The Effect of the Prospero-Caliban Relationship on Dehumanization in Colonialism

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In The Tempest, Shakespeare makes the reader feel sorry for Caliban and resentful of Prospero. Even before Caliban appears on the stage, he is portrayed by Prospero as being a deformed and bestial being. Prospero creates this through his mistreatment of Caliban and his protrayal of Caliban as an animal. However, Shakespeare does give Caliban a voice. Everytime Prospero attempts to suppress him, Caliban is always able to fight back with arguments. One thing that Caliban and Prospero share in common is that others have exercised authority over them; Antonio over Prospero and Prospero over Caliban. The relationship between Prospero and Caliban suggests that the birth of colonialism was not only due to the exploitative attitudes of the colonizer, but is partly due to the dependency of the natives on the superior others. The Prospero-Caliban relationship resembles Cesaire’s argument about how colonization dehumanizes both the colonizer and the colony. To Prospero, Caliban is like an animal that he could rack with cramps, fill his bone with cramps as well as make him “roar” that shall make the beasts tremble if he does not obey Prospero’s commands (Shakespeare, I, 2, 369-371). Here, both the savage treatments and the verb ‘roar’ reflect Prospero’s bestial view of Caliban’s being, embodying Cesaire’s argument about how colonization makes the colonizer get into the habit of seeing and treating other men as animals (Cesaire, p. 41). At the same time, as Cesaire said and as I will argue below, colonization also objectively transforms the colonizer into an animal. If we go back to Caliban’s story of how he first met Prospero and Miranda, we would agree that at the beginning Caliban and Prospero had a relationship similar to father and son. Caliban used to love him and appreciate what he had taught him; “he (Prospero) made much of me.. Teach me how to name the bigger light..” (Shakespeare, I, 2, 333 and 335). Caliban had come to trust him so much that he then revealed the...
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