Comparison of Caliban and Ariel in "The Tempest"

Topics: The Tempest, Moons of Uranus, Prospero Pages: 3 (552 words) Published: April 19, 2014
William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is a play which takes place on an island. A fierce storm and shipwreck have just occurred, caused by Ariel, a spirit slave at the command of one of the main characters, Prospero. Prospero is a magician who has been banished to the island by his brother, Antonio. Prospero also has human slave, Caliban. Although Caliban and Ariel are both indebted to Prospero, they have very significant differences that are highlighted throughout the play. The way the two became Prospero’s slaves is one difference. Due to the nature of their enslavement, the two have very different attitudes towards Prospero. They also have differences in how they wish to gain their freedom.

One main difference between the two slaves is the way they became Prospero’s slaves. Both have ties to the witch referenced in the play, Sycorax. While Sycorax was alive, Ariel was her slave. At one point Ariel disobeyed her. He was a “spirit too delicate to act her earthy and abhorr’d commands” (Witt, Brown, Dunbar, Tirro & Witt, 2005, p. 68). Sycorax became angry and trapped Ariel in a tree. After many years, Prospero found Ariel in the tree and rescued him. Ariel is indebted to Prospero because of this. Caliban is the son of Sycorax. When Prospero arrived on the island, he met Caliban and educated him. Prospero tells Caliban he “taught thee each hour one thing or other” (Witt, et. al., 2005, p. 69). Caliban believes that the island belonged to him, and that Prospero stole it from him.

Due to the way the two became indebted to Prospero, their attitudes towards him differ greatly. The language they use when speaking to Prospero reflects their feelings for him. Ariel admires Prospero and wishes to please him. When he enters the play, he tells Prospero “all hail, great master, grave sir, hail!” (Witt, et. al., 2005, p. 66). In contrast, Caliban is resentful towards Prospero. When Caliban enters the play, he tells Prospero “a south-west blow on ye,...


References: Witt, M.A.F., Brown, C.V., Dunbar, R.A., Tirro, F., & Witt, R.G. (2005). The humanities: (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
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