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Shakespeare encapsulizes in a few lines the essence of the seemingly endless and controversial debate regarding secondlanguage acquisition. On a positive note, the playwright captures the give and take of cultural exchange, the delight in sharing totally new experiences, in renaming and redefining objects and ideas. But Shakespeare’s genius comes in showing us the dark side, the often patronizing tone, the loss of self which results when the new language is considered by the instructor and/or the population at large to be superior to the native one.
- Caliban: This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother
- ____Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
- ____Thou strok’st me, and made 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:
- ____Curs ‘d be that I did so! . . .
- Miranda: I . . . 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 endowed thy purposes
- ____With words that made them known . . .
- ____The Tempest Act I, Scene II
- ____(L. 332341; 355359)1
As an E.S.O.L. (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher to Hispanic students on the middle school level (6th, 7th, and 8th grades) and Fellow in the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute seminar on the chronicles of the New World, I find the connections between The Tempest, our readings on the Conquest, and language teaching intriguing. Our seminar has explored the major texts which announce, describe, and interpret the discovery and conquest of the New World including works by Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, Bernal D’az del Castillo, Cabeza de Vaca, Bartolomé de las Casas, Michel de Montaigne, Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca, Roberto Fernández Retamar, and the anonymous native writers included in the volume Broken Spears (a brief description of these works is included in the annotated bibliography at the end of this curriculum unit).
The attempts by totally different peoples to communicate is, I feel, one of the major themes of The Tempest, making its connection to second language acquisition relevant. While reading the various accounts of the Conquest, I have written endless notes in the margins regarding communication between conqueror and conquered including references to interpreters, translation, signs and other nonverbal expressions, native languages and dialects, and definitions of terms. These elements in the chronicles coupled with themes in The Tempest to which Caribbeanborn Hispanic students can relate—island life, storms, shipwrecks, magic—are the structure upon which this unit is based. References to the historical works will be included when they parallel the particular scenes extracted from The Tempest in order to illustrate the similarities between the chronicles and Shakespeare’s work. Since the historical documents are easily available in Spanish, teachers might consider having Spanishspeaking students read these in the original to facilitate comprehension. Obviously some of the references are not within students grasp; they are included however if the teacher wishes to paraphrase what I consider relevant background material for critical analysis.
The following questions, from the perspective of the language instructor, can be formulated while reading The Tempest and used to promote critical thinking in the classroom. What happened between Caliban and his teachers Miranda and Prospero when the newcomers instructed him, according to them, for the first time, to communicate?
Hadn’t Caliban and his mother Sycorax expressed themselves verbally to each other during the twelve years they lived together before she was banished and the Europeans arrived? Does Miranda shun Caliban’s utterances as mere “gabble” simply because she doesn’t understand them?
These universal queries posed by Shakespeare over 350 years ago are still relevant today at the point of contact between two cultures. What happens in the E.S.O.L. classroom when students and teacher, each speaking a different language, come face to face initially? What are the subtle and notsosubtle results of such interactions? In the transitional bilingual classroom there is a delicate balance—when teaching the language necessary for survival in new surroundings—between imparting communication skills in the new language and encouraging students to continue to express pride in their native tongue through speaking, reading, and writing. This curriculum unit will analyze selected sections of The Tempest as a vehicle through which to teach intermediateadvanced English to nonnative speakers while at the same time considering Shakespeare’s work as a document which addresses the attitudes of both teacher and learner.
Suggestions for lesson plans, class discussions, and homework assignments are included within this analysis in order to provide the instructor with an opportunity to test comprehension, critical thinking, and problem solving skills throughout. Included in this approach will be an emphasis on isolating the technical dramatic elements found in the text. This concentration on costumes, sound, lighting, and scenery encourages the class to focus on the play from the point of view of the stage technician, at the same time introducing students to career opportunities in these fields. The unusually lavish stage directions in The Tempest suggest that Shakespeare composed the play, his last (1609), in retirement at Stratford and was therefore obliged to writein various instructions which would have been unnecessary had he been at the playhouse itself.
