Caliban And The Theatre Of The Oppressed English Literature Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Caliban is described as a savage and deformed slave' in the list of characters, and in all kinds of uncomplimentary ways in the play for example, 'filth', 'hag-seed', 'mishappen knave' and 'monster'. In some other variations of the play he has been portrayed as a fish, a tortoise, a lizard and a donkey. The obvious subjugation of Caliban and his uncomfortable presence is what makes Caliban the most powerful and daring in the play. Caliban, having been portrayed in literary criticism as a giant fish, a grotesque monster, an American Indian, an African slave, his incarnation changes from "a savage and a deformed slave to the "quintessential colonial victim. Especially in recent years, Caliban has been a major socio-political emblem throughout the world. This thesis is a relook at Caliban, and how patriarchal definitions over the years have molded the perceptions on or of the oppressed. The paper attempts to see Caliban through the eyes of the Theatre of the oppressed and how Calibans are oppressed and denied their basic human rights around the world. The thesis also proposes how an alter voice: the voice of the voiceless can become expressive through the theatre of the oppressed. The thesis also delves into how language is used as a tool of propaganda to establish power equations.

Chapter 1

Caliban, the Oppressed

In Shakespeare's The Tempest, the character precisely opposed to the airy sprite Ariel is Caliban. The one is a Mayblossom suspended in the azure; the other is half man and half brute, condensed and gross in feeling, he has the dawnings of understanding without reason or the moral sense, he shows the approach of the brutes to the mental powers of man. He is malicious and cowardly and false; yet different from Shakespeare's merely vulgar knaves. He is rude but not vulgar; he always speaks in verse. He has a vocabulary of his own.

Caliban is one of the dramatist's masterpieces. He has attracted attention from the first thinkers of every age. He is wild, deformed, irregular, neither man nor brute, the essence of grossness without vulgarity. He comes from the dark soil, of the earth earthy--the isle with its haunting noises he hears with delight: "sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not; sometimes a thousand twanging instruments will hum about mine ears and sometimes voices." Here is a savage with a child's simplicity. What a curious mixture of devil and man and beast! Evil he desires for its piquancy. He thinks gross injustice has been done him and believes himself a slave.

The idea of murder gives him delight, for he imagines that it would make a great noise and commotion. He is laughably horrible, a specimen to be examined more than a creature to be execrated; at times he shows great prudence, and again he roars with hate. Yet Shakespeare grants him some instincts of goodness, we meet him when full grown and a victim of heredity. Miranda taught him, and Prospero stroked him when young. He is a land-fish, a dullard, service to him is slavery; his fins are like arms, some have thought him the missing link between man and brute.

He seems the understanding in prison; awaiting the light. He represents the grosser passions and appetites.

He is the natural man, uneducated and untrained, the creature in the rough, the material for evolution, allied to the ape, and ages will be required to lift him to his proper height. Prospero sends pains on him, and cramps, and side-stitches. He has memory, for he recalls how he was taught to name the bigger light, and how the less; he knew all the springs and brine-pits of the mystic isle. Language was taught him but he uses it only to curse. He is amazed at the shapes he sees; for every trifle they are set on him; they chatter at him and bite him; adders wound him as he treads.

When Stephano sings,

"The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I, the gunner and his mate, loved Mall, Meg, and Marian and Margery, but none of us cared for Kate; for she had a tongue with a tang, would cry to a sailor 'go hang!' then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!" (Act 2 Scene 2, lines 42-48)

Caliban feels himself tormented and cries aloud. He thinks Stephano as his god, and will kiss his foot. He will fish for him and get him berries and wood enough. Man to him is wondrous. He knows too where the jay's nest and the clustering filberts are.

He is wise enough to know that Prospero's power depends on his books and staff; without them "he's but a sot as I am; burn all his books." (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 85-87) This is Shakespeare's tribute to the immeasurable superiority of the thinking man, for he represents this product of soil as separated in his own opinion from the mighty magician only by his intellectual treasures. Is it not significant? We learn that Caliban's mother was a witch; she could control the moon, make flows and ebbs, and deal in her command without her power. A flash of intelligence irradiates his mind at the last and he says, "I'll be wise hereafter and seek for grace." Thus he departs.

