Studying the character of Caliban in The Tempest

Authors Avatar by ayushi2001hotmailcouk (student)

The Tempest- Studying Caliban

“There’s enough wood within,”- Caliban (1, 2). Those were the first words of Caliban in one of the William Shakespeare’s greatest plays. In every play of his, there is always this one character that really comes into attention – and for this play, it’s Caliban. Caliban’s character in The Tempest is portrayed in such a way; it captures the attention of many audiences. He is first shown to be a savage who in the later stages, opens up, to not become more monstrous, but a considerate human being. After analysing this play, I have developed quite a lot of opinions on his character throughout the pay, which I will expand on, in further detail.

Commencing with a Tempest, that Prospero conjures up, we can see that the crew really has a hard time, as Trinculo and Stephano jump overboard. Once the Tempest calms down, Trinculo finds this majestic island where he first meets Caliban. “Lo now, lo! Here comes a spirit of his to torment me,” (2, 2) and also when Stephano comes in, “Do not torment me, I prithee (2, 2).” From this, I can establish that Caliban’s small fear of Trinculo and Stephano starts here. When he realises that they aren’t spirits to torment, he soon loosens himself up and says, “These be fine things, and if they not sprites! That’s a brave god and bears celestial liquor (2, 2)” From this situation, it is evident that Caliban is a person whose fears does not get in the way of knowing people. From what briefly happened, I can tell that he is opening minded about people. Claiming that, “The spirit torments me,” to calling Stephano, “A brave God,” who in his eyes, offers heavenly beer, takes a person who can trust. To put trust into people has many great aspects – much strength, but in this case, his trust was later taken on as a weakness. The fact he also calls a person he just met, a God, shows that he has never been treated with such kindness, as a little gesture of offering beer turns a butler into a God.

However, the respect he gives, he doesn’t receive. Stephano says, “How now, moon calf? (2, 2)” The words moon calf is not very pleasant, as it means deformed offspring. With this phrase, he is insulting Caliban and his parents, as he came as an ugly child from them. Probably knowing what a moon calf infers, he didn’t come back with an insult, but replied kindly, “Hast thou not dropped from heaven?” This is very strange, because if Prospero said that, he would curse him will all the names under the sun. This shows that he respects them dearly and never wants to lose them as masters and/or friends.  

His respect and trust increases as he later of says, “I’ll kiss thy foot. I’ll swear myself thy subject.” When Caliban says this, he is automatically volunteering to become at a lower status than them. He is offering to slave away and in my opinion, this is cowardly behaviour, as he knew that Stephano and Trinculo are petrified of this “Monstrous moon calf!” He could have got the 2 to be his slave, but he didn’t. Instead, he obeyed their every command, like for example, kneel when Stephano says, “Come on then down and swear.” This makes him weak, who doesn’t obey Prospero, but like a “Puppy headed monster,” acts like a loyal, cute puppy towards Stephano. Caliban acts like this because he isn’t cut out to be a leader, but a slave. I believe this comes down to his mother failing to nurture him in a good way. Even though he is a monster, he is shown to suffer the same psychological effects as humans. This means that the absence of his mother to guide him, has affected him an awful lot, bringing down his confidence and ability to step up. Sycorax, his mother must have treated him in such a way to make him always feel like he is under everyone. For example, she stole the island Caliban found himself. She then took charge of things straight away, not letting Caliban have a say.

Join now!

In a contrasting side to Caliban, he can be very violent, treacherous and rebellious. His violent side was not shown in the play, but was talked about when he, Prospero and Miranda were talking. “In mine own cell; till thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child. (1, 2)” The honours of Prospero’s child, would have been Miranda’s virginity. In the comforts of her own home, Caliban would have raped her. Caliban was really accepted as a part of their family, but he blew it as soon as he attempted to rape her, His sexual attraction towards Miranda, ...

This is a preview of the whole essay