Shakespeare's Influence on the Audience's Response to Caliban in The Tempest

Shakespeare's Influence on the Audience's Response to Caliban in The Tempest

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Shakespeare's Influence on the Audience's Response to Caliban in The Tempest

My essay hopes to draw into focus one of the most complex characters
in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, - Caliban. Shakespeare influences
the audience's response to Caliban using in turn, humour and pathos to
make the audience relate to the various strands of his character.
Caliban can be interpreted in many ways, and only when examining his
character as a whole, can we truly understand how Shakespeare wanted
us to interpret him. I will now further examine how he accomplishes
this.

Our first introduction to Caliban is not in person but instead, he is
described by Prospero as "a freckled whelp, hag born - not honoured
with / A human shape"; this account of Caliban's appearance gives the
audience good reason to feel negatively about Caliban and also makes
them eagerly anticipate his entrance. However, when we do indeed meet
Caliban for the first time, this vision of an evil disfigured monster
as expected, is replaced in favour with a cheeky insolent being that
the audience warms to. Prospero speaks to him in a cruel manner,
calling him a "tortoise" and a "poisonous slave", instead of covering,
he ill temperedly answers back "As wicked dew as e'er my mother
brushed / With raven's feather from unwholesome fen / Drop on you
both! A south-west blow on ye, / And blister you all o'er!" The
audience warms to this disrespectful rebuke. Caliban the underdog is
threatening the authoritative Prospero with no power to carry out his
curses. His bravado and disrespect in the face of such authority first
surprises then amuses the audience.

Prospero gives reason for hi...


... middle of paper ...


...thing
to illustrate the correct way to behave, nor did it deter Caliban from
trying to commit further calumnies. This is a classic case of nature
versus nurture, and the audience is left to decide whether Caliban is
really good but corrupted by his up-bringing, or is basically bad with
occasional flashes of gentleness and caring.

Caliban's character proves so successful with the audience because
unlike some of the other characters in the play he shows a complex
mixture of both good and evil. It is this interesting contradiction of
traits that makes him more believable and accessible to the audience.
His physical ugliness combined with his gullibility, hot temper,
mischievousness, sense of natural beauty, eloquence and humour make
him irresistible and one of Shakespeare's most appealing and enduring
of characters.

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