Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - Heart Of The Savage

Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest - Heart Of The Savage

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The Tempest:  The Heart Of The Savage

Caliban the deformed savage on the island from his first appearance in the play is more animal than human. Prospero first refers to Caliban by calling him a, "tortoise" (1.2.318). This sets the tone for Caliban's character in the play as he is labeled as a semi-beast in the play. But interestingly despite Caliban's deformed body and animal like appearance he possess remarkable eloquence that gives him power. Prospero, a renaissance prince even with his velvety language only equals Caliban in eloquence. In some ways this dichotomy between Caliban's appearance in the play and his remarkable gift for language creates a magical and mysterious atmosphere in the play. It complicates the relationship between Caliban and Prospero for although Prospero claims to own his savage his savage speaks not like one who is owned.

Caliban from his first appearance in the play speaks with a remarkable eloquence despite his deformed image, "As wicked dew as e'er my mother brushed/ With raven's feather from unwholsome fen/ Drop on you both!" (1.2.324-326). These lines show how Caliban speaks in the same eloquent tongue that Prospero speaks with. His lines are long and his words are filled with imagery: "wucked dew", "unwholesome fen", "raven's feather". Caliban doesn't in the play ever seem to be at a loss for words when describing his situation. Later in Act 1 Scene 2 Caliban describes how he once the island was his. Caliban acts like a tour guide for the reader describing the water, berries, toads, and beetles of the island. In this passage through language Caliban is able to once again recreate the past when he was not a slave. Caliban despite his position as a slave to Prospero in the physical world in the world of language, Caliban is Prospero's equal.

Because of this when staging Caliban's passage we need to re-create this mysterious dynamic between Caliban and Prospero. Caliban must appear like beast more resembling and animal then a human being. But he should also exude a hidden power that befits his eloquent speech. In Act 3 Scene 2 Caliban speaks to Stefano and Trinculo with a magical rhythm that incorporates the images of dreams and air. Because of this when staging this scene Caliban should be a wild looking beast who speaks with a eloquent voice. In addition lights should be focussed on his huddled and animal like figure to give him the semblance of power.

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Caliban should move with slow deliberate steps not the wild gesturing of a mad beast. Because Caliban is not a mad beast but instead a wise creature. He should also appear old to befit his image as wise and powerful. In the passage Caliban speaks of his memories, "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises/ Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not/ Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments" (3.2.130-132). These memories that Caliban speaks of convey both Caliban's eloquence and years of living on the island.

By creating a dichotomy between Caliban's form and his use of language we can create a strange dynamic that puts Prospero in the physical world above Caliban but in the world of magic and speech at the same level. This is consistent with the atmosphere of the island which is a place of confusion, chaos and magic. Caliban is the nexus of these shifting forces and the staging of his character should represent these seemingly opposite forces that give Caliban his power.

 
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