As Ariel represents the ethereal and spiritual, and Caliban the earthly and material, so Shakespeare, by the enormous gap between them, would signify by what slow and persistent and patient stages all educational forces must proceed. Perhaps our Teutonic ancestors were Calibans, drinking blood from their enemies' skulls, and beating tomtoms as they advanced half-clad into battle. Each idiot is a Caliban, and every son of Adam in whom development is arrested. They who live close to the earth, who "eat and drink for tomorrow they die," are akin to this island monster. May we not go farther and say that he to whom the visible earth bounds all, who is anchored more firmly to the ground by each drill that cuts the rock, or each spade that uncovers the mine, who magnifies only terrestrial forces, who ignores, or denies, the existence of anything beyond the reach of theorems or tubes, to whom "a primrose by the river's brim, a yellow primrose is to him, and it is nothing more", is a Caliban, not indeed in a hideous and repulsive form, but in soul, in aspiration, in mental equipment, in the loss of the finer and ultimate energies of life?

Wherever a city is so intent on present good and present pleasure that it omits and loses the uplift of art and letters and music, and the refinements that chasten and elevate and subdue, there is a civic Caliban, breathing smoke and cinders and the oppressive air of feverish gain, wallowing in the mire of sordid ambition, and content to sell its divine birthright for a mess of pottage, Philistinism not Hellenism, willing to obliterate the landscape, or pave away the waterfall or denude the forest, "for the jingle of the guinea heals the hurt that honor feels."

The influx of structuralism was to some extent anticipated in the work of Northrop Fyre, the most influential theorist in America of what is called Myth criticism. Drawing on the findings of anthropology and psychology regarding universal myths , rituals, and folk tales critics like Richard Chase, Leslie Fielder, Daniel Hoffman and Philip Wheelwright were intent on restoring spiritual content to a world they saw as alienated, fragmented and ruled by scientism, empiricism, positivism and technology. They wished to redeem the role of myth as integral to human thought and believed that literature emerges out of a core of myth, where myth is understood as a collective attempt on the part of various cultures and groups to establish a meaningful context for human existence.

The myth of Spring summer, autumn, and winter gave rise to fundamental literary modes such as comedy, tragedy, irony and romance. Saussere saw language as a system of signs, constructed by convention. Meaning itself is relational, being produced by interaction of various signifiers and signifieds within that system.

Shakespaere's words are records of the words that he wanted to be spoken , words issuing as sounds from people's mouths, with pitch, pause and rhythm and gesture as part of their meaning. A word does not start as a word-it is an endproduct which begins as an impulse, stimulated by attitude and behaviour which dictates the need for expression.

It has been an accepted fact that theatre is a unity and all other elements should blend. And over the years through different perspectives, directors have interpreted Shakespeare's works. Caliban being of a different culture and a character who has been aligned on the fringes is picturized as somewhere between a monster and man; more like a beast.

"Four legs and two voices,

the most delicate monster"

Peter Brook is a celebrated theatre director of the twentieth century, his productions of 'Marat/sade' and 'Mahabharatha' have been world famous. His book called The Empty Space is considered to be one of the best books on theatre. As a director who has directed a number of plays by Shakespeare, Brook is of the opinion that Shakespeare's works are great treasures to understand human psychology. "Through relations craftfully and intricately woven by Shakespaere, the levels of extremes the characters throw is of sheer brilliance"(Brooks, Peter.The Empty Space,(2008)pg:120)

1.1 A Marxist way of looking at Tempest.

Caliban as a character who was thrown out of his own country and enslaved by the invaders represents the oppressed class. Since the marxist discourse revolves around bridging the gap between Prosperos and Calibans (the haves and the have nots), it is only apt that we look into the area of marxist criticism along with structuralist paradigms to understand Caliban at the same time looking at tempest with the eye of a have not.

Marxist criticism analyses literature in terms of historical conditions which produce it; and it needs similarly to be aware of its own historical conditions. The assumption is that in the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary their social being that determines their consciousness.

