Caliban

A piteous creature, deformed slave of Prospero, Caliban is an offspring of witch Sycorax, possibly from her “romantic involvement” with the Devil himself. In fact, he is the only native inhabitant of the island and spent there alone something like twelve years since his mother’s death. At first, his relations with Prospero were mutually useful: while Caliban showed him springs with drinkable water, brine pits, and fertile land, Prospero gave him water with berries, taught him to speak and possibly even tried to educate the savage. But when Caliban made an attempt to rape sweet Miranda, Prospero turned him into slave, threatening him with different punishments brought by local spirits. Caliban does not obey easily: he curses his master (thanks to learned language) and boasts that in case of successfully assaulting Miranda he would people the whole island with a bunch of little Calibans. He is a pretty dumb brute, an abomination, half-human, half-demon. Despite the fact that he is not too likable, this creature justly claims that the island is his, that Prospero, to speak frankly, just took it from him in exchange for human attitude. He is stupid enough to take Stefano, a drunk butler, for a god, with a celestial drink in his possession, but smart enough to understand his mistake after sobering and chastise from Prospero.

In general, Caliban represents a popular view of savages of a time, a vile creature born to serve. After finding a new master in person of Stefano he promises to serve him, kiss his feet and show him all sweet water and fertile lands of island; twelve years ago he did exactly the same for Prospero, so we can suggest that this creature was simply born to serve and possibly even enjoys his way of life. He also delivers some rather sweet lines while depicting wonders of the island, thus strengthening the impression of a typical “noble savage”.

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Caliban Quotes

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.Sometimes a thousand twangling instrumentsWill hum about mine ears; and sometime 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 richesReady to drop upon me; that, when I waked,I cried to dream again.

212

This thing of darkness IAcknowledge mine.

111

Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

90

You taught me language, and my profit on't / Is, I know how to curse

51

Caliban in the Essays