In order to assist the teacher with organizing the unit, the following key will be used and the appropriate letter will appear in the lefthand margin of the text:
Since the level of English skills is relatively low for transitional E.S.O.L. students, I would suggest introducing The Tempest by recounting the play first in narrative form, using a guide such as the Barnes and Noble Focus series containing plot outlines of Shakespeare’s works, or Charles Lamb’s Tales From Shakespeare, specifically tailored and illustrated for children. This synopsis could be followed by viewing the British Broadcasting Corporation’s film, The Tempest, at the Yale Film Archives (Forbidden Planet, a 1950’s science fiction version of The Tempest with Walter Pidgeon and Ann Francis, is also available at the Archives and would be an interesting and enjoyable comparison for students). However, before familiarizing themselves with the BBC film, the book illustrations, or even the book cover to the Arden edition, I feel it is important for students to formulate their own concepts, particularly with regard to the depiction of Caliban. Teachers can introduce this character as someone who looks and speaks differently from society as a whole and then ask the class to speculate on his appearance and personality. Since these particular students have had personal experiences dealing with an unfamiliar culture they will probably be able to relate to the problem posed by Shakespeare. Students might then begin to understand Caliban’s monsterlike depiction in the eyes of the Europeans as a possible exaggeration of the truth since he does not fit into their particular mold, and to analyze negative judgments placed upon people in contemporary society under similar circumstances.
After students have listened to a narrative version of The Tempest and/or viewed the B.B.C. film, they could then be introduced to the possible historical basis of the story. It would be helpful at this point to make maps available to compare the world at the time of the Conquest to the present. The December 1977 National Geographic contains an excellent pullout map entitled “Colonization and Trade in the New World.” Milan, Naples, and Bermuda could be clearly labeled to familiarize the class with locations mentioned in the play. In May, 1609, a fleet of nine ships with 500 colonists under Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Summers went out to strengthen John Smith’s Virginia colony, but on July 25 the “Sea Adventure” with Gates and Summers on board, was separated from the rest of the fleet by a storm and the crew was forced ashore a nearby island. All the other ships arrived safely in Virginia soon after, Gates and Summers finally arriving in May, 1610. News of the storm, however, had reached England in 1609 and people felt the “Sea Adventure” had foundered. This made a big impression in England and many narratives of the wreck were published. That Shakespeare knew these narratives is now generally agreed and he was known to be acquainted with members of the Virginia Company.
A brief analysis of the title of the play might follow (a more detailed treatment follows in Act I, Scene I). Certainly teachers who have come into contact with Hispanic children newly arrived from the Caribbean area are familiar with their detailed accounts of personal experiences with hurricanes. Students could be encouraged to relate these impressions, either orally or in written form, thus appreciating the relevance of the play to their own lives.
While becoming familiar with the list of characters, students can make another obvious connection between themselves and Shakespeare’s choice of Latinbased names. Prospero labels the island’s inhabitant “Caliban,” regarded as a development of some form of the word “Carib” meaning a savage inhabitant of the New World; “cannibal” derives from this and Caliban is possibly a simple anagram of that word. Students can be asked at this point to consider what this character’s real name might have been and how they themselves feel when labeled with an uncomplimentary nickname. The origin of the name Caliban could be illustrated by reading the following account by Christopher Columbus in his journal. On Sunday, November 4, 1492, less than a month after he arrived in the New World, the following entry appears:
He learned also that far from the place there were men with one eye and others with dogs’ muzzles who ate human beings.2And on November 23, this account:
. . . On it [Haiti] lived people who had only one eye and others called cannibals, of whom they seemed to be very afraid. 3A contemporary response to Columbus’ account comes in an essay by Roberto Fernández Retamar in which he states:
It is a question of the typically degraded vision offered by the colonizer of the man he is colonizing. The colonizer’s version explains to us that owing to his irremediable bestiality, there was no alternative to the extermination of the Carib . . . and in Shakespeare, Caliban is a savage and deformed slave who cannot be degraded enough . . . As for the concrete man, present him in the guise of an animal, rob him of his land, enslave him so as to live from his toil, and at the right moment, exterminate him; this latter, of course, only as long as there was someone who could be depended on to perform the arduous tasks in his stead.4Another reference to the barbaric connotation associated with the name Caliban comes in Montaigne’s essay “On Cannibals” which appeared in 1580 and was one of the most widely disseminated European Utopian works. Giovanni Floro’s English translation of the essays was published in 1603. Not only was Floro a personal friend of Shakespeare, but the copy of the translation that Shakespeare owned and annotated is still preserved and is considered one of the inspirations behind The Tempest. Montaigne states:
. . . there is nothing barbaric or savage in these nations . . . what happens is that everyone calls what is foreign to his own customs ‘barbarian’.5Students can respond to the above quotes by supplying their own impressions to unfamiliar people or experiences. Or, if they are comfortable enough with the teacher and fellow classmates, they might relate personal feelings associated with conflicting cultural values when they are considered “foreign” by the society at large in their new environment.
