We can only fully understand Shakespeare’s Caliban if we consider his career as a servant and student in Prospero’s “cell.” Critics have long acknowledged that this career is key to Caliban’s character in the play’s current moment, but they typically say little about the mundane ways that service and education were supposed to influence early modern young people. As training-grounds for life, early modern households and schoolrooms were supposed to equip servants and students with a hierarchical world-view and flexible capacities for political action. Caliban speaks and acts like someone who absorbed such training in Prospero’s “cell” and who subsequently became disillusioned by it. Reading Caliban in this way illuminates aspects of his fraught and critically contested history with Prospero and Miranda as well as the play’s relationship with early modern cultures of service and education more generally.


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pp. 397-423
Launched on MUSE
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