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First Impressions of Caliban portrayed by Shakespeare in The Tempest

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From Your Reading of ?The Tempest?, What Are Your Impressions of Shakespeare?s presentation of Caliban? Throughout the play, Caliban is clearly shown not to be a regular human. He is referred to as many things during the text and yet never a man. Trinculo believes him to be a fish from the smell, while Stephano addresses him as ?[his] monster?. Both of these comparisons convey a sense of unpleasantness about the impression Caliban creates on Shakespeare?s other characters. Miranda states that she has never seen a man but for her father before Ferdinand; this shows us that Caliban does not appear human to the other characters of the book. And, son of Sycorax (a witch), Caliban surely takes some form of the supernatural, similar in many ways to Ariel. But while Ariel comes across as a spirit of the air, graceful and obliging, Caliban is portrayed by Shakespeare as a being of the earth with an unmoving association with evil magic and the devil-?got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam-. ...read more.


What is more, he has no reason to believe this is unacceptable with no parent to bring him up, and furthermore no cause for understanding the seriousness of the situation when he shows his lack of emotion. It cannot be argued that Caliban does not show signs of evil, but many of these are not without provocation. When he tells Stephano that Miranda ?shall be thy bed? and asks him to ?with a log batter his skull?, he is simply bitter for the years of enforced hardship he endured under Prospero?s power. Enslaved for over 10 years, Caliban has reason to demand the audience?s sympathy and yet, while not such a cruel character on closer inspection, Shakespeare seems determined to put forward a character with a cruel exterior to his audience. Despite being told by Prospero that ?old cramps and aches? were to be wished upon him, actions such as blasphemously worshipping Stephano as God and ?[swearing] on that bottle? like it is the bible would have caused further hatred towards Caliban from what would have been an almost entirely Christian audience. ...read more.


This subtle and clever trick shows his disrespect for Miranda and the language she ?adores? by being grammatically incorrect (we know he has knowledge of the verb ?taught? from the previous sentence). His soliloquy, meanwhile, shows another side not only to his speech but also his personality. ?Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not? says Caliban about the island that Shakespeare tells us means so much to him. Not only here are we showed a more thoughtful side to the ?misshaped knave? in considering and calming Stephano?s fear, but we are brought to the attention of Shakespeare?s alliteration of the ?s? sound that could be seen to create a calming sensual mood on the island. We realise at this point how much the island means to Caliban and our allegiance begins to turn slightly away from Prospero for his harsh treatment of the innocent sensitive Caliban. However as an audience one can cannot forgive fully the man that attempted to rape a child, a crime, seen as cruel and sickly, so similar to the impression we have of him at the start of the play. ...read more.

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