[On a ship at seal] a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heardthe teacher might elicit words or phrases to create this dramatic atmosphere. Classroom lights could be flashed rapidly on and off to simulate a storm, and then in darkness and with their eyes closed, students might begin to imagine the sounds, smells, sights, and feelings associated with the hurricanes they have experienced. The teacher could write these impressions on the blackboard, thus providing students with a rich vocabulary, and continue by reading the following passages from the chronicles. The first is an account by Cabeza de Vaca who explored Florida, northern Mexico and what is now the American Southwest in the years 15271537:
An hour after I left, the sea began to rise ominously and the north wind blow so violently that the two boats would not have dared come near land even if the head wind had not made landing impossible. All hands labored severely under a heavy fall of water that entire day and until dark on Sunday. By then the rain and the tempest had stepped up until there was as much agitation in the town as at sea. All the houses and churches came down. We had to walk seven or eight together, locking arms, to keep from being blown away.6The second is considered to be an exaggeration of the truth and is known as the “Myth of the Lost Pilot.” It was used to disclaim Columbus’ contention of having been the first European to set foot in the New World since the power and financial rewards he would reap personally would minimize the control of the Spanish crown:
. . . a pilot . . . called Alonso Sánchez de Huelva . . . had a small ship with which he traded by sea and used to carry wares from Spain to the Canaries . . . while pursuing this trade . . . he ran into a squall so heavy and tempestuous that he could not withstand it . . . The crew suffered great hardships in the storm for they could neither eat nor sleep. After this lengthy period the wind fell and they found themselves near an island. It is not known for sure which it was, but it is suspected that it was the one now called Santo Domingo.7The last two quotes are taken from an account of the Conquest by the Indians themselves. Broken Spears is a collection of native New World reactions to the events they witnessed first hand. Here we see hints of Prospero’s command to Ariel to unleash the tempest:
Motecuhzoma had sent the magicians to learn what sort of people the strangers might be, but they were also to see if they could work some charm against them or do them some mischief. They might be able to direct a harmful wind against them . . . The magicians carried out their mission against the Spaniards, but they failed completely. They could not harm them in any way.8Students can now read lines 117, 3450, and 5866 from The Tempest in order to dramatize Shakespeare’s expertise in depicting the terror of the storm to those aboard ship. Throughout this approach to the play, if the words or concepts seem too difficult for students, the teacher can isolate one line at a time and the individual character or the class as a whole can respond by patterning their oral response after the teacher’s. If the instructor delivers the words correctly in terms of pitch and tone, students should get a sense of what is being said, even if each word is not fully understood. Students could then be asked to paraphrase, with the teacher’s assistance, in order to test for comprehension.
students can imagine themselves in a similar situation in that specific time period and consider what manageable personal items they would have hurriedly thrown together for such an unexpected departure. My most cherished memories of grammar school revolve around the following exercise related to geography lessons. Our teacher would announce that we would be “travelling” the next day to a specific part of the world and after telling us a bit about its location and climate, would assign us the task of “packing a suitcase”—i.e. cutting out pictures from magazines of whatever we felt was necessary for the trip—and the next day we’d be strapped into our “seatbelts” on our “airplane” and be off! Xeroxed pictures from historical costume books would be helpful here for the clothing they might carry. Regarding the characters’ departure from Italy in The Tempest, students should consider that this might be a permanent situation and that Prospero does not use his magical powers until they reach the island. This should inspire students to select items carefully and to anticipate the problems the characters might encounter on their journey.
- Some food we had, and some fresh water, that
- A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo,
- Out of his charity, who being then appointed
- Master of this design, did give us, with
- Rich garments, linens, stuffs and necessaries . . .
