Sunday, September 18, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings

(Also submitted to Three-Word Wednesday, ABC Wednesday and Magpie 83)

It took me a few moments before I realized just who that was in the above picture.
Why of course, it’s Caliban!
You remember Caliban, one of the “stars,” if I may so describe him, of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
There’s always been some question as to just who, or what, Caliban was.

You see, he had this unusual background. His mother, Sycorax, was sort of a – well, to come right out with it – a devil. Which means he was a kind of half-man/half-beast.
He existed on a beautiful island, living peacefully with the birds, the snakes, and all the other critters of the place. But his was a far from happy life because a man named Prospero had showed up, along with his daughter Miranda, on Caliban’s island. Prospero took charge, became master of the place -- and also master of Caliban.
Caliban, who had ruled the island almost as king before, soon became, in effect, Prospero’s slave. He was not treated well by his master.

Prospero explains his carefully thought-out judgment of Caliban by claiming that he had attempted to rape Miranda. Caliban confirms this gleefully, saying that if he hadn't been stopped he would have peopled the island with a race of little Calibans.
He seeks revenge, and he has a lot to say about it; life with Caliban was never dull.

“This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which you took from me! When you came first,
You stroked me and made much of me, would give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and then I lov'd you,
And show'd you all the qualities o' the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Curs'd be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse."


For someone whose English wasn’t the greatest, Caliban was nevertheless capable of poetic language:

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will 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 riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.”


For a couple of centuries, scholars, studying this play, have operated under several plans, as far as understanding Shakespeare's motivtions are concerned. Plan A: the playwright, with the character Caliban, was strongly attacking colonialism, racism, slavery – all of which were operating in full force in the playwright’s day.
But Plan B would have it differently. Shakespeare's reaction to such issues would actually have been just a big yawn. In other words, it could be that all he was doing was writing what he hoped would be a successful play.

53 comments:

The Cello Strings said...

lovely background information, Thanks for introducing Caliban to all readers in great detail.

:)

Tess Kincaid said...

I didn't think you could make the connection this week...you never disappoint, Mr. D. Excellent.

Stafford Ray said...

I don't know about what he believed, but there are hints in that he did include such questions in his plays, despite running the risk of official disapproval in those days of less than free speech!

kaykuala said...

It is refreshing given a fast run through of the Bard. Your contention of his signs of disapproval of the ills of the time may hold water. Enjoyed it!

Hank

Irish Gumbo said...

Perhaps he was doing both. Sly dog, that Willie S.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

Love the way you did this again...

Great take!

JJRod'z

Kay L. Davies said...

Very interesting question. I think perhaps he was doing both, as I.G. suggests. He knew his opinions were controversial, and he knew controversy sells tickets.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

sharplittlepencil said...

Quite often, writers, poets, playwrights, and the like clothed their political feelings in the velvet glove of the well-spoken word.

Caliban is an intriguing character, for sure, especially since he would have have been allowed to actually marry Miranda. Except in the states of... oh, never mind!!

Thanks, as always, for an informative, thoughtful piece, Berowne! Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/i-never-lost-faith-in-love-abc/

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Perhaps he was indeed doing both. Clever man our Will. Clever Magpie too.

Anna :o]

Isabel Doyle said...

100 years ago I had a faithful cat named Caliban - from one of my favouritist plays - I agree Rousseau's chap is quite er, feral

Berowne said...

Tess K: "You never disappoint, Mr. B. Excellent."
Great comment, Tess -- great prompt too.

Berowne said...

Amy: "Thanks, as always, for an informative, thoughtful piece, Berowne!"
And my thanks to you, Amy.

Berowne said...

Kay L D: "Very interesting question."
Very interesting comment. :-)

Erratic Thoughts said...

Good God,whatta connection!
Caliban is a very interesting character and so I loved what you did with the prompt :)

izzy said...

Sounds as though, initially Caliban was 'So ugly he was cute' and as we know- love and hate are VERY close at times.... Thanks!

Lyn said...

"When I waked, I cried to dream again"...You always find the double edge within the prompt....I'm hooked!

Sean Vessey said...

Thank you.

Berowne said...

It is I who thank you, Sean...

Helen said...

I take great delight in reading your informative, beautifully written pieces!

ninotaziz said...

Lost my comment three times. Loved what you did!

Everyday Goddess said...

Makes perfect use of the prompt!

I'm always enlightened about great works of Shakespeare after a trip here!

hedgewitch said...

I've always had a soft spot for Caliban--petted and then scorned. And when humans are so imperfectly able to control themselves, it seems a little harsh to expect self-control from a devil. Fascinating, as always.

