Caliban is often regarded as a complex character. Choose two scenes from the play ‘The Tempest’ in which he appears and discuss how Shakespeare reveals to an audience, the complexities of Caliban’s character. William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ was thought to be one of his last completed pieces and conveys a lot of his own thoughts and emotions. The approximate date of when the play was written is 1611.
There is no direct source for the founding of the play but there are some similarities in a German play called ‘Comedia von der schonen Sidece’ which told the story of a Prince was had a spirit assistant and had an only daughter who fell in love with the son of his enemy. It is known that stories of magicians with only daughters are common in fairy tales. The Bermuda shipwreck happened around the time Shakespeare wrote ‘The Tempest’ so some of his ideas may have developed from this. The idea of Caliban may have come from tales of sailors about savage beasts.
‘The Tempest’ is a mystical drama full of magic, romance and disaster ending happily like a fairy tale. The story is about a magician named prospero who is taken from his dukedom in Milan and shipwrecked on a Island with his only daughter Miranda. Prospero takes over the Island and it’s inhabitants Caliban and Ariel and works his magic on an enemy. There is a lot of hidden meanings to the words and language used throughout the play. This gives the need to delve deeper into the speeches to find Shakespear’s true meaning. Caliban is a play on words taken from the word ‘cannibal’ which suggests he is a savage beast and also from the word ‘Caribbean’ which fits in with the theme of the Island. Caliban is the rightful owner of the Island as he inherited it from his mother, the black witch Sycorax.
She is described as a : ‘foul witch’ ‘blue-ey’d hag’ His father was the devil : ‘got by the devil himself ‘ All these facts indicate that Caliban is venomous and not a creature to be liked. He is describe as: ‘A freckl’d whelp, hag-born not honour’d with A human shape’ The fact that he is not appealing to look at would add to his evilness. The way he is described tells the audience he is not an attractive character and also he is evil hence his parents. It also tells the audience that he has inherited these things from his parents. This is how Shakespeare reveals his characters in one way ; by appearance.
The first introduction to Caliban in Act 1 Scene 2 also portrays the dislike of this character. ‘Shake it off: come on, We’ll visit Caliban, my slave, who never Yields us kind answer.’ Prospero has lots of power and is treating Caliban as a possession. Caliban has been robbed of his island and been made a slave. This would create sympathy from the audience and make him seem like a victim. There is an almost love hate contrast in Caliban’s character because at points the audience feel sorry for him and at other points they repulse him.
‘Tis a villain sir, I do not love to look on’ Miranda’s words again express the evilness of Caliban for she is usually sympathetic and kind. Shakespeare has used a gentle character here to emphasise Caliban’s savage and evil being. As Caliban enters the scene he is cursing, like his mother would have done. Prospero calls him a ‘poisonous slave’ and the audience would be able to detect the hatred of his words. ‘For this be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps, Side-stitches, that shall pen thy breath up’ Prospero has the power to torture Caliban and uses his power to make him obey. The audience would feel sorry for Caliban in this instance because he is and unwilling slave who protests against Prospero. The audience must not forget that Caliban was once a master too.
‘This Island’s MINE’
This sentence is a short dramatic statement and it would be spoken angrily because Caliban is very passionate about his Island. The word ‘mine’ would be highly emphasised because he feels very strongly about his Island. Although he curses when he speaks, he always talks softly and passionately about his island and is usually poetic about it. He is the rightful owner of the island and has had it taken from him against his will. This creates sympathy form the audience. When thou cam’st first Thou strok’dst me, and made much of me’ Prospero treated Caliban as a pet when he first arrived on the Island and gave Caliban wine to make him drunk so he would show all the wonders of the island to Prosper.
Caliban is a very gullible creature. The audience would recognise this because he received a small amount of kindness and let his guard down. This is one of the complexities of Caliban’s character. As a result of his vulnerability his Island was taken from him. This fact is extremely ironic because Prospero had his dukedom taken from him and he took away Caliban’s island which again creates sympathy for Caliban’s character. Although vulnerable he is also venomous which creates a love/hate feeling from the audience. When he speaks Caliban talks in verse which represents the civilised man in him but he also curses a lot which shows his venomous nature.
Of Sycorax : toads, beetles, bats, light on you’ This way of speaking Caliban would have inherited from his mother again showing that he is evil. Prospero declares that the breakdown in the relationship between him and Caliban was when Caliban attempted to rape Miranda. ’till thou dist seek to violate The honour of my child’ The language of the words here indicates the serenity of the action and the inhumane thing about this is Caliban is not apologetic for his actions. His wish was to ‘peopled else this island with Calibans’ The audience would now be disgusted by Caliban’s character and have no sympathy for him at all.