- (L. 160167)
When Prospero reaches the island he is “rapt in secret studies” (L. 7576) with the books Gonzalo has supplied:
- Prospero: From mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom.
Students might enjoy creating booklets with magical symbols and secret codes to help them imagine the power that Prospero reaps from these documents.
- (L. 167168)
Scene II contains a poignant interchange between father and daughter in which Prospero finally explains to Miranda the circumstances surrounding their present existence. Lines 1525 and 3346 serve to give the class a clearer understanding of the characters’ plight; the following lines are particularly vivid and would probably leave a lasting impression on students as to the hardships Prospero and Miranda faced:
Miranda’s first memories of her childhood are hazy when Prospero asks her in line 49, “What seest thou else in the dark backward and abysm of time?” Students and teachers alike could be encouraged to think back carefully to their earliest memories in order to recount them either orally or in written form as Miranda has done here.
- . . . they prepared
- a rotten carcass of a butt, not rigg’d
- Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
- Instinctively have quit it . . .
- (L. 145150)
Prospero tells Miranda that he has released the tempest through Ariel’s intervention and with the magical powers of his robe. He asks Miranda to “pluck my magic garment from me” (L.24) when he no longer needs control, and students might begin to envision the qualities of this article of clothing by producing a costume sketch. A collection of fabric scraps, especially glitzy ones, would help spark their creativity. Students can attach small fabric swatches along the bottom and sides of the drawing, as is the practice of professional costume designers, in order to suggest color and texture.
Lines 226237 provide the only specific reference to Bermuda in the entire play and students could read the historical reference to the Bermuda Pamphlets described at the beginning of this unit.
Prospero, in his dialogue with Miranda, recounts their initial encounter with Caliban twelve years earlier. This, to me, is the first reference in the play related to second language acquisition and communication between two cultures, and for this reason I feel it warrants a detailed analysis. The first image we have of Caliban is Prospero’s description:
We see the encounter from Caliban’s perspective in the lines quoted at the beginning of the unit (L. 332341; 355-359) and it would be an opportunity now to review these and their exact meaning with the students. This quote, in conjunction with lines 310315 in which Prospero extols the virtues of Caliban’s native intelligence and hard work, provides a basis for discussion of the necessary components for survival in the wild. The foreigners are dependent upon Caliban for their livlihood, yet subjugate and enslave him:
- . . . A freckled whelp hag, born—not honour’d with
- A human shape
- Dull thing, I say so . . .
- (L. 282284)
There is an interesting parallel in Cortes’ letter to the king regarding the Indians living near Tascalteca:
- We cannot miss him: he does make our fire
- Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices
- That profit us . . .
- (L. 311315)
In a letter of mine I informed Your Majesty how the natives of these parts are of much greater intelligence than those of other islands . . . indeed they appeared to us to possess such understanding as is sufficient for an ordinary citizen to conduct himself in a civilized country. It seemed to me therefore, a serious matter at this time to compel them to serve the Spaniards as the natives of the other islands do; yet if this were not done, the conquerors and settlers of these parts would not be able to maintain themselves. 9We have read Columbus’ account of rumored cannibals in the area; here is the entry regarding his initial attempts to communicate with the natives:
On my arrival at that sea, I had taken some Indians by force from the first island that I came to, in order that they might learn our language, and communicate to us what they knew respecting the country . . . in a short time, either by gestures and signs, or by words, we were enabled to understand each other. 10The class could be divided into two groups at this point—natives and conquerors. Having prepared a list of the qualities of their island, the natives, through “gestures and signs” could attempt to communicate these to the foreigners.
The following illustration, adapted from original codices paintings by Alberto Beltrán, and excerpt from Broken Spears, the native accounts of the Conquest, are included here in order to draw parallels to The Tempest and to give students an understanding of what Caliban’s initial reaction may have been:
‘Our lord and king, it is true that strange people have come to the shores of the great sea . . . There were about fifteen of these people, some with blue jackets, others with black or green, and still others with jackets of a soiled color, very ugly, like our ichtilmatli . . . They have very light skin, much lighter than ours. They all have long beards, and their hair comes only to their ears.’ Montezuma was downcast when he heard this report, and did not speak a word.13Since these particular students have had the experience in their lives of encountering a culture and language different from their own, the following suggestion for a theater game might help them to recall that initial point of contact and the inevitable frustration and misunderstanding which result. Some Hispanic students are well versed in “jeringoza”, in which words are divided into syllables and each syllable prefaced with the same sound, for example “chi.” This new language is spoken rapidly and totally baffles me whenever I hear it! If a student with this skill (pretending not to understand English or Spanish) were to confront the teacher or another student with no knowledge of jeringoza, this might simulate the initial encounter between Caliban and the foreigners. The class could formulate questions which might naturally develop from this situation and help the two actors consider non-verbal methods of communication.
