Caliban Portrayed as a Child in The Tempest Essay example

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Caliban Portrayed as a Child in The Tempest

     Can a grown adult develop and act like a child?  Shakespeaer's answer would have been yes.  This fact is depicted through the character of Caliban.  Caliban's speech and manners, as well as his thought, all display the very basic reactions and notions of human beings.  He is also controlled by a parent figure who comes in the form of Prospero.  An analysis of Caliban can hold him up to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, which focuses on the development of children.  Caliban, unquestionably, fits one of Piaget's developmental stages.  Jean Piaget developed his Theory of Cognitive Senses in 1952.  According to Piaget, as children develop, they must make constant mental adaptations to new observations and experiences.  Piaget's theory was made up of four stages; the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operations stage, and the formal operations stage.  If children can be defined by these stages, it is important to note that Shakespeare's character Caliban can also be defined by Piaget's theory because he is presented ultimately as a child.  Part of his child-like demeanor stems from the fact that he is comparable to the primitive savage who does not understand the Western European world.


            Caliban fits directly into Piaget's second stage of development, the preoperational stage  (Lamming 87).  According to Piaget, this describes most two to seven year old humans.  Although children in this stage can think, they are largely limited by what they can actually do.  They cannot reason, and they lack the mental abilities necessary for understanding abstract principles or cause and effect. Piaget called these missing abilities operatio...

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...s of cognitive development, which suggests that Caliban has the mannerisms, actions, and ideas of a child around six or seven years old.  This is important to consider, because Caliban's actions have also been compared to the notion of Freud's id; he asks like the compulsive, troublemaking child.  Hence, the idea of the sympathetic but frustrating child is presented in the character of Caliban.


Works Cited

Griffiths, Trevor R., "This island's mine: Caliban an Colonialism," Yearbook of English Studies 13(1983), pp. 159-80


Lawrence, Erol.  "Just plain common-sense: The roots of racism," in CCCS, 1982, pp. 47-92.


Lamming, Geroge.  The Pleasures of Exile.  London and New York: Allsion and Busby, 1984.


Mannoni, O., Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonizaiton, trans. Pamela Powesland (New York, Praeger, 1964).



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