I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest
Thou strokedst me and madest 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 loved
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The Fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and
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
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ the island
Paraphrase: Let me eat. My mother Sycorax owned this island, and I thus inherited it. You have stolen it from me. When you arrived, you behaved like a friend, treated me well, and taught me to understand the sky. I loved you, and showed you every inch of this island, all its secrets. It was a mistake! I am your only servant now, you who was my first king. If only the spells of Sycorax, of toads, beetles, and bats could plague you! Now you keep me stored in confinement, and keep my rightful island from me.
Analysis: This passage gives an introduction to the character of Caliban within The Tempest. It is a first glance at Caliban’s history, personality, and motives. As is described within the passage, Prospero assumed control of the island when he landed upon it. However, Caliban had already been present on the island as an offspring of the witch Sycorax. Caliban, under his conditions, believed himself to be rightful heir and ruler of the land. Thus when Prospero began to exercise his own authority, Caliban grew enraged and offended at having lost his property and gained a sort of subjugation.
Caliban believes that he was deceived by Prospero, who had lured Caliban into a false sense of security with kindness, friendship, and a fatherly education. When Prospero treated the island as his own, Caliban viewed all their previous interactions together as false and foolish, and became indignant to Prospero’s presence. At this point it can be inferred that Prospero had to treat Caliban more sternly, almost to a point of servitude, so as to maintain peace and stability and avoid violent conflict. Part of this may be derived from Prospero’s desire to protect his daughter, Miranda.
The treatment as a servant is another blow to Caliban’s pride. Beyond being stolen from, he is now a subject. It is difficult to discern who is truly right and just in the matter. A sort of pity may be felt towards Caliban, whose plight of loss and subjugation is not without merit. Of course, the situation may be skewed in his eyes. Prospero might have treated the island as under no single rule, but with a shared inhabitance, until Caliban blew the situation into conflict that could have been avoided. The introduction definitely serves to display the strenuous relationship between the two characters, and could foreshadow future events or clashing between them.