Caliban is Shakespeare’s unique creation. He is half fish’and half-human. He is ugly, dcfomied and bmtish. He has the least sense of right and wrong. He is the son of a witch named Sycorax. His father was a devil. After the death of his mother, he falls into the hands of Prospero. Prospero tames him and teaches him human speech. But Caliban has no respect for human beings. He is demi-devil.
Caliban is extremely wicked. Prospero’s education could not improve him. His name is a rearrangement of the word cannibal which means eater of human flesh. in fact, Caliban is savage and brutal like a cannibal. Prospero tried to educate him. But he paid back Prospero by trying to violate the honour of his daughter.
Caliban was not a loyal servant. He did not like to serve as a slave under Prospero. He looked upon Prospero as a usurper who had robbed him of his possession, the island. He submitted toProspero because the latter was more powerful. But he never forgave Prospero. He curses him now and then as a protest against his cruelty. Prospero does not treat Caliban kindly. He uses Caliban as a beast of burden. Therefore Caliban has a grudge against him. He would like to take revenge sooner or later.
Caliban is a cunning eonspirator. He has a grudge against Prospero. He remembers the wrong done to him by Prospero. He takes Trinculo and Stephano into confidence and compiled against the life of Prospero. For this help, he is willing to serve Trincuio and Stephano as a slave. It is however a different thing that his plot fails.
An extraordinary thing about Caliban is that he generally peaks in poetry. While describing the island he makes use of a highly poetic language. This shows that he has a very fertile imagination;
“Be not afeard ; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, which give delight and hurt not.”
Caliban is very timid. Throughout the play we find him cursing and grumbling. Nowhere do we lind him in action. Thus he is revengeful by nature. He expects others to help him. He takes the support of Trinculo and Stephano to kill Prospero. Like an old fool he can only suggest and plan. But he does not have the guts to carry out his own plans. He trembies to think of the spirits at the command of Prospero. He trembles fearfully to see Trinculo and Stephano and lie down seemingly dead on the ground. Trinculo hides under his garment. But he remains motionless. When he is given to drink, he kisses Stephano’s feet and accepts him as his god Caliban is quite vigilant. He is a keen observer. He has complete knowledge of the island. He knows all the qualities of the island. He promises to show Stephano a jay’s nest and to teach him how to catch the monkeys.
Caliban is a hateful character. Prospero thinks very low of him. He calls him an abhorrcd slave. He addresses him as hag-sced and tortoise. Miranda hates to see him, saying:
“It is a villain, sir.
I do not love to look on.”
To Stephano, he seems to be some monster of the Isle, with four legs, a devil or a savage, To TrinCulo he appears to be a strange fish, legged like a man with his tins like arms.
It is said that Caliban.’s character represents three ideas. He is an embodiment of the supernatural ; he is an embodiment of slavery ; and he is a dispossessed Indian. In his capacity as a dispossessed Indian he represents the savage barbarian subdued by the white colonisers of the Elizabethan age.