With close reference to appropriately selected episodes write about the dramatic methods Shakespeare uses to present the relationship between Prospero and Caliban. ‘The Tempest’ was the last play written by Shakespeare and is widely regarded to be his greatest play. ‘The Tempest’ is thought to have been written about the year 1610. All of Shakespeare’s previously used genres are in the play: romance, tragedy, comedy and history. ‘The Tempest’ adheres to the three classical unities, unity of time, action and place. ‘The Tempest’ takes place in a twenty-four hour time period which abides by the unity of time.
Unity of action is adhered to by the fact there is only one main plot being Prospero’s attempts at regaining his dukedom. Disregarding the ship at the beginning of the play, the unity of place is used by the player being staged on an island the whole time. A multi-sensory experience is created on stage by Shakespeare’s use of sound, exotic images, music and the traditional masque, making it very popular with the aristocratically seventeenth century audience. The play focused on different themes including magic, nature versus nurture, harmony/disharmony and colonialism.
In this essay, I will be writing about how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Prospero and Caliban. In the Tempest, nearly every scene in the play conveys a relationship between someone who possesses a great deal of power and someone else who is admittedly a subject of the power. The play explores the master-servant dynamic most harshly in cases in which the harmony of the relationship is or has been threatened or disrupted in some way, as by the rebellious nature of a servant or the exclusion of a master.
In the opening scene of the play the ‘servant’ is angry towards his ‘masters’, whose exclusion threatens to lead to a shipwreck in the storm. As time passes in the play, master-servant relationships become more dominant. “What cares these roarers for the name of King? To Cabin: Silence! Trouble us not. ”Act I Scene I. The play explores the dynamics of a powered relationship from a variety of angles such as the generally positive relationship between Ariel and Prospero, the treachery in Alonso’s relationship with his nobles and the generally negative relationship that I will be writing about in the essay between Prospero and Caliban.
Like the dynamic opening, Prospero’s books are a symbol of the sheer power in which he possesses. “Remember/ first to posses his books,” Caliban says to Stephano and Trinculo, “for without them/ he’s but a sot. Act III Scene II. The books also, however, are symbol of the desire that Prospero possesses in order to displace himself from the world. It is this devotion to study that has made him content to raise Miranda in isolation. Although, Miranda’s isolation has made her somewhat ignorant of where she came from and Prospero’s own isolation provides him with little company.
Prospero will have to let go of his magic to return to the world where his knowledge means something more than power. Prospero is one of Shakespeare’s more perplexing protagonists. Prospero is a considerate character in that he was wronged by his usurping brother, but his absolute power over the other characters makes him difficult to like. In our first glimpse of Prospero, he appears puffed up and self-important, and his repeated insistence that Miranda pays attention suggests that his story is boring her. “Dost thou attend me? Act I Scene II. Once Prospero moves on to a subject other than his consumption in the pursuit of knowledge, Miranda’s attention is captivated. Prospero is quite a foreboding character dealing out punishments and treating his servants with contempt, raising questions about his morality and fairness. Both Caliban and Ariel want to be free of their master which suggests he is not easy to work for. “Thou did promise to bate me a full year. ” Act I Scene II. Ariel is more willing to do Prospero’s work in exchange for his freedom.
Caliban refuses to do Prospero’s work willingly, and as a result Prospero tortures him with pinches. “For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps, side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up. ” Act I Scene II. So, the Prospero and Ariel relationship is one of master-servant but the servant willingly obeys the master in exchange for later benefits (in this case, Ariel obeys Prospero to obtain his freedom). The Epilogue is the only scene in the play in which we see Prospero ask others – the audience – for help.
