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Caliban vs Satan

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Since Caliban and Satan are both monsters, they are both viewed under the same light, but if you look deep into their background and traits, you will see that they are very different. Because Caliban and Satan are only viewed through the bad things that they do in their respective novels, The Tempest by William Shakespeare and Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton, they are both put into the category of being a “monster” so many people don’t really recognize that they are extremely different and close to opposites. Although Caliban and Satan are both “monsters” and share the quality of rebellion against their master, they are completely different when it comes to the environment they come from, the power that controls them, and the outcome of revenge against their masters.

While Caliban and Satan are both seen as monsters in their respected novels, they both come from completely opposite environments under their master. Under God, Satan was living in Heaven. His name was Lucifer and was the most powerful out of all the angels. Satan had a great life in Heaven, being second in command behind God, but while many would be thrilled to live this life, the fact that Satan had to worship God and being under him was disturbing to him. He simply could not live with the fact that God had more power than him, no matter how great living in Heaven was. Even though Heaven isn’t described in Paradise Lost, Hell is described when it says, “The dismal Situation waste and wilde, a dungeon horrible, on all sides round as one great furnace flam’d, yet from those flames no light, but rather darkness visible serv’d only to discover sights of woe, regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace and rest can never dwell, hope never comes that comes to all”(1.60-67). Because Hell is described as terrible and treacherous, we can only assume that Heaven is the complete opposite. Nobody except the prideful Satan would throw away perfect and wonderful Heaven for a miserable place such as Hell. While Satan comes from a heavenly environment, his situation is quite the opposite of Caliban’s in The Tempest. Caliban is the son of a witch named Sycorax who used to rule the island. But when Caliban was young, Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, came to the island and took Sycorax’s island away and ruled it as his own and Caliban was forced to be Prospero’s servant. Prospero was terrible to Caliban and treated him like property. An example of how Prospero talks to and treats Caliban is when Prospero is talking to his daughter Miranda and he calls for Caliban to come and shouts, “Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself upon thy wicked dam, come forth!”( 1.2.383-384). The rude and disrespectful way in which Prospero treats Caliban like a good for nothing slave is the complete opposite of the way Satan was treated in Heaven. It is quite evident that Satan and Caliban come from contrasting backgrounds and both had different reasons for rebelling against their masters.

Even though Caliban and Satan both rebelled against their masters, Satan has power under the rule of God even through his rebellious acts, where Caliban remains powerless under a completely new master. After Satan was thrown out of Heaven for his rebellion against God, he was lying in a lake with the other fallen angels and all of a sudden he rose up out of the water in order to rally the other rebellious angels. But the text said that the only reason he was able to rise up was because God allowed him to, as it says, “nor ever thence had risen or heaved his head, but that the will and high permission of all-ruling heaven left him at large to his own dark designs”(1.210-213). God has the power to completely destroy Satan, but He is allowing Satan to sin and scheme in Hell and Earth, exemplifying that all of Satan’s power comes from God and even though he rebelled against God, he still is under the control of God. Another example of Satan still being under God even through his rebellion is when Satan first meets Sin and Death, the protectors of the gates of Hell. Sin was not allowing Satan to come into Hell, and Death was threatening Satan so he said to them, “Retire, or taste thy folly and learn by proof, Hell-born, not to contend with Spirits of Heav’n”(2.686-687). Satan tries to use his past power to scare both Sin and Death and still identifies himself under the rule of God. This scene shows that while Satan acts like he wants nothing to do with God, he knows that he still needs Him to have power. When Satan rebelled against God, he gained power but was still restricted by God, where when Caliban rebels against Prospero he remains powerless and finds new masters to serve. After he defies Prospero, Caliban becomes faithful to his new masters Stephano and Trinculo, who were strangers shipwrecked on the island, and says, “A plague upon the tyrant that I serve. I’ll bear him no more sticks, but follow thee, thou wonderous man” ( 2.2.168-170). Caliban sings later on the page, “No more dams I’ll make for fish, nor fetch in firing at requiring, nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish, ‘ban, ‘ban, Ca-Caliban has a new master. Get a new man” (2.2.186-191). Here Caliban proves he is no longer under the rule of Prospero, but instead of trying to become powerful himself, he finds a new master to serve. Unlike Satan, Caliban if fine with serving a master, he just wants to be happy while under them. This is why Caliban is immediately faithful to Stephano and Trinculo after Caliban becomes drunk off the alcohol they give him. Each monster had opposite reasons for rebelling, Satan defied God so that he could become powerful while Caliban isn’t looking for power but wants to be treated the way God treated Satan in Heaven.

Caliban and Satan both go against their former masters and seek revenge, but while Satan is successful is his revenge, Caliban fails. Satan, as a revenge plot against God and to gain power, attempts to tempt Eve into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the one tree God told Adam and Eve not to eat from. Satan is successful in tempting Eve to eat the fruit by using extreme flattery towards Eve and telling her that she would be equal to Adam once she eats the fruit. By eating the fruit, Eve disobeys God and Satan is successful in making Earth a sinful world. When Eve is finally tempted by Satan and eats the fruit and disobeys God, the narrator of the novel says, “So saying, her rash hand in evil hour forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate: Earth felt the wound”(4.780-782). When Eve bites and eats the fruit, she goes against God’s command and the Earth becomes sinful. Because God is perfect and cannot rule over a sinful world, Satan gains power over Earth and Hell. Satan accomplishes his goal of gaining power after rebelling against God and throwing away his life in Heaven. Although Satan was successful in his revenge plot against God by being able to make Earth a sinful world and rule over it, Caliban tries to kill Prospero and fails in the process. Once Stephano and Trinculo become Caliban’s new masters, one of the first things he wants to do is to take revenge on Prospero for how poorly he treated him. Caliban mentions that he wants to take away Prospero’s magic book and then make him suffer a brutal death. Caliban is quoted saying, “Having first seized his books, or with a log batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake, or cut his weasand off with thy knife” (3.2.98-100). By taking away Prospero’s magic book, Caliban would be taking away his access to the magic he used to hurt Caliban. Without his magic, Caliban puts Prospero in a vulnerable position, just like how he was under Prospero, so he can eventually kill him. At the end of the play, Caliban is unsuccessful in his efforts to kill Caliban, but Prospero does leave the island and Caliban is left to his own devices on the island, but with no tools to help him. So while Caliban did gain freedom at the end of the play, that wasn’t what he was looking for. Caliban didn’t try to kill Prospero to become free, but let out his pent up aggression from the many years of torture that he put him through and take revenge. So even though Caliban eventually gained freedom, he failed in his original acts of revenge, whereas Satan was successful in his original revenge plot of ruling over a sinful Earth.

Although Satan and Caliban are both viewed in the same category of being a monster, it doesn’t mean that they are similar. Many times people assume that whenever they see the word monster, they are all similar and there is only one type of monster. But when looking closely at where they come from, the power that they possess, and the success of their revenge plots, they are actually complete opposites of each other. Caliban is more deserving of sympathy because all he wanted was to have a master that would treat him well, while Satan threw that paradise away because of his pride.  

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