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How far does Prospero's judgement on Caliban seem fair to you?

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Introduction

"A devil, a born devil, on whose nature Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains, Humanely taken are lost, quite lost. And so with age his body uglier grows, So his mind cankers." (IV.I. 188-192) How far does Prospero's judgement on Caliban seem fair to you? Becky Harris 12G2 Prospero's judgement on Caliban changes considerably throughout 'The Tempest.' However Caliban is always referred to as of a much lower status than Prospero, such as "poisonous slave" and "dull thing." In the lines 188-192, act four, scene one, Prospero's judgement on Caliban is possibly the most scathing throughout the entirety of the play. In act one, scene two, we are first introduced to Caliban by Prospero, who describes him as a slave, with "We'll visit Caliban, my slave, who never yields us kind answer." Here, Prospero's judgement on Caliban is fair, as Caliban is just treated as a slave of Prospero throughout the play. "He does make our fire, Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices that profit us." All of what Prospero tells us is true, and it is almost as if Prospero is grateful for Caliban's services with the line "that profit us." ...read more.

Middle

Caliban was educated by Prospero and of his education he says "You taught me language, and my profit on't is, I know how to curse." The repeated idea of Caliban's incapability to speak without cursing is shown in act two, scene two, where he says "And yet I needs must curse." The critic Joseph Warton says the following regarding Caliban's language and intellectual qualities in his essay, 'Remarks on the creation of character';"he has the dawnings of understanding without reason or the moral sense, cursing Prospero and Miranda, and in him, as in some brute animals, this advance to the intellectual faculties, without the moral sense, is marked by the appearance of vice." Other characters in the play also offer their judgements of Caliban, which I believe are ultimately justified and fair. Stephano and Trinculo are the two characters most likened to Caliban, as they are drunk, which gives then animal qualities which are mostly attached to Caliban. Trinculo describes Caliban as a "strange beast" and "an abominable monster," leaving Stephano to describe Caliban as a "strange monster." These descriptions lead us to the conclusion that Caliban is monstrous, as these degrading descriptions come from two characters of the lower classes and are two classic comedy characters; a jester and a drunken butler. ...read more.

Conclusion

I believe that Prospero's judgement on Caliban is so very harsh because Prospero's effectiveness is more limited with the sinners of the play; Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban serves Prospero perforce under threats, but he still remains, however, despite formidable physical intimidation and the attempts at education and humanisation "a devil, a born evil." At the very end of the play, Caliban does determine to be "wise hereafter / And seek for grace." These two lines do not take Caliban very far in the directions of reason and self-control which Prospero had in mind as we are not sure whether Caliban means what he says or whether he has been well educated by Propsero and from this education springs the recognition to say what would be deemed as an appropriate, correct and gracious comment. E.M.W Tillyard uses the lines "Two of these fellows / you must know and own; this thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine" in her critical essay ' The tragic pattern' and says this of them; " The last words express all Prospero's old bitterness that Caliban has resisted him and refused to respond to his nurture." I think that at the end of the play, as at its beginning, Caliban is still as Prospero describes him, a "thing of darkness." 1,206 words ...read more.

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