This is to say further that Caliban of Shakespeare thereby becomes the universal symbol of the oppressed whose social being gets reduced to a level of insignificance and their potentials being constantly undermined which further makes them internalize the notion that they are incapable of any productive labor. Now in an economy that solely relies on productive forces, it is not surprising that it does not hold any room for such Calibans.

1.2 A Structuralist Approach

It is to be noted that Structuralist Levis Strauss opined that culture obeys the same rules of operation as language. As Jakobson rightly points out the development of discourse takes place along two different semantic lines: one is metaphoric where one topic leads to another through similarity or substitution and the other is metonymic, where one topic suggests another via congruity( closeness in space, time or psychological association).In normal conditions, both processes operate while one is usually preferred according to cultural and personal conditions. Shakespeare's Caliban becomes metonymic and metaphoric at the same time. Where at one hand he becomes the universal symbol of the oppressed at the metaphorical level, at the metonymical level his character makes close associations with the citizens of third world countries across the globe. The name "Caliban" is an anagram of the Spanish word cannibal, also the source of the English word "cannibal". Canibal comes from Christopher Columbus' designation Cannibal for the Caribeans.

Structuralism diverges sharply from the romantic notions of the author as the source of meaning and shifts emphasis away from authorial intention toward the broader and impersonal linguistic structure in which the author's text participates and which indeed enables that text. Hence the sharply divided society that surfaces through Tempest becomes an automatic reflection of the societal structures and of language itself. Structuralism seeks to find out the implied order. A work of literature, Barthes noted, is after all nothing but an assemblage of signs that function in certain ways to create meaning, In studying culture, Barthes noticed that films, commodities, events and images are lent meaning by their association with certain signs. Caliban itself becomes an sign who signifies the oppressed , one that suffers under the brutal forces of imperialism and capitalism.

Foucault's work draws attention to the fact that many assumptions in a culture are maintained by language practices that comprise a common tool both for knowing the world and constructing it. By construction here we mean the translation of physical realities into discursive realities. What Foucault noted was that the world we live in is shaped as much by language as by knowledge or perception. Indeeed, according to him, knowledge and perception always occur through the mediation of language. We would not be able to know anything if we were not able to order the world linguistically in certain ways.

Coming back to Caliban, the name itself signifies an eater of the human flesh. He is portrayed as a potential threat to civilization itself. His inability to use language in its intended form, his inability to meddle with norms of the heirarchised world all lend him prey to the inhuman forces of imperialism and sweeping homogenizations that come along with it. Looking at Caliban from a post Shakespearian context, we cannot help but see the power relations at work which widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots and makes one wonder if egalitarianism is ever really possible in a post modern world or is it going to remain as another utopian ideology.

Chapter 2

Augusto Boal and the theatre of the oppressed

Augusto Boal (16 March 1931 - 2 May 2009) was a Brazilian theatre director, writer and politician. He was the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements. Boal served one term as a vereador (the Brazilian equivalent of a city councillor) in Rio de Janeiro from 1993 to 1997, where he developed legislative theatre. As an undergraduate, Boal got a degree in Chemical Engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He took an interest in theatre at an early age, preparing skits for family members along with his three brothers, but he did not become involved in the theatre scene until after completing his masters' degree. After graduating from the UFRJ, Boal went to New York, where he studied at the School of Dramatic Arts at Columbia University while also pursuing his masters degree in Chemical Engineering. Among Boal's theatre professors was John Gassner, who had also taught Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. In 1956, shortly after graduating, Boal was asked to work with the Arena Theatre in São Paulo, southeast Brazil. Boal was in charge of directing plays along with other dramaturgs such as Jose Renato, who was also the founder of the Arena Theatre. It was here that he began to experiment with new forms of theatre never before seen in Brazil, such as Stanislavski's 'system' for actors, with which he became familiar during his time at Columbia and when involved with the Actors Studio in New York. Boal adapted these methods to social conditions in Brazil, taking a leftist approach on issues concerning nationalism, which were very much in vogue at that time period since the country had just undergone a long period of military dictatorship.

