Caliban is a central character in The Tempest, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays. He is a wild and barbaric creature, initially enslaved by Prospero, the play’s main antagonist. Despite his brutish nature, Caliban is deeply conflicted, torn between his desire for freedom and Prospero’s powerful magic.
Through his interactions with other characters like Ariel and Miranda, we see different facets of Caliban’s personality and gain insight into his motivations and struggles. Though he may be seen as simply a villainous monster at first glance, Caliban ultimately reveals himself to be a complex and deeply human character.
Caliban, a hideous and deformed slave to Prospero, is an essential figure in The Tempest. Caliban is described as a monster by the other characters on the island. He is a very intriguing individual who mirrors other figures in the play. Caliban delivers several speeches to Prospero about his island throughout the play. The first speech that Caliban makes is to Prospero himself. He claims that Prospero and Miranda stole the island from him.
The second speech of Caliban’s is about how to please him. The others on the island use this opportunity to trap Caliban into doing their work for them. The final speech that Caliban makes in The Tempest is his final attempt at taking back control of the island.
Although Caliban is a slave to Prospero, he still possesses some power over the other characters on the island. His knowledge and understanding of the land allows him to manipulate others and rise up against Prospero in an attempt to take back control of the island for himself. Despite being a grotesque creature, Caliban shows many signs of humanity throughout The Tempest, illustrating his complexity as both a character and a symbol within Shakespeare’s play. Ultimately, Caliban serves as a reminder that all humans have the potential for both good and evil.
Caliban is first introduced in The Tempest as a “savage and deformed” slave to Prospero. He is described as being “nothonored with / A human shape” and having “a foul withered countenance” (1.2.315-316). In spite of his physical appearance, Caliban is intelligent and articulate. He has an extensive knowledge of the island and its flora and fauna, which he acquired from his mother, the witch Sycorax. Caliban is also capable of speech, though his language is often broken and difficult to understand.
Despite his initial repulsive appearance, Caliban gradually becomes more sympathetic as The Tempest progresses. This is largely due to the fact that he is repeatedly mistreated by Prospero and denied his basic human rights. For example, Prospero forbids Caliban from ever touching Miranda, even though she is the only female on the island and Caliban is clearly attracted to her. In addition, Prospero uses magic to punish Caliban whenever he steps out of line, causing him great pain. As a result of this repeated abuse, Caliban comes to hate Prospero and everything he represents.
Throughout The Tempest, Caliban consistently tries to overthrow Prospero and take back control of the island. In Act III, Scene II, he makes a speech in which he insists that Prospero and Miranda stole the island from him. The other characters use this opportunity to trick Caliban into doing their work for them, effectively undermining his power even further.
During this speech, Caliban claims that his position is comparable to that of Prospero’s, whose brother Antonio sent him and his niece out to sea when she was three so he could take over his dukedom of Milan. While on the island, Prospero attempts to educate Caliban in order for him to become civilized and speak properly. Despite the fact that he is a “monster,” he tries to educate and treat him nicely. “You taught me language, and now I can curse effectively,” says Caliban.
The red plague rid you for learning me your language!” The struggle between Caliban and Prospero eventually ends with the death of both characters. Caliban is one of the most intriguing characters in The Tempest, and his relationship with Prospero speaks to some of the major themes of the play.
Though he is considered a “monster” by many, Caliban struggles against Prospero for control over the island throughout the course of the story, reflecting the larger theme of power and authority in The Tempest. Despite all odds, Caliban emerges as an interesting figure who has much to teach us about what it means to be human.\
Caliban, on the other hand, achieves his status through resistance to Prospero’s intimidation rather than servitude for Ariel. Ferdinand and Caliban have several similarities and contrasts. Both are extremely interested in undoing Miranda’s “virgin knot.” Ferdinand intends to marry Miranda, whereas Caliban attempted to rape her. When Prospero first arrived, Caliban sadly reminded him about how he had shown him the whole island when Caliban initially greeted him.
Caliban’s speech also reveals his innate connection to the island and its magic, as he calls it “his”. The character of Caliban is a complex one. On the surface, we find a stereotypical Shakespearean villain—a deformed brute and alcoholic who lusts after Miranda and plots revenge against Prospero and his daughter. As The Tempest progresses, however, Caliban’s motivations and actions take on richer dimensions.
Despite playing such an important role in The Tempest, little is known about Caliban’s background or origins. The only details we get about him come from Prospero’s speeches to Miranda in Act 1 Scene 2:
“The Isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices That if I then had wak’d after long sleep Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d I cried to dream again.”
Prospero’s words suggest that Caliban is the offspring of Sycorax, a wicked witch who was banished from Algiers and died before Prospero arrived on the island. Caliban may be part human and part monster, which would explain his deformities. Alternatively, some scholars believe that Caliban represents the dark side of humanity – our base instincts and primal desires.
Caliban appears inebriated soon after, during a sequence with new lover Stefano, who offers him some booze. Caliban requests that Stefano allow him to show him around the island shortly thereafter. These blunders that Caliban claims to be cursed are repeated once again. In his final act of rebellion, Caliban is completely subdued by Prospero. He is thrown into a bog and ordered to clean up Prospero’s cell in preparation for dinner. Despite Caliban’s barbaric appearance and lack of refinement, he has a better, more sensitive side which Prospero and Miranda did not recognize at all.
The play The Tempest shows us that Caliban’s character is complex, and his experience on the island has shaped him into a more sophisticated person despite his past.
While Caliban is often depicted as an uncivilized savage in The Tempest, he is also shown to be a deeply conflicted and complex character. He experiences great turmoil throughout the course of the play as he struggles with his desire for independence from Prospero and his deep longing for acceptance by the other characters.
Ultimately, despite being treated unfairly by Prospero and viewed as nothing more than a lowly servant on the island, Caliban emerges as one of The Tempest’s most interesting protagonists. Whether or not Caliban’s actions on the island are justified remains a topic of much debate, but there is no denying that his character is one of the most complex and multi-faceted in all of Shakespeare’s works.
Caliban is introduced in The Tempest as a ‘savage and deformed slave’ (I.ii.301) who lives on the island with Prospero and Miranda. He is first seen as a monstrous figure, described as being ‘not honor’d with / A human shape’ (I.ii.308-9). However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that Caliban is much more than just a physical monster – he is also deeply conflicted and misunderstood.
On the one hand, Caliban clearly longs for acceptance from Prospero and Miranda. He repeatedly asks Prospero to ‘freely pardon’ him (I.ii.334), and later begs Miranda to ‘pity me’ (III.i.49). He even goes so far as to attempt to rape Miranda in an act of desperation, hoping that by taking her as his own he will finally be accepted as part of the family.
On the other hand, Caliban also desperately wants to be free from Prospero’s control. He is resentful of the fact that Prospero has ‘tamed’ him and made him into his servant, and is constantly plotting against him in an attempt to regain his freedom.