Monday, April 21, 2008

Caliban - Oppressed Creature or Menacing Monster?

When one thinks of Caliban, the thought of a reeking, hairy, filthy but tragic and wily creature comes to mind. He is under the service of Prospero, the sorcerer on the island where The Tempest takes place. Both Ariel, a spirit, and Caliban can be considered "colonized subjects," meaning they are natives under a nonnative master.
Caliban is a bitter creature, expressing this in many ways. He is honest from the very beginning:

"You taught me the language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!"
Can we say that it is the equivalent of biting the hand that feeds? Prospero and Miranda in return simply say "Oh shut up!"

Being an antagonist of The Tempest, Caliban later attempts to rape Miranda. He is also infamous for plotting with shipwrecked visitors of how to get rid Prospero and his powers on the island, so he can act as supreme ruler.
The native harbors bitter feelings and thoughts for revenge as he is the deformed son of the witch Sycorax. Sycorax was responsible for imprisoning Ariel within a tree until Prospero came along and rescued him/her (the gender depends on the performance and the interpretation). Upon Sycorax's demise, Caliban came under Prospero's control. The creature is angry because he believes he is the rightful owner of the island, attempting to regain control through troublesome means.
Caliban like other Shakespearean characters and stories has made impact on modern culture. There are characters borrowing his name, such as Caliban from the Marvel Comics universe. There is also a German metal group known as Caliban who borrows the name from the savage.
So Caliban with his newly found cohorts Stephano and Trinculo were driven out by Prospero's sorcery but his presence can never be driven out of Shakespeare's world and the English language. Like it or not, Caliban's menacing (and sometimes comical) presence remains and does not look like it will be leaving anytime soon.
- Kristopher

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