The Tempest and later Portrays Caliban Essay

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The play ‘The Tempest’ was written by William Shakespeare in the Elizabethan times. In the play, William Shakespeare portrays the character, Caliban in a variety of ways as the play progresses. At first, Caliban can be viewed in the context of a savage native who inhabits the island and feels resentful towards Prosper, who in Caliban’s view, treated him like a slave and taken over what Caliban believes to be his island. Later, Caliban is viewed as a foolish and naive native who is at the mercy of a powerful and ‘godlike’ European colonizer. Towards the end of the play, Caliban is viewed as a violent savage but he is also viewed as an innocent and pure native who is in his natural state and who is able to appreciate the island’s beauties. An Elizabethan audience would see Caliban as an uncivilised native of the island through out the play because of the way he is portrayed. Europeans believed that the natives were below them and that they had to work under them since the Europeans had more power.

In Act 1 Scene 2, William Shakespeare shows Caliban as a rude and ungrateful native as Caliban curses Prospero. Prospero is the person who gave him the gift of speech so he is able to communicate with others but Caliban uses this gift to curse Prospero. This is shown when Caliban says to Prospero ‘Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!’ which means that he wants those creatures to harm Prospero. This quote shows that Caliban is ungrateful for what Prospero has given to him and instead of using it to speak with others in a calm manner, he uses it to curse as he feels resentful towards Prospero. Also, Caliban says himself ‘I know how to curse’ which shows that he is ill-mannered as well. An Elizabethan audience would see Caliban as an uncivilised native because of him cursing his master which shows he has no respect for Prospero. William Shakespeare portrays Caliban as an insolent native as he is disobeying his master’s orders by using insolent and disrespectful language. When Prospero orders Caliban to fetch some wood, Caliban replies saying ‘There’s wood enough’ which shows him disobeying his master’s orders and Caliban being insolent. This also shows that he does not respect Prospero. To show the differences between both of their statuses, William Shakespeare uses repetition to emphasise that Caliban has a very low status in Prospero’s eyes. Prospero uses the word ‘slave’ several times to show that Caliban now has to do his bidding. This shows that the natives were believed to be below the European colonizers since the colonizers had more power.

In Act 2 Scene 2, William Shakespeare portrays Caliban as a foolish and naïve native who is at the mercy of a powerful and ‘godlike’ European colonizer. At first, Caliban saw Trinculo, the jester, as ‘a spirit of his’ which shows that Caliban is easily misguided. In Elizabethan times, natives were seen as foolish since they never had the chance to meet new people that are not from the island so they did not know what to expect from the colonizers. Trinculo notices Caliban lying on the ground and he is not sure about what he is looking at. Trinculo could not tell if it was ‘a man or a fish’ because of Caliban having a very strange appearance. William Shakespeare does this to portray Caliban as a strange and animalistic creature. Colonizers in the Elizabethan times would expect to find strange creatures on the islands such as mermaids. Also, people in the Elizabethan times would pay to see Caliban when Trinculo says ‘there but would give a piece of silver’. This shows that Caliban as valuable as a freak of nature. Stephano notices Caliban and Trinculo and mistakes them for a creature with four legs and he feels that this could be a ‘present for any emperor’ which gives me evidence that these strange creatures were valuable if colonizers came across them. Caliban then pleads to not ‘torment’ him which shows how powerless the natives were when colonizers were standing before them.