The following quotes from the chronicles pertain to communication between two cultures, further emphasizing the historical antecedents and their relevance, both to students and to The Tempest. Students can be encouraged to reenact these three situations in the “jeringoza” theater game described above. The first quote from Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca recounts the story of an Indian named Berú who encountered the Spaniards on the banks of the river Pelú:
Having petted him to help him overcome his fear at the sight of their beards and unaccustomed clothes, the Spaniards asked him by signs and words what land it was and what it was called. The Indian understood that they were asking him something from the gestures and grimaces they were making with hands and face, as if they were addressing a dumb man, but he did not understand what they were asking, so he told them what he thought they wanted to know. The Christians understood what they wanted to understand . . . and from that time they called that rich and great empire Perú, corrupting both words, as the Spaniards corrupt almost all the words they take from the Indian language of that land.14Students and teachers alike have probably experienced similar misunderstandings in communication and it might be insightful here to discuss some of these twisted interpretations.
The next two quotes are taken from Cabeza de Vaca’s account:
The Indians of the village returned next day and approached us. Because we had no interpreter, we could not make out what they said; but their many signs and threats left little doubt that they were bidding us to go. 15Students can contemplate what might have been said and attempt to communicate their thoughts nonverbally or through the “jeringoza” exercise above.
And we taught all the people by signs, which they understood, that in Heaven was a Man we called God, who had created the heavens and the earth’s that all good came from Him and that we worshipped and obeyed Him and called Him our Lord; and that if they would do the same, all would be well with them. They apprehended us so readily that if we had had enough command of their language to make ourselves perfectly understood, we would have left them all Christians.16A conflicting report is mentioned in Robert Ricard’s book, The Spiritual Conguest of Mexico as he describes the attempts of Muñoz Camargo and other clerics to instruct the natives in Christianity:
. . . the religious could only indicate the existence of heaven and hell. To suggest hell they pointed to the earth, fire, toads and snakes. Then they raised their eyes, pointed to heaven and spoke of a single God. The Indians barely understood.17Many Hispanic students are familiar with the beliefs of the AfroCaribbean “Santer’a” religious cult. Assuming that the teacher is not and by using only signs and “jeringoza,” students could attempt to “convert” the teacher into this belief system and decide at the end of the exercise if their communication was successful.
Ariel’s song to Fernando (L. 399405) in which he falsely implies to the prince that his father, Alonso, has died in the shipwreck, is an opportunity for those students interested in sound to explore the technical possibilities within the play. The musical notation is included in the Arden edition and a simple flute recording with the assistance of the music teacher would add a nice touch here.
reenter Ariel like a water nymphThe scene ends (L. 413 . . . ) with Miranda’s first glimpse of Fernando under the careful supervision of her father, who, as powerful as he is, cannot control their mutual attraction. Miranda challenges her father’s negative response to Fernando and what ensues is the age-old generational conflict to which students can easily relate. The following lines extracted from this interchange are relatively simple and, hundreds of years after they were written, might touch upon students’ personal feelings to again illustrate the relevance of the play to their own lives:
reenter Ariel invisible, playing and singing
Students can note here the change in tone of the supposedly cultured Prospero as he assumes a more savage perspective.
Miranda: . . . I might call him [Fernando] A thing divine; for nothing natural I ever saw so noble. (L. 419421) Prospero: . . . At the first sight They have chang’d eyes . . . (L. 443-444)
- Miranda: . . . This
- ____Is the third man that e’er I saw . . .
