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Monday, April 26, 2010

Post Colonial Analysis of The Tempest

I have to admit that I have a certain bias since some of my best friends from school performed in Wabash's showing of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Craig Vetor, my teammate from swimming, played the role of Caliban, a spirit abused by Prospero. Caliban is a native of the island who was cast under Prospero's magical spell. Caliban welcomed Prospero to the island eagerly. He showed him where everything was and taught him many things about the magical place of the island. But, Prospero soon took advantage of him. Prospero refers to Caliban as his lowly slave. He sends him to gather wood, doing all the grunt work that Prospero himself would have to do if he did not use his powers to control Caliban. This is is almost a repetition of the African and Native American story. The natives welcome a foreigner in which case the foreigner deems himself superior. Prospero constantly sees Caliban is being worthless, even until the end of the play. Such consistency poses that natives were often treated the same way. Caliban has not been educated in the same way that Prospero has, but he does not lack intelligence or culture. His is simply different. Caliban tries to fight the oppression that he faces with an attempt to kill Prospero, but instead he mostly runs around drinking. Such portrayals of a "native savage" acting in mostly savage ways is a sort of biased opinion towards people representing "the other"-- someone from another culture. Caliban is never really redeemed as a character or individual who could be on an equal level to Prospero or the others. We can see this partly through Propspero's attitude towards Ariel. Anyone who actively obeys Prospero and serves him in the utmost fashion has commanded his respect. Caliban. who basically saved Prospero by teaching him how to live on the island, gets completely neglected.

1 comment:

  1. I think another aspect of Caliban to keep in mind here is that he is called a "bastard." As in other Shakespeare plays, the bastard character is evil to the core and completely unable to alter his cruel nature (e.g., Don John and Edmund). To be a bastard is to lack legitimacy, and Caliban lacks it because he is just a "native savage." The stereotype says that people like Caliban can never be equal to the noble Prospero and his daughter because they were simply born inferior.