Essay, Research Paper: Tempest And Caliban

Literature: Shakespeare

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When looking at Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” one can find an underlying
themes of civilization verses barbarism. The characters that are created
represent symbols of nature, and their actions build their symbolism. Through
the actions we get a view of Shakespeare’s ideas on civilization and the
uncivilized, as well of letting the reader form their own opinions. Prospero,
the former Duke of Milan, after being removed by his brother, arrives on an
island. He frees a spirit named Ariel from a spell and in turn makes the spirit
his slave. He also enslaves a native monster named Caliban. These two slaves,
Caliban and Ariel represent the theme of nature verses nature. Caliban is
considered the illustration of the wild, a beast of nature. During the first
meeting, Caliban comes across as very savage and immoral. Prospero, when
approaching Caliban’s lair, says disdainfully, “...[he] never/Yields us kind
answer,” meaning Caliban never responds with respect. Once Prospero reaches
the cave he calls out and Caliban harshly retorts, “There’s wood enough
within.” This short reply reveals the bitterness he feels from leading his
life as a slave. This attitude makes Caliban appear to be an valueless servant.
There is also an extreme anger on the part of Caliban towards Prospero. When he
is requested to come forward, Caliban answers, “As wicked dew e’er my mother
brushed/With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen/Drop on you both!...And
blister you all o’er!” Although his actions may be justified they are still
considered improper for a servant. Previous to Prospero’s arrival on the
island, Caliban was his own ruler. His mother, Sycorax, left the island to him.
Regardless, Prospero took charge of the island and imprisoned Caliban.
“...Thou strok’st me...I loved thee...” is a portion of a quote that
portrays the relationship Caliban felt towards Prospero prior to be enslaved.
Prospero was his teacher, he taught Caliban to speak and in return Caliban
showed him the island, “The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and
fertile...” Rightfully so Caliban regrets helping Prospero, near the end of
his speech he says, “Cursed be I that did so!” Caliban’s imprisonment his
why he feels this way. However, the attempted rape of Prospero’s daughter,
Miranda, is the direct cause of the enslavement. This crime appeals to the
reader as a good cause for punishment, but Shakespeare also illustrates that
Caliban deserves sympathy, instead of disgust. Caliban committed a crime that
deserved punishment, but he was not raised in society so therefore did not know
what he did wrong. The only way of life he knew was to follow and do what he
feels. Caliban does not know right from wrong based on society’s standards.
Due this aspect there is a degree of sympathy towards Caliban because he is
oppressed due to conduct he could not control. Prospero comments, “A devil, a
born devil, on whose nature/Nurture can never stick...” which explains why
despite the teachings of Prospero, Caliban reacted on his instincts. Caliban is
helpless among the civilized because is a way of life he could never fully
understand. Even though Caliban is a man of a nature he should not be considered
less honorable than any character from civilization. Citizens of society picture
nature as ugly and unrefined, so this is how Shakespeare portrays Caliban, as a
hideous beast. His appearance is meant to illustrate the immoral animal nature
within him. Despite this immorality, Caliban posses purity and innocence,
something that no man of society can claim he has. Caliban does not act to
please others, rather his own pleasure is top priority. Shakespeare gives
Caliban some fine poetry, “...Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and
hurt not./Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments...” With this quote
Caliban states that nature can be equally as charismatic as society. Caliban
portrayed as evil, but he is not as soulless as Antonio, Prospero’s brother.
Antonio is from the civilized world, yet he produces corruption and ugliness far
worse than that of Caliban’s nature. Basically, Caliban behaves disgustingly
in the eyes of civilized society. Nevertheless, his background and environment
which he grew up in accounts for these actions and justifies them. Shakespeare
uses the character of Caliban to represent nature and to show readers that
nature is not as bad as it appears to be at face value. Through Caliban readers
can gain an understanding of those individuals who were not raised in the same
atmospheres we were. With this awareness, a feeling of great sympathy is
inflicted on the readers for those who are less fortunate. Shakespeare show that
our perception of others is not always an accurate picture.
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