- ____(L. 447448)
Fernando: O, if a virgin, And your affection not gone forth, I’ll make you The Queen of Naples. (L. 450452) Prospero: . . . Come; I’ll manacle thy neck and feet together; Seawater shalt thou drink . . . (L. 463464) Miranda: O dear father, Make not too rash a trial of him, for He’s gentle, and not fearful. (L. 468470)
This said island of Juana is exceedingly fertile . . . it is surrounded by many bays . . . surpassing any that I have ever seen; numerous large and healthful rivers intersect it, and it also contains many very lofty mountains . . . all these islands are very beautiful . . . they are filled with a great variety of trees of immense height . . . some of them were blossoming, some bearing fruit . . . The nightingale and various birds were singing in countless numbers, and that in November, the month in which I arrived there. There are . . . seven or eight kinds of palm trees . . . 19Students could be asked to draw these different varieties of palm trees from memory and also to compare the flora and fauna of Puerto Rico with the mainland. A dialogue might be improvised in which one actor paints a favorable picture of the new environment while another gives an unfavorable one.
The scene has several costume references (L. 59,66,93, 266), and the following illustrations adapted from original codices paintings by Alberto Beltrán can be pointed out to students at this time, paying particular attention to the depiction of the Spaniards. From the point of view of the costume designer, students might consider the alterations the characters would make to their garments now that weather conditions have probably changed from what they experienced in Italy:
There is a kind of undersea atmosphere in the play, a dreamy unreality in which the characters are under the spell of one illusion or another, and Shakespeare gives us several of these references between lines 180320. Students might search this section independently in order to list these phrases. In their reading (L. 295-300) they will once again happen upon Ariel working his magic through song as he attempts to awaken Gonzalo from slumber. There is no musical notation available for this particular piece, thus providing students interested in sound with the opportunity to develop their own accompaniment which best corresponds to the sense of the words.
The continuation of Trincolo’s discourse on the brewing storm and its relationship to the historical references in the chronicles can be considered here. Trincolo describes his first encounter with Caliban and immediately considers capitalizing on his “otherness” in the same manner chosen by Pedro Serrano, the shipwrecked Spaniard vividly described by Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca in his Commentaries. Serrano’s plight, having spent seven years on a desolate island, is worth reading here in its entirety for the pure theatricality of this adventure story. The following excerpt from this chronicle (three years into his dilemma another shipwrecked Spaniard joins Serrano, and four years later they are rescued by a passing ship) might prove insightful. Students can consider that Caliban’s “monstrous” appearance was probably a natural adaptive reaction to his environment:
Owing to the harshness of the climate hair grew all over his body till it was like an animal’s pelt, and not just any animal’s, but a wild boar’s. His hair and beard fell below his waist . . . Pedro Serrano and his companion, who had grown a similar pelt, seeing the boat approach, fell to saying the Credo . . . so that the sailors should not think they were demons and flee from them . . . They no longer looked like human beings . . . Pedro Serrano reached here (Spain) and went on to Germany where the emperor then was . . . In every village he passed through on the way he earned much money whenever he chose to exhibit himself. Some of the lords . . . contributed toward the cost of the journey, and his imperial majesty . . . gave him a reward of 4,000 pesos in income . . . 21The second quote from The Tempest parallels Garcilaso’s account as Stefano plans to capitalize on Caliban’s “otherness”:
Students will probably have many stories to tell of their experiences with circus “freak” shows, movies and television programs in response to the above quotes. They might want to consider themselves in a similar situation and explore the deeper feelings of “the other” in order to see it from a different perspective.
- Trincolo: What have we here? a man or a fish? . . . Were I in England now and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver; there would this monster make a man: when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.
- (L. 2534)
- Stephano: If I can recover him and keep him tame and get to Naples with him, he’s a present for any emperor that ever trod on neat’s leather [cowhide].
- (L. 6770)
This act also contains a reference to the native New World peoples’ belief that the Spaniards were an incarnation of the gods of their legends. The first quote refers to Columbus’ perception of the Indians in present day Santo Domingo and the second is Stephano’s response to Caliban’s curiosity:
. . . They practice no kind of idolatry, but have a firm belief that all strength and power, and indeed all good things, are in heaven, and that I had descended from thence with these ships and sailors . . . 22
- Caliban: Hast thou not dropp’d from heaven?
- Stephano: Out o’ the moon, I do assure thee. I was the man i’ th’ moon when time was.
- Caliban: I have seen thee in her and I do adore thee . . .
