The Tempest - Shakespeare; Analysis of Caliban

             Caliban, “a thing most brutish” whose name is a near anagram of ‘cannibal’, is implied by Prospero to be most primitive and inferior from a “vile race”. Residing on the island of his birth he is enslaved by Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan, a powerful magician. Caliban is arguably a personification of the debate over colonialism and the conflict between cultures. As such, Caliban has been interpreted in various ways and in turn varied styles, affecting critical thoughts and the effectiveness with which Shakespeare’s narrative is expressed.
             In Peter Greenaway’s unique 1991 film entitled ‘Prospero’s Books’, Caliban lives in a pit, a dank pool, which Greenway based on the hippopotamus pools in Victorian zoos. It is an unwholesome place with algae on the walls and an island-refuge with clumps of wretched grass and weeds. Caliban eventually appears out of the murky water moving rhythmically on the island suggestive of a primordial Caliban, yet one may interpret this Caliban as a higher being, his movements are like those of a spirit, reminiscent of the potentially noble creature of Sir Herbert Beerböhm Tree’s 1904 production. Greenaway, trained as a painter which influences his inventive style; he considers himself “primarily a painter who’s working in cinema”, creating what Douglas Lanier describes as “a kaleidoscopic visual experience”. Lanier correctly recognises that, in an attempt to be original, Greenaway discards much of the textual Shakespeare, replacing it with a “visually sumptuous dumb show” lacking the narrative of Shakespeare’s script lessening any intended impact. In direct contrast, Messina’s ‘text-faithful’ production sees an ape-like Caliban, Warren Clarke, with a full body of hair, possibly based on F.R. Benson’s portrayal as “a kind of man-monkey” alike to the “low-browed, defiant” Caliban illustrated by Alfred Kubin (1918). Jack Birkett plays Derrick Jarman’s...

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The Tempest - Shakespeare; Analysis of Caliban. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:02, January 18, 2017, from