The Tempest

Caliban Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Prospero's unwilling slave. As the son of the witch Sycorax, who ruled the island before she died years prior to Prospero's arrival, Caliban believes that he should be master of the island. When Prospero initially came to the island, Caliban showed him friendship, and in return Prospero educated Caliban. But Caliban eventually came to realize that Prospero would never view him as more than an educated savage. Though capable of sensitivity and eloquence, Caliban is furious and bitter and wants nothing more than to rid himself of Prospero. Caliban's name is a near anagram for the world "cannibal," and in many ways he is a symbol of the natives that European explorers encountered. Through Caliban, and his relationship to Prospero, Shakespeare explores the themes of colonization and the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.

Caliban Quotes in The Tempest

The The Tempest quotes below are all either spoken by Caliban or refer to Caliban. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Tempest published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse.
Related Characters: Caliban (speaker), Prospero
Page Number: 1.2.437-438
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.
Related Characters: Trinculo (speaker), Caliban
Related Symbols: The Tempest
Page Number: 2.2.40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
Be not afeared; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
Related Characters: Caliban (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.148-156
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
A devil, a born devil, on whose nature
Nurture can never stick...
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Caliban
Related Symbols: Prospero's Cloak and Books
Page Number: 4.1.211-212
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
...this thing of darkness, I
Acknowledge mine.
Related Characters: Prospero (speaker), Caliban
Page Number: 5.1.330-331
Explanation and Analysis:

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Caliban Character Timeline in The Tempest

The timeline below shows where the character Caliban appears in The Tempest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Prospero awakens Miranda and, calling for his "poisonous slave," (1.2.325) summons, Caliban, the malformed son of Sycorax. Caliban and Prospero immediately start trading curses. Caliban asserts his... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Miranda angrily scolds Caliban, recalling how she tried to lift him out of savagery by teaching him to speak... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Caliban enters, carrying wood. He delivers a monologue in which he curses Prospero and describes the... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...for a place to hide. On the ground, he spots a brownish lump with legs (Caliban partially hidden by the cloak) and thinks it is a "strange fish" (2.2.25) that he... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...very badly. Whether because of Stephano's singing or because Trinculo has crawled under his cloak, Caliban cries out, "Do not torment me! O!" (2.2.51). Stephano hears the noise and notices a... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Caliban, meanwhile, has never had wine before and gets immediately drunk. He thinks that the owners... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Caliban volunteers to show them around the island and expresses a hope that Stephano might be... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo continue to get drunk. Stephano who now calls himself "Lord of the... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Ariel, invisible, enters just as Caliban begins to describe Prospero's ill treatment of him and to ask Stephano to avenge this... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Caliban continues to describe his plan to murder Prospero. He suggests several ways of killing Prospero,... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...tune they want to sing. Ariel supplies it, throwing Stephano and Trinculo into a fright. Caliban reassures them, delivering a lyrical speech about the island's many curious and entrancing sounds. He... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
Suddenly, Prospero recalls Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo's conspiracy to kill him. He calls an abrupt end to the festivities... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
...He describes their plot to steal Prospero's cloak and books before killing him. Prospero curses Caliban, calling him "a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick" (4.1.188–189). (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Magic, Illusion, and Prospero as Playwright Theme Icon
...and Trinculo complain about the smell and the loss of their wine in the swamp. Caliban tries to re-focus them on the murder. He points out Prospero's cave close by and... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...to find the ship miraculously restored to perfect condition. Next, Prospero asks Ariel to release Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo from their spell and bring them forward in their stolen absurd clothes.... (full context)
Loss and Restoration Theme Icon
Power Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...and Prospero mock Stephano and Trinculo for their drunken state and foiled ambitions. Prospero orders Caliban to take the two men to his cell and prepare it for the guests, saying,... (full context)