ELA 12: The Show Goes On

Art doesn't happen in a vacuum, and The Tempest is no exception. Caliban might seem like comic relief, but the context of colonialism puts a different spin on things.

British LiteratureAll British Literature
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LiteratureBritish Literature

Transcript

00:27

although he'd like to be released he's gentle in his suggestions you know

00:31

whenever it's convenient for Prospero the balls in his court well the other

00:36

captain Caliban has a different attitude he hates Prospero's guts and plots to [Caliban slaps the roast chicken out of Prospero's lap]

00:41

have him killed he even tries to rape Prospero's

00:44

daughter which as you might imagine Prospero is not exactly thrilled about [Caliban chasing Prospero's daughter]

00:48

even though these characters are both captives they're radically different

00:51

opinions about Prospero come down to their different histories when Prospero

00:55

and Ariel meet Ariel had been imprisoned in a tree by a witch named Sycorax and [Sycorax enslaving Ariel in a tree]

01:02

no matter how much of a treehugger you are being imprisoned in one is no fun

01:07

Prospero rescued Ariel so Ariel became bound to serve him also because of the [Prospero releases Ariel from the tree]

01:12

whole saved from imprisonment in a tree thing

01:15

Ariel feels a certain degree of gratitude well Caliban's history is

01:19

radically different before Prospero arrived Caliban ruled the island he was [Caliban wearing a crown on an island]

01:24

the son of Sycorac's and the undisputed big demon on campus however

01:29

when Prospero did arrive, well Caliban went from ruler to slave a bit [Crown transfers from Caliban to Prospero's head]

01:34

of a demotion there it's important to note though that subtextually, there's

01:38

much more at play than merely resentment The Tempest was written in the early [Caliban throwing darts at a picture of Prospero]

01:43

17th century when Europe's colonial expansion was on the rise all over the

01:47

new world Europeans were arriving in areas inhabited by natives claiming [Europeans on a ship arriving on an island]

01:51

their lands as their own and either killing or enslaving the natives while

01:55

the Europeans were to say the least not ideal house guests in the play [European man picks up natives tee-pee and throws it away]

02:00

Caliban is a native whose homeland is taken over by a European who makes him a

02:05

slave sound familiar? well because of Caliban's link to

02:08

colonialism the character has been played many different ways

02:12

the less people care about the colonial aspect the more brutishly he tends to be [Caliban in a theater play]

02:16

portrayed often as a terrifying subhuman or even comic figure however the more

02:22

focus that an actor or director puts on the colonial aspect the more dignified

02:26

the Caliban in such productions he's likely to be portrayed as a tragic slave [Caliban crying while in chains]

02:31

or a rebellious hero rather than someone who can barely walk upright...For Caliban's

02:36

sake it's a shame that a bunch of those different versions couldn't have [Prospero ringing bell and Caliban's appear]

02:39

appeared in the same play because well a whole gaggle of Caliban's might make

02:43

Prospero think twice about the whole enslavement thing [A bunch of Caliban's appear and Prospero runs away]