How does Shakespeare portray Caliban in The Tempest and why does this portrayal sometimes contradict common public views of people like Caliban?


The Tempest

Asked on

1 Answer | Add Yours

thanatassa's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

Once complicating factor is that because this is a play, the portrait of Caliban seen by an audience is very much a matter of the actor's treatment of the role. Also, how the audience will view Caliban depends on the cultural presuppositions of the audience.

Both in the Elizabethan era and now, a key factor in understanding Caliban is colonialism. For the Elizabethans, this would have meant the discovery of lands filled with brutal, bestial savages; Caliban's reaction of getting drunk and trying to rape a European woman reflects how Shakespeare and his contemporaries regarded indigenous peoples. A modern audience is likely to view Caliban more sympathetically, as we no longer consider indigenous peoples "savages" or "brutes" and respect Caliban's claim:

This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak'st from me....

...I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king...


We’ve answered 287,930 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question