Caliban and Colonialism

Throughout The Tempest, Shakespeare portrays Caliban as being barbaric, monstrous, uncivilized, and inhuman. A modern day reader might think that Caliban is a one dimensional character because of the repeated indications that he is monstrous. In fact, Caliban strongly resembles the typical European perception of Native American groups of the time, a portrayal that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would not have missed when viewing the play. Like many of the characters in The Tempest, colonists held the belief that Native groups needed to be educated and civilized in the way that Europeans were. When this perspective is ignored, one can fail to recognize Caliban’s complexity and the connections in the Tempest to contemporary issues of the time, such as colonization. With an understanding of the mindsets of colonialism and perception of native groups at the time in mind, readers can better understand Caliban’s place as a flawed but uniquely vilified character among the other characters in the play.

Caliban and Colonialism