Caliban Upon Setebos

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Caliban Upon Setebos

By | April 2006
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In "Caliban Upon Setebos" by Robert Browning, the creature Caliban from William Shakespeare's The Tempest, reveals his views concerning life, religion, and human nature. In The Tempest Caliban is portrayed as a spiteful, brutish, and drunken beast who despises his powerful master Prospero and his beautiful daughter Miranda. He often appears as a coarse and thick headed character; he is overwhelmed by the wine that he is given by the butler Stephano and worships him as a god. Browning's poem shows a lighter, more eloquent and sensitive side of Caliban, offering restitution to Caliban, who may not have gotten a fair deal in his first appearance. Caliban pauses in his island labors to ponder the world and life around him. He attempts to account for the cruelties that persist on the island and justify his god's malevolent actions. Caliban's increasingly convoluted explanation demonstrates one of the difficulties the Victorian world was having with religion: theology was having to become more and more contorted to explain both the facts of the modern world and the findings of modern science. Many found it increasingly difficult to maintain traditional ideas about a just God and Caliban struggles with the same doubts.

It is Caliban's belief that Setebos is the creator of everything that exists in his world, except for the stars. The stars are believed to be created by a force or god above Setebos only know as "The Quiet". Caliban believes that Setebos created his world out of frustration and malcontent. Caliban voices his opinion when he states:

‘Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match, ...
Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon,
‘Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease:
He hated that He cannot change his cold,
Nor cure its ache. (26-33)

Setebos created Caliban's world, and the creatures who inhabit it, in an attempt to ease his frustration with being alone. The coldness of Setebos' demeanor is due to his solitary state....
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