The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essays

The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essays

Length: 805 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Caliban is one of the most interesting of Shakespeare’s characters. For centuries, scholars have puzzled over the meaning and importance of this central character. Who or what is this creature? Is he a man or a beast (Peterson, p.2)? Most of the people who have debated this question take the question itself at face value. Caliban is either a man or a beast. The other characters in the play dismiss him as a "poisonous slave," "savage," and "hag-seed" (Act 1, Scene 2), but that does not mean that the reader must do so as well. Let us take a closer look at Caliban the individual and evaluate the question of his humanity. In the end, I think we will see that Caliban is just as human as the other characters in the play.

The first charge against Caliban is his shape. Prospero beckons him come by shouting, "What ho! Slave, Caliban!/ Thou earth, thou, speak!...Come thou tortoise!" Prospero does not even deign to place him among humankind; instead he is called "earth" as if he is part of the very ground-- the dirt that Prospero rules. Later, Trinculo calls him "A strange fish" and Stephano refers to him as a "monster of the isle with four legs." (2,2) Indeed, Caliban is never spoken of without some dehumanizing adjective added to the address. I would, however like to challenge the notion of his ugliness. During Shakespeare's day, there was a very narrow, very specific concept of beauty. For example, a woman was usually considered most beautiful if she was very fair. This showed that she was not exposed to the sun through any type of common labor and thus signified her gentility. To most of Elizabethan England, this concept of beauty was the only concept of beaut...


... middle of paper ...


...ight not all be good ones, are, nevertheless, very human ones. In fact, most of Shakespeare's characters exhibit attributes far worse than Caliban's, yet their humanity is ever called into question. Consider Iago of Othello. Iago exhibited a startling lack of redeeming qualities, yet he was never called a monster. The only reason that Caliban should be called a "monster" lies in the only way he differs from the other characters-- his appearance. It is a shame that, while a modern audiences may question the treatment of Caliban, they do not often question the reason behind it, and by failing to do so, they, along with Prospero become slaves to their own preconceptions. Dale Peterson and Jane Goodall encompassed the lesson that we must learn from Caliban. They said, "By enslaving Caliban, we enslave ourselves. Only when we free Caliban will we free ourselves."

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest

- The Character of Caliban in The Tempest     'This thing of darkness, I must acknowledge mine' It is impossible to understand The Tempest without first understanding the character of Caliban. Despite numerous novels and poems praising the virtuous, the pure and the good, everyone has within them a darker side of depravity and evil thoughts. This makes us human. What distinguishes between good and bad people, though, is the way in which this 'alter ego' manifests itself to both the rest of mankind and to oneself....   [tags: Tempest essays]

Better Essays
1777 words (5.1 pages)

The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Essays

- The Character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest Caliban is one of the most interesting of Shakespeare’s characters. For centuries, scholars have puzzled over the meaning and importance of this central character. Who or what is this creature. Is he a man or a beast (Peterson, p.2). Most of the people who have debated this question take the question itself at face value. Caliban is either a man or a beast. The other characters in the play dismiss him as a "poisonous slave," "savage," and "hag-seed" (Act 1, Scene 2), but that does not mean that the reader must do so as well....   [tags: Tempest essays]

Better Essays
805 words (2.3 pages)

The Tempest By William Shakespeare Essays

- The Tempest The first design hurdle that needs to be conquered right off the bat is how the magic will be depicted. In a film, CGI takes care of this tricky aspect of the play. However, in a stage adaptation, this will have to be tweaked. If Furman did The Tempest, lighting design would produce of many of these effects. I envision Robert’s original plan for Pillowman, with a scrim that allows either shadow-like projections, or shadow puppets for Katurian’s stories as a perfect solution for scenes in the Tempest involving magic....   [tags: The Tempest, Caliban, Plot, Character]

Better Essays
1004 words (2.9 pages)

William Shakespeare 's The Tempest Essay

- “Discoveries can challenge or renew our perceptions of ourselves, others and the world” The challenging nature of a sudden or unexpected discovery can alter an individual’s perspective in various ways, resulting in the re-evaluation of a human beings belief, values and behaviour. The journey of discovery in which an individual accomplishes new insights and perspectives, allows them to procure understanding into their own individuality, as well as being able to envision their strengths and weakness....   [tags: The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Psychology]

Better Essays
1011 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about William Shakespeare 's The Tempest

- In the comedic, yet thrilling play, The Tempest, William Shakespeare uses characters such as Caliban, Alonso, and Ariel to show Prospero’s immense cruelness and pure monstrosity. Moreover, these Shakespearean characters are also used to highlight Prospero’s change in character into a kinder and more forgiving person. Prospero starts the play out as a vengeful monster, after an illuminating moment however, his persona transforms into his true identity of a compassionate man. Prospero’s relationships with others prior to his personal epiphany were highly unpleasant to say the least....   [tags: The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Caliban]

Better Essays
1062 words (3 pages)

Essay about Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - Caliban and Trinculo

- 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....   [tags: Shakespeare The Tempest]

Free Essays
511 words (1.5 pages)

The Importance of Caliban in William Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay

- 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....   [tags: Tempest essays Shakespeare ]

Better Essays
1814 words (5.2 pages)

Essay on The Characters of Prospero and Caliban in The Tempest

- The Conflict between Passion and Intellect in The Tempest      During the time of Shakespeare, society had a hierarchical structure. In Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, the characters of Prospero and Caliban, represent two different extremes on the social spectrum: the ruler, and the ruled. Their positions on the social hierarchy are largely due to the fact that Caliban responds almost wholly to passions, feelings of pleasure -- his senses, while Prospero is ruled more by his intellect and self-discipline -- his mind....   [tags: The Tempest Essays]

Better Essays
1554 words (4.4 pages)

The Purpose of Caliban in The Tempest Essay

- The Purpose of Caliban in The Tempest       One of the indispensable themes displayed in The Tempest is the duality of nature and society.  This is made apparent through the character of Caliban.  Caliban is a dis-figured fish-like creature that inhabits the island where the play The Tempest, takes place.              Caliban is the son a witch-hag, and the only native on the island.  In Caliban's first speech, he suggests that Prospero stole the island from him. (Act 1, Scene 1, line 331-342) "This island's mine by Sycorax my mother Which thou tak'st from me.  When thou camest first, Caliban is a servant to Prospero, the right duke of Milan.  Caliban is a monstrous, and ugly cr...   [tags: Tempest Shakespeare]

Better Essays
1026 words (2.9 pages)

Aime Cesaire's A Tempest Clarifies Shakespeare's The Tempest Essay examples

- Cesaire's A Tempest Clarifies Shakespeare's The Tempest       "Negritude, originally a literary and ideological movement of French-speaking black intellectuals, reflects an important and comprehensive reaction to the colonial situation of European colonization" (Carlberg).  This movement, which influenced Africans as well as blacks around the world, specifically rejects the political, social, and moral domination of the West.   Leopold Senghor, Leon Damas, and Aime Cesaire are the three pioneers of the revolution.  The founder who expresses his ideas more broadly, though, is Cesaire, who uses literary works to express his viewpoint on colonization.  An excellent example of such a tactic i...   [tags: Tempest essays]

Better Essays
1684 words (4.8 pages)