Caliban? Who are you, really? | BritLit
Overviewing the relationship between Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, Shakespeare has portrayed Caliban to be somewhat superior over the shipwrecked men. But when Caliban tries to rape Miranda, the relationship turns hostile, and .. This is followed by another scene with Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, which .. must then be that great power, let alone absolute power, cannot be trusted in the. Stephano and Trinculo's epithet of choice in Act II, scene ii and thereafter is spirits sent to do him harm, Caliban puts his trust in them for all the wrong reasons.
Young Ferdinand has been deliberately stranded alone, for the express purpose of being brought to meet Miranda. It is mutual love at first sight, perhaps not surprisingly for Miranda, who has seen no one like this handsome youth, but for Ferdinand also, who has had a more worldly experience of women, including those desperate to catch the attention of a Royal heir, at his father's Court. So we are given to understand that Miranda is no common beauty, and her innocence and sweetness are apparent from the dialogue.
In her first impression of the boy, we find Miranda expressing the naive and hopeful confidence that will continue to characterize her: If the ill spirit have so fair a house, Good things will strive to dwell with't. The beautiful body of the young man, a "temple" that is "so fair a house," cannot possibly harbor anything "ill," as it will be protected by the "good things" that will crowd out or reform the bad. The Greeks at first would have thought so.
We know, however, that the fair, whether in form, word, or manner, can conceal wickedness and corruption, upon which Oscar Wilde grimly meditated in The Picture of Dorian Gray, without the cynicism we might otherwise expect from his wit. This truth is the basis for the theory of value discussed elsewhere at this site. The role of this romance in the story, so different in tone from the rest of the play, bespeaks the solid and realistic political calculation of Prospero.
Miranda is the heiress of Milan, and a suitable match is needed for her. Its importance is shown in that it is the first thing that Prospero accomplishes in his designs.
It also tells us already that Prospero is unlikely to kill or even harm Alonso. That would constitute an ugly wedding present to Prospero's new son-in-law, whose progeny will also be the heirs of Milan. Prospero is not so confused as to poison this future. It also sweetens the pot for Alonso. How can he object to the restoration of Milan to Prospero when Milan will then simply pass to Alonso's own line?
This will be an outcome no different, in fact better, than if Prospero and his claims had not now turned up. Since Antonio, as we shall learn, will be no more faithful to Alonso than to Prospero, this improves the situation of the house of Naples considerably.
Stephano and Trinculo
Such, indeed, is the perfect political compromise: It is a clever statesman indeed who can effect such policies, and it seems to be Prospero's manner in general, whether with Alonso or with Ariel. To test his mettle, Prospero puts Ferdinand to work -- gathering wood like Caliban.
Miranda just can't let him do this alone and uncomforted, so we see them later in another encounter, where they confess their love and promise marriage under the watchful but hidden benevolence of Prospero. We have a nice moment of the "tears of joy" that I have discussed elsewhere. Act 3, Scene 1: Act 2 begins with the party of Antonio, Alonso, Gonzalo, Alonso's brother Sebastian, and some other courtiers including Adrian and Francisco, who, however, play little part in the action or dialogue and can as well be forgotten.
Antonio and Sebasian amuse themselves by making fun of the discourse of Gonzalo, by which he attempts to asuage the fears of Alonso. Alonso himself, however, wishes they would all just be quiet.
He is sure that Ferdinand has died and they are all indefinitely stranded on the island. In this situation, Ariel intervenes by putting everyone to sleep, except Antonio and Sebastian. Now we learn the truth of Antonio's character. He persuades the pliable Sebastian that they should kill Alonso and Gonzalo, so that Sebasian will become King and -- incidentally -- Antonio can be free of his fealty to Naples.
They have their swords drawn and are on the point of carrying out this treachery when Ariel awakens Gonzalo and then Alonso. Surprised in the act, Antonio and Sebastian claim that they have heard threatening noises and are thus simply prepared to defend the King.
Their explanation is accepted, but we know better, as does Ariel and so Prospero. Meanwhile, Caliban is off collecting wood and nursing his grievance. In the course of this he sees Trinculo, another castaway, described as "a jester.
