Sei sulla pagina 1di 9

Anthony Nielsen

Emily Shearer
English 124
The differences in language between Cesaires Tempest, and Shakespeares Tempest,
may seem huge at first, but when looking closer they are more related. Shakespeare uses
very figurative and symbolic language in his writing; this in contrast to the open speech in
Cesaires version. Because of these extreme contrasts in style, there seems to be a
disconnect between the source and the adaptation. However, if one close reads the two texts,
they are very close. Cesaires play says outwardly what Shakespeare says inwardly
regarding language and hierarchy. My analysis of the two plays will prove this, and further
show how the use of language is vitally important to understanding hierarchy and power
structures within the plays. Finally, I will elaborate on how understanding the language
from both plays gives insight to Cesaires notion of freedom.
To understand how Cesaire connects to Shakespeare, one must first look at The
Tempest. Observing different examples of the language he uses will set up the base for
analysis of Cesaires language. The first quote of importance is the introduction of Caliban.
He is very harsh and defensive towards Prospero, (and Miranda), from the start wishing As
wicked dew as eer my mother brushddrop on you both! A south west blow on ye and
blister you all oer! (Shakespeare, 1.2.321-24). This clearly shows the contentious feelings
Caliban has for Prospero. The feelings are reciprocated by Prospero, who retorts, For this,
be sure, to-night though shalt have cramps, side-stitchesurchins shall, for that vast of

night that they may work, all exercise on thee; though shalt be pinchd as thick as
honeycomb, each pinch more stinging than bees that made em (Shakespeare 1.2.325-330).
This statement confirms the hatred shared by the characters for each other. Caliban uses his
own experience and what he knows to be power to curse Prospero. In response Prospero
uses his fear invoking language to try and scare Caliban, and promises pain for his
transgressions. This exchange is followed by Calibans first speech, in which he gives a
brief history about his and Prosperos relationship. He says how Prospero was caring, kind,
and even a teacher for him. He also goes further to say that after Prospero had gotten what
he wanted from him he turned on him, making Caliban a subject and stealing the island
from him (Shakespeare, 1.2.332-344). Then they go into more of the supposed teaching
that Prospero had for Caliban. Prospero says, I pitied thee, took pains to make thee speak,
taught thee each hour one thing or other: when though didst not, savage, know thine o wn
meaning (Shakespeare, 1.2.354-56). In short response Caliban says, You taught me
language; and my profit ont is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me
your language! (Shakespeare, 1.2.363-65). These two have very different views on this
point in their relationship. Prospero thinks he did a service, and Caliban feels it is a
disservice. I pitied thee, says Prospero. This pity is reminiscent of a conqueror forcing
his language on his newly acquired subjects. This is the beginning of Prosperos control
over Caliban. After this, Prospero controls the language. Caliban is always going to be
subservient from this point forward. Prospero didnt learn Calibans language, and because
of this, he can always control a conversation. Prospero is able to choose what Caliban
learns, and is able to warp the language to his own needs. This is something that Cesaire
addresses in his adaptation.

With the prior knowledge that Prospero controls language, looking at A Tempest, the
introduction of Caliban is very obviously rooted in Shakespeare. Calibans first word in the
new adaptation is Uhru (Cesaire, p. 17). This word means freedom. This is a very
important statement, and it sets up the new model for Caliban perfectly. Caliban wants
freedom through language. He understands that under Prosperos language he cannot be
free, but through his own, he is free. By speaking in his own language, Caliban forces
Prospero to ask questions. This reverses the power structure, and sets Caliban above
Prospero. Prospero knows this, and quickly brings the language back into his grasp. He
says, You could be polite, at least; a simple hello wouldnt kill you (Cesaire, p.17).
Caliban accepts this, and fires back, saying, But make that as froggy, waspish, pustular
and a dung-filled hello as possible (Cesaire, p. 17). This correlates directly with the
feelings that Caliban has in Shakespeare. The language that is used may be modern and
more direct, but the feeling behind it is all the same. This also shows the fact that Caliban
has taken cursing out of Prosperos language. This cursing is noted by Prospero, and he
says, Since youre so fond of the invective, you could at least thank me for having taught
you to speak at all (Cesaire, p. 17). This still follows directly to the original, with Prospero
taking the role of the wronged teacher. He acts as if his language is a privilege for Caliban
to speak. Here, Caliban very forwardly stands up for himself. He says, thats not true.
You didnt teach me a thing! Except to jabber in your own language so that I could
understand your ordersand as for your learning, did you ever impart any of that to me?
No you took care not to. All your science you keep for yourself alone, shut up in those big
books (Cesaire, p.17). Caliban makes a stand here, since he knows that Prospero didnt
truly teach him anything at all. Caliban does this through language, showing Prospero that

