How do members of the audience react to Caliban in William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest?

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Audience members and critics, as well as Shakespeare scholars, have likely been debating the character of Caliban for as long as the play has been staged. Caliban is a monstrosity that inspires pity in some circles, and in others, he is a rapist who inspires rage and disgust—so it is up to each individual to decide for him or herself how to react to Caliban.

Caliban is a native of the island on which Prospero and Miranda find themselves. Post-colonialist readings of the play are often sympathetic to Caliban, as he has been misplaced and maligned by a usurper. Here, his bad behavior and his attack on Miranda are read as natural expressions of his rage at having his home stolen from him and his status reduced to that of a servant in his own country. Other readings of Caliban discuss him as a slave figure who refuses to abide by Prospero's rules, in addition to being a victim of oppression. As well, close analysis of Caliban's deformed appearance reveals a parallel with his deformed and misshapen new existence under Prospero.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Members of the audience vary in how they react to Caliban in William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. In many ways, he can be a reviled figure, brutish, awkward, and resentful and probably originally meant to be despised as a "savage." More recent readings of Caliban though, approach him through a more sympathetic lens. Increasingly popular are post-colonial approaches to Caliban, which see him as a metaphor for indigenous peoples displaced from their birthright by western colonial powers.  The key lines supporting this are:

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;

The island does rightfully belong to Caliban, and it is, on a certain level, unjust that he, as legitimate heir to the island, be forced to act as Prospero's servant.

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The Tempest

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