Ariel and Caliban Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 November 2017

Ariel and Caliban


It could be suggested that every time he retells Ariel’s history, he must increase both the persuasiveness of his own story and his control over Ariel. This is why he now chooses to claim that Ariel is behaving badly, so that he can justify a retelling of the history even though Ariel is perfectly respectable in his approach towards Prospero. Even though he reminds Ariel of the misery that was suffered whilst in the pine tree, (“Thy groans” “Did make wolves howl”) He counteracts his own good deeds with a forceful display of his own magical power, threatening to trap Ariel up in the tree like the witch, Sycorax did.

Prospero exercises control both physically and intellectually by controlling the way Ariel and Miranda think about their lives, he makes it very difficult for them to imagine that challenging his authority would be a good thing to do, and by after threatening Ariel (and Caliban in proceeding lines) which magical torture he makes the idea unattractive thus resulting in Ariel promising to “do my spiriting gently. ” It is at this point worth outlining the character of Caliban and some possible links with Ariel.

Caliban is Prospero’s earthly slave, often referred to as a monster by the other characters, he is the son of a witch hag and the only real native to the island. In his first speech to Prospero, Caliban insists that Prospero stole the island from him. It could be suggested that Calibans situation is much the same as Prospero’s, as his brother usurped his own kingdom in the same way that Prospero has stolen the island from Caliban. Similarly, Caliban’s desire for rulership of the island mirrors the lust for power which led Antonio to overthrow Prospero.

From this, again, we see the callous side of Prospero thus confirming our interpretations which were formed from rhetoric between Prospero to Miranda and Ariel. “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam; come forth” This is very direct, and commanding towards Caliban. From dialogue between Prospero and Caliban it is evident that Caliban somewhat despises Prospero and whilst bound to slavery he’s completely reluctant to carry out the tasks that Prospero is commanding of him.

“A South-west blow on ye, and blister you all o’er” We again see a threatening side of Prospero when he threatens to give Caliban cramps. “To night thou shalt have cramps. ” Caliban expresses his disapproval at this point again, and reminds Prospero that he showed him round the island when he first arrived that belonged to himself. Then much like Prospero did with Ariel, he accuses Caliban of being ungrateful for the good deeds that Prospero has done for him.

After much dialogue between Prospero and Caliban, Shakespeare delivers us with a key line from Caliban. “You taught me language, and my profit on it Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you for learning me your language” Firstly, this shows us that human nature teaches Caliban to be observant, as he is cunningly noting that he only knows how to curse because Prospero taught him how to speak. However, it could be suggested that this has a deeper meaning and is centred around one of the main themes present in “The Tempest. “- Colonialism.

The quotation shows part of the relationship between the colonized (Caliban,) and the colonizer, (Prospero. ) It is here, that the relationship between these two parties can be explored. Caliban sees Prospero as simply oppressive whilst on the other hand, Prospero claims that he has cared for and educated Caliban. However, as the key quotation suggests during this so called education and colonization, problems do arise, and it is at this stage where the colonizer and the colonized see and value the human language as two separate entities.

Prospero sees language as a form of knowing oneself and considers it to be valuable tool, however Caliban is showing nothing but curse and resentment for this precious gift that has been given to him. In light of the character of Caliban that is displayed to us in rhetoric between himself and Prospero, there is a contrast in character when Caliban is engaging with Stephano in 2. 2. In this section of the play we are provided with Caliban’s act of charity through colourful descriptive speeches about the island. “I’ll show thee the best springs: I’ll pluck thee berries. ” “And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts.

” This shows Caliban being charitable towards Stephano, but perhaps more importantly – it confirms to us as an audience that Caliban does have extensive knowledge about the island, and did really occupy the island before he was overthrown by Prospero, possibly suggesting that his treatment by Prospero is unjust. It is quite clear from the play and this analysis that Prospero undoubtedly rules over both Caliban and Ariel, however the dynamics between these characters leaves potential for comparisons and contrasts, thus the first obvious one being the likeness of the two, as they both fall under Prospero’s authority.

The next possible association for dissimilarity between Ariel and Caliban is that Caliban attempts to use language as a weapon against Prospero, just as Prospero uses it against Caliban. When Caliban admits he tried to rape Miranda instead of showing remorse, he says that he wishes he would have been able to finish the deed so that the island could have been “peopled with Calibans. ” (1.

2) As highlighted previously, Caliban uses language as a tool against Prospero and has somewhat figured out that it could be a key to his freedom if he betters Prospero in one of their cursing matches, however Caliban only backs down because he fears Prosperos magic which he knows is so powerful. When Ariel re-enters in 1. 2 it creates an immediate and powerful change which shows the audience the stark contrasts between Ariel and Prospero. Whilst Caliban is coarse and resentful, described as a “Lying Slave” and “Poisonous,”, Ariel is delicate refined and gracious described as an “Airy Spirit.

” This provides a striking contrast, as Ariel is not of the earth, whereas Caliban quite clearly is “of the earth. ” Although the two both serve Prospero, Ariel serves him willingly, hopeful for his freedom, whilst Caliban resists serving him at all costs. It could be suggested that upon Prospero’s arrival on the island, he enslaved Caliban and freed the bright airy spirit, Ariel. It is at this point, worth referring to some historical context and some other interpretations upon the subject of colonialism.

Many readers of “The Tempest” have interpreted it as an allegory about European colonialism which lends itself to Prospero’s treatment of Ariel and Caliban, this represents the disruptive nature of European colonization on native societies. Prospero’s colonization has left Caliban, the original owner of the island, subject to a life of slavery and hatred solely on account of his dark appearance. In conclusion, Caliban both mirrors and contrasts with Ariel. Ariel, is an airy spirit and Caliban is “of the earth” with speeches that reference closely to items of the earth such as pig-nuts and crabapples.


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