Which characters does Caliban compare to in translations? Essay
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The character of Caliban in ‘The Tempest’ can be compared to all of the Irish native inhabitants in ‘Translations’, by comparing the way in which Caliban resents Prospero’s language, like Hugh resents English, the way in which he relies on natural resources, similarly does Manus, and also the way in which he is perceived by others, perhaps as more of a creature than a person, like Sarah is perceived as being unintelligent as she cant talk. I think mostly so Caliban can be compared to ‘Owen’, who too ends up being a victim of colonisation and is treated with disrespect by the colonisers.
In translations, the master of the hedge school, Hugh, does not support the idea of the English language being phased into Ireland, and refers to it with very derogatory terms like ‘plebeian’ and see’s it only suitable for business purposes, but at the end of the play, he comes to terms with the fact that the English language and the English names for towns is going to have to be accepted if everybody is to live their lives peacefully. likewise in ‘The tempest’ Caliban is irritated with Prospero and complains that he was taught Prospero’s language but with lack of benefit to himself as it taught him to curse – ‘you taught me language, and my profit on’t is I know how to curse’.
Although, by the end of the play, after his experience of Stephano, Trinculo and wine, he realises that Prospero and his ways are better for him. This is evident when he says ‘I’ll be wiser hereafter, and seek for grace. What a thrice double ass was I to take this drunkard for a god’. Both characters grow and gain the ability of acceptance to a change in language when compared from the beginning to the end of the play. What is dismissed as ‘gabble’ by Miranda may in fact have been Caliban’s native language of which he has been deprived. Similarly, in Bally Beag, English place names are to replace the Gaelic names and the enforced methods of teaching English are used to gain power over the Irish. So therefore Caliban can be compared to all Irish inhabitants in reference to their deprivation of language.
Caliban could be compared to Manus in more than one way. One way being their situations in relationships. Caliban lusts for Miranda ( he admits that he once tried to rape her, but rather than showing contrition, he says that he wishes he would have been able to finish the deed, so that he could have ‘peopled…this isle with Calibans’) but her heart is with Ferdinand, and Manus desires for Maire, but her heart lies with Yolland. In both relationships, the
Non native inhabitant, or Colonisar in Yollands case, has won the heart of the lady. This shows the native inhabitants to again loose not only their land and pride, but the lady too. However, Manus and Caliban contrast greatly in manners and human honour. For example Manus would never have tried to rape Maire, his emotions led to love rather than lust like Caliban’s. Manus and Caliban are similar in the way they both rely on the natural resources of their land to survive. For example Manus says ‘I brought the cow to the bull three times last week but no good’. This suggests he is trying to breed the cows for milk. Caliban relies completely on the natural resources of the island, this is evident when he says ‘let me bring thee where crabs grow, and with my long nails will dig thee pignuts’. As both inhabitants rely on the natural resources of their land, they have an advantage over the colonisers, as they have more knowledge of the land than them.
Caliban could be compared to Sarah, as she also cannot speak but is taught by Manus, as is Caliban by a well – meaning Miranda. Caliban does not respond with thanks, likewise Sarah causes the tragedy by letting Manus know, through her limited language skills about Maire and Yolland.However, Caliban and Sarah contrast in their personalities. For example, Sarah brings Manus flowers as thanks, and Caliban gratifies Miranda by trying to rape her. These two characters compare through their limited communication skills, but greatly differ in their temperaments.
Caliban I think mostly compares to Owen, who is also a victim of colonisation and are both treated derogatorily. Caliban is referred to as ‘filth’, ‘hagseed’, ‘monster’ and ‘misshapen knave’. All these terms are used by the colonisers towards him. He is looked down on and treated as a slave, for example having to collect wood etc. He is also easily impressed, for example when he refers to Stephano as ‘a brave god’. Likewise, Owen is used as a messenger, and to some extents a slave.
For example Lancey does not call Owen by his name, only calls him ‘Roland’. Like Caliban is used by the colonisers to make money, Owen is being made use of to change the names of towns’. Caliban and Owen differ in their outlook on life. Caliban is bitter, aggrieved and curses Prospero, whereas Owen is loyal towards Lancey up until the very end of the play when violence is used towards Owens friends and family, this is what makes him remember his roots.
Like Caliban, this Irish are ultimately all oppressed by the British Colonial System; they have their island taken away from them, partly through language. Caliban too has his island taken away by Prospero and Miranda, partly thanks to their knowledge of language. The Irish characters are subservient to the British, in a similar way Caliban is subservient to Prospero and the upper classes. Therefore I see Caliban as parallel to all the Irish inhabitants.