he is not controlled by his words. He knows that the language is all about power and
control. Prosperos language is solely used to give Caliban orders, without Prospero
teaching his language, Caliban would be in his own power. Furt hermore, he delves into
knowledge. He knows that Prospero never truly taught him anything of value, and purposely
kept his knowledge from Caliban. With knowledge comes power, and that power combined
with the control of language gives Prospero the upper hand. Because of this upper hand,
Prospero thinks that Caliban needs him, saying What would you be without me? (Cesaire,
p. 17). Almost smugly, Caliban responds, Without you? Id be king, thats what Id be,
the King of the Island (Cesaire, p.17). This shows that Caliban knows he doesnt need
Prospero, and implies that Prospero needs Caliban. It would be fitting here for Caliban to
return the same question to Prospero. Without Caliban, Prospero wouldnt have known how
to live on the island, wouldnt have survived, and wouldnt have a slave to do his bidding,
all because youre too lazy to do it yourself (Cesaire, p. 17). Caliban brings all of this
up to Prospero on the following page, ending with Once youve squeezed the juice from
the orange, you toss the rind away! (Cesaire, p. 19). Prospero has no response to this. He
says a simple Oh! (Cesaire, p. 19). This is crucial to note, that Prospero acknowledges his
dependence on Caliban. Though he will not give up the power struggle, he knows that he
needs him. Eventually, as it goes in Shakespeare, Prospero must resort to threats of violence
to get his way. An overlooked line from Shakespeare reads, Thou most lying slave, whom
stripes may move, not kindness! (Shakespeare, 1.2.344-45). This is directly drawn upon by
Cesaire. When Prospero has his back against the wall, he simply gives Caliban his orders,
and follows with threats. He says Careful, Caliban! If you keep grumbling youll be

whippedBeating is the only language you really understand (Cesaire, p. 19). Whipped
and beating is drawn right from stripes, the stripes of a whip.
Next there is the relationship that Caliban has with Trinculo and Stephano. The
interaction of these characters brings up even more troubling language. In keeping with the
power structure with Prospero, the two Italians impose their will on Caliban, and in a way
trick him into moving for a subservient role. In the original Shakespeare, Trinculo first calls
Caliban, A strange fish (Shakespeare, 2.2.27). Then as Trinculo thinks aloud about
Caliban he strays into a really troubling place. He says that, Were I in England now, as I
once was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of
silver: there this monster would make a man; any strange beast there makes a man: when
they will not give a doit to relieve the lame beggar, they will lazy out ten to see a dead
Indian (Shakespeare, 2.2.27-33). Firstly, Trinculo brings in the location: England. Why
would Trinculo talk about England if he is from Italy? The answer is that Trinculo is not,
Shakespeare is. Shakespeare is going to relinquish information regarding the Fish and his
connection to England. With the knowledge that Caliban is a slave, the quote is clearly
about English views on slaves, and with the Indian comment, any person of a different race.
He says that in England this Monster could be a man. At this point he still calls Caliban a
monster. The connotation of this word implies negative feelings for Caliban. But, if Caliban
went to England; if he were civilized by the English, then he would be a man. He also
implies that money can be made for civilizing the monster. This is the basic idea behind
slavery. Take the monster to England, make him a man, and use that man to make money;
this is Trinculos first idea of Caliban. Caliban simply falls in love with these men. He says
in an aside, Thats a brave god and bears celestial liquor. I will kneel to him (Shakespeare,

2.2.117-18). Once he knows that the men arent Prosperos agents, he thinks straightway
that Stephano is a god, and decides to follow him. The trick here is the celestial liquor.
The men intoxicate Caliban, and from that point forward, he goes with them. Caliban seems
to forget that he should be the one in power here. He knows all about the island, and these
men wouldnt be able to survive for too long without him. He knows this fact, but
approaches it from the side of service. He freely offers to, Show thee every fertile inch
oth island (Shakespeare, 2.2.148). He flows by asking Stephano to be his god
(Shakespeare, 2.2.149). Caliban seals his own fate within the power structure at this
moment. The thing to note is that this is accepted as the right thing. Stephano and Trinculo
show no signs of appreciation, or even a feeling that they must repay Caliban in some way.
The whole time they continue to plot against him.
Cesaire gives the picture more clearly. Trinculo and Stephano have an entire
discourse regarding Caliban before he even speaks. When Caliban comes up, Stephano says,
Ill try to civilize him. Oh . . . not too much of course. But enough so that he can be of
some use (Cesaire, p. 43). This follows directly with the theme introduced by Shakespeare,
albeit in a more straightforward way. Then, Trinculo responds with, Shee-it! Does he even
know how to talk? (Cesaire, p.43). This continues to show that they clearly think they are
superior. And also brings in the importance of language. A man who cannot speak is known
to be uncivilized. And the ability to speak is a sign of possible danger to these men. If
Caliban already can speak, the power of language is harder to hold. With this power the men
hope to exploit Caliban; Let me perform my civilizing mission. . . Well exploit him
together? Its a deal? (Cesaire, p. 43) So from the first encounter, Cesaire puts the
intentions of Trinculo and Stephano in the open. Then, Calibans first words towards the

