(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.
1 year ago