Caliban


October 3, 2002


Caliban, a savage and deformed slave to Prospero, plays a very important role in The Tempest. Caliban represents a being of "pure nature." He is referred to as a monster by the other characters on the island. He is a very complex character and he mirrors other characters in the play. Throughout the play he makes several speeches about his island to Prospero.


The first speech that Caliban makes is to Prospero. He insists that Prospero and Miranda stole the island from him. Throughout this speech Caliban suggests that his situation is the same as Prospero\'s, whose brother Antonio, sent him and his niece out to sea when she was three so he could take over his position as the duke of Milan. While on the island Prospero teaches Caliban how to be civilized and how to speak. He also tries to educate him and treats him kindly despite the fact that he is a "monster."


"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.366-368) Basically Prospero is trying to colonize Caliban. After a while though, Caliban is refusing to learn manners and a proper way of living. The more that Prospero tries to "civilize" Caliban, the more he rebels.


Caliban both compares and contrasts to Prospero\'s other servant Ariel. While Ariel is an "airy spirit", Caliban is an "earthy spirit." His speeches turning to "springs, brine pits" (I.ii.341), "bogs, fens, flats" (II.ii.2), or crabapples and pignuts (II.ii.159-160). While Ariel maintains his freedom and dignity by serving Prospero willingly, Caliban achieves his dignity differently by refusing to bow before Prospero\'s intimidation.


Caliban also compares and contrasts with another character, Ferdinand. They both have a very strong interest in untying Miranda\'s "virgin knot". Ferdinand plans on marrying Miranda, while Caliban tried to rape her.


In Caliban\'s first speech to Prospero, he regretfully reminds Caliban about how he showed him the entire island when Prospero first arrived. A few scenes later though Caliban comes in drunk before a new magician in his life: Stefano and his bottle of liquor. Soon Caliban is begging Stefano to let him show him around the island. Caliban repeats these mistakes that he claims to curse. In Caliban\'s final act of rebellion, he is subdued entirely by Prospero. He is dunked in a bog and ordered to clean up Prospero\'s cell in preparation for dinner.


Despite the fact that Caliban is a savage and he doesn\'t have the best appearance, Caliban has a nobler, more sensitive side which Prospero and Miranda do not acknowledge at all. His speeches about his island provide a great amount of imagery in the play.


"Be not afeared. The isle is full of noises,


Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.


Sometimes a thousand twangling instraments


Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices


That, if I then had waked after long sleep


Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming


The clouds methought would open and show riches


Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked


I cried to dream again" (III.ii.130-138).


This is Caliban\'s explanation to Stefano and Trinculo of mysterious music that they hear by magic.


The Tempest is a play about Godliness, redemption, forgiveness, and the basic struggle between nature and civilization, which is carried out through the relationship between Caliban and Prospero. In the end of the play Caliban repents for his plotting against Prospero.


In conclusion, Caliban plays a very important minor character in the play "The Tempest." He does a lot of good things around the island, but he also does a few not so good things. Caliban is a very intriguing character who allows himself to become transformed into a fool.