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With reference to two or three episodes, explore Shakespeare's dramatic use and presentation of Caliban?

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Introduction

With reference to two or three episodes, explore Shakespeare's dramatic use and presentation of Caliban. Shakespeare presents and uses Caliban in a number of different episodes in a way that leaves his character open to different interpretations depending on the audience. In Act 1 scene 2, we are first introduced to Caliban as being a slave, "Slave! Caliban!" It soon becomes clear that Caliban is a true native of the island, and was there long before Prospero, yet Prospero came and made it his island by abusing Caliban's knowledge, "This island's mine...which thou tak'st from me (Caliban)...I showed thee all the qualities o' the' isle" Caliban's native status on the island, yet forced servitude, may be a symbol of the native cultures occupied and suppressed by European colonial societies - which in the play are represented by Prospero and his power. Shakespeare uses this as way to engage the audience with Caliban, as they can relate to something they have heard about or are familiar with. To an Elizabethan audience, the fact that Caliban is given a voice, in that he tells his side of the story and feelings about being suppressed - "cursed be that I did so" - is very radical as he is a monster and a captured native and therefore has no rights. To a modern audience however, we can see that Caliban's enslavement may be very unjust. However, in the same way that Caliban is given a voice, he is cursed for doing so - "Thou most lying slave". A modern audience could (as said above) sympathise with Caliban, however we are given another point of view by Prospero, in that Prospero did not treat Caliban unkindly "I have used thee...with human care and lodged thee in mine own cell", and therefore although Shakespeare briefly gives Caliban a voice, it is Prospero who has the final word in the argument of how the island came to be his and therefore Caliban is presented again as being below humans in that his argument is not valid. ...read more.

Middle

Hence Shakespeare uses Caliban as a way to emphasise how truly evil Sebastian and Antonio are. The opposite can be said about Miranda. Even though Caliban is an evil, un-teachable monster, Miranda spent time trying to teach Caliban how to speak. In Act 1 scene 2 it shows how she "endowed thy purposes with words that made them known", and therefore Caliban is used as a way to show how good Miranda is in that she could see Caliban was a "thing most brutish" but yet spent hours of her time teaching a monster to speak. Caliban can also be compared to Ariel. Not only does this more clearly show the qualities of each of the characters, but it allows us to learn more about the truth of Caliban's character and help us to understand why he is that way. For example, the opinion could be taken (by the modern audience) that Caliban is treated very unfairly and that his evil tendencies for example, rape, are a result of growing up without parents and in an isolated place with no real society to guide him to make the right decisions, and learn what is acceptable or not. However, Ariel has also lived on the same island, in the same conditions, without the influence of parents or society, yet is obedient, gentle, and has not turned vicious or violent even though he has great power and could potentially overthrow Prospero. Ariel has been 'held captive' by Prospero and not been set free, and therefore has the potential to despise Prospero as much as Caliban, yet he does not, he remains a faithful servant, "master...noble master...what shall I do? Say what". Whereas Caliban is coarse resentful, and brutish, described as "hag-seed, "poisonous" and "most lying slave", Ariel remains delicate, refined and gracious, and is described in the character listing as an "airy spirit". Hence it cannot be argued that the circumstances and lack of social influence is what has made Caliban evil, as Ariel still remains an obedient servant. ...read more.

Conclusion

have a leader, as long as he is not a slave - as Caliban is very unwilling to fetch wood for Prospero to whom he is a slave, "there's wood enough within". However these human qualities are still intermingled with declarations that Caliban is a monster, "this is some monster of the isle", and therefore the audience does not relate to him as if he were human meaning that Shakespeare maintains Caliban's character as being below a human which is important especially to an Elizabethan audience to whom it would be too controversial to present a hideous looking, cursing, and hence evil monster as being like a human, therefore Shakespeare repeatedly includes declarations that he is a monster to affirm to the audience that he is still seen as being evil. Therefore, in conclusion, Shakespeare presents Caliban as being both inevitably evil, but with human or sympathetic qualities over a number of episodes, as his evil tendencies grow, that is to say that "The Tempest" begins with information that Caliban has tried to rape Miranda, and then we are informed that he is plotting to murder someone, however we are also shown through Caliban's descriptions of the island, and descriptions of curses he receives from Prospero, that he has some human qualities for example fear. Shakespeare also presents Caliban as being un-teachable and intermingles the drawbacks of this, for instance he is un-teachable and therefore makes the same mistakes as he did with Prospero, with Trinculo and Stephano, and therefore we can see that perhaps Caliban is incapable of being anything other than a stupid monster. Shakespeare uses Caliban as a way of comparing the qualities of other characters with an evil monster. For some characters - specifically Miranda - this allows us to see how truly good she is however for other characters - Antonio and Sebastian - we can see that even though people may have an honourable upbringing, they are just as evil as Caliban - a monster. Michelle Bailey 12R ...read more.

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