The Tempest

The Sensitive Beast: Shakespeare's Presentation of Caliban

Caliban is certainly one of the most complex and contradictory characters in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", at different points embodying the poetic, the absurd, the pathetic, and the savagely evil. For this reason, he is also one of the most interesting and fiercely debated of Shakespeare's characters. It is hard to imagine how Shakespeare intended Elizabethan audiences to respond to the character of Caliban. He was doubtless very popular, since he was created during a time of increased exploration, an era during which tales of monsters and strange new worlds began to return to England. However, there is far more to Caliban than his monstrous appearance, and although the play was written primarily for entertainment purposes, Caliban's role surpasses that of the island's "devil creature". Indeed, the question of Caliban's importance is still debated hundreds of years after his inception: is he the savage, inherently evil beast that Prospero considers him, or is there more to Caliban than first impressions would suggest?

Caliban is certainly not a pleasant or polite character. He has the appearance of a "freckled whelp hag-born, not honoured with a human shape" and "a very...

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