2.1 Work at the Arena Theatre of São Paulo

While working at the Arena Theatre in São Paulo, Boal directed a number of classical dramas, which he transformed to make them more pertinent to Brazilian society and its economy. Among these plays was John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, known in Brazil as Ratos e Homens. This was Boal's first performance as a director at the Arena Theatre of São Paulo. Critics acclaimed this piece and Boal won the Prêmio de Revelação de Direção (Direction Revelation Award) from the Association of Art Critics of São Paulo, in 1956. In the early sixties, the ratings at the Arena Theatre of São Paulo started to drop, almost causing the theatre to go bankrupt. Consequently, the company decided to start investing in national theatre (pieces written by Brazilian dramaturgs) as a move that could possibly save it from bankruptcy. The new investment proved to be a success, opening up the path for a national theatre scene. Boal then suggested the creation of a Seminar in Dramaturgy at the Arena Theatre, which was quickly implemented and soon became a national platform for many young playwrights. Many successful productions were born from this Seminar and now form part of the Arena Theatre of São Paulo's nationalist phase repertoire. One of these productions was Chapetuba Futebol Clube, written by Oduvaldo Vianna Filho in 1959 and directed by Augusto Boal.

2.2 Exile

A new military regime started in Brazil in 1964 with a coup d'état supported by the Brazilian elite, the church and the middle class, as well as by the United States (in fear of communism). Boal's teachings were controversial, and as a cultural activist he was seen as a threat by the Brazilian military regime. In 1971, Boal was kidnapped off the street, arrested, tortured, and eventually exiled to Argentina, where he stayed for 5 years. During those 5 years, Boal published two books: Torquemada (1971) and his much acclaimed Theatre of the Oppressed (1973). Torquemada is a book that talks about the systematic use of torture in prison. Boal takes the name of the leading figure of the Spanish Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada as an example of historical forms of systematic torture. In Theatre of the Oppressed Boal develops a theatrical method based on Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a book by the Brazilian educator and writer Paulo Freire (who was also a good friend of Boal). Boal's method (which has been implemented in various communities around the world) seeks to transform audiences into active participants in the theatrical experience. Boal argues that traditional theatre is oppressive since spectators usually do not get a chance to express themselves, and that a collaboration between both parties, in contrast allows spectators to perform actions that are socially liberating. The method, as Boal liked to explain, seeks to transform spectators into "spect-actors." After living in Argentina, Boal traveled to other countries in South America such as Peru and Ecuador, where he worked with people in small and usually poor communities that dealt with conflicts such as civil wars and lack of government attention. Boal was of the opinion that only the oppressed are able to free the oppressed. In Peru, Boal practiced his Forum theatre method, in which spectator replaces actor to determine the solution to a given problem presented by the actor, which can also be a real problem someone in the community is facing. Boal also lived in Paris, France for a number of years, where he created several Centers for the Theatre of the Oppressed, directed plays, and also taught classes at the Sorbonne University. Boal created the first International Festival for the Theatre of Oppressed in 1981.

After the fall of the military dictatorship, Boal returned to Brazil after 15 years of exile in 1986. He established a major Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro, whose objective was to study, discuss and express issues concerning citizenship, culture and various forms of oppression using theatrical language. Boal's work in the CTO made way for the approval of a new law that protects crime victims and witnesses in Brazil. Boal's group has worked next to numerous organizations that fight for human rights. In 1992, Boal ran for city councillor in Rio de Janeiro as a theatrical act, and he was elected.

Boal's support staff was his theatre group, with whom he quickly developed various legislative proposals. His objective was to work out issues citizens might be facing in their communities through theatre, and also to discuss the laws of the city of Rio with people on the streets. After having worked to transform spectator into author in Theatre of the Oppressed, Boal initiates the Legislative theatre movement process, in which voter becomes legislator. Boal is known to say that he did not create laws arbitrarily while he was city councilor. Instead, he asked people what they wanted. Other politicians were not very fond of this. Out of 40 of Boal's proposed laws, only 13 got approved during his term as councilor of Rio de Janeiro. His term ended in 1996, but he continued performing legislative theatre acts with different groups in Brasilia, where 4 more laws got approved even after Boal had left.

