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The Tempest As a Postcolonial Revision of William Shakespeare's Ideas

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A Tempest is a postcolonial revision of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Although they revolve around the same characters and plot, for the most part, there are several differences between The Tempest and A Tempest written by Aime Cesaire. The most significant difference is the way in which Caliban speaks. Compared to The Tempest, Caliban’s speech is different in A Tempest, because he reveals speech from his native language, he speaks in a more aggressive manner, more frequently, and emotionally.

The immediate difference in speech with Caliban in A Tempest is the exposing of his native language. In The Tempest Caliban’s native language was never revealed. In contrast, when Caliban is first introduced in A Tempest he exclaims, “Uhuru!” (Cesaire 17). This word means “freedom” in Swahili. The author wastes no time in establishing Caliban as someone who strives for freedom and speaks a foreign language. Ironically, Caliban does this in his own language rather than English, so Prospero cannot understand him. Prospero has taught Caliban English, yet Caliban speaks in his own language as a sign of rebellion against Prospero. Caliban cries out for freedom to Prospero in his language, establishing his unique identity and signifying that Caliban wants to be free from Prospero’s power over him.

In A Tempest Caliban’s manner of speaking is much more aggressive compared to his speech in The Tempest. In The Tempest Caliban exits his first interaction with Prospero stating, “I must obey. His art of such power/ it control my dam’s god, Setebos/ And make a vassal of him,” (Shakespeare 1.2.447-450). Caliban ceases his argument with Prospero, because he has come to terms with the fact that Prospero has power over him. However, in A Tempest Caliban exits by saying,

“Call me X. That would be best. Like a man without a name. Or, to be more precise, a man whose name has been stolen. You talk about history… well that’s history, and everyone knows it! Every time you summon me, it reminds me of a basic fact, the fact that you’ve stolen everything from me, even my identity! Uhuru!” (Cesaire 20).

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In this scene Caliban ceases his argument with Prospero with defiance, rather than surrendering to Prospero’s power. The author has made this specific character change to Caliban, making him more resilient and resistant to authority. Despite Prospero demonstrating clear authority and power over Caliban, by enslaving him, dehumanizing him, and taking his land, Caliban challenges Prospero by rejecting the name Prospero gave him and further resists him, by exclaiming “freedom” in his language once again. The Caliban in A Tempest has a much more aggressive manner when speaking to Prospero, demonstrating his resiliency to authority.

A clear contrast in Caliban’s speech between the two books is that he speaks with more frequency in A Tempest. The longest and most empowering speech is assigned to Caliban, when he addresses Prospero, “For years I bowed my head/ for years I took it, all of it-/ your insults your ingratitude…” (Cesaire 61). Caliban calls out Prospero on the horrendous things he has done, but more importantly this speech goes on for two pages. The book is also littered with much more dialogue from Caliban. In juxtaposition, the biggest speech that Caliban has in The Tempest is in act 3 scene 2 where he speaks for 17 lines. There is clear distinction when comparing the two books. In The Tempest Prospero is the main character of the play, but in A Tempest, Caliban is clearly the main character. Anime Cesaire deliberately gives Caliban more dialogue because he has made Caliban the main character of his book, therefore, he speaks with more frequency and this aids the readers in seeing things from his points of view.

Caliban is considerably more emotional when speaking in A Tempest, than in The Tempest. In The Tempest, Caliban’s murderous plan is foiled by Ariel, and he, Trinculo and Stephano are defeated. We see him for the last time in the final act, in a position of abject surrender. Prospero insults Caliban and sends him to his cell. Caliban responds, saying, “Ay, that I will, and I’ll be wise hereafter/ And seek for grace,” (Shakespeare 5.1.351-352). Caliban’s response reflects his defeat, but he also comes to an understanding that Prospero is his superior in every respect, and his resistance was futile to start with. His response does not reflect his anger or despair, rather it is filled with acceptance and indifference. In A Tempest, the confrontation takes an entirely different form. When Caliban comes to attack Prospero, Prospero walks out unarmed, and dares him to strike. Caliban’s response is, “Defend yourself! I’m not a murderer,” (Cesaire 55). When Caliban refuses to do so, Prospero has him taken prisoner. In contrast to The Tempest, Caliban’s response is expressed to a greater emotional degree, making him seem more human. Despite being enraged and wanting vengeance, he halts his attack on Prospero, because he has honor and he reflects that within his speech. Cesaire makes Caliban express his thought with more emotion when speaking, giving him a more human element.

In conclusion, Caliban’s in The Tempest is vastly different form his speech in A Tempest. When comparing Caliban’s speech in Shakespeare’s play to Cesaire’s adaptation of it, Caliban speaks in his own language, he is much more aggressive, he speaks with more frequency, and he bears a lot more emotion when speaking. The Caliban of The Tempest can at best be an object of sympathy and pity, mingled with shock and disgust at his fallen state. The Caliban of A Tempest commands our respect, and makes a claim upon our conscience as an equal human being. That is Cesaire’s enduring contribution in this retelling.

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The Tempest As a Postcolonial Revision of William Shakespeare’s Ideas. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-tempest-as-a-postcolonial-revision-of-william-shakespeares-ideas/
“The Tempest As a Postcolonial Revision of William Shakespeare’s Ideas.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-tempest-as-a-postcolonial-revision-of-william-shakespeares-ideas/
The Tempest As a Postcolonial Revision of William Shakespeare’s Ideas. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-tempest-as-a-postcolonial-revision-of-william-shakespeares-ideas/> [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].
The Tempest As a Postcolonial Revision of William Shakespeare’s Ideas [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-tempest-as-a-postcolonial-revision-of-william-shakespeares-ideas/
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