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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Caliban
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0568.  Friday, 24 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 14:11:11 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Ban, Ban, Caliban
 
(2)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Jun 1994 1:34:54 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0564  Re: *Tmp.*
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Jun 1994 14:11:11 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Ban, Ban, Caliban
 
Phyllis Rackin suggests historical parallels. But even though I have (even
recently) suggested historical parallels, I remain skeptical of their value in
dictating an interpretation. "So many people, so many minds," as the popular
Renaissance proverb (almost) has it. Historical readers should never expect
uniformity of interpretation in any past age. All the evidence stands for
diversity.
 
I'm sure that some of Shakespeare's seventeenth century audience thought that
Caliban deserved to be enslaved because he had attempted the honor of Miranda.
But I'll also bet that some other of those auditors had different reactions.
I'll bet there was a spectrum of audience reaction, a spectrum that
approximates the twentieth century spectrum, in width if not in proportions.
Obviously, Shakespeare put these words in the mouths of the actors who played
Prospero, Caliban, and Miranda because they -- the words -- would create a
tension in the play. In drama, tension and conflict are the names of the game.
If drama were a series of cultural cliches, it wouldn't be drama.
 
If we and they are and were caught in our respective histories, how can anyone
historicize?  How can we transcend our own time in order to "historicize"
theirs? Is such transcendence possible?
 
Thoroughly placed in time and matter, decentered and unsure, I remain,
relatively yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Jun 1994 1:34:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0564  Re: *Tmp.*
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0564  Re: *Tmp.*
 
Phyllis Rackin has put her finger on what underlies the accusation of rape
against Caliban.  I would also suggest that Caliban's behavior towards Prospero
and Miranda before the actions that lead to the accusation of rape are fairly
clearly delineated by Caliban. He "loved" the two Europeans, he says, and
particularly the one who taught him language-- i. e. Miranda.  That the "love"
may have moved him to physical contact is not surprising.  Given Caliban's
benevolence at that point, I have to think that whatever the contact was must
have been "innocent."  As I see it, it's Prospero's interest in his daughter's
virginity that converts Caliban's physical language of love into plain old
English "rape." Impractical as it may be, Gonzalo's vision of utopia is equally
"innocent"--and Sebastian and Antonio do to it the same thing that Prospero
does to Caliban's innocence. The demonization of the "native" that justifies
the colonial project is, in *Temp*, very closely associated with the
objectification of women as tokens in the exchange (or recovery) of property
and power.  Recall Ferdinand's qualification of his passion for Miranda:  "if a
virgin," he says, she will make a toothsome bride for him.  At any rate, that
Caliban comes to accept his physical gesture of love as "rape" is part and
parcel of his profit in learning Europeanese.
 
In the heat of the night,
Al Cacicedo (
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