Berowne said...

"Makes perfect use of the prompt!"
Always great to hear from Everyday Goddess -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Helen: "I take great delight in reading your informative, beautifully written pieces!"
And I take even greater delight in your comments. :-)

Brian Miller said...

fascinating connection berowne....makes one wonder who today might be our caliban...

Wendy said...

Successful plays are those that touch upon reality in some way that a large number of readers can access. We may not be able to access racism if we are white, or know the troubles of the female gender if we are males, but we can simplify the concept to not fitting based on something we can't or don't want to change. We can all process that and have known that feeling some time in our lives.

Tumblewords: said...

Wonderfully creative connection!

Jedediah said...

The Tempest was my first introduction to Shakespeare, via Propero's Books. And I discovered one of my favourite authors through it, Tad Williams, who wrote Caliban's Hour, a re-telling of the Tempest from Caliban's view. So I've always had a weak spot for Caliban.
I would agree that Shakespeare had both commercial success and criticism on his mind. Caliban is a great character for that because he can be seen as standing for so many different things.

I wasn't familiar with the Rousseau painting, it's striking.

Roger Owen Green said...

I suspect higher motives from the Bard, with hope for success as well. Why not have it all?
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Morning said...

love it,
poetic and creative thoughts.

Carver said...

What a great post. Very creative for the letter J.

Meryl said...

Great post. Really interesting - and I love how you set it up for us to judge! Talented writer and teacher!

Jo Bryant said...

Such a clever combination of them - great post - I always like what I find here each week

Doctor FTSE said...

Perhaps WS was playing to the prejudices of the groundlings, regardless of his own views on slavery, etc.?
Interesting as always, Berowne, and thanks.
BTW . . I think that "Our revels now are ended" (ActV) of "Tempest") is one of the most moving speeches in the whole canon. A shot of Shakespeare straight into the vein!

Linda Jacobs said...

I'm not sure but your excerpts make me realize how much I miss old Will's writing now that I'm not teaching anymore. Right now my classes would be doing Hamlet and Othello. I know what I'm going to be reading today! Thanks for the reminder.

laurie kolp said...

Berowne- I always appreciate your fine polished contributions... Shakespeare especially.

Sheilagh Lee said...

This is a fascinating piece and very informative.

jaerose said...

I think maybe like any writer..after a while..Mr S wrote for cold hard cash and success..The Tempest is the only Shakespeare I could tolerate at school..that and the opening speech of Richard III..Jae

gautami tripathy said...

Excellent work..

while the instrument plays

Gerry/Strummed Words said...

Caliban's description of his dreaming is so beautiful. Did he become at that point, more human than beast?

helenmac said...

Thank you for your thoughts on The Tempest -- doing justice to the Bard as you always do, Berowne. Our reader's group just finished reading it for the second time. We call ourselves the Shakespeare on the Rocky Players (after our local river and now and then our thespian abilities).

Other Mary said...

Wow - that's a lot to fit in...Magpie, 3WW and the Letter J, brought to you by Shakespeare! Bravo! Encore!

Suz said...

enjoyed this
very much

Rinkly Rimes said...

You always manage to enlighten us and include the three words at the same time!

Kathy Bischoping said...

I enjoyed reading your Shakespeare angle on this and the previous Magpie. Very interesting!

Berowne said...

Rinkly R: "You always manage to enlighten us and include the three words at the same time!"
Takes a bit of finagling. :-)

Berowne said...

To hear from old friends, and new ones, is always a pleasure. My thanks to Kathy B, Sue, Other Mary, helenmac, Gerry, gautami T, jaerose, Sheilagh L, laurie kolp, Linda J, Doc FTSE, Jo B, Meryl, Carver, Morning, Roger O G, Tumblewords and Brian M -- and anyone else I may have missed. :-)

Friko said...

always provided he did indeed write Shakespeare's plays :)

Caliban and the snake charmer, clever of you.
I do love the 'be not afeard' monologue; I want to live it.

Berowne said...

Friko: "Always provided he did indeed write Shakespeare's plays."
He did.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, sweet Prospero Berowne, thou hast played thy enchantment upon my heart again with your erudite knowledge of our noble bard. The tabour is played in thine honour. 'Do that good mischief which may make this island Thine own for ever, and I, thy Caliban, For aye thy foot-licker.

rallentanda said...

I wont place myself in the foot licking brigade but I am certainly impressed with the clever way you used this prompt.Will's a doll isn't he?

Mike Patrick said...

There should be great pleasure in passing beauty along. You do it so well.

linda may said...

I always find such interesting stuff when I look in on your blog. Cheers.

 
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