A Tempest Cesaire Essay

Paper 11: The Postcolonial Literature


PG Enrollment No: BU13141001177

MA Sem.: 3

Roll No: 12

Department of English,

Maharaja Krishnakumarsinghji Bhavnagar University


A Tempest by Aime Cesaire is an attempt to confront and rewrite the idea of colonialism as presented in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. He is successful at this attempt by changing the point of view of the story. He made some changes in this play and tells the outcome deal with it. In the way of this play, we are going to discuss about Cultural conflict, discourse in characters and constriction of this play. It is also good to see the relationship between master and slave and how the writer has portrayed. Actually it is also a politic consent structure and hierarchy that Aime Cesaire mentioning by redefining of Shakespeare’s play ’The Tempest’ and here we are also going to discuss about the differences between both the play. To deal with colonialism this play conveys the fact of imperialism. Some changes are made by Aime Cesaire that that tells the fact of colonial studies after that we will come across with gallery of his thoughts and that is what the whole thing is to discuss in this present paper.

Keywords: Aime Cesaire, William Shakespeare, A Tempest, Colonization, Hybridity, Performative utterance, interstitial, dialogic, imperialism.                 

When the work was done, I realized there was not much Shakespeare left.

~ Aime Cesaire

Aime Cesaire Cesaire transforms the characters and transposes the scenes to reveal Shakespeare’s Prospero as the exploitative European power and Caliban and Ariel as the exploited natives. Cesaire’s A Tempest is an effective response to Shakespeare’s The Tempest because he interprets it from the perspective of the colonized and raises a conflict with Shakespeare as an icon of the literary canon. Besides that in In The Tempest by William Shakespeare one might argue that colonialism is a reoccurring theme throughout the play because of the slave-master relationship between Ariel and Caliban and Prospero.

It is also noticeable through the major and minor changes in status among the temporary inhabitants of the island like Trinculo and Stephano. These relationships support the theme that power is not reciprocal and that in a society. A Tempest as a proclamation of resistance to European cultural dominance a project to “de-mythify” Shakespeare’s canonical text. In A Tempest, Caliban attempts to authorize his own freedom by speaking it, positioning speech as a tool to empower the colonized. By placing Caliban, the speaking slave, in the pages of a new play with a specific historical trajectory, Cesaire’s message of colonial empowerment forces a second critique of Shakespeare while also inhabiting a space of its own. To connect speech with power, Cesaire’s text focuses on the role of dialogue within the colonial system, emphasizing its unique ability to move between the disparate subjective spaces of the colonizer and the colonized. Infusing speech theory with politics, Cesaire points out the dual possibilities of negotiation between the colonizers and colonized in his play; speech functions both to disrupt and reaffirm the identities of his players in the colonial system. By presenting colonial power structures as contestable, negotiable, and provisional, A Tempest exists outside the boundaries of a simple revision, as it engages with The Tempest to reveal the potential for language to act.

Actually the background reading is also consent with main progenitor of the negritude movement, an early organized gesture of black resistance to European cultural dominance. Given the political fervor of its author, The Tempest  has become an object of critical scrutiny by both Shakespearean and postcolonial scholars attempting to discern to what extent Cesaire’s revision is a radical departure from Shakespeare’s original Tempest and what Cesaire’s work would mean on its own terms. Navigating a hybrid space between the political and performative, The Tempest becomes necessarily a diverse and discordant conversation between Shakespeare and Cesaire:

The canonical text and its postcolonial revision. Although older criticisms of Cesaire’s A Tempest often simply compare his revision to Shakespeare’s original text in an effort to understand its value as either a commentary upon or update of it, Timothy Scheie represents a new mode of critique that resists a simple analysis of the referential relationship between Shakespeare and Cesaire to understand the meaning of Cesaire’s text on its own. In this way, Scheie moves beyond questioning the legitimacy of Cesaire’s project, instead focusing on the ability of Cesaire’s text to represent colonial systems. Scheie argues that despite Cesaire’s project to critique racist colonial power structures.