Stephano and Trinculo
He hides under his "gabardine. He is then terrified by the thunder of what may be another approaching tempest and hides under the "gabardine" with Caliban, speaking the memorable words, "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows" Act 2 Scene 2: This whole business, with its sequel, is played for humor and does not use the blank verse the unrhymed iambic pentameter that characterizes the serious lines of the play.
Now Stephano, another castaway, "a drunken butler," wanders up, singing and drinking, and comes upon the strange pile of covered bodies. After some comic byplay, the figures are all disentangled, introduced, and Caliban discovers the pleasure of strong drink. In this state, he decides that Stephano, who claims to be the "Man in the Moon" Linesis his savior and offers to guide him to the assassination of Prospero and the assumption of the rule of the island, with whose resources he will acquaint him.
Trinculo already sees the problem here, "A most ridiculous monster, to make a wonder of a poor drunkard" Line And, indeed, this is where the anti-colonial reading of The Tempest may come too close to the truth for comfort. As post-colonial intellectuals and rulers swallowed whole the anti-imperialist ideology of Leninwhose economics already was not that different from English socialists, newly independent states, particularly in Africa, set out on a course of economic destruction and political despotism whose rotten fruit was already conspicuous by the 's, and undeniable by the 's.
Gonzalo (The Tempest) - Wikipedia
The great leaders of liberation soon became known as "Swiss bank account socialists," and the economies of their states soon provided less wealth for the masses than they had under the "exploitation" of European colonial masters. As those leaders were overthrown, military dictatorship, civil war, and massacre quickly became the cycle of life of much of Africa.
Since the popularity of socialist "development" economics nevertheless continued among intellectuals in the West, and what it added up to was handing money to the new rulers, those rulers usually had little motive to deny its effectiveness. They learned to play on Western guilt in order to increase "aid," regardless of its actual effects on the ground. Our Caliban thus has fallen into a trap all too familiar from the history of the late 20th century.
Unfortunately, it is not the spectacle of drunken butlers that appears in the public eye, but somber economists and confident academics, or Bono, who can ignore the damage they have done and continue pushing the same threadbare ideology, counting on liberal guilt, ignorance, and deliberate blindness to continue the hoax.
Like the kleptocrats, they profit from it in their own way. The English department Marxists, whose economic illiteracy is actually of a cargo cult variety far less sophisticated than any real Marxism, derive their own benefit, as rent seekers and irresponsible bureaucratsfrom the debasement of education into indoctrination.
By this they elevate their timid, protected, and parasitic lives, at the public trough, into the high drama of imagined Revolution. As it happens, Caliban will think better of this before they do. Act three opens with the encounter of Ferdinand and Miranda previously referenced, when they confess their love and promise marriage.
Caliban? Who are you, really?
This is followed by another scene with Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, which adds little to the situation, except that Ariel has some fun and stirs up conflict between Trinculo and the others. At some strange music, played by Ariel, Stephano and Trinculo are alarmed, but Caliban reassures them: Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices, That if I then had waked 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 waked I cried to dream again.
Act 3, Scene 2: However, if this music he recounts is like the present music, produced by Ariel, then this charm of the island, beloved of Caliban, is actually an artifact of Prospero's presence and will disappear with him. Thus, when the imperialists depart, their works, so much to the benefit of their colonies, have often been left to decay, leaving the locals to dictatorship and poverty, if not the murder, anarchy, and starvation that have eventuated in "failed states" like Somalia -- much like the condition of Britain after being abandoned by Rome in Fortunately for Caliban, his design will fail.
We then return to Alonso's party. A strange, miraculous banquet is presented to them, from the magic of Prospero and Ariel. Just as Alonso and the courtiers decide that they may eat, however, Ariel appears in the form of "a harpy," which of course is a spirit of retribution.