- (L. 135140)
- The end of Scene II finds Caliban, under the influence of the wine that has been forced upon him by Stephano and Trinculo, deciding to change allegiance and to take them, instead of Prospero, for his masters. Caliban sadly mistakes for freedom what is actually just another form of servitude and slavery. The dialogue which proceeds from line 148 until the end of the scene again graphically depicts Caliban’s innate knowledge of natural lore and his willingness—indeed he begs—to share this native intelligence with the very people who enslave him. The following lines are particularly graphic:
Since many of the students who make up the bilingual population in New Haven come from the rural areas of the Caribbean, they might enjoy comparing and contrasting their knowledge of the natural wonders of island life with Caliban’s.
Caliban: I’ll show thee the best springs; I’ll pluck thee berries, I’ll fish for thee and get thee wood enough.
- (L. 160162)
Caliban: . . . let me bring thee where crabs grow; And I with my long nails will dig thee pig nuts; Show thee a jay’s nest and instruct thee how To snare the nimble marmoset (monkey); I’ll bring thee To clustering filberts and sometimes I’ll get thee Young scamels [a type of shellfish] from the rock (L. 168172)
- How does Fernando describe Prospero?
- Why is Prospero acting like this?
- Where is Prospero during this scene? How long will he be away?
- What is Fernando doing?
- How does he seem to Miranda?
- Why isn’t he exhausted by his heavy work?
- How many womens’ faces has she seen? Mens’?
- What does Fernando claim to be?
- What is Fernando’s response when Miranda asks him if he loves her?
- Why does Miranda cry?
- Who proposes marriage? What is said?
- How does Caliban describe Prospero?
- What is Stephano’s threat to Trinculo?
- What does Caliban intend to do to Prospero when he leads his two companions to him?
- What is Ariel’s role in this scene?
- Who is really starting trouble here? Why?
- What is the first thing Caliban says they must do to Prospero?
- Who is the only other woman Caliban has ever seen?
- What does Stephano intend to do with Miranda after Prospero has been killed?
Solemn and strange music, and Prospero on the top (invisible). Enter several strange Shapes, bringing in a banquet; and dance about it with gentle actions of salutations; and inviting the king and company to eat, they depart;This scene also contains a description of the islanders by Conzalo which parallels an entry in Bartolomé de las Casas, and students might consider the similarities in both accounts as a basis for class discussion and/or a written assignment. Regarding the natives of Hispaniola (Santo Domingo), las Casas states:
Thunder and lightning. Enter Ariel like a Harpy; claps his wings upon the table; and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishes.
Ariel vanishes in thunder; then, to soft music, enter the Shapes again, and dance, with mocks and mows, and carrying out the table.
. . . these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness . . . They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges . . . neither excitable nor quarrelsome . . . The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life’s refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians . . .23
There are several references to clothing here, presenting yet another chance for students to analyze the play from the costumer’s perspective and sketch the corresponding designs. These include the following:
- Enter certain Reapers, properly habited
- (L. 138)
- [re]enter Ariel, loaden with glistening apparel
- (L. 192)
- Enter Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo, all wet
(L. 194) Trinculo: O, King Stephanol
- . . . look what a wardrobe here is for thee!
- (L. 222223)
Stephano: Put off that gown, Trinculo; by this hand I’ll have that gown.
- (L. 228)
Shakespeare does not give us any indication here of Caliban’s response to the foreigners’ exodus from the island, and students could conjecture at this point about his innermost feelings. Is he happy that they’re leaving? Will he miss these people even though he has been subjugated by them? How do students think his new language and worldly knowledge have altered his perceptions? It might be interesting to imagine that Caliban travels back to Italy with the Europeans in the light of the following quote from Montaigne, his account of a native of the New World’s visit to Europe:
Three of these people (New World natives) . . . were at Rouen at the time that the late King Charles the Ninth was there. The king talked to them a good while; and they were shown our fashions, our pomp, and the form of a fair city. After that someone asked their opinion and wanted to know what they had found most to be admired . . . They said . . . that they had observed that there were among us men full and crammed with all kinds of good things while their halves were begging at their door, emaciated with hunger and poverty; and that they thought it strange that these needy halves were able to suffer such an injustice, and that they did not take the others by the throat or set fire to their houses. 24Students can observe here several references to the magical qualities of Prospero’s robes and to his donning of the garments, including his “hat and rapier”, (L. 118) which he wore in Italy, symbolizing his relinquishing of power. The charm is extinguished when he states:
As an exercise students can dramatize the stage direction which reads:
- . . . I’ll break my staff
- Bury it certain fadoms in the earth,
- And deeper than did ever plummet sound
- I’ll drown my book.