A Tempest is a postcolonial revision of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and draws heavily on the original play—the cast of characters is, for the most part, the same, and the foundation of the plot follows the same basic premise. Prospero has been exiled and lives on a secluded island, and he drums up a violent storm to drive his daughter’s ship ashore. The island, however, is somewhere in the Caribbean, Ariel is a mulatto slave rather than a sprite, and Caliban is a black slave. A Tempest focuses on the plight of Ariel and Caliban the never-ending quest to gain freedom from Prospero and his rule over the island. Ariel, dutiful to Prospero, follows all orders given to him and sincerely believes that Prospero will honor his promise of emancipation. Caliban, on the other hand, slights Prospero at every opportunity: upon entering the first act, Caliban greets Prospero by saying “Uhuru!”, the Swahili word for “freedom.” Prospero complains that Caliban often speaks in his native language which Prospero has forbidden. This prompts Caliban to attempt to claim birthrights to the island, angering Prospero who threatens to whip Caliban.

During their argument, Caliban tells Prospero that he no longer wants to be called Caliban, “Call me X. That would be best. Like a man without a name. Or, to be more precise, a man whose name has been stolen.” The allusion to Malcolm X cements the aura of cultural reclamation that serves as the foundational element of A Tempest. Cesaire has also included the character Eshu who in the play is cast as a black devil-god. Calling on the Yoruba mythological traditions of West Africa, Eshu assumes the archetypal role of the trickster and thwarts Prospero’s power and authority during assemblies. Near the end of the play, Prospero sends all the lieutenants off the island to procure a place in Naples for his daughter Miranda and her husband Ferdinand. When the fleet begs him to leave, Prospero refuses and claims that the island cannot stand without him; in the end, only he and Caliban remain. As Prospero continues to assert his hold on the island, Caliban’s freedom song can be heard in the background. Thus, Cesaire leaves his audience to consider the lasting effects of colonialism.

One more thing to be observed is that Aime Cesaire considered to represent the "culmination of his career". Centered around a deposed ruler, Prospero, the play takes place exclusively on a distant island after the ship carrying the King of Naples encounters a powerful storm and the crew is forced to abandon the vessel. We find out that this is caused by the spirit Ariel, a servant of Prospero's. This in fact marks the beginning of a series of actions by Prospero to manipulate the other characters in the play towards his own end. After reassuring his daughter Miranda that no one on the ship was hurt, Prospero proceeds to inform her of how they ended up on the island, being betrayed by his brother Antonio who took his title as Duke of Milan. We then meet Caliban, a slave of Prospero's and the rightful owner of the island by his Mother Sycorax who owned it previously. Soon Ferdinand, the Kings son happens upon Miranda and the two instantly fall in love. Although this is just what Prospero expected and hoped to happen he plays the suspicious father and enslaves Ferdinand despite his daughters protest. The next characters we come across are Alonso, the King of Naples and his party, including his scheming brother Sebastian, Antonio and the good hearted Gonzalo. We find Sebastian and Antonio both plotting against the king despite the dire situation they appear to be in. The next scene has the jester Trinculo and Stephano, a drunk, come across Caliban as he hides from what he takes to be an agent of Prospero's. By the end of this scene Caliban has decided to swear his loyalty to Stephano and secure his aid in killing Prospero. In act 3, scene 3 Prospero finally confronts his enemies as he presents them with a banquet only to snatch it away at the last minute. Ariel echoes his feelings towards them when calling them "three men of sin". Towards the end of the play Prospero again meets with the king’s party and a remorseful Alonso.