The banquet disappears, and Ariel upbraids Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian with their crimes: Being the most unfit to live. I have made you mad Act 3, Scene 3: Telling Alonso that he is "bereft" of his son, he gives the impression that Fernando is dead. Gonzalo reflects that their madness has come on "Like poison to work a great time after" Line the acts for which they are guilty. He begs the other courtiers, from one of whom, Adrian, we hear briefly, to follow the three and "hinder" them from causing some harm to themselves or others.
Having condemned the principals to their punishment, Prospero returns to the more agreeable consideration of Miranda and Ferdinand. In a most realistic concern, he counsels Ferdinand against prematurely consumating their love: But If thou dost break her virgin knot before All sanctimonious ceremonies may With full and holy rite be ministered, No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall To make this contract grow, but barren hate, Sour-eyed disdain, and discord, shall bestrew The union of your bed with weeds so loathly That you shall hate it both.
Therefore take heed, As Hymen's lamps shall light you. Act 4, Scene 1: It is a very quaint concern today, when increasing numbers of children are born out of wedlock, and marriage is a political football far beyond, indeed in open defiance of, the strictures of traditional religions. Yet the prevalence of divorce, violence, and neglect, in the "underclass" of all races, in the United States and abroad, would seem to confirm the value of Prospero's caution.
Prospero then sends Ariel to fetch a troop of spirits to perform a masque for the amusement of Miranda and Ferdinand. We meet Iris, Ceres, Juno, and Naiads, whose pagan origin reminds us of the extra-Christian context of Prospero's powers, although it is presented with no sense of its possible incongruence next to the "sanctimonious ceremonies" and the "full and holy rite" that Prospero has just required of the lovers.
The masque having proceeded for some time, Prospero suddenly recollects that Caliban and his confederates are approaching. He is disconcerted at this distraction and his forgetfullness, which Miranda and Ferdinand perceive. Prospero reassures the lovers that the masque was an illusion, which has now "melted into air, into thin air" Line From this reassurance, however, Prospero passes into a most grim reflection.
We come to one of the supreme moments of The Tempest: We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. Shakespeare scholars see this passage, following as it does on the characterization of the masque, as a reflection on the theater, such as the actors we see in the play themselves occupy in its performance. Indeed, this can be part of it. Great art can be read and interpreted at many levels.
But there is a quite literal meaning in the passage, that Prospero is reflecting on life itself, not just on the masque or on the theater. Act 5, Scene 1: But it is one of the keys to the whole.
Prospero's attitude and use of power depends on this: With no overtly Christian message, we nevertheless find the reasons for a Christian motivation. Prospero does not have the heart for the depths of vengeance that we find in some of Shakespeare's other plays, or for the extent of the exercise of the power that we soon learn he is capable, because he sees the ultimate limit and futility to it all.
Prospero's true substantive goal is simply to provide for Miranda. All the rest is, after a fashion, incidental. This does not mean he is always focused; and both he and we may be uncertain at times how far his vengeance will go. But, as we have seen already, his flashes of excess, initially with Ariel, are easily corrected. One reason that Shakespeare scholars may think of all this as a reflection on the theater rather than on life is their understanding that The Tempest was the last play that Shakespeare wrote on his own, in orand thus was in the manner of a farewell to the theater.
This may be true; but, even as the reading discounts the profundity of the literal meaning, it is also largely a matter of speculation. There is no direct evidence for when Shakespeare's plays were written, and The Tempest did not appear in print until the First Folio ofseven years after Shakespeare's death in There it was the first play of the collection, which affords it some importance, but exactly why, we do not know.
Otherwise, there is precious little direct evidence for Shakespeare's life, and even his will makes no mention of the disposition of his papers, his books, or his manuscripts, no evidence of any of which has ever emerged. This has fueled speculations for many years that Shakespeare's name was being used as a pen name by another author, probably one of the patrons of his acting troop.
Yet little in the way of such papers survive from that era, and I believe that the circumstances of writing and publishing familiar in modern life only barely began taking on that form after the Restoration in Be that as it may, the best analysis of The Tempest as art is in its own terms.
