Prospero's Judgment of Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest

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Prospero's Judgment of Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest “A devil, a born devil, on whose nature Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains, Humanely taken are lost, quite lost. And so with age his body uglier grows, So his mind cankers.” (IV.I. 188-192) Prospero’s judgement on Caliban changes considerably throughout ‘The Tempest.’ However Caliban is always referred to as of a much lower status than Prospero, such as “poisonous slave” and “dull thing.” In the lines 188-192, act four, scene one, Prospero’s judgement on Caliban is possibly the most scathing throughout the entirety of the play. In act one, scene two, we are first introduced to Caliban by Prospero, who describes him as a slave, with “We’ll visit Caliban, my slave, who never yields us kind answer.” Here, Prospero’s judgement on Caliban is fair, as Caliban is just treated as a slave of Prospero throughout the play. “He does make our fire, Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices that profit us.” All of what Prospero tells us is true, and it is almost as if Prospero is grateful for Caliban’s services with the line “that profit us.” I believe that Prospero treats Caliban with such harshness so he can keep him where he is, and so that he has complete control over him; “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam, come forth!” Making references to the “devil” gives off an impression of the supernatural in Caliban and his mother, Sycorax, who was a witch. Joseph Warton says the following concerning Calib... ... middle of paper ... ...e “wise hereafter / And seek for grace.” These two lines do not take Caliban very far in the directions of reason and self-control which Prospero had in mind as we are not sure whether Caliban means what he says or whether he has been well educated by Propsero and from this education springs the recognition to say what would be deemed as an appropriate, correct and gracious comment. E.M.W Tillyard uses the lines “Two of these fellows / you must know and own; this thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine” in her critical essay ‘ The tragic pattern’ and says this of them; “ The last words express all Prospero’s old bitterness that Caliban has resisted him and refused to respond to his nurture.” I think that at the end of the play, as at its beginning, Caliban is still as Prospero describes him, a “thing of darkness.”
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