tempcolon Comparing Language in Shakespeare's Tempest and Aime Cesaire's A Tempest

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Colonial Language in Shakespeare's The Tempest and Aime Cesaire's A Tempest

Language and literature are the most subtle and seductive tools of domination. They gradually shape thoughts and attitudes on an almost subconscious level. Perhaps Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak states this condition most succinctly in her essay "The Burden of English" when she writes, "Literature buys your assent in an almost clandestine way...for good or ill, as medicine or poison, perhaps always a bit of both"(137). By examining Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and Cesaire's "A Tempest", the diabolic and diagnostic functions of language and literature can be explored. Both plays place characters who are foreign to each other in equally unknown and foreign
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"You taught me language and my profit on't/ Is, I know how to curse" (363-4). Shakespeare's Caliban, though, is concerned as much with revenge as he is his own freedom. Through his ability to speak a European tongue, Caliban is able to persuade Stephano and Trinculo to attempt to overthrow Prospero. In the end, the attempt fails miserably. Caliban begs for forgiveness and Prospero's power is essentially unchallenged. Prospero as teacher, slave owner, father, and Duke dictates the outcome of the play.

Cesaire's Caliban uses the same tool, language given to him by Prospero, to subvert Prospero's power and to win his freedom. Like the original, the contemporary Caliban realizes that his education is a sinister form of slavery. Learning Prospero's language means learning to understand and obey orders. He even attributes his alleged attempted rape of Miranda to his education, claiming, "you're the one [Prospero] who put those dirty thoughts in my head" (13). The efforts of Cesaire's Caliban, while full of resentment, are focused primarily on freedom. He wants to rid himself to be free of his name and become X for this very reason. The images of the native as dark, mysterious, primitive, wild, and primally sensual are bound to his given name. These images help to define Prospero and his European mindset, rather than articulating anything authentic

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