The Oppression of Caliban in The Tempest

The Oppression of Caliban in The Tempest

William Shakespeare's, "The Tempest," provides insight into the hierarchy of command and servitude by order of nature. This play uses the relationship between its characters to display the control of the conqueror over the conquered. It also shows how society usually places the undesirable members at the bottom of the chain of command, even though they may be entitled to a higher social status. For example, the beginning of the play opens with a scene on a boat in the midst of a terrible storm. The boatswain, who is under the command of the royal party, attempts to keep the boat from sinking.

Members of the royal party, however, persist in interfering with his duties. The boatswain retorts, "What cares these roarers for the name of the king? To cabin! Silence! Trouble us not"(I, I, 16-18). He is trying to warn his superiors that if he does not let him do his job, everyone will die, and it will not matter who has power over whom. The superiors, however, still take offense to this comment and label him a blasphemer. Caliban, an unfortunate character in this play, suffers from similar constant abuse because he is of the lowest social rank in his community. Critic John W. Draper describes Caliban's position in relation to the other characters when he says,

"Of all the characters in Shakespeare, Caliban is the

most fully and repeatedly/ described, though not always

consistently; and his bodily parts seem to show little/

relation to his humor or his character except that both

are monstrous. Monsters/ were popular; and, as Trinculo


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Vaughan, Alden T. & Virginia Mason. "Shakespeare's Caliban: A Cultural History." New York: University Press, 1991.

Wilson, Daniel, LL.D. "Caliban: The Missing Link." London: Macmillan and Co., 1873.
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