Do you believe that Shakespeare intended the audience to share Prospero’s view of Caliban? I feel that through out the Tempest Caliban is portrayed as a dislikeable ‘creature’. However I personally think that the audience is supposed to learn to love him by the end as slowly we are told of all his good points. In the Tempest we meet many characters, the first on the island being Prospero. Before Prospero we meet characters like Boatswain and Master, as well as Antonio.
We are not sure at the start whether we like them or not as we haven’t been with them for a very long time. However as soon as we meet Prospero we are told the story of his past and sympathise with him. We also start to trust him, as we all believe beyond question his story of his and Miranda’s flight to the island. This principle is aided by the way Miranda believes everything without a doubt and as she is attractive our immediate thought is to trust her. This is our first instance showing just how important appearances actually are. From all this we start to abhor Antonio and all the others Prospero mentions except Gonzalo as he is described as “A noble Neapolitan”. So after the first two scenes we all ready have complete trust in Prospero, so therefore when we hear him describe another character like this:
“Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself Upon thy wicked dam, come forth.” (I, ii, 319,320) This strong description of someone obviously disliked by a man we all trust makes us dislike him too. We are also alarmed when we first see Caliban as he is a monster and is not a nice thing to look at. This triggers the same prejudice as the one triggered with Miranda but it works in reverse, due to Caliban’s appearance we dislike him, even though we know nothing about him. Shakespeare probably used this technique as at that time in history people were judged by their appearance and treated well or badly depending on this. Shakespeare may have also used this as it brought in some current issues of the time.
As the play goes on we learn a big fault of Caliban’s. We realise that before the play he decided to rape Miranda, however he was unsuccessful. Caliban admits this by quoting: “O ho, O ho, would’t be done! Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else This isle with Caliban’s.” (I, ii, 349-351) This gives Prospero and us what seems on the surface a good reason to loathe Caliban. However when you look in to this fact in more detail you realise that it is actually natural for any animal to do this, even though it may seem unacceptable by human standards. This way that we judge Caliban is unfair as he is not human and neither was his parentage.
His mother was an outcast witch so you could argue that he doesn’t know any better, however you could also say the opposite as in the play Caliban says “You taught me language…”. From this you can easily and convincingly say that if Caliban can learn a language; which is hard to do, he can learn what is right and what is wrong. From this the nature/nurture argument can really start. I personally feel that if you spend a long time in life doing what is natural (like Caliban did) you can never really be judged by human standards even if someone human has ‘nurtured’ you.
Therefore personally I don’t think that this rape makes Caliban a bad being as he did what was natural to him and he didn’t understand the consequences. He probably felt that he had the right to do this as when Prospero and Miranda came to the island Caliban showed them where all the food, drink and shelter was. He worshipped them and helped them to settle in to island life.
“…Thou strok’st me and made much of me; wouldst thou give me Water with berries in’t; and teach me how To name the bigger light, and how the less, That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee, And showed thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle, The fresh springs, the brine pits, barren place and fertile;” (I, ii, 333-348) This speech proves what Caliban did for Prospero and makes me think that Prospero may have died without Caliban’s help and therefore Caliban must have some kindness in him. However Caliban makes his mistake now. This is that he raped Miranda, but as he helped Prospero could have thought that he had the right to own some of Prospero’s property, and in the time that the play was written in, women were the property of their fathers and then husbands.