The character, Caliban, from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, is one of the most widely discussed individual characters in Shakespeare's entire canon, especially in relation to issues of the way that Europeans represent (or mis-represent) non-white peoples, historically, in literature and in culture generally. Shakespeare wrote during the height of the English Renaissance, which as Fortier states is the first century which post-colonial critiques generally begin as a point of discussion regarding "the effects of the western imperialism that has dominated the world since the sixteenth century and that has been unraveling since the end of the Second World War." (Fortier: 192) Ideas of the inferiority and savagery of African peoples would become entrenched in European culture, with the economic system of slavery and the practices of colonial control two of the key ways that Europeans joined racist ideas to economic and cultural domination.
Fortier writes, "Like feminism, post-colonialism aims to give voice to an oppressed group by understanding and critiquing the structures of oppression and articulating and encouraging liberation and revolution."
[...] The plot to capture the island and make Stephano a new King shows us how in Shakespeare's version of the Tempest, no matter how Caliban claims to have been tricked out of ownership, he is willing to turn his kingdom over to the drunken sailors. “I'll show thee every fertile inch th'island, /And I will kiss they foot. I prithee, be my god.” (Act scene l. 145-146) This reveals his lack of judgment and his natural position of servitude; one that would have confirmed European ideas of the inferior nature of non-white people. [...]
[...] (Callaghan: 21) As she argues, Caliban has become linked in the minds of many playwrights in the post-colonial era as a key symbol of the struggle against colonialism itself. (Callaghan: 21) She quotes a playwright, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, who maintains that Shakespeare's The Tempest can be ‘read' as script for resistance to colonialism: know no other metaphor more expressive of our cultural situation, of our reality . [W]hat is our history, what is our culture, if not the history and culture of Caliban?"(Retamar in Callaghan: 21) Thus, as Fortier suggests in his text on theory and its application to theatrical productions, the post-colonial can mean the transformation of a text which may have meant one thing at one time, into a text which means something totally different in our time. [...]
[...] (Cobb: 166) He continues that Caliban is not only mad and comic but “symbolic of the utter delusion that resides in the auto-intoxicated, selfish will-to-power which desires to overthrow true realization.” (Cobb: 167) This, from a post-colonial viewpoint, represents the views of a writer totally unaware of a reading which may view Caliban as the oppressed subaltern. Instead, it pulls from the kinds of European ideas which Fanon suggests enable white people to project all of the evil in the world onto black people. [...]
[...] If Sycorax and Caliban present images of ‘blackness', such as Fanon describes, the spirit Ariel, in contrast, a good fairy, is also described in terms of purity, goodness and whiteness. When we first hear of Sycorax and Caliban it is in relation to how Prospero freed Ariel from the spell that Sycorax placed upon her; confining her forever into the trunk of a tree. (Tempest, Act scene l. 270-275) This reads as highly paternalistic, which is an aspect of colonialism key to its self-justification. [...]
[...] It could be imagined, in a Canadian context, a Native production of The Tempest, where Caliban is a representative figure of the white colonial trick of stealing Aboriginal lands through treaties that would only end up being broken; with the Native people being forced onto reserves, or becoming a permanent second class citizen through racist colonial government management of Indian Affairs. Caliban's complaint is the complaint of a monster betrayed. then I loved thee/And showed thee all the qualities o'th'isle: /The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile.” (Act scene l. [...]
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