Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - Caliban and Trinculo


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Psychoanalytic Analysis of Caliban and Trinculo of The Tempest   


From a psychoanalytic perspective, both Caliban and Trinculo of Shakespeare’s The Tempest are interesting characters. Caliban is very sexual and bitter, while Trinculo is at odds with everything: his situation of being washed ashore and wrongly accused of saying things when he did not utter a word, as well as Caliban’s worship of an unkingly man, his drunken friend Stephano. Caliban has obviously not had all of his desires trained to stay within him, despite Prospero’s punishments and Miranda’s schooling. Trinculo, on the other hand, wastes his emotions in a bottle of liquor and knows better than Caliban who is and is not fit to worship.

Caliban is rude, crude, ugly and lazy. Speaking in a psychoanalytic manner, Caliban is going to be remembered as bitter and obsessed with sex. This sexual desire is going to be coincided first with thoughts of his mutation-- a feeling of inadequacy-- and then more significantly with the absence of his mother. That he had no parents on which to form an Oedipal complex and knows only who his mother was (nothing is mentioned of his father) makes for interesting observations on how he deals with sexuality. We learn that he does not deny that Prospero is the only barrier between him and the rape of Miranda. It is clear that he has developed only so far as Freud’s theory of id, with small touches of the superego. Caliban’s development of the superego is evident only when he does not wish to receive Prospero’s pinches and cramps. He is otherwise all for anything that will bring him pleasure. Being free of Prospero, fulfilling his sexual desires with Miranda and drinking liquor are all on his menu.

Trinculo is unable to forget, as the butler Stephano does, all of his woes into the bottom of a bottle. He is upset by the way that Stephano allows himself to be carried away by the worship and praise of Caliban. He is also dismayed in the unjust treatment Stephano dispenses on Caliban’s behalf as Ariel plays Puckish tricks. Clearly, there is no problem with this jester’s ego. He wants himself to be taken care of. He does not appreciate the way he is treated on the monster’s behalf, because he knows he has done no wrong. Later, Trinculo’s id takes over somewhat as he becomes more intoxicated and no longer has the will to let his ego control his id.

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It is not necessarily a change in the man, but in his condition. His ego is quickly sobered when he sees the king. This is apparent in his lame attempt to amuse the king with a joke before he goes to be held with his two accomplices. Trinculo is interested in himself, but not in a narcissistic way. His concern is extended to Stephano—thus showing a superego. He does not want Stephano to associate with an influence like Caliban. Of Caliban and Trinculo, the latter is the more developed character in terms of Freud’s id, ego, and superego theories.


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