Boal also worked with prisoners in Rio and São Paulo. Boal argued that people in prison are not free in space, but that they are in time, and that the Theatre of the Oppressed strives to create different types of freedom so that people are able to imagine and think about the past, the present, and invent the future instead of having to wait for it. All this was in order for prisoners to have "a healthier and more creative lifestyle." People in the Movimento sem Terra or Landless Workers Movement of Brazil also experienced working with Boal's theatre methods. Boal's son Julián worked along with his father and now continues to take the Theatre of the Oppressed to various communities in Brazil and around the world.

He argues that the Tragi-drama, a formulaic drama style which today could be considered similar to that of soap operas, helps the State promote its continued existence. He sees the Brazilian government as an example of an oppressive state using theatre to propagate its oppressive system. He then outlines his early theories and practices for attempting to reverse the paradigm.

2.3 .Theatre of the Aesthetics of the Oppressed

Theatre of the Oppressed was formed in the year 1971, in Brazil. Theatre of the oppressed took its shape under the very young form of Newspaper Theatre , with the specific goal of dealing with local problems - soon, its influence spread all over the country. Forum Theatre came into being in Peru, in 1973, as part of a Literacy Program; Theatre of the oppressed is practiced in more than 70 countries today. Theatre of the oppressed (TO hereafter) developed Invisible Theatre in Argentina, as political activity, and Image Theatre to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants, in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and te various forms that come under TO are used in all kinds of social and political dialogues.

In Europe, TO expanded and the Rainbow of Desire came into being - first to understand psychological problems, later even to create characters in any play. Back in Brazil, the Legislative Theatre was born to help the Desire of the population to become Law - which it did at last 13 times. Right now, the Subjunctive Theatre is coming slowly into being.

TO was used by peasants and workers; later, by teachers and students; now, also by artists, social workers, psychotherapists, NGOs... At first, in small, almost clandestine places. Now in the streets, schools, churches, trade-unions, regular theatres, prisons etc.

2.4.Metaphor Humans and Hominids.

In the Aesthetics of the Oppressed the focus is on the creation of conditions in which the oppressed can develop fully their thought, imagination and their capacity to symbolize, to dream and create parables and allegories which allow them to see from a certain distance the reality they want to modify without diminishing their participation in the social concrete world. One cannot see the real if our noses are glued to it- some aesthetic distance is necessary. Alongside the sensible, signifying world, the theatre of the oppressed develops the signified.

Art is a metaphor in its broadest meaning. It is the transportation of something that exists within one context , to another context.

The Aesthetics of the oppressed aims at the liberation and fortification of metaphoric activity, of symbolic languages, of intelligence and sensitivity. It aims at the expansion of the perception we have of the world. This is done through the Image and the sound, guided by a humanist ethic.

The theatre of the oppressed whose mode is subjunctive and not imperative - questioning values and structures of any system.

Chapter 3

Colonialism and The Tempest

A 1970 production of The Tempest presented the play as a story of colonial exploitation. The director, Dr Jonathan Miller described it as "the tragic and inevitable disintegration of primitive culture as the result of European invasion and colonization" (as quoted in Gibson Rex Cambridge School Shakespeare, pg: 154)

He compared stephano and trincolo to foreign soldiers, who patronize or bully the native population. They shout loudly at the people to understand, make them drunk and get drunk themselves. Caliban was the demoralized, detribalized, dispossessed, suffering field hand. Miller's interpretation was in sharp contrast to the traditional image of Prospero as a benevolent ruler. However, there is no doubt in the history of colonization of the Americas was a story of horror and savagery. Although some Europeans tried to uphold the principle of benign civilization, the overwhelming evidence is that of brutal conquest.

The colonists from the Old world that is Europe founde their beliefs and culture challenged by their experience of what they called The New World ( north and south America). Increasingly throughout the twentieth century, interpretations and productions of The Tempest have stressed the contrasts and conflicts between Prospero and Caliban between colonist and native inhabitant.

