Caliban is first introduced to the audience as a character that is of a lesser status in terms of the divine order which Shakespeare believed in, the hierarchy of God, king, man, woman, beast. Though there are no exact references to his appearance, we can infer that he looks different from all of the other characters which make him belong to the bottom of the Elizabethan social hierarchy. Whether he is interpreted as an animal, a victim of colonialisation or in another way depends on the way he is perceived by the reader, this ambiguity is another key element of the character. However, to a modern audience, Caliban may be viewed in a more sympathetic manner.
One interpretation that can be put forward is the name ‘Caliban’ itself. His name could be regarded as an anagram for ‘cannibal’, the Elizabethan meaning of this word means one who uncivilised savage. Another interpretation of his name could be seen as a play on the word ‘Cauliban’ which is something associated with darkness; this makes sense, especially as Caliban is called “This thing of darkness” by Prospero. I recognise this in my monologue choosing to portray a slight innocent, child-like characteristic to like to highlight the fact that he is innocent of the world and its code of behaviour.
A child is seen as an innocent being that needs to be guided through the world by a parental figure, Prospero is seen as the parental figure that should lead Caliban through the behavioural norms of the world. This has been exhibited in my devised monologue where Caliban mentions ‘He was my master, my… father. I was to be his son’, the fact that Caliban once viewed Prospero as someone who would be his father proves to be quite significant as it is arguable that Prospero didn’t rightly perform as a ‘father’ to Caliban. Child-like behaviour is also seen in my re-creative task after Caliban says “More like a fool!”, at this point he realises that he had been taken for granted throughout the play and he is unable to deal with this and begins to hit ‘himself on the head’, this is not a social norm and shows that he is in a state whereby he cannot be controlled. In addition, in terms of his relationship with Prospero who had spent the most of his life learning to be as self disciplined as possible, Caliban contrasts this discipline and demonstrates a lack of self control, this could be a possible interpretation that could be taken into mind when analysing Prospero’s behaviour towards Caliban, because of his lack of self control, he is unable to subside his primal urges which means there is a childish immoral substance in the way that Caliban thinks within the play; his attempted rape on Miranda illustrates that he only wishes to follow his basic primitive instincts to want to reproduce, however, had he been aware and taught properly about the codes of behaviour within society by Prospero, he would have known better than to act in such a way towards a young innocent girl. After the attempted rape, Caliban speaks of his actions “O ho, O Ho, would’t had been done”, by saying something like this, the reader sees a more negative side to Caliban as he speaks as if he has no remorse for his actions. The repetition of this type of speech within my monologue ‘A thousand Calibans should’ve been upon this isle in this moment’ continues to portray a slightly savage, but still innocent side to Caliban as he genuinely did not think that he’d been doing anything wrong by just following his basic instincts.
In addition, Shakespeare uses rich vocabulary when naming Caliban. He is called a number of different negative and offensive names throughout the play. One part of them refers to Caliban’s appearance; Stephano & Trinculo both call him “monster” combination with other words such as “well drawn” and “abominable”. Miranda calls him as a “villain” while Prospero calls him “devil” or “slave”, these examples all show that throughout the play, Caliban is not…