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Home » , » Write a brief note on the character of Caliban with special reference to his symbolic significance, if any, in the play, The Tempest?
Caliban is an important character in the play, The Tempest by William Shakespeare. He plays a vital role in this play. He stands in sharp contrast to Ariel. He is an elemental being. He is brutal and sensuous. He has no direct connection with the main action of the play. He is the son of a witch by the name of Sycorax who had been expelled from her country on a charge of practicing black magic. He has a deformed body. He is half-human and half-monster. He uses rough language.

Caliban is an ugly misshapen monster, whose physical exterior is a symbol of his inner ugliness. He is wicked in nature. He represents mankind at the brute stage. He is morally a devil. He resists all active occupations. He recognizes no moral law. Prospero tried his utmost to civilize Caliban but in vain. Caliban has a profound hatred for Prospero. He hates his master Prospero. He regards his master as a usurper. Thus the airy spirit is a kind of general to Prospero, while the monster is nothing but a slave. Caliban's love of freedom is shallow. It expresses itself in his resentment of Prospero who is a usurper in his eyes. But it does not mean freedom from service and domination. It means to him only a change from one master to another. Caliban does Prospero's works only under threat. He receives Prospero with curses and vile abuse. But Ariel remains always cheerful and shows due respect to Prospero.

The character of Caliban is important because of his symbolic significance. He symbolizes three different ideas. Firstly, Caliban is an embodiment of the supernatural. He is born of the union of a witch and a devil; hence his deformity. Secondly, Caliban is a slave. As a slave, he hates his taskmaster, and hates all "service". And he again embodies one of the leading social ideas of the play, namely, slavery and the revolt against slavery. Thirdly, Caliban is a dispossessed Indian. To sum up, we may say that Caliban is the symbol of the colonized and Prospero is the symbol of the colonizers. He possesses allegorical significance. He is rebellious and revengeful. Whenever he gets the chance, he tries to take revenge upon his tyrant ruler. He does not hesitate to hatch a plot against Prospero. However, Shakespeare has successfully portrayed the character of Caliban in the play, The Tempest.


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