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Monday, April 26, 2010

Beauty and the Beast: Post-Colonial Analysis of Ariel and Caliban

After reading the Tempest last year in C&T, I like most of my classmates, recognized Prospero’s oppressive nature to be a central theme. However, upon seeing the great performance here at Wabash, these themes were brought to life and offered up a fresh perspective into this topic. Watching the play with post-colonial theory in mind, I could not help but notice the similar, yet very different characteristics and portrayals of Ariel and Caliban. Both natives of the island, Ariel and Caliban have been ‘colonized’ by Prospero, as they remain oppressed by his magic. Still, this colonization comes to light through Ariel and Caliban’s submissive and opposing relationship with Prospero. In debt to his gratitude, Ariel who represents a figure of beauty must remain enslaved to Prospero. But what struck me about Ariel is that while a slave, he remains swift, graceful, and dreamlike. Presumably, we know nothing about what degree of education or language Ariel possess, however, he is able to coarse people to sleep with song. At first glance, Ariel appears to be the abiding and passive servant to Prospero’s oppression. Caliban on the other hand, represents the apathetic and rebellious outcome of Prospero’s colonization. Simply looking at the dress of the two should in a way signify the distinct ‘otherness’ of the two slaves. Dressed in rags, Caliban lives in the ground and walks and talks in the most unfashionable of ways. Ariel serves for a purpose to Prospero, but Caliban seems to represent a mere child-like figure. Basically saying stay out of my way, Prospero designates Caliban to complete the most basic and mundane of tasks. Like that of a child, Caliban also lacks any sense of self-control. This is evident throughout his interactions with Miranda and his obsessive desire to constantly drink wine. In other words, both Ariel and Caliban are natives of the same land and remain disillusioned by Prospero’s magic. However, their submissive attitudes remain at opposing ends, which is demonstrated through Prospero’s colonization and treatment of both.

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