Aime Césaire’s A Tempest was written in 1969 during a time when there was an increased pressure for decolonization. Anti-colonial leaders saw an opportunity to make nations out of the colonies of people who wanted to recreate their futures after World War II. Shakespeare’s The Tempest was written in 1611, on the eve of European exploration of the New World. This paper compares these two plays, which are separated by over 150 years, and examines the conflict between the characters of Prospero and his slave, Caliban, who represent the colonizer and the colonized. The most obvious change in Césaire’s postcolonial adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is that he sets the action of the play in a colonial context. By exploring this relationship, Césaire promotes his idea of Negritude, or the struggle for freedom, and his suggestion for how to gain this freedom. Césaire’s Caliban is different from Shakespeare’s Caliban in that the former embodies the image of a rebellious colonized people more dynamically and becomes a more sympathetic figure. The changes that Césaire makes in the portrayal of Caliban serves to underscore his belief that colonization is wrong and that all men are entitled to certain basic rights. The difference between the two Calibans in these plays reflects the playwrights’ different goals with respect to Caliban’s role in the play. Shakespeare depicts Caliban as a beast, dismissed by others as merely a savage slave. He is a minor character with fewer lines and less stage time than Césaire’s Caliban. He is genetically inferior, so incapable of behaving in a civilized manner that he can only be controlled by threats and punishments. Prospero views Caliban as “a devil, a born devil on whose nature/ Nurture can never stick; on whom my pains/ Humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost…” (Shakespeare 62). Shakespeare’s Caliban does not have a specific definition of freedom; he merely wants to be freed from Prospero because of his hatred for him. His...
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