The Tempest Question Answers : Caliban’s impression in Act 1 scene 2

 The Tempest : 

Question :  What impression do you make of Caliban ?

Answer : Caliban is the Earthy Spirit of the play. He is infact “a devil, a born devil”. Caliban represent the evil and the lower side of mankind.

     The dramatic importance of Caliban is to serve as a contrast to Ariel, the one Earthy and the other airy, to show that human beings like Stephano and Trinculo can sink lower than beast to display the evil effects of alcohol,and to throw light on both the goodness and sternness or severity of Prospero.

    When the play is put on the stage Caliban evokes more interest in his strange appearance, actions and speeches than any other of the characters. Some enjoyable elements are found in him that attract him to the audience, his appreciation of music his poetic moments and a natural sympathy  aroused for him by hard fate.

        Caliban is born to a witch Sycorax by the devil. She was very ugly, having blue eyes and was very wicked. She was expelled from Algiers for performing the black magic which were too dreadful for human ears. She was brought on the island in pregnant condition. She gave birth to Caliban on this island. After some times she died leaving Caliban alone on the island. This way Caliban, who was brought up in the surroundings of the island, was the sole ruler of the island.

     Caliban is half fish and half man, but with human head and limbs. His trunk should be elongated and covered with scales and provided with fins. His mouth and cheeks could easily be made fish like. Prospero calls him a tortoise, and Trinculo states that he looks and smells like fish. He is purely a land animal, living and breathing in air and he rejoices much in sprawling on the ground in heat of the sun.

    When Prospero found him at the age of twelve, he had no intelligible language, no knowledge of human beings, no morality. Prospero took him into his cell, taught him language and tried to make him human in all respects. The fine language he used at times bears evidence of the kind of culture taught him. But because of his lack of morality, of a sense of decency, of a knowledge of right and wrong, he misbehaved himself and was driven from the company of Miranda and Prospero and reduced to the state of a slave. Since mental and moral punishment meant nothing to him, it became necessary to punish him physically with cramps and pains for any disobedience. 

     Caliban is beyond redemption. Earlier Prospero used to treat him kindly but Caliban’s attempt to rape Miranda proved him to be ungrateful towards Prospero and Miranda.

    Caliban remembers how he used to stroke and fondle him. He used to give them water with berries in it. But he conveniently forgets that he had tried to rape the daughter of his benefactor. He forgets that it was Prospero, who taught him human language to express his needs and feelings in words. He feels no remorse in trying rape an innocent girl. No wonder, Prospero treats him unkindly and hates him. Prospero rightly describes him as – 

” A devil, a born devil, on whose nature/ Nurture can never stick.”

   Caliban symbolises the aboriginal and uncivilised tribes, who were being deprived of their territories in the New World in America by the Elizabethans from England. He represents the barbaric man who was first tamed and then ruthlessly exploited the invading colonialists. To some critics he is a symbol of unthinking man.

     Caliban  personifies the natural man whose lack of ability to learn was so ruthlessly exploited by the colonial masters.

     In any case his physical deformity was depicted by Shakespeare more to please the credulous common people who believed in bizarre stories about far flung areas where the colonialists had forcibly taken possession.

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