Your Name Name of of Professor Caliban and Colonialism One of the most important of the plays that were written by William Shakespeare, The Tempest in modern times has remained in critical limelight due to postcolonial readings of it…
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This paper shall argue that Caliban is this colonial subject who constantly is made aware of his place in a hierarchy that is created by the colonizer. The forced labor that is extracted from Caliban can be seen when Prospero says, ….He does make our fire, Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices That profit us. - What ho, slave! Caliban, (I: ii: 311-313; 171) The basis of colonization lay in this very mode of extraction of labor from people who were a part of the colonized groups. Caliban’s enslavement is more than physical. However, the physical aspect of the enslavement that he suffers from cannot be overlooked as it is for him an immediate cause for fear. Rebecca Ann Bach says in this regard, “…Caliban serves the family’s bodily needs without hope of remuneration. Ariel is a servant, used but finally rewarded”(392). This drain of wealth in the form of the labor that is extracted was a major plank of colonial endeavors which later became one of the main sources of British revenue. Mentally however, Caliban is far from being enslaved. This can be seen in a speech where he talks of having appropriated the speech that he borrows from Prospero- You taught me language, and my profit on’t Is I know how to curse (I: ii: 364-365; 176). This idea of language and identity are intrinsically connected. It is an aspect of Prospero’s own self that is reflected in Caliban when he retorts. Matthew J. Bolton says in this regard, “Prospero calls on his slave to reveal a self that Prospero deems monstrous.” Language and the liberal political discourse that it goes with cannot be separated. Prospero fails to understand this and the result is a rebellious disposition that builds up in Caliban. It is fascinating how Shakespeare is able to read the human mind and the aspirations that may be repressed but not killed. He anticipates the uprisings against enslavements that were to happen in various colonized lands. Another aspect of the colonial nature of Caliban’s subjecthood is how instruments beyond his power are employed to suppress him. He is constantly under the surveillance of his colonizer, Prospero- …His spirits hear me, And yet I needs must curse (II: ii: 3-4; 207). It is then alliances of the oppressed that can be looked at as a possible means of refuge- Rebecca Ann Bach suggests the unlikely grouping of Miranda and Caliban in this regard- “Although Miranda, Prospero’s prized daughter, is nominally at the apex of the hierarchy, in a position just below her father, her gender role identifies her with Caliban.”(392) A feeling of being watched and being made answerable for one’s innate feelings is what Prospero introduces in Caliban. For this, he uses magic much as the colonizers employed technology. Physical pain is one of the most powerful tools that are then used to deter any possibility of rebellion. This however, does not work as is seen through Caliban’s speech. The ambiguity in the play regarding the position of Caliban comes from what Shakespeare makes the other characters speak. For instance, when Trinculo says, “When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian (II: ii: 31-32 ;208)”. The attitudes that the colonizers held regarding colonized races comes in for critique here and the tendency to exoticize them is held up as worthy of contempt. He is often seen by readers too, to ...
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In the Tempest, Prospero and Caliban ruler-slave relationship is mutually considered just (McDonald, 2004). It was as if Caliban had come to terms with Prospero’s rule and dominance. But he eventually retaliates against his master.
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