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Explore Different Interpretations of Caliban(TM)s Character and Role. Is he evil?

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Introduction

Explore Different Interpretations of Caliban's Character and Role. Is he evil? The Tempest presents few problems for readers because plot developments are constantly anticipated by the main protagonists. Yet underpinning the cheerful spirits and comic nature of the play there lies a dark and disturbing plot, specifically the half-hidden story of Caliban's mother Sycorax whose presence haunts the action from the outset. Although now pleasantly enchanting the island was once a terrifying place where 'abhorred' deeds were carried out, that former savage existence is never far away in the story of The Tempest. In fact the island's dark power is always greater than that of Prospero's enemies, who never understand that their every move is controlled by an outside force. The historic inspiration of The Tempest allegedly lies with interest in the 'New World'. With Spain already colonising the Americas, England's own imperial ambition was sufficiently stirred. In the 1580s Sir Walter Raleigh had attempted to found an English colony at Virginia. Further excitement was fuelled by a 1610 account of sailors shipwrecked on the 'enchanted' island of Bermuda. The Tempest evokes the mystery of this new period of exploration. ...read more.

Middle

We cannot make this assumption as we know that Caliban was taught language and in fact he has enough intelligence to conclude that his only profit from learning their language is that he knows how to curse them. Furthermore the audience observe that Caliban is incredibly articulated and speaks in sonnet where other characters, namely Trinculo, do not. From this angle we can see that Caliban isn't a gross and bestial thing, devoid of both reason and feeling. Indeed, the first contrast that is revealed to us is that between what has been made of him by his master Prospero's tutelage and his own nostalgic memories of the truly natural state he was in when he was first discovered and subjected not to education but to simple kindness: CALIBAN: This island's mine by Sycorax my mother, Which thou tak'st from me. When thou cam'st first Though strok'st me and made much of me; wouldst give me Water with berries in't, and teach me how To name the bigger light, and how the less, That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee It can be argued that Prospero and Miranda together had 'denaturalized' Caliban in attempting to educate him. ...read more.

Conclusion

His breeding, the 'seed' from which he comes, is resistant to the beneficial effects of the education by which Prospero hopes to rescue him from his 'beastly' condition. Caliban is unhappy, grieves, is angry, for his 'nurture' has succeeded only in putting him in a kind of half-state of being. It has been argued that Shakespeare believed with all his mind and heart in an ultimate distinction between 'good seed' and 'bad seed'. No amount of nurture, of education, of tutelage was, for him, able to alter a predestined course of development from source to conclusion. True, from time to time certainly in his early plays, the 'bad' makes a final conversion but the most remarkable characteristic of such conversations is their convenience to the plot-line Caliban is central to the complex scheme of the play: He is the representative and manifestation of a wild and largely untamed nature. He is the all-natural man, a standard against which civilized man can be measured and in the cases of Antonio and Sebastian, found wanting. The corruption of civilized men is worse than his natural bestiality. He is ugly because he is the product of evil natural magic and yet he holds nobility to a modern audience as we sympathise with his situation and can identify his intelligence through his vocabulary and his eloquence. ...read more.

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