The Tempest Colonialism and Slavery Quotes

This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
Thou strok’st me and mad’st much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in ‘t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light and how the less,
That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee,
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you,
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ th’ island.

– William Shakespeare

The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2. Caliban asserts his rights through his mother to the island, which he claims Prospero took from him by flattering him, giving him berries, teaching him about the sun and stars and then betraying him. He admits that he loved Prospero at first. He showed the magician all the qualities of the island with its freshwater springs and saltwater pits, Caliban being a native inhabitant and close to nature. But he curses himself for doing so, and Prospero as well, who now confines him in a cave on the island. Invoking the name of his witch mother Sycorax, Caliban once again calls on her wicked magic charms to curse his captor. He is unforgiving about how Prospero has mistreated and enslaved him. All of this raises the question of who is the monster here – Caliban or Prospero? Perhaps both!

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

– William Shakespeare

The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2. This is one of the most poetic passages in The Tempest, spoken by Caliban, and the speech has a haunting and dream-like quality about it. It shows that Caliban is not just all monster and anger but a much more complicated and multi-sided character capable of eloquence and beautiful expression. He describes the magical qualities of his beloved island of which is a native, his deep attachment to it, and his own dreams. In his moving speech Caliban attempts to reassure the others, spooked by the invisible Ariel’s mysterious music resulting from Prospero’s magic, that the island is indeed full of sounds and music that give pleasure but don’t hurt. Does this poetic speech with its powerful imagery and calm and thoughtful language reflect the true nature of Caliban? Is his brutish and monstrous and side then a reaction to the cruel way he has been treated by his slave master Prospero – a case of nurture and not nature? If you treat a person like a monster, do they not sometimes become the monster? The Tempest is often seen as a critique on the cruel treatment of colonized peoples by their European colonizers, as depicted in Prospero’s treatment of Caliban and Ariel.