for Caliban and even more, he is interested in punishing the son of his offender. Shakespeare as a master of comparison narrates the essence of Caliban and Ariel as opposed. The appearance and characters of the super or ultra-natural servants are finely contrasted.
Ariel has in everything the airy tint which gives the name; and it is worthy of remark that Miranda is never directly brought into comparison with Ariel, lest the natural and human of the one and the supernatural of the other should tend to neutralize each other; Caliban, on the other hand, is all earth, all condensed and gross in feelings and images10. There is interesting study of the Calibans evolution by Sharp. According to Sharp there is a wide range of opinion on the Calibans character, from the monster to a fallen man11. She also puts Caliban through four stages of human development in consciousness and intentionality. The stages are man experiencing consciousness, man engaging in intellectual consciousness to understand and express the understood, man experiencing rational consciousness to pass judgement, and finally man experiencing responsible consciousness to form and execute decisions. Caliban is in the third stage when the play starts, but then moves to the fourth when he claims that Prospero stole his island.
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She also believes that there are three opinions of Caliban expressed in the play that help create how people view him. The first opinion comes from Prospero who believes that Caliban is a natural slave and a demi-devil. The second opinion is from Stephano and Trinculo; they view Caliban as a monster and an animal. The third opinion comes from Caliban himself, which is that he is more superior than Stephano and Trinculo but equal to Prospero12. It is interesting to note that both Caliban and his opponent Prospero have some common features. Prospero lost his dukedom and Caliban lost his island.
They are both rulers; maybe the conflict between Caliban and Prospero is just a conflict of reigning rulers, or to be more precisely the competition of strengths of their characters. The essence of a conflict between Caliban and Prospero is the conflict for power. If we assume the island to be some kind of the society then people could not exist at times narrated by Shakespeare without the absolute power as well as to exist without the oppression by one another. The natural law superseded the human law. The conflict between Caliban and Prospero is the conflict for the influence on other people who were on the island, the conflict for the absolute power. In case of Prospero the desire to usurp the power was some kind of self affirmation and revenge for his lost dukedom. People could not exist at that time but being reigned by the absolute power.
The times of ancient Greek democracy were far behind and the times of the modern democracy were ahead. On the other hand the conflict between Prospero and Caliban may be considered as the conflict for responsibilities. Caliban knows the way of life of Nature which contradicts to the way of life of society, though the law of nature is the basis for any social law. Caliban is responsible for his island, for the nature. Prospero is acknowledged of the social law and this is his privilege over Caliban. He wants to take responsibility not over the nature only but over the people on the island. Another difference between Caliban and Prospero is that Caliban is striving to preserve status quo on the island but Prospero can not live but reigning the people. So it is no matter how demonized Caliban is, Prospero is invader and Caliban is defender of his values.
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The question of the Calibans values is a separate one. His values are the values of the wild nature. It does not matter how ugly they may seem, they are the values of Caliban. The action resembles the history of colonization. First there was the missionary activity, and the education of Caliban resembles the missionary activity very much. Slavery followed such educational activity as we know from the history.
What was that, ingenious providence of Shakespeare? Nobody knows. Caliban feels that he is weaker than Prospero because of the lack of knowledge. He plans the murder of Prospero but he wants to take his power, his strength. The power is associated with the knowledge, i.e. books. He wants to apply the power of knowledge to reign people, i.e. he learned the best lessons from Prospero Why, as I told thee, ’tis a custom with him, I’ th’ afternoon to sleep: there thou mayst brain him, Having first seized his books, or with a log Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake, Or cut his wezand with thy knife.
Remember First to possess his books; for without them He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not One spirit to command: they all do hate him As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.13 Caliban can not be judged too strong. It is very difficult to put away his ugliness, his misdeeds while judging him. But he is the Natures child its advocates and he should have been taken as he is by people who happened to come to the island. The negative features granted to the hero by Shakespeare are the features given by the Nature itself. All the Calibans misdeeds were the reaction to humiliation.
He lives according to the Natures law and can not respond in a different way. Bibliography Masood Raja, Ariel and CalibanTwo Forms of Colonial Subjectivity, available at http://masoodraja.com/paperview?eid=2 The Tempest Characters Analysis features noted Shakespeare scholar William Hazlitt’s famous critical essay about characters of The Tempest, available at http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/tempest/char acters/tempest_characters_essay.htm W. Shakespeare. The Tempest, available at http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/tempest/full.h tml The Tempest Essay, The Tempest essay features Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous critique based on his legendary and influential Shakespeare notes and lectures. Available at http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/tempest/essa y/tempest_essay.htm Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Notes on The Tempest. (1836), available at http://www.broadviewpress.com/drama/coleridgeontem pest.htm Shari Lacheen, Critical Perspectives on the Character of Caliban in Shakespeares The Tempest By, available at http://www.arches.uga.edu/~slacheen/bibpage.html Citation Masood Raja William Hazlitt The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2. Ibid, Act I, Scene 2 Ibid, Act II Scene 2 Ibid, Act II Scene 2 Ibid, Act III, Scene 2 Ibid Ibid, Act I, Scene 2 Samuel Taylor Coleridge Shari Lacheen Ibid The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2.