The Tempest

How is Stephanos treatment of Caliban similar to the way in which some European explorers and settlers treated Native Americans?

Scene 2 act 2

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The most important literary elements in the second scene are probably those that are used to refer to Caliban. Upon finding Caliban lying on the ground, Trinculo calls him a "dead Indian"; indeed, in Elizabethan times, natives were brought back to England from foreign lands, and their captors could earn a great deal of money exhibiting them in London. Trinculo's speech is significant because he describes Caliban as a "fish," and a "strange beast," showing his Western contempt and lack of understanding of a person with a different skin color than his own. Stephano assumes that Caliban is a "mooncalf," or a monstrosity, the term alluding to a folk tale of the time. Their contempt for dark-skinned Caliban is analogous to Europeans' view of "natives" in the West Indies and other colonies, and Shakespeare's treatment of Caliban provides some interesting social commentary on colonization.