men come out, he says, Long live the king! (Cesaire, p. 44) These first words are
troubling as Caliban unquestioningly submits to the proclamation that Stephano is the king.
Even worse Trinculo further criticizes Caliban. He says, Its a miracle . . . he can talk! And
whats more, he talks sense! O brave savage! (Cesaire, p. 44). Still, Caliban doesnt have a
name according to Trinculo, only the designation of Savage. This continues throughout
the relationship. Caliban goes on to tell Stephano about Prospero, and as the group prepares
to kill him Caliban sings a song. At the end, Stephano says, Okay monster . . . enough
crooning . . . Lets drink instead (Cesaire, p. 46). Here they stifle Calibans culture, and
force their own upon him. Moreover, through the alcohol, they can control him. Trinculo
and Stephano continue the control that Prospero initiated. And they hold this control until
Caliban and Prospero meet again.
When the two finally do meet again, there are interesting results. In the original
version, we see Caliban remaining subservient, and in fear of Prospero. At the first sight of
Prospero, Caliban says, I shall be pinchd to death (Shakespeare, 5.1.276). This makes it
clear that Caliban is still Prosperos slave, even if he is against him for a while. Caliban
remains afraid of Prosperos power, and is still his slave. Calibans last words in
Shakespeare are, Ay, that I will; and Ill be wise hereafter and seek for grace. What a
thrice-double ass was I, to take this drunkard for a god and worship this dull fool!
(Shakespeare, 5.1.295-98). This is an apology from Caliban. Seeing Prospero again brings
Caliban out of his intoxication with Trinculo and Stephano. He realizes how insignificant
they are, but only after Prospero illuminates this for him. This is unfortunate in the fact that
it shows that Caliban has not grown from the play. Shakespeare wo uld have the reader
believe that Caliban needs Prospero. Cesaire gives a different view. In Cesaire, Caliban

remains self-aware; he knows that he doesnt need Caliban. He also knows though, that his
mission has failed. He has not gained his freedom, and Prospero is still above him. This
correlates directly with the original text, Caliban simply tells the audience about it in
Cesaire. Caliban clearly states, Im interested in being free! Free, you hear? (Cesaire, p.
61). Prospero, as always, tries to talk his way out of this. However, Caliban doesnt fall for
it. He gives a speech entailing his feelings about freedom and Prospero. The most important
thing is that it works. As a result Prospero says, Well I hate you as well! For it is you who
have made me doubt myself for the first time (Cesaire, p. 63). Here is the turn for Caliban,
at his words, his use of language, he turns Prospero on his heels, and makes him rethink his
plans. Caliban finally gets an edge against Prospero. It is truly ironic that this edge comes
out of Prosperos original power over him. Caliban knows this, and even if Prospero still
lives, he has gained his freedom. The last words in the play are from Caliban, he is shouting
his song, FREEDOM HI-DAY! FREEDOM HI-DAY! (Cesaire, p. 66).
The power of language is not to be underestimated. Words, if used correctly, will
give one power, or the freedom from it. The comparison of Shakespeare with Cesaire clearly
shows this. Shakespeare presented the original play, and holds Prospero as the power
position throughout. In reaction, Cesaire shows how Caliban had the potential to be more
powerful than Prospero, and simultaneously stays largely true to the original. The word
usage by each author shows the true power of language; Shakespeare holds power through
the centuries with his writing, and Cesaire shows that the freedom of language allows one to
stand up to its power. He models this through Caliban and Prospero, and structures it by his
use of language.

1. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Stilwell:, 2005. Print.
2. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Shakespeare-Navigators. 2008. Web. 5 April
2012. <>.
3. Cesaire, Aime. A Tempest. New York: TCG Translations, 2002. Print.