The Tempest: Act III, Scene ii

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  • Q1

    Elaborate on the theme 'Nature in conflict with civilisation’ in the context of Act III, scene 2 of 'The Tempest'.


    The theme of natural versus the civilised man is brought to light in Act III, scene 2 of the drama. Caliban as a natural man is contrasted with the pretentions and cunningness of the civilized men represented by Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban calls Prospero cunning, though he himself is cunning. He is angry with Prospero for robbing him of his island; The colonial rulers have done the same to the inhabitants of the lands they have conquered. They have displaced the tribal from their natural habitat. Caliban plans to take revenge by murdering Prospero with the help of Stephano and Trinculo, who are symbols of the European culture.

    Caliban thinks that Prospero’s powers come from his books. For him, books represent oppression and servitude. Prospero tries to tame an 'uncultured monster' and educate him in order to liberate him from what he considers a lower form of civilisation. He uses his magic to torment the monster. From the European point of view Caliban is an uncultured savage. However, he lived happily in the island before the arrival of Prospero and Miranda in the island. He was robbed of his ownership of the island and subjected to slavery by his European master. Thus, the so-called civilization transforms Caliban’s life from freedom to slavery. He does not benefit much from Prospero's tutelage. He learns the language but uses it to curse his master. Caliban seeks help from Stephano and Trinculo - the lowest forms of civilized behavior to murder his master.

    Caliban's vision of an ideal paradise is untouched by 'civilisation'. In such a place nature provides everything that is required, and man has little effect on the existence of the island. Stephano thinks of becoming the king of the deserted island; whereas Caliban dreams of living in peaceful isolation with no king to infringe of his freedom. Yet, he wants someone's help to liberate him from the servitude of Prospero. So, he offers to accept Stephano as his master and promises to serve him forever. He even offers to lick the boot of Stephano.

    Caliban is unable to realise that Stephano, whom he has elevated to the status of god is in fact worse than his master, Prospero. Stephano forcefully makes him drink wine and intoxicate him. He uses alcohol to subordinate the 'monster'. On the other hand, Prospero uses his magic and spirits to tame him. Stephano plans to exhibit the monster to make money. He is not at all concerned of Caliban's wellbeing.

    The stated reason of Prospero’s subjugation of Caliban is to restore order on the island. However, in doing so he ignores Caliban’s right and his needs. The irony is that Caliban does not need such order, education, culture, language and artifacts to satisfy his needs. He is desperate to escape from the slavery of Prospero and instantly plots the murder of his master when he meets Stephano and Trinculo. The plot also proves the fact that violence exists in all the levels of the society, whether in civilised Europe or an isolated island.

    Caliban represents nature opposing civilisation. He is also depicted as a cruel being. He suggests different ways to murder Prospero. Caliban tries to rape innocent Miranda and he promises Miranda to his newly found masters. It proves that the aspect of brutality that exists in nature. In short, Caliban represents the untamed nature in conflict with the so-called civilisation.

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  • Q2


    I say by sorcery he got this isle;

    From me he got it. If thy Greatness will,

    Revenge it on him, for I know thou dar’st,

    But this thing dare not.


    That’s most certain.


    Thou shalt be lord of it, and I’ll serve thee.


    How now shall this be compassed? Canst

    thou bring me to the party?


    Yea, yea, my lord. I’ll yield him thee asleep,

    Where thou mayst knock a nail into his head.

    ARIEL, in Trinculo’s voice Thou liest. Thou canst not.

    Meanwhile, the invisible Ariel has entered, and whispers things like "thou liest!" Seeing no one, Caliban and Stephano think Trinculo is the one whispering, even though he denies it.


    What a pied ninny’s this!—Thou scurvy patch!

    I do beseech thy Greatness, give him blows

    And take his bottle from him. When that’s gone,

    He shall drink naught but brine, for I’ll not show him

    Where the quick freshes are.

    (i) Who got the island by sorcery? [1]

    (ii) Who should be the legal owner of the island according to Caliban? [2]

    (iii) What is Caliban’s plan to take revenge on Prospero? [2]

    (iv) What does Caliban ask Stephano to do? [2]

    (v)Why did Caliban’s plan fail? [2]

    (vi) Give the meanings of the following words in the context of the passage:

    sorcery, quick freshes . [1]


    (i) In a drunken stage, Caliban talks to Stephano and Trinculo and says that Prospero acquired his island through magical powers.

    (ii) According to Caliban, Stephano should be the legal owner of the island and he would serve him as his lieutenant. He promises to lick Stephano's shoe.

    (iii) Caliban explains Stephano his plan to kill Prospero and gain power over the island.

    (iv) Caliban will lead Stephano to Prospero's favourite spot where he takes the afternoon nap. If they steal his magic books, Prospero will be powerless, and then they can nail him in the head.

    (v) Ariel arrives at the spot and listens to their plan against Prospero. He informs everything to Prospero. Caliban’s plan to kill Prospero fails.

    (vi) Sorcery: witchcraft, enchantment

    Quick freshes: streams of fresh water which is drinkable.

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  • Q3

    Make a comparative analysis of the two characters, Caliban and Ariel with reference to Act 3, scene 2 of ‘The tempest’.


    Caliban represents untamed spirit in contrast with Ariel, an airy sprite. Caliban is the offspring of the witch Sycorax and the only native of this island. Prospero has made Caliban his slave. Caliban appears bad, especially when judged by conventional civilized standards. It is clear, though, that Caliban is a poor judge of character: He embraces Stefano as a god and trusts his two drunken conspirators to help him carry out a plot to murder Prospero. In many ways, Caliban is an innocent, reacting to emotional and physical needs without the ability to think through and fully understand the events and people who surround him. He is truly a child of nature, uneducated and reacting to his surroundings in much the same way that an animal does.

    While Ariel maintains his dignity and his freedom by serving Prospero willingly, Caliban achieves a different kind of dignity by refusing to bow before Prospero’s intimidation. Throughout most of the play, Caliban is insolent and rebellious and is only controlled through the use of magic. Caliban claims the island as his own and maintains that Prospero has tricked him in the past.

    Finally, and most tragically, Caliban becomes a parody of himself. In his first speech to Prospero, he regretfully reminds the magician of how he showed him all the ins and outs of the island when Prospero first arrived. Only a few scenes later, however, we see Caliban drunk and fawning before a new magical being in his life: Stephano and his bottle of liquor. Soon, Caliban begs to show Stephano the island and even asks to lick his shoe. Caliban repeats the mistakes he claims to curse. In his final act of rebellion, he is once more entirely subdued by Prospero in the pettiest way—he is dunked in a stinking bog and ordered to clean up Prospero’s cell in preparation for dinner.
    When Caliban conspires with Stephano and Trinculo, Ariel befools him by calling out “Thou liest” in Trinculo’s voice.

    Caliban remains one of the most intriguing and ambiguous characters in the play, a sensitive monster who allows himself to be transformed into a fool.

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