It shows him as a mere mortal who, stripped of his magic powers, is as vulnerable as the rest of us. It is incumbent on the audience to exhibit the same sort of mercy as he has just shown, indicating that we too have learnt to be magnanimous. For some critics, this new Prospero inspires admiration and sympathy. For others, he is now an impotent tyrant who, without any method of self-defence, is in a position to be punished for the wrongs he has done to the others characters during the play. Prospero treats Caliban as a slave. Caliban’s speech, found in 1. 2. 34-47, establishes Caliban’s point of view of his treatment by Prospero early on in the play, and the audience needs to keep this in mind throughout the remainder of it. The general complaint by those who have read the play, including most college professors, use the alleged complaint of rape as a justifiable reason for the poor treatment Caliban receives at the hands of all who come into contact with him. But this is taking political correctness too far, in my opinion. Caliban, it must be remembered, is a “natural” creature and does not hold to or even understand a society’s ideology about sexual relations.
Before we even meet Caliban, Shakespeare already builds suspense around him: “a freckled human whelp, hag born not honerd with human shape. ” Act I Scene II. We are already given information on Caliban so that we are prejudiced about him before he enters the story. The first few things we hear about Caliban forms an animalistic view of the man. Caliban is the only original native of what is often described as Prospero’s Island. His mother Sycorax was from Argier, and his father Setebos seems to have been a Patagonian deity. Sycorax was exiled from Argier for witchcraft, much like Prospero himself, and Caliban was born on the island.
Caliban’s understanding of his position is made known when we first meet him. Caliban both mirrors and contrasts with Prospero’s other servant, Ariel. While Ariel is “an airy spirit,” Caliban is of the earth, his speeches turning to “springs, brine pits”, “bogs, fens, flats,” or crab-apples and pignuts. While Ariel maintains his dignity and his freedom by serving Prospero willingly, Caliban achieves a different kind of dignity by refusing, if only infrequently, to bow before Prospero’s intimidation. Surprisingly, Caliban also mirrors and contrasts with Ferdinand in certain ways.
In Act II, scene II Caliban enters “with a burden of wood,” and Ferdinand enters in Act III, scene I “bearing a log. ” Both Caliban and Ferdinand declare an interest in untying Miranda’s “virgin knot. ” Ferdinand plans to marry her, while Caliban has attempted to rape her. The glorified and romantic love of Ferdinand for Miranda starkly contrasts with Caliban’s desire to impregnate Miranda and people the island with Calibans. Caliban wants to get rid of Prospero, when he comes upon Stephano he thinks he is some sort of God as Stephano gives him alcohol.
Trinculo, being a jester, finds Caliban amusing and makes fun of him which Caliban doesn’t like. Caliban tells Stephano about Prospero and Stephano agrees to kill him because he likes the thought of him and Miranda being King and Queen of the island and Trinculo and Caliban being his ‘viceroys’. It is arranged. However, Ariel has overheard the conversation and lays out clothes which Prospero and Trinculo think to be fine outside Prospero’s cave, Caliban becomes ever more frustrated as they ignore him as he tells them to be quiet and kill Prospero, he no longer thinks of Stephano as a God, but a fool.
The role of language in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” is quite significant. To Miranda and Prospero the use of language is a means to knowing oneself. Caliban does not view language in the same light. Prospero taught Caliban to speak, but instead of creating the feeling of empowerment from language, Caliban reacts in a rebellious manner. It reminds him how different he is from Miranda and Prospero, and also how they have changed him. You taught me language and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. Act I Scene II. Language also reminds him of a time when he wasn’t a slave.
He resents Prospero for “civilising” him, because in doing so he took away his freedom. Shakespeare is perhaps using the relation between Caliban and Prospero to exploit the theme of colonialism. Caliban speaks in beautiful measured verse, more complex than anyone else on the island. It is extremely unusual Shakespeare would credit this verse to a serving character. This is epitomised when Caliban says how ‘the isle is full of noises,’ Act III Scene 2, and in the frightening but rather eloquent bad language which he uses on Prospero.
Caliban first encounters the bawdy characters which are Stephano and Trinculo who bring out the poetry of his language and his almost surprising intellect, where they are seduced by the trappings of Prospero’s robes, Caliban see’s them for the worthless ‘trash’ that they are. By using a wide range of dramatic methods, Shakespeare has presented his audience with two extraordinary characters and a multi-layered relationship. I believe that the relationship between Prospero and Caliban is one that shows many different themes within from magic to enslavement to fully express and present important dramatic methods.