Caliban and Prospero are two contradictory and complex characters in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. The relationship between the two is a juxtaposition in that Prospero is just, fair, wealthy and educated, whereas Caliban is abrasive, foul-mouthed, the son of the devil and a witch and is beast-like. In The Tempest the author demonstrates how the environment and interpersonal relationships influence an individual’s perspectives or beliefs about culture and the hierarchy of power which in turn influences their actions.Prospero and Caliban are two characters in The Tempest who are very diverse and are opposites. Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan who uses the white magic of nature; not black (evil) magic.
He ends up on an island after his brother takes over his title and becomes a god-like figure on the island. Although he enslaves Caliban, he is a kind leader who is just and fair and who never wishes to hurt even his enemies. Prospero is the centre of the play since all other characters relate to him and he manipulates everyone and everything that happens. On the other hand, Caliban is the son of the devil and a witch.
Caliban is described as “A freckled whelp, hag-born- not honoured with a human shape”(Act I.II.336-337). “What do we have here, a man or a fish? Dead or alive? (Act II.II.25).
On the hierarchy spectrum it starts with God being the highest, then king, man, woman and lastly beast. The spectrum is ordered this way due to emotional stability and the ability to reason. Prospero is God-like, king-like and a man putting him high on the spectrum for his wisdom and leadership abilities whereas Caliban is at the bottom of the social hierarchy because he is animalistic and beast-like in nature. The two characters interact throughout the play and each meeting continues to show their differences.The relationship between Caliban and Prospero is complex and is seen differently by each character.
In Caliban’s eyes, he is filled with rage and the relationship is fueled by hatred. He is the uneducated slave who is beastlike and is run by his natural desires. It was Caliban’s island until the two intruders came and it is his desire to have the place to himself once again. It was Caliban’s attack on Miranda which was the reason for the enslavement and resulted in the change in the hierarchy.
Prospero was disappointed with Caliban’s actions and states, “Filth as thou art, with humane care, and lodged thee in mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate the honor of my child (Act I.II.415-418). This means that Prospero treated Caliban with respect, spent time teaching him and caring for him until Caliban crossed him. Calabin sees the attempted rape of Miranda as natural behaviour which follow his animalistic desires. Caliban has no remorse, he was not able to change his desire through reasoning or restraint showing again why he is lower on the hierarchy. Prospero is a well brought up man whereas Caliban is a product of the environment; a strong example of nature versus nurture.
Caliban’s plot to murder Prospero is another example of his natural behaviour and can be seen as his animal-like attempt to survive. Caliban’s plot and responses are similar to how an animal would act and reason versus a civilized man. Caliban has no morality or the ability to understand or appreciate the needs of others; he is self-centred. Caliban plots to be free when he sings “Freedom, high-day! High-day, freedom! Freedom, high-day, freedom!” (II.II.192-193) . Caliban’s anger is influenced by the relationship he has with Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban is a poor judge of character as these two men are bad influences.
Caliban was reacting and not thinking things through fully. He is a product of his environment, uneducated and reacting to his surroundings similar to the way an animal does to survive. Prospero never harms Caliban and prevents Caliban from injuring anyone else. Prospero and Caliban’s relationship is like master and beast. Caliban must also learn from his master how to become more human. In the end, Prospero says, “set Caliban and his companions free. Untie the spell.
“(V.I.305-306), showing Prospero’s kind, forgiving nature and alludes to the fact that Caliban was a chained beast or monster.
A prominent theme throughout The Tempest was the idea of hierarchy and that we truly are a product of our environment. Prospero means “success” in Latin and it is similar to the word “prosperous”. Prospero was aptly named as he was born of wealth and nobility and was a well brought up and educated man making him high on the hierarchy spectrum. Caliban means a “brutish man” and roughly comes from the word “cannibal”. Caliban was a product of his environment as he was the spawn of the devil and a witch and was not at all educated. Prospero took on a master role to the beast, Caliban which shows their opposing roles.
In the play The Tempest, written by William Shakespeare, the author continually demonstrates how the environment and relationships influence an individual’s perspectives on the hierarchy of power which in turn influences each character’s actions.