TEMPEST






The Tempest is a play that has a theme of nature and civilization. It has a strong theme that deals with issues of colonizer and the colonized. While to many people this play may simply be just a play, it really has a story of what happens when nature and civilization collide. The character Caliban represents a being of pure nature. The character Prospero is civilization. These characters can also be seen as the colonized and the colonizer. The relationship they have is very complex and is a constant struggle, much like any relationship between a colonizer and colonized. It questions what is pure nature? Is it savage and monster like, as Caliban is? In this paper I will examine the relationship between Caliban and Prospero and what it represents, as well was what it means to be civilized and “Godly”. Prospero is given a God like role to judge all those around him and demand they repent. There are traces of not only good and evil but also colonization and the problems it creates, as well as the benefits of it, although meager.
Prospero, the righteous Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda have been on an Island for twelve years. Prospero’s brother Antonio sent him and his three-year-old niece out into the sea for them to die. His motive for this was so that he can become Duke of Milan. After managing his brother’s affairs, while Prospero immerses himself in the studies of liberal arts, Antonio driven by power decides to seize the opportunity to become the Duke. Fortunately for Prospero, Gonzalo the counselor instructed to send them to sea to drown takes pity on Prospero and his daughter. He stocks their boat with food, clothes, books, as well as many other things to aid in their survival. Prospero, along with his young daughter make the Island their new home. Prospero keeps himself occupied by studying the art of magic and raising his daughter.
Before Prospero and Miranda came to the island an evil witch, Sycorax, ruled it. She ruled the island with evil magic and terror. When Prospero arrives to the island he frees a delicate spirit from a pine tree. Sycorax had put a spell on the spirit to forever be in the tree. When Prospero uses his magic to free the spirit, Ariel, the spirit becomes forever in debt to Prospero. Ariel becomes Prospero’s helper and friend. Prospero also enslaves Caliban, a half monster born of Sycorax. Prospero teaches Caliban how to speak and treats him kindly despite the fact that he is a “monster”. Caliban falls from grace though when he attempts to rape Miranda. Life on the island consists of these characters, until the ship of the royal party, including Prospero’s brother Antonio arrives.
The royal party’s boat is hit by a storm, which is all the doing of Prospero’s magic. He brings them to the island to confront them and perhaps redeem them. This play primarily focuses on the interaction between the characters, and what happens when each is put on trial and faces their own guilt and sin. But there are so many complex issues in this play, one of which is the relationship between Caliban the monster slave and Prospero the enlightened civilized man.
The first example of the tone in the relationship between Caliban and Prospero can be seen through their names. Caliban, as we know is an uncivilized “half monster” born of evil and sin. This is how most colonizers viewed people of Africa and Asia. They called them sinful, uncivilized, and brutish. The name Caliban is an anagram of the word cannibal. Cannibals are what the people of Africa and Asia (indigenous according to colonizers) were called. Therefore the name Caliban connotes that he is a stereotype of this group, an uncivilized cannibal.
At the same time one cannot overlook the name Prospero. It sounds very close to the word Prosperous. This is how colonizers viewed themselves as prosperous and above the uncivilized. Prospero seems that way also. He is a well-educated man with powers of “white”, or good, magic. The opposite of this good is Caliban, who is born of “black” or bad magic. Prospero is a man that prospers forward, while Caliban is a cannibal that cannot be taught or civilized.