3.1 Economic Exploitation

The Europeans sought to profit through trade, exploiting the rich resources of the new world. But did they have the right to take possession, by gun and sword, of the land which the native Indians saw as theirs? Resentful of Prospero's take-over, Caliban claims

This Island is mine by Sycorax my mother, Which thou tak'st from me. (Act 1,Scene 2 lines 333-4) to which Prospero replies 'thou most lying slave'. Trinculo wonders how much money he could get for exhibiting Caliban at an English fair. Similarly, Sebastian and Antonio comment on Caliban's market value (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 264-6). European greed was a driving force of so called civilization.

3.2 Social class

The notion of social hierarchy was formally fixed in the European mind. Most people believed it to be god-given. At the top was the king who claimed to rule by divine right . below him were aristocrats and courtiers, and so on, down to the lowest peasant. "The masterless man was seen as a terrible threat to the social order. The European colonists of the New Worlds brought back reports that the natives had no social hierarchy, each man the equal of others. To Prospero, Caliban represents potential anarchy and therefore must be controlled by harsh punishment.

3.3 Sexuality

Traveler's tales reported that marriage customs of Europe were quite unknown in the Americas. In the colonist's eyes debauchery and vise flourished without control among the natives. To the Europeans such free love was abhorrent. In this European view Caliban's attempt to rape Miranda is evidence of his fundamentally evil nature, justifying constraint and harsh punishments. From the same viewpoint Prospero's strict control of the sexual relations of Miranda and Ferdinand expresses a higher state of civilization, characterized by restraint, abstinence and self discipline.

3.4 Religion

A major aim of the colonization was to spread the Christian gospel. The native Americans were seen as heathen', worshipping savage gods. Colonization was, in part, a religious crusade sanctioned by the divine right. However harsh the settler's treatment of the natives, it was often justified by the claim that the intention was to save their souls and bring them to true religion.

Caliban is described as a son of the Devil and a Witch(Act 5, Scene 1, lines 268-73). He worships the Patagonian god Setebos .

3.5 Race

European Christians believed in their ethnic superiority over the native races of the new world. Such people were seen as 'savages' or cannibals( caliban is almost an anagram of Cannibal') they were seen as treacherous by nature, repaying kindness with treachery. Even the color of their skin held to be a mark of their less-than-human status, 'this thing of darkness', as Prospero describes Caliban (Act 5, scene 1 line 275). Many colonists thought that legitimately be treated as useful slaves.

"He does make our fire,/Fetch in our wood" (Act 1, Scene 2, lines 312-13)

3.6 Language

This is the most powerful weapon by which colonists were able to spread their empire by creating a higher status for their language and thus looking at other languages as inferior. Throughout history, conquerors and governments have tried to suppress or eliminate the language of other groups, defining it as 'inferior'. Within living memory, welsh children were forbidden to speak their native tongue in school. Prospero's language, some critics argued, provided Caliban with a medium of expression for Caliban's culture. They hold that Caliban possessed "a culture Prospero did not create and cannot control, which he, Caliban, has recognized as his own¡±. And in the process of recognition the language was transformed, acquiring different meanings from the original one. Caliban became "bilingual" and broke out the prison of Prospero's language. This analysis elevated Caliban from a symbol of the political oppressed and culturally stunted native to a symbol of the temporarily inarticulate but culturally rich native. Whereas the former Caliban was inferior because Prospero destroyed his culture and never fully replaced it with another, this Caliban had a valuable heritage that found expression through Prospero's language. And the focus was shifted from despair over the deprivation of native culture to pride in its tenacity.

The ancient greeks called anyone who did not speak greek a 'barbarian'. In shakespeare's time most Euroope and believed that only their own languages were civilized Caliban must be taught to speak properly in order to know his own meaning. Caliban expresses the resentment of the enslaved.

"You taught me language and my profit on't is, I know how to curse." (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 363-4 )

The Europeans set about what they believed to be there divinely ordained task of taking ownership of the New world. They felt confident that they were educating the uneducated, bringing spiritual enlightenment to the heathen and extending the domains of their European monarchs. Hand in glove with these aims went the profitable exploitation of what was seen as a wilderness, neglected by its native inhabitants. But it must have looked very different through the eyes of the native inhabitants. They saw their freedom vanish as their lands were ceased, and their old religions destroyed. Millions found themselves forced into virtual slavery.

