King of the Island: Caliban, Colonization, and Reclamation of Identity

dc.contributor.advisorGupta, Soumitree
dc.contributor.authorHackl, Julia
dc.description.abstractAbstract: In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Caliban was never intended to be a central protagonist. As the enraged, rebellious, and brutish slave, railing against his master and the very island which once belonged to him, Caliban was a tool to be utilized by Prospero, and a joke for the audience to laugh at. Aimé Césaire — a prominent anti-colonial poet, activist, and co-founder of the “Négritude movement” — saw more potential in Caliban. His play A Tempest — an anti-colonial revision of Shakepeare’s play — celebrates Caliban as a hero and explores his character in a sympathetic manner. Césaire asks the audience to see Caliban’s name as something that he was not born with, but something forced upon him to further entrench him into his new role as a slave to his colonizers, and in turn, dehumanizing him. Parallel to prominent Black political activists, Césaire’s Caliban rejects the name given to him by Prospero and takes on a new name: X, the King he would’ve been without the presence of the European colonizer on his island. While Caliban is not freed at the end of the play, his persistent refusal to give in to the material and discursive violence of his colonizer not only speaks to his resilience, but also symbolizes the collective strength of communities resisting colonialism across the globe. This presentation seeks to explore Césaire’s nuanced portrayal of the dystopian world of colonial relations as well as the possibility of anti-colonial resistance through reclamation of identity against the colonial oppressor.
dc.titleKing of the Island: Caliban, Colonization, and Reclamation of Identity
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