The Tempest

Back to List of Characters


Caliban is a complex and intriguing character in William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. He is a native of the enchanted island on which the play is set and is the son of the witch Sycorax. Caliban is often portrayed as a monstrous and uncivilized creature, but he is much more than that. His character embodies the themes of colonization, power dynamics, and the struggle for freedom.

At first glance, Caliban seems to be a brute who is easily manipulated and controlled. He is described as "a savage and deformed slave" by Prospero, the main protagonist of the play. However, Caliban's portrayal is not as one-dimensional as it may initially seem. He is a complex character who is deeply connected to the island and its magical elements. Caliban's knowledge of the island's resources and his ability to communicate with the spirits of the island make him a valuable asset to Prospero.

Despite his usefulness to Prospero, Caliban resents his enslavement and longs for his freedom. He feels a strong sense of injustice at being subjected to Prospero's rule and desires to reclaim the island as his own. This struggle for power and autonomy is a central theme in The Tempest. Caliban's desire for freedom is a powerful driving force throughout the play, and his determination to resist oppression is admirable.

Caliban's Relationship with Prospero

Caliban's complex relationship with Prospero is a focal point of the play. Initially, Caliban is obedient and subservient to Prospero, but as the play progresses, their relationship becomes strained. Caliban's rebellion against Prospero's authority is seen as a threat to the power dynamics on the island. This tension between the two characters highlights the theme of colonization and the struggle for control.

Caliban's character is also symbolic of the indigenous people who were colonized by European explorers during Shakespeare's time. His portrayal brings attention to the injustices and oppression faced by these marginalized communities. Caliban's journey from subservience to rebellion serves as a powerful commentary on the effects of colonization and the quest for independence.

In conclusion, Caliban is a fascinating character in Shakespeare's play The Tempest. His portrayal as a monstrous and uncivilized creature masks the complexity and depth of his character. Caliban's struggle for freedom and his complex relationship with Prospero make him a compelling figure in the play. Through his character, Shakespeare explores themes of colonization, power dynamics, and the quest for autonomy. Caliban's story serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring fight for justice and liberation.