Some critics accuse Shakespeare of giving a Euro-centric view of colonization in The Tempest . They argue that the story is told only from Prospero's point of view. Caliban has little chance to tell his side of the story of harsh subjugation, of how the master/slave relationship quickly replaced that of teacher/pupil. However, Shakespeare also gives voice to a quite different view of the New World in the play. Gonzalo's description of the commonwealth(Act 2, Scene1, lines 142-58) is that of an ideal world, a benign utopia of peace and harmony.

Chapter 4

Caliban and the Theatre of the Oppressed.

This chapter basically deals with how Caliban in the twenty first century if be performed or read along the Theatre of the Oppressed. Theatre of the Oppressed is the Game of Dialogue: were there is play and learning together. All kinds of Games must have Discipline - clear rules that one must follow. At the same time, Games have absolute need of creativity and Freedom. TO is the perfect synthesis between the antithetic Discipline and Freedom. Without Discipline, there is no Social Life; without Freedom, there is no Life.

The Discipline of the Game is the belief that we that we must re-establish the right of everyone to exist in dignity. And that's what human rights is all about We believe that all of us are more, and much better, than what we think we are. We believe in solidarity.

Our Freedom is to invent ways to help to humanize Humanity, freely invading all fields of human activities: social, pedagogical, political, artistic... Theatre is a Language and so it can be used to speak about all human concerns, not to be limited to theatre itself.

If The Tempest be rewritten now through the Theatre of the Oppressed, the ways of portraying it will be

Prospero's action would be questioned,

There will be role reversals for characters for eg: The Oppressor will act as the Oppressed. Prospero will be playing the role of Caliban and would feel how miserably Caliban is treated.

Caliban would have his voice.


Caliban becomes the sole subject of torture losing all dignity in the bargain. Calibans are made throughout the world, the Tamils of Sri Lanka, Calibans under Gaddafi, in Kashmir, in Libya et all. History and Art would create more Calibans but through art, through The Theatre of the Oppressed, laws can be changed, amended as Boal and his team proved in passing out 13 laws in the Legislature and their prolific work that happen in more than 70 countries. In India so far there have been a very active political Theatre but it has only brought little or no change at all in Politics let alone in Policy making. Theatre of the Oppressed would always give voice to Calibans around the world and this is a theatre that has potential enough to make amendments and changes in the decision making process of a system.

Hence this paper calls attention to the reformist aspects of literature as opposed to the mere fanciful connotations it is usually associated with. This research also attempts a 're-searching' of Shakespeare so as to unravel his contemporary significance. Placing The Tempest amidst the tumultuous circumstances of our times shaped by authoritarian attitudes masked within democratic projections, this paper also attempts a deconstruction of our glorified hypocrisies. A re-reading of Caliban also exposes the hidden agendas of mainstream criticism and how it invariably follows dominant power structures.


This thesis would not have been possible without the help of Dr. Claramma Jose, who has been a guiding and motivating force. She has given me immense courage to complete this thesis. I am also grateful to Mr. Parnab Mukherjee theatre director of third degree campus theatre. I have been fortunate to work in his play 'About Caliban' and the play has helped me to form perspectives of the oppressed. I am grateful to my friend Malini who was a great support during my preparations for the paper. I also thank my brother Ilyas for running errands for me.

Select Bibliography

Primary Source

Shakespeare, William, The Tempest, London, Jarold and sons ltd, revised edition 1985

Boal, Augusto, The Aesthetics of the Oppressed, Routledge. 2006

Secondary Sources

Rex, Gibson, Cambridge School Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press 1995 pp: 154-56

Brook, Peter, The Empty Space, , London, Penguin books 1992. Sixth edition

Traversi, Derek, Troilus and Cressida to The Tempest, London Hollis & Carter, 1978 pp

Ishay, R, Micheline, The History of Human Rights, Orient Blackswan, 2010 pp 256-58