The Tempest : Character Sketch of Caliban

 Character Sketch of Caliban

       Caliban, though not entirely a human being, holds an important place among the characters in “The Tempest”. He is a symbol of the lower side of humanity.

    Caliban is a product of nature, the offspring of the witch Sycorax and the devil.

    Caliban is a dark, earthy slave of Prospero, who is insolent and rebellious and is only controlled through the use of magic.

       • Physical Appearance

        Caliban has some resemblance to a fish , which Trinculo takes him to be. He is half monster and half human. He is of evil nature and is engaged in wicked projects and uses abusive language. He is said to be  ” as disproportioned  in his manners  as in his shape.” He is also referred to as  “mis – shapen knave”. He is addressed by Prospero as – ” thou earth” and  “thou tortoise“.

       • Wickedness

      When we rearrange the letters of his name, we get ‘cannibal’, he is savage and brutal like a cannibal. 

     His earthy nature presents sharp contrast to the celestial nature of Ariel. 

    Caliban is gross and beastly. He is uneducated and reacting to his surroundings in much the same way as an animal.

    He is regarded as evolutionary  ” missing link” between human and beasts because he represent mankind at the brutal stage. 

   He is morally a devil. He tried to rape Miranda, to produce the young one of his own kind.

      His mind has rightly been compared to a dark cave into which the light of knowledge neither illuminates nor warms it, but only induce to give out poisonous vapours.  

     •  His Cowardice

      Caliban represent the black magic of his mother Sycorax. He is not moved by any act of kindness. 

       Caliban claims the island as his own and believes that Prospero has tricked him in the past and conquered him. Caliban plots to murder Prospero in revenge but he prefers to do it through the drunken sailors.

       The manner in which he hatches the plot to kill Prospero in his sleep is clearly indicates his cowardice. His repentance and promise to reform, when his plot is exposed, are a product of his cowardly nature, because he can never be changed.

     • His Shrewdness 

    His plan to murder Prospero clearly shows his shrewdness and common sense. 

       He advises his fellow conspirators to seize Prospero’s books first and asks them to walk slowly and softly so that Prospero may not hear their footsteps. All these shows his shrewdness.

     • Observant

      Caliban is the original native of the island. He has complete knowledge of the island. He knows all the qualities of the island, the fresh brine pits, the barren and fertile places. With his long nails he can dug up pig nuts. He can also get seagulls from the rocks.

        Prospero has taught him to speak, to make dams for the fish, to wash the dishes and to keep his cell clean. 

       • Abusive in Language

     Caliban’s manner of speaking and expressing his thoughts and ideas clearly reveals his earthy nature. The earth is his natural element. Although Prospero has taught him to speak by to his earthy nature he uses language in abusive way. He curses Prospero and Miranda as – 

        “All the infections that the sun sucks up

     From bogs, fens, flats, on Prospero fall and make him

       By inch – meal a disease ! “

      This kind of language becomes a regular habit with  him. He called on toads, beetles, bats, hedge – hogs, adders, moles in his curses. The language in which he curses has a certain rude eloquence.

      Good Traits in Caliban

       In spite of all this Caliban has some positive traits in his character. Firstly he has natural liking for poetry. Then he loves beauty and music of nature.

   Caliban arouses our sympathy because he has been enslaved by Prospero whose greed has reduced him to the position of a hewer of wood. He hates his slavery and is eager to get back his freedom. He curses Prospero because he has usurped his island. 

      Caliban’s  Simplicity

      Caliban’s simplicity is apparent when he is taken in by the bravado of Stephano. But when Stephano and Trinculo are attracted by mere trumpery and become indifferent to the plan of Prospero’s murder, Caliban’s admiration  for Stephano changes into contempt.

     Thus, it can be said that Caliban is beastly, dangerous, untrustworthy and foolish creature, who is undisciplined and it is impossible to discipline him.






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