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Discuss the significance of Caliban in The Tempest

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Discuss the significance of Caliban in The Tempest Of all the characters in Shakespeare's plays, few have been as rigorously and variously interpreted as the monster 'Caliban' from his final play 'The Tempest'. Caliban has been seen as an envoy both for and against colonisation, an avatar of Caribbean culture, a cruel heartless monster or a misunderstood and punished soul. Shakespeare's intentions when writing Caliban were most likely to simply portray him as a form of devil. Caliban is held in binary opposition to Arial which leads to him being associated with both the lesser elements, primarily earth, and with Cain the son of Adam in the book of Genesis who murdered his brother and was cursed by God the wander the earth. Caliban's monstrous form is emphasised by the fact that he is rarely referred to by name but instead simply called 'Monster'. ...read more.


The name Caliban is a form of 'Carib' which was the name given to the people on the island originally invaded by Columbus. It is also almost an anagram of cannibal, Shakespeare probably based The Tempest on Montaigne's essay "Of Cannibals", and this makes Caliban easily associated with the 'savage natives' that the English were in the process of inflicting imperialism upon. This representation is furthered when Trinculo talks about how Caliban would fetch a fortune back in Napals. This is alluding to the 16th centaury practice of 'exhibiting' American Indians at shows and fairs. These were very popular at the time and were a regular feature under of James I's colonization agenda. Caliban has absorbed the obedient attitude of a slave to his master. He gives Stefano the qualities of a ruler and proposes himself as a slave in a manner that shows the ideal mentality of servile character. ...read more.


At the end of the play Caliban realizes his folly in trying to overthrow his colonial master and apologizes, although what happens to him after this point is not portrayed in the play. A modern audience also might gain pity for Caliban when Prospero seeks him out merely to abuse him, and when we see him tormented by spirits. However, this sympathy is made more difficult by his attempt to have Prospero brutally killed by Stefano, and by his lack of any kind of remorse for his attempted rape of Miranda, he claims that had Prospero not stopped him he would have "Propped the isle with little Calibans" While there are many representatives of imperialism in the play, the colonized have only one representative which is Caliban, and this can be said by both a modern and by an Elizabethan audience to be his primary function, however to both audiences he portrays them in a different light. 822 words ...read more.

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