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The Tempest - How is Caliban presented and what is his dramatic significance to the play?

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How is Caliban presented and what is his dramatic significance to the play? Caliban is the son of Sycorax, a witch that originally inhabited (and so is the only true native) of the Island on which the play is set. He is the "misshapen" slave of Prospero who claimed the island as his own when he was banished to it 12 years previously. Prospero refers to him using earthly names, such as "tortoise", making very clear quite early on that Caliban is not considered an equal by Prospero or Miranda. He is seen as a lower, 'uncivilised' life-form because of the uneducated and primal state they originally met him in, making their actions to correct this mirror the current events during the Elizabethan period in regards to the discovery of the Americas. ...read more.


This was the point where Prospero stopped trying to nurture Caliban into a respectable man and started seeing him as "filth". Shakespeare chose to include such an occurrence to highlight the fact that we cannot judge natives from undeveloped countries by western standards, as however much semantic knowledge they acquire, it is made completely redundant if they are taught western morals to which we feel they should abide by, making Caliban crucial to conveying this theme. Despite the deficient schooling, he is very close to the natural aspect of the island, which is shown in his passionate and almost poetic description of it ("The isle is full of noises / Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not") ...read more.


Ariel is described as his "fine apparition" and is an "airy spirit" which corresponds more to the elements, leaving Caliban discussing "springs, brine pits" keeping the connection between him and the earth very strong. The actions of Caliban towards the end of the play draw parallels with the actions of Antonio as well, in the way his ambition leads him to attempting to usurp Prospero from his position. The only difference is that Antonio actually achieves this, but the raw ambition that led them to commit the deeds are the same, which is demonstrated when he tells Stephano and Trinculo "The dropsy drown this fool I what do you mean To dote thus on such luggage? Let's alone, And do the murder first". ...read more.

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