Thursday, September 24, 2009

Show Caliban Some Love

Who’s the real villain in The Tempest?  Is it Caliban, the monster?  Or Prospero, the all powerful wizard who physically tortures him on stage?

I enjoyed this article on Deeds and Words called Is Caliban a Bad Guy? that attempts to answer this question, taking the position that maybe Caliban’s not quite so bad as we think.

Caliban’s supposed evil acts are all enumerated – and defended.  Did he really try to rape Miranda, or was it more a case of hormonal adolescents who didn’t have any moral structure to know any better?  Sure, he tries to overthrow Prospero, but come on, the guy tortures him and keeps him as a slave, isn’t Caliban allowed some level of anger at the man?

It’s not a small article, and as you read you’re left with a well balanced but perhaps misunderstood Caliban.  That is until a certain line that comes out of his mouth, which would have likely been a throwaway line to Shakespeare and his peeps, sets the article’s author on edge and casts Caliban back down among the beasts.

What’s the line, and is that a legit interpretation?  I’ll leave that as a surprise, we have to show some trafficky love to the original article after all…. :)

1 comment:

JM said...

The way I see it, "Villains" are villains not because they lack humanity in their makeup, but because it exists; detestably accented, gone awry,chosen, or mistakenly embraced aspects of their character; unmistakable Human aspects grotesquely overblown and out of control.

Caliban is a beast, an animal, as much, maybe more, as anything else he might be. His instincts are his instincts and they can't be changed; controlled somewhat, yes, but not eliminated.His actions are detestable because they're foreign, animal, brutish, unpredictable, and as dangerous as he has proven to be.

I think the greatest mistake Prospero made is to have thought that Caliban could have been transformed; made to possess the finer qualities of human nature--as a governing rule.

His "torture" (though surely vengeful and overly recriminative in some respects) is also meant to keep the "animal" in line when it threatens, as many times it does. He's realized he can no longer trust what might surface, any more than a "tamed" crocodile might be trusted.

But Caliban a Villain? I don't see it. He's a 'different animal'.

As far as the writer's deal with what's the "last straw"--don't ask me-- I'm as confused about that as you are Duane.:)