Colonization is when a powerful nation establishes itself over the indigenous people of an area against their will. When new land was conquered, the colonizer forcefully imposed their culture on the indigenous people of the area. When colonization was still prevalent, the native people were exploited and stripped of their dignity and resources. The theme of colonization is witnessed throughout “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare and the readers are introduced to it in Act 1 of the play itself.
The theme of a literary work is the underlying meaning or idea that the author is trying to convey through their writing. At the time that “The Tempest” was written, Europeans were interested in the colonization that was dominant throughout the world, therefore this play shows Caliban, the son of the witch-hag Sycorax as the product of colonialism and the treatment of the Whites towards him.
Prospero was the Duke of Milan when his brother Antonio usurped the throne through deceit and lies. He was sent away to an unknown, enchanted island where he encounters Caliban who is described as being dark, “freckled”, “not honoured with a human shape” and a monster of evil nature. Caliban was born to Sycorax, a witch who was banished from Algiers and a father who was the devil himself according to Prospero.
As Prospero landed on the island, he saw it being as a territory that he could make his own. Caliban told him about the brine pits, fresh springs, barren and fertile land, and overall showed Prospero around the island because he adored him. Eventually, Prospero rules over Caliban’s island and makes its inhabitants his servants, this is the attitude of a colonizer who would take over people and their territory for resources. Caliban does menial tasks and is made a slave by Prospero, just like the colonizers have done to the colonized since the 15th century. The island had once belonged to Caliban by Sycorax his mother and, he was his own king and had freedom and was now walking around his territory as a slave. Miranda says that initially, Caliban would “gabble like a thing most brutish” and that she is one who took pains to teach him her native language, which shows how colonizers imposed their culture and language into the land that they colonize. Miranda and Prospero tell him to be grateful to them because they educated him and showed him kindness which is again the behaviour of a colonizer towards their subjects thinking that native people should be grateful because of their arrival.
To conclude, Caliban is undoubtedly the most complex character in “The Tempest” by Shakspeare and represents all oppressed people dominated by powerful ones. Prospero’s treatment of his slaves is just like a colonist and, Caliban shows his hatred like any colonized person would. What Prospero does to Caliban is just a repetition of history, just like Prospero’s throne was usurped by the one he trusted and loved the most after his daughter, Caliban’s island was usurped by the one he adored.