Tempest Caliban Analysis

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  • Created on: 23-05-14 12:48
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Links/relationship to other characters
Prospero's dark, earthy slave, frequently referred to as a monster by the other characters,
Caliban is the son of a witchhag and the only real native of the island to appear in the play. He
is an extremely complex figure, and he mirrors or parodies several other characters in the play.
In his first speech to Prospero, Caliban insists that Prospero stole the island from him. Through
this speech, Caliban suggests that his situation is much the same as Prospero's, whose
brother usurped his dukedom. On the other hand, Caliban's desire for sovereignty of the island
mirrors the lust for power that led Antonio to overthrow Prospero. Caliban's conspiracy with
Stephano and Trinculo to murder Prospero mirrors Antonio and Sebastian's plot against
Alonso, as well as Antonio and Alonso's original conspiracy against Prospero.
Caliban also mirrors and contrasts with Ferdinand in certain ways. In Act II, scene ii Caliban
enters "with a burden of wood," and Ferdinand enters in Act III, scene i "bearing a log." Both
Caliban and Ferdinand profess an interest in untying Miranda's "virgin knot." Ferdinand plans to
marry her, while Caliban has attempted to rape her. The glorified, romantic, almost ethereal love
of Ferdinand for Miranda starkly contrasts with Caliban's desire to impregnate Miranda and
people the island with Calibans.
Caliban both mirrors and contrasts with Prospero's other servant, Ariel. While Ariel is "an airy
spirit," Caliban is of the earth, his speeches turning to "springs, brine pits" (I.ii.341), "bogs, fens,
flats" (II.ii.2), or crabapples and pignuts (II.ii.159­160). While Ariel maintains his dignity and his
freedom by serving Prospero willingly, Caliban achieves a different kind of dignity by refusing, if
only sporadically, to bow before Prospero's intimidation.
You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language! (I.ii.366­368)
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again (III.ii.130­138).
I'll show thee every fertile inch o' th' island
And I will kiss thy foot: I prithee, be my god. (2.2.11)
'Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new master: get a new man.
Freedom, heyday! (2.2)
Film/theatre interpretations
Taymor's interpretation of Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) he is monstrous by virtue of
being a mélange of diverse elements ("fish" with webbed fingers and scales "of the
earth," covered in mud, naked a "mooncalf," with a circular patch of vitiligo on his
face), and as racial Other
Globe theatre 2013 Caliban (James Garnon) red and brown mud and plastic bottom


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