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Colonialism And European Villain In Shakespeare's The Tempest

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In the early 1600s, Shakespeare completed The Tempest, a comedy set in the New World centering around the former Duke of Milan, Prospero, and his quest for vengeance after being castaway to a remote island. Superficially, the comedy is straightforward; it is merely the story of a man who regains his dukedom and rights the injustices he has suffered. While the plot of the play may be simple, the larger narrative of the play prompts the audience to consider the more complicated dynamics of indigenous and European relationships. These dynamics are presented through the character Caliban and his interactions with the rest of the European cast. Through Caliban’s contact with these characters, he is presented as crude, foolish, and odious. Surely a character such as this is villainous, as he is often called throughout the play. Yet, while Caliban’s relationship with the European characters may expose his own unbecoming features, I argue that it also discloses the abusive and foul tendencies of the very Europeans who scorn him. Indeed, I will prove that Caliban is not the simple villain that he is superficially presented to be, but rather a victim of European intervention and hegemony. Through the analysis of Caliban’s character and his relationships with the European characters in The Tempest, I will then explore Shakespeare stance on colonialism and European interference with the indigenous people of the Americas.
Caliban’s initial characterization comes from the etymology of his
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