This meeting however is meant to reconcile their differences and bring his plan to a close. Alonso restores Prospero's dukedom during their meeting and in turn learns of his son's survival and betrothal to Miranda. He more or less calls out Antonio for the traitor that he is but forgives him nonetheless. The play itself ends with Prospero appealing to the audience to release him from the island through applause. Aime Cesaire's A Tempest is a politicized take on Shakespeare's play created during the late sixties, a time of great social change. It is really a "post-colonial response to The Tempest" and as such deals much more with the story from the point of view of Caliban and Ariel. In this version Caliban is a black slave and the spirit Ariel is represented as a mulatto slave. This version more or less follows the same story however there are other differences from the play which influenced it. The dialogue on Caliban's part is much harsher and more frequent. In saying "I'll impale you! And on a stake that you've sharpened yourself! You'll have impaled yourself!” Caliban's aggression and hate towards Prospero is a bit more evident. There are clear lines drawn between characters based on race and even the formerly neutral Gonzalo is condescending towards what he views as a rebellious Caliban obviously in need of Christianity. Caliban's race and subsequent treatment as a result of is quite obvious and the same with Ariel in his role as the willing servant. Better treated but still a captive, Cesaire's decision to make him a mulatto slave was probably an obvious one as they are traditionally viewed as better treated.

Let’s come to the next point and that is master-slave matter. So here we going to see some dialogues;

PROSPERO: Oh, so you're upset, are you! It's always like that with intellectuals! So be it! What interests me is not your moods, but your deeds. Let's split: I’ll take the zeal and you can keep your doubts. Agreed?

ARIEL: Master, I must beg you to spare me this kind of labor.

PROSPERO: (shouting) Listen, and listen well! I've got a job to do, and I don't care how it gets done!

ARIEL: You've promised me my freedom a thousand times, and I'm still waiting.

Here we see how the treatment is given by master Prospero to his slave Ariel. It is also ay the mindset is constructed of slave and the only thing is become making out if this concern is to be rebellious. But if sense is works and slave get to know that his or her master is depended on him/her.

            Many critics believe Cesaire’s version of The Tempest is about the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized and the struggle for absolute power. In the play, Prospero is the master of the two men, Caliban and Ariel. Prospero is the colonizer and both Caliban and Ariel attempt to gain their freedom from him. Caliban’s approach to freedom is through rebellion while Ariel tries “to appeal to his moral conscience”. In the end, Caliban’s rebellion fails. In his final speech, Caliban charges Prospero with lying to him and holding him inferior. It is a classic example of the colonized rejecting the colonizer. This is a quote taken from this final speech by Caliban:

Prospero, you are the master of illusion.

Lying is your trademark.

And you have lied so much to me

(lied about the world, lied about me)

that you have ended by imposing on me

an image of myself.

underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,

That is the way you have forced me to see myself

I detest that image! What’s more, it’s a lie!

But now I know you, you old cancer,

and I know myself as well. (162)

That’s make our idea clear of colonization and with the concept of superiority. However, this play is substance of discussion. And Aime Cesaire give impact on the play and as flourishing the play he explaining with expanding his idea or realism too. After all by looking all the perspective and give nutshell views my attempt of this paper is justifies.   




Works Cited

Cesaire, Aime. ATempest. Trans. Richard Miller. une Ternpêteby Editions du seuil, paris, France, n.d.

"Books and Writers." kirjasto. <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/cesaire.htm>.

McNary, Brenda. "Understanding Caliban as a Speaking Subject." Ctitical Theory and Social Justice Journal of Undergraduate Research Occidental College 1 (2010): 27.

A Tempest was originally written in 1969 in French by Aime Cesaire and translated into English in 1985 by Richard Miller. It is written as a postcolonial response to The Tempest by William Shakespeare. The story is the same: a big storm, an angry Duke who's been usurped by his brother, all the devoted courtesans, and, of course, the natives. This play deals mostly with the natives, Ariel and Caliban. It is Cesaire's comment on the colonization of the "New World." He has many of the same ideas as C.L.R. James,and Franz Fanon, and he as inspired newer Caribbean writers like Michelle Cliff.

About the author: Aime Cesaire was born in Martinique in
1913. He is renown poet, playwright, and essayist. He began a movement called Negritude Modernisme involving the work of native Caribbean writers and artists. His work has influenced other writers as well as sociologists (see Cesaire link below), like Franz Fanon.


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