Week 11

May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Reflecting on Caliban

You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
(Act I, Scene 2, lines 366–368)
(Shakespeare, Norton)

Caliban is the earthly creature that is truly an inhabitant of the land and that has been corrupted by education and language. The image in my mind of Caliban especially with these lines screams Aboriginal history at me. Shakespeare has fuelled Caliban with this fiery persona to claim the island as his own. How did Shakespeare come to know of the indigenous? Caliban’s language is so rough with sharp vowels and short words consisting of one or two syllables. Language has displaced Caliban. Miranda and Prospero’s gift is not welcomed within Caliban’s world understanding and knowing. Instead, it has corrupted him and his own perception of self identity to his previous primitive self. Many may perceive Caliban as the villain or force of evil because of this and because of his opposition to Prospero. But is he really a force associated with evil? Did we not also come onto this land with good intentions to educate the indigenous with western culture, language and religion? Not realising how the indigenous way of life was far more superior than we could ever imagine ourselves to be at the time. I believe through Caliban, Shakespeare offers a different perspective to his audience. To a Great Britain rising to the peak of colonisation, Shakespeare releases Caliban to voice the voice of the indigenous and our disturbance to their existence. Caliban’s view of an oppressive Prospero is a valid view that cannot be objected, highlight a unique wisdom within his indigenous perspective.


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