There we see Prospero sharpely sensible of his mortality and of its implications. Caliban and his friends are brought in; but Stephano and Trinculo are distracted by some attractive clothes. Caliban tries in vain to recall them to their purpose, but it is hopeless. He now realizes what fools they are and how ill judged was his estimation and confidence in them. He expects the worst from Prospero, who indeed has voiced a terrible judgment and anger against him: On whom my pains, Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost, And, as with age, his body uglier grows, So his mind cankers.
I will plague them all, Even to roaring. But, as it happens, Prospero's bark is truly worse than his bite.
None of them are really harmed, and Caliban will suffer no further punishment. Indeed, Prospero is out of his reckoning. Caliban learns from this experience. Not having previously appreciated Prospero's "nurture," he better understands its value from the perspective he gains in dealing with people like Stephano and Trinculo. Now, beginning Act 5, Prospero can turn to resolving things with his proper enemies.
He asks Ariel how they are doing, and is told that they are "all three distracted," with the other courtiers "mourning over them," especially "the good old lord, Gonzalo," whose "tears run down his heard like winter's drops" Act 5 Scene 1: Then we get from Ariel something that must sound like a reproach and a remonstration.
This is another supreme moment of the play. Prospero is called back from the extreme application of vengeance: Hast thou which art but air a touch, a feeling Of their afflictions, and shall not myself, One of their kind, that relish all as sharply, Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art? Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th' quick, Yet, with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury Do I take part. The rarer action is In virtue than in vengeance.
They, being penitent, The sole drift of my purpose doth extend Not a frown further.
- Explore the relationship between servants and masters in 'The Tempest'.
- William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
- The Tempest
Go, release them Ariel, My charms I'll break, their senses I'll restore And they shall be themselves. Ariel seems to have had the same worry. Ariel, "which art but air," voices the full concern of human compassion. We might wonder if Prospero is stung to be thus reminded by a voice that must confess, "were I human.
Nothing of the sort. His affections immediately "become tender" also, and he only pauses to reflect how they should be. Ariel has met little resistance; but Prospero then moves to reach beyond humane affections to the eternal righteousness of "nobler reason" and the "rarer action" of virtue. Forgiveness, of course, is only truly merited by repentance, and we see the qualification. His enemies, "being penitent," will recieve not even "a frown further" than what they have endured already.
But Prospero's vengeance doesn't really extend even that far. Alonso will properly repent of his actions, as I have already noted we might expect from the attendance of Gonzalo, but there will actually be no hint of anything of the sort from Antonio and Sebastian. Prospero will forgive them anyway, although we do not see this quite yet. Prospero is certainly aware of their characters and will be on guard against them. Prospero sends Ariel away to bring the court party to meet him.
And now he prepares with an extraordinary speech that continues the high tone of the previous one. To the dread rattling thunder Have I given fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak With his own bolt. The strong-based promontory Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up The pine, and cedar. Graves at my command Have waked their sleepers, op'd, and let 'em forth By my so potent art.
But this rough magic I here abjure. And when I have required Some heavenly music which even now I do To work mine end upon their senses, that This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book. Which relationships in the play do you think are important to your character and why?
Having said which, having been rejected by them and now being full of unending loathing for them both and a determination to destroy them which seems to be there, which is an adolescent flip-side of love. He also now has a very, very much more active relationship with all the other spirits on the island who torture him. But then his relationship with Stefano and Trinculo is vital. His relationship with Stefano is important, as Stefano becomes his god and his means of escape, depending on how far that relationship goes.
Is there any scene or moment that is particularly significant to the interpretation of your character? I mean there are secretly in my mind various things that I think are interesting. Now you could go many different ways with that: It then begs the question: That creates a very interesting dynamic. One can skim by this. But the action of doing it or not doing it or the action of doing it or not doing it to Propero and the action, at the end, of maybe not doing it again, that could inform it, enormously your relationships throughout the entire play.
But, it may not be important later on. We may do something very conventional — it might not be interesting. At the moment, it does interest me. Precisely, [in the feet licking scene] Stephano keeps telling Caliban to kneel and I think he repeats it.
And it has knock-on consequences throughout: And have you done any specific character work?