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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

The Tempest has been the source of science fiction movies and many tedious “post-colonialist” analyses of western literature. Yet what we see here is a master or tyrant with extraordinary power conversing with his slave who resents his treatment (whipping seems to be a common punishment). Caliban asks an apt question, why did his master teach him to use language and all that goes with it such as thought and critical reasoning, if he did not expect him to use it? And then of course, there is the little matter of original ownership of the island. A Lockean analysis would probably not look too favorably on Prospero’s claim.

Other quotes about Literature & Music:

12 June, 2006

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In Shakespeare’s The Tempest Caliban complains about the way the European lord Prospero taught him language and science then enslaved him and dispossessed him of the island on which he was born (1611)

Read the full quote in context here.

In an exchange between Prospero and Caliban (Act I, Scene II, line 320) the latter complains about the way the European lord Prospero taught him language and science but enslaved him and dispossessed him of the island on which he was born:

I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strok’dst me, and mad’st much of me; wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t; and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I lov’d thee
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place, and fertile.
Cursed be I that did so!—All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ th’ island.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

Prospero

Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself
Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!
EnterCaliban.

Caliban

As wicked dew as e’er my mother brush’d
With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye,
And blister you all o’er!

Prospero

For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall forth at vast of night, that they may work
All exercise on thee: thou shalt be pinch’d
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made them.

Caliban

I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strok’dst me, and mad’st much of me; wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t; and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I lov’d thee
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place, and fertile.
Cursed be I that did so!—All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king; and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ th’ island.


Prospero

Thou most lying slave,
Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have us’d thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care; and lodg’d thee
In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child.

Caliban

Oh ho! Oh ho!—would it had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans.

Prospero

Abhorred slave,
Which any print of goodness will not take,
Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes
With words that made them known: but thy vile race,
Though thou didst learn, had that in’t which good natures
Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
Deservedly confin’d into this rock,
Who hadst deserv’d more than a prison.

Caliban

You taught me language: and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you,
For learning me your language!

Prospero

Hag-seed, hence!
Fetch us in fuel; and be quick, thou’rt best,
To answer other business. Shrug’st thou, malice?
If thou neglect’st, or dost unwillingly
What I command, I’ll rack thee with old cramps,
Fill all thy bones with aches; make thee roar,
That beasts shall tremble at thy din.

Caliban

No, pray thee!—
[Aside.] I must obey: his art is of such power,
It would control my dam’s god, Setebos,
And make a vassal of him.

[More works by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)]