The Importance of Caliban in William Shakespeare's The Tempest

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The Importance of Caliban in William Shakespeare's The Tempest

'This thing of darkness, I must acknowledge mine.' Although many seem baffled by Shakespeare's The Tempest, the plot is not the target to be deciphered. We understand The Tempest through understanding the character of Caliban. Many works highlight the virtuous side of human nature, failing to acknowledge the darkness that lives within the hearts of all. The Tempest is not one of these works. This story realizes that it is impossible to have the good aspect of human nature without the bad. Caliban helps the reader realize that the difference between good and bad people is the way in which the hidden dark side manifests itself to the outside world.

Ostensibly, The Tempest is a play based around Prospero: his power to punish versus his power to forgive. ?Many scholars believe that this is a semi-autobiographical work, written towards the end of Shakespeare's literary career?(Davidson 241). This idea is reinforced throughout the play, especially towards the end and in the epilogue:

' ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer.'


'I'll break my staff,

Bury it in certain fathoms in the earth,

And deeper than did ever plummet sound

I'll drown my book'

(i.e. his tools that work the magic)

Therefore, our understanding of Caliban's position in the play is of great import. Critics debate on whether his...

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... Interpretation." In The Tempest: A Casebook. Ed. D.J. Palmer. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1968. 225-263.

Kermode, Frank. Introduction. The Tempest. By William Shakespeare. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958. xlii.

Palmer, D. J. (Editor) The Tempest - A Selection of Critical Essays London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1977.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans, et. al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974.

Solomon, Andrew. "A Reading of the Tempest." In Shakespeare's Late Plays. Ed. Richard C. Tobias and Paul G. Zolbrod. Athens: Ohio UP, 1974. 232-265

John Wilders' lecture on The Tempest given at Oxford University - Worcester College - August 4th, 1999.

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