Caribbean Caliban: Shifting the "I" of the Storm


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The entire Caribbean is our horizon; for Caliban himself like the island he inherited is at once a landscape and a human situation (George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile).1

Edward Said has remarked how the "interpretation of Western culture" has been controlled by the "universalizing discourses of modem Europe and the United States," with only an infrequent "acknowledgment that ... colonized people should be heard from, their ideas known."2 Although their complaint has since been amply redressed, Francis Barker and Peter Hulme have identified scholarly discussions of The Tempest as an instance of this narrow discourse, claiming that the play's "rich complexity" has been "signally ignored by European and North American critics, who have tended to listen exclusively to Prospero's voice." In this context, Barker and Hulme urged the need for the perspective of the colonized: "It has been left to those who have suffered colonial usurpation to discover and map the traces of that complexity by reading in full measure Caliban's refractory place in both Prospero's play and The Tempest."3Indeed in the Caribbean islands of the twentieth century, a refractory Caliban became a broad symbol of a developing cultural self-assertion and quest for independence. In a special "Caliban" issue of The Massachusetts Review in 1974 (15:1-2), which was devoted to writings from Latin America and the Caribbean, the lead essay by the Cuban Roberto Retamar was entitled "Caliban: Notes Towards a Discussion of Culture in Our America." In his Foreword for this "Caliban" issue, editor Robert Marquez remarks, "The stories, poems, play, essays and art work collected in this issue are ... a contemporary echo of the rebellious Antillean slave in Shakespeare's final play whose metamorphosis and current importance as the symbol of Our America are so aptly synthesized in the essay by Roberto Fernández Retamar from which we take our title."

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.