- (L. 5457)
. . . they [Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Adrian, Francisco] all enter the circle which Prospero had made, and there stand charm’dThey can then react to Prospero’s statement:
. . . There stand, for you are spellstopp’dProspero grants Ariel his much desired liberty and Ariel’s song (L. 8893) describes his delight in controlling his life once again. The musical notation is included in the Arden edition, and a class singalong might follow with simple live or taped accompaniment:
In conclusion, this analysis of The Tempest, much of it seen from Caliban’s perspective, illustrates the complexity of second language acquisition and the sensitivity with which E.S.O.L. instructors in particular approach teaching a new language while at the same time continuing to encourage pride in the students’ native tongue. With an appreciation for and an understanding of students’ cultures and modes of expression, second language teachers will hopefully never be blessed with Caliban’s invective:
- Now my charms are all o’erthrown
- And what strength I have’s mine _____ . . .
- As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
- Let your indulgence set me _____ .
- Epilogue (L. 12, 1920)
- 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.
- Act I Scene II (L. 365367)
- 1. Casas, Bartolomé de las. The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account, translated by Herma Briffault. New York: Seabury Press, 1974.
- 2. Columbus, Christopher. Four Voyages to the New World, edited by R. H. Major. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Corinth Books, 1978.
- 3. Cortés, HernEan. Letters from Mexico, edited by A.R. Pagden. New York: Orion Press, 1971.
4. Garcilaso de la Vega. Roya1 Commentaries of the Incas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967. 5. LeónPortilla, editor. The Broken Spears. Boston: Beacon Press, 1966. 6. Montaigne, Michel de. Selected Essays, edited by Blanchard Bates. New York: The Modern Library, 1953.
- 7. Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar. Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America, edited by Cyclone Covey. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1961.
8. Retamar, Roberto Fernández. “Caliban: Notes Towards a Discussion of Culture in Our America,” The Massachusetts Review, (WinterSpring). Amherst, Massachusetts: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke & Smith Colleges and The University of Massachusetts, 1974. 9. Ricard, Robert. The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico, translated by Lesley Byrd Simpson. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1966.
- 10. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest, edited by Frank Kermode. London and New York: Methuen and Company, 1980.
1. William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed., Frank Kermode, Methuen and Company, 1980, p. 23. 2. Christopher Columbus, Four Voyages to the New World, ed., R.H. Mahor, Corinth Books, 1978, p. 20. 3. Ibid., p. 78. 4. Roberto Fernández Retamar, “Caliban: Notes Towards a Discussion of Culture in our America,” The Massachusetts Review, Winter-Spring 1974, p. 15. 5. Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, ed., Blanchard Bates, The Modern Library, 1953, p. 77. 6. Cabeza de Vaca, Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America, ed., Cyclone Covey, University of New Mexico Press, 1984, p. 28. 7. Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca, Royal Commentaries of the Incas, University of Texas Press, 1967, p. 12. 8. The Broken Spears, ed., Miguel León-Portilla, Beacon Press, 1966, p. 34. 9. Hernán Cortés, Letters from Mexico, ed., A.R. Pagden, Orion Press, 1971, p. 279. 10. Columbus, op. cit., p. 9. 11. The Broken Spears, p. 13. 12. Ibid., p. 13. 13. Ibid., p. 17. 14. Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca, p. 15. 15. Cabeza de Vaca, p. 31. 16. Ibid., p. 120. 17. Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico, University of California Press, 1966, p. 87. 18. William Shakespeare, p. 157. 19. Christopher Columbus, p. 5. 20. The Broken Spears, pp. 11, 21, 32, 37, 62, 70, 119, 126. 21. Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca, pp. 28-30. 22. Christopher Columbus, p. 67. 23. Bartolomé de las Casas, The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account, Seabury Press, 1974, p. 47. 24. Michel de Montaigne, p. 88. 25. William Shakespeare, p. 158.
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