The Tempest: The Ideal Father

One thing that was interesting for me to note while reading The Tempest was the similarity between Prospero and Stephano; both were viewed as fatherly figures by Caliban despite weakening his  position as a savage being. Compared to slaving for Prospero, Caliban was more eager to serve Stephano for Stephano not only tempted Caliban with an illusionary opportunity to free himself from the hands of a cruel master, but he also enabled Caliban to feel valuable. Once Prospero condemned Caliban to servitude, Prospero removed himself from the position as a fatherly figure in Caliban’s life, hence fully depriving Caliban from feeling affection or kindness. As for Stephano, even though his kind behavior towards Caliban was entirely faked, the attention and attitude he portrayed quenched Caliban’s emotional isolation. Much to what Prospero did, Stephano severed Caliban’s tie to his animalistic nature: he fed false information to Caliban such as indicating himself to be a heavenly being (2.2. 132—33), and humanized Caliban even more by ordering him to consume his liquor (2.2. 136). Stephano’s actions can be parallelized to Prospero’s attempt to civilize the child of Sycorax. Despite the injustice of Stephano’s actions, Caliban viewed him more as fatherly figure than Prospero. Similarly to Prospero, Stephano introduced new things into Caliban’s life. Just like what Prospero did, the new things Stephano introduced to Caliban made him appear more removed from his animalistic nature. Although Stephano’s behavior towards him was all an act, his act was enough to convince Caliban that there is someone capable of truly caring for him. Acceptance was something Caliban craved for as he had been denied of it since the death of his mother and since his rejection from the inhabitants of the island.

One comment

  1. Good points here that Stephano also acted somewhat like a possibly father figure to Caliban, along with Prospero. He does do things that one might associate with the traditional, colonial methods of civilization: act as if he is a god, provide liquor. I hadn’t thought of that in that way…interesting! I do see that Caliban is more willing to follow Stephano as a master than Prospero, but does he see him as a father, as someone who cares for him? It would be interesting to hear more about how we could see Caliban as treating Stephano as someone who cares about him, not simply as an authority figure.

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