Essay on Comparing Shakespeare's Caliban to the African-American

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Comparing Shakespeare's Caliban to the African-American

Caliban, immediately introduced as "poisonous slave," "savage," "hag-seed," is a character often likened to the African- American slave. The ease and matter-of-factness with which Prospero and Miranda dismiss him is painfully obvious even before he enters the scene (Act 1, Scene 3). Through no fault of his own, Caliban is dehumanized by the authority of his day and dismissed by the important members of his society. He looks much different from the others on the island, so he is not seen as a true human being; in fact, his only redemption lies in the fact that he is able to learn the language in order to serve the master.

The predicament in which the black American found …show more content…

Robert Penn quotes Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk. He sums up this concept beautifully: "It is a particular sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One never feels the two-ness-- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." (Penn, p.19)

The lack of social power seen in Caliban is mirrored in African- American history. With their enslavement, African- Americans were not allowed to progress as were their white counterparts. (Sargent, p.73) Like the black American, Caliban, was forced to do the bidding of his European rulers, and since he was not considered an important human being, he had no social power with which to combat his oppression.

The figure of Caliban and his oppression is similar to that of the African in America, but in treating the subject, we must not fail to mention the glaring differences between the two, for these are as important to note as the similarities.

The first and most glaring inconsistency with this familiar comparison lies in the character of Caliban himself. Caliban seems to be either so ignorant as not to know basic right from wrong or so base that he does not care. Prospero charges him with attempting

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