Caliban Essay, Research Paper
Caliban, the “salvage and deformed slave.” They represent two different extremes on the social spectrum: that of the natural ruler, and the naturally ruled. Caliban responds almost wholly to passions, feelings of pleasure — his senses, while Prospero is ruled more by his intellect and self-discipline — his mind. Caliban was born of a witch; Prospero is a magician. However, the types of magic practised by Sycorax and Prospero differ greatly: Sycorax, in many respects a traditional witch, worked within Nature and as a part of it. She worked with devils and the lowest orders of spirits. Prospero, on the other hand, exercises his magic by means of strict discipline and study, rising above the natural order by means of his greater knowledge, and actually coercing spirits of a fairly high rank, such as Ariel, to do his bidding and control other spirits for him. In the Arts which both represent, Prospero certainly reflects the world of the mind. [And Sycorax does not?]
Although we are not given details of Caliban’s birth, it seems likely that a creature as subhuman in appearance as Caliban was not born of a human union. It has been postulated that, to quote Prospero, he was “got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam”, from a union between Sycorax and an incubus (an extremely attractive male apparition with intention to tempt). Caliban was therefore a creature born from passion, the offspring of an unholy pleasure… From their ancestry, Prospero is likely to be more ruled by his intellect, and Caliban by his love of pleasure.
In the history of each character before the opening of The Tempest, there is a further contrast. Caliban’s original love for Prospero and Miranda, and his later misdemeanour and subsequent hatred for them, illustrate his fundamental reliance on his senses. Caliban loved Prospero and Miranda because they “made much of me”; and his response to this was purely sensual in his recollections: “Thou strok’st me, … wouldst give me / Water with berries in’t”. What Caliban responded to, more than anything else, was the sensation of pleasure that being loved and petted gave him. The action that caused Caliban to be removed from this position and punished was his attempt to rape Miranda, another example of how Caliban seeks pleasure. (Prospero’s position on sexual relations is quite opposite — he tells Ferdinand repeatedly not to take advantage of his daughter, and hammers the message home with the masque.) [True but why? Make the full contrast clear.]
Caliban’s dearest wish is to depose Prospero by killing him and, rather than resuming rule of the island himself, submit to the rule of Stephano.
Caliban’s purpose in attaching himself to Stephano and plotting to kill Prospero is almost wholly passionate. The reason that Caliban believes Stephano to be a worthy ruler, indeed, a god, is that Stephano is the custodian of liquor, a substance that appeals to his senses. His favourable response to Stephano is like his previous response to Prospero — that someone who makes him feel good must be good. Likewise, his attempt at achieving revenge on Prospero is largely in retribution for the punishment Prospero has visited upon his senses. [well said]
However, though Caliban’s desire for revenge is certainly not cerebral, his passions in it are not entirely sensual either. The crafty manner in which he persuades Stephano to aid him in his plan, by mentioning Prospero’s riches and Miranda’s beauty, shows the presence of some mental ability; as does his attempted tact in trying to keep Stephano’s mind upon “bloody thoughts”. Furthermore, one of his grievances against Prospero is that he stole the island that was, by birthright, Caliban’s, and imprisoned Caliban upon it. This is part of the little evidence we have that Caliban operates using more than his senses and passions. However, Caliban’s mind is subject to his senses, much as Prospero’s passions are subject to his mind. Caliban’s underlying motives are still passionate. His indignation at having his inheritance usurped loses its weight when we realise that, of his own free will, he will let Stephano rule — showing himself to be naturally ruled, not ruler. At the end of the play, when he recognises that his choice of Stephano as a ruler was foolish, it is not mental reasoning that has led him to this conclusion, but the evidence of his senses and experience. Caliban has mind enough to function as part of society, but training him to become part of that society cannot be abstract, like Prospero’s failed attempt at educating him with Miranda — Caliban’s education must be practical and hammered home with his own senses