The Tempest

Caliban: The Monster? College

The concept of monstrosity, at an explicit representational level, has followed a set pattern in literature, but it has been politically deployed and modified differently in different contexts. Etymologically, the word “monster” is derived from the Latin monstrum, meaning “that which reveals” -- a warning or a portent. It is often used to refer to misshapen or deformed creatures. In Elizabethan England, with the various voyages, discoveries, and travel narratives of the time -- such as The Wonders of the East, the Liber Monstrorum, or the Travels of Sir John Mandeville -- the connotations of the term extended to the other races. In fact, representing another culture as monstrous often served to justify its displacement, or even its extermination. William Shakespeare’s work boasts of richly crafted characters such as Iago (from Othello), Macbeth, and Edmund (from King Lear) who are often deemed monstrous due to their moral degeneracy and malignancy. Nicholas Royle asserts, “Shakespeare is relentlessly concerned with making up monsters, with what is ‘unacceptable,’ ‘intolerable,’ and ‘incomprehensible’ in characters,” often associating ontological differences (for instance, dark skin in the case of Aaron, the Moor [from Titus...

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