One of the essential themes of The Tempest is the duality between nature and society. This is made evident through the character of Caliban: the disfigured fish-like creature that inhabits the island upon which the play takes place. Caliban lacks civility because he was born on the island deprived of any social or spiritual morality other than nature and instinct. He is literally man untamed. Caliban is not monstrous simply for the sake of being frightening; his ghastly appearance is intended to literally depict the essential differences between civilization and natural instinct.
Caliban represents man, instinct, and nature in their rawest forms. Part fish, part man, but not really either because he is more mentally sophisticated than a fish, but devoid of any characteristics generally associated with civilized beings. He displays promise in becoming civilized, but eventually it becomes evident that it is impossible to fully tame a wild animal, which is what Caliban essentially is. Caliban is more of an animal rather than a monster. While he is labeled a monster throughout the play due to his appearance, he is in fact an animal. He is not inherently evil or malicious, but relies on his own instincts and skills that he has learned to adapt to his surrounding and survive. What is vital to survival in society is not necessarily important in nature; and vice versa.
In nature only the most basic aspects of survival are required. Nature is all about survival, at any cost. Society is not. Civilization was developed out of convenience with the mental and physical skills of man. It h...
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William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Frank Kermode, with an introduction by Frank Kermode, (Arden, 1964)
Montaigne, Selected Essays of Montaigne, trans. John Florio (1603) ed.Walter Kaiser, with an introduction by Walter Kaiser, (Riverside, 1964)
Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan, (Oxford University Press, 1991)
Jeffrey Knapp, An Empire Nowhere: England, America, and Literature from Utopia to The Tempest, (University of California Press, 1992)
Gail Kern Paster, 'Montaigne, Dido and The Tempest: How Came that Widow in?',Shakespeare Quarterly, 35, no.3 (1984)
Deborah Willis, 'Shakespeare's Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism', Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 29, no.2, (1989)
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