Who suffers most in The Tempest? Who suffers least?

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One could make a compelling argument that Caliban suffers the most in Shakespeare's classic play The Tempest . Caliban is depicted as a monster who originally inhabited the island before Prospero and Miranda arrived. Caliban insists that Prospero stole the island from him before enslaving him. As Prospero's slave, Caliban...

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One could make a compelling argument that Caliban suffers the most in Shakespeare's classic play The Tempest. Caliban is depicted as a monster who originally inhabited the island before Prospero and Miranda arrived. Caliban insists that Prospero stole the island from him before enslaving him. As Prospero's slave, Caliban is forced to carry out laborious duties while continually being tormented by magical spirits. Caliban resents Prospero for usurping the island and joins Stephano and Trinculo in a plot to kill him. However, Caliban quickly becomes drunk and proceeds to worship the foolish Stephano as a god. Eventually, Caliban fails to get revenge on Prospero, is dunked in a stinking bog, and is ordered to clean Prospero's cell in preparation for dinner. Prospero does not promise to free Caliban as does Ariel, and there is an ominous hint that Caliban might be taken back to Italy to be exhibited at fairs as a fish-like monster. Caliban's life is difficult, upsetting, and arduous. He lacks independence and lives under Prospero's rule.

In contrast, one could argue that Miranda suffers the least in the play. Miranda was too young to remember her time in Italy and grew up on the magical island with her father. Aside from her negative experience with Caliban, Miranda seems content on the island and falls in love with Ferdinand at first sight. Ferdinand shares the same feelings for Miranda as she does for him, and two characters get married. In addition to marrying the man of her dreams, Miranda also has a bright future as a member of the royal family.

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That's a very good question. In terms of suffering most I'd say Caliban. That's because he has to live with the daily humiliation of being Prospero's slave on his own island. Unlike Prospero, Caliban actually belongs on this island; this is his home. If we could put ourselves in his shoes for just one moment, we'd most probably feel similarly aggrieved.

That doesn't justify all Caliban's actions, of course; his comical misalliance with the two bumbling idiots Stephano and Trinculo is a disaster just waiting to happen. But in fairness to Caliban, he only enlists the help of these clowns out of desperation. Being under Prospero's thumb is such an emotionally painful experience that he's prepared to do just about anything to see his master suffer.

Looking at all the characters in the play, I think it's fair to say that Miranda doesn't really suffer all that much. Though this is somewhat ironic given that in her very first speech she says, "O, I have suffered / With those that I saw suffer!"

With all due respect to Miranda, though, this isn't really suffering as most of us would understand it. Yes, she's genuinely upset at the sight of the shipwreck, but this is largely because she's been protected from the outside world and all its horrors by her sheltered upbringing on the island. She's therefore too naive to know what true suffering is. For the most part, Miranda is a passive character to whom nothing really bad happens. It would be pushing it to say that she suffers in the play.

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