The Contrast of Treatment: Caliban vs Ariel

The Contrast of Treatment: Caliban vs Ariel

In Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”, two characters – Caliban and Ariel – embody the differing ways in which power is exerted and control is maintained. Caliban, a creature of the earth, is treated with disdain and contempt by Prospero, the powerful magician who controls the entire island. Prospero sees Caliban as nothing more than a savage and a slave, using his knowledge and magic to keep him in check.

On the other hand, Ariel, a magical spirit, is treated with care and respect by Prospero. Ariel is willingly obedient, being grateful to be freed from a tree and eager to serve his master. Prospero recognizes Ariel’s capabilities and rewards him with his freedom once his tasks are complete. Unlike Caliban, Ariel is given the opportunity to be a true friend and ally to Prospero, without the oppressive power dynamic.

Though Caliban and Ariel are both under Prospero’s control, their treatment by him could not be more different. Prospero believes that Caliban is dangerous and uncivilized, while he sees Ariel as useful and trustworthy. This stark contrast in treatment stems from Prospero’s perception of the two characters and his ultimate goal of mastering the island.

There is ambiguity surrounding the treatment of Caliban and Ariel. On one hand, Prospero tries to “make sure” that Caliban does not become too powerful, knowing that he could turn against him. However, Ariel, despite having magical abilities, is treated as a friend and partner in Prospero’s plans. This suggests that Prospero’s treatment of Caliban may stem from a fear of the unknown and a desire to control everything around him.

This theme of treating others based on their usefulness or perceived threat is not unique to Shakespeare’s play. In fact, it is a characteristic that is still relevant in modern society. People are often treated differently based on their abilities, knowledge, and how they can benefit others. This raises questions about the fairness of such treatment and the ethical implications of using power to control and manipulate others.

What Is a Major Difference in the Way That Caliban and Ariel Are Treated

When Ariel is introduced in the opening scene, Prospero asks him: “Dost thou forget/From what a torment I did free thee?” (1.2.257-258). This clearly shows that Prospero believes Ariel owes him gratitude and is willing to use his magical powers to help him. Ariel, in turn, willingly obeys Prospero’s requests and tries to assist him in all his endeavors.

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On the other hand, Caliban is treated as a subject who must be controlled and subjugated. Prospero refers to him as “a born devil” and believes that it is his duty to keep Caliban in check (1.2.319-320). This treatment is evident in the scene where Trinculo and Stephano attempt to make fun of Caliban. Prospero does not intervene to stop them, allowing Caliban to be ridiculed and mistreated.

Furthermore, the way Caliban perceives himself is shaped by the treatment he receives. He internalizes the belief that he is inferior and less human because of his physical appearance and nature. Caliban himself admits, “I must obey: his art is of such power / It would control my dam’s god, Setebos” (1.2.436-437). This demonstrates his resignation to his role as Prospero’s subject and his belief that he is incapable of surpassing his masters.

In contrast, Ariel’s treatment allows him to grow and develop as a character. He becomes more than just a servant, as Prospero promises to set him free and grants him liberty at the end of the play. Ariel’s magical abilities and ethereal nature nurture his potential, which is acknowledged and valued by Prospero.

Overall, the treatment of Caliban and Ariel exemplifies the theme of power and the abuse of power in The Tempest. Prospero’s treatment of Caliban highlights the way in which colonizers often exploit and oppress the indigenous peoples of the lands. On the other hand, Ariel’s treatment showcases the potential for growth and liberation when individuals are given agency and respect. The differing treatments of Caliban and Ariel ultimately underscore the ambiguity and complexity of human nature and the impacts of nurture and power on individuals.

The Caliban Treatment Of The Tempest

Caliban’s treatment is characteristic of the major attitudes of the 17th century English colonizers towards the native people of the islands they discovered. Though Prospero tries to justify his actions by claiming that Caliban is a savage and plotting against him, there is still ambiguity in the way Caliban is treated.

Prospero sees Ariel as a valuable tool who can help him control the island and carry out his plans. He believes that Ariel’s nature is to be obedient and pleasant, whereas Caliban is seen as a beast who needs to be tamed. Prospero’s treatment of Caliban reflects the idea of “nature versus nurture” – that Caliban’s nature and upbringing are what have made him the way he is.

It is also important to note that Caliban’s treatment is influenced by his relationship with Miranda. Whereas Ariel has been a loyal servant to Prospero, Caliban has tried to rape Miranda, which further contributes to Prospero’s harsh treatment of him.

The contrast in treatment between Caliban and Ariel is a major theme in The Tempest. Shakespeare uses this theme to question the actions of the colonizers and their attitudes towards the indigenous people they encountered. Caliban’s treatment can be seen as a reflection of the colonizers’ belief in their own superiority and their willingness to use violence and force to control others.

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In the modernity of the 21st century, the treatment of Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest still raises questions about the treatment of the “other” and the consequences of having power over others. Shakespeare’s work serves as a reminder that the way we treat others, especially those who are different from us, is a major ethical question that still needs to be addressed.

Therefore, the treatment of Caliban in The Tempest is a significant aspect of the play, highlighting the difference between the controlling and abusive power of Prospero and the more willing and cooperative nature of Ariel.

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Caliban’s treatment stems from his subject position as a slave, whereas Ariel’s treatment stems from his willingness to serve Prospero. Caliban, having tried to rape Miranda, is seen as a bitter and failed subject. On the other hand, Ariel’s ambiguous existence and worship-like admiration for Prospero make him a more sympathetic character.

Modernity also plays a role in the differing treatment of Caliban and Ariel. Caliban represents an old way of life, trapped on the island, while Ariel represents a potential future. Prospero believes that Ariel can be a useful tool in controlling the island, whereas Caliban is simply a subject to be used. Therefore, Prospero treats Caliban with disdain and uses his powers to punish him.

The differences in treatment between Caliban and Ariel raise questions about how people should be treated and what tools can be used to ensure prosperity. The opening requests that Caliban makes to Prospero show his desire for freedom and a fair treatment. Meanwhile, Ariel is more concerned with fulfilling his tasks and being appreciated by Prospero. These contrasting attitudes towards treatment highlight the complexities of power dynamics and the ethics of controlling others.

Works Cited

  • Montaigne, Michel de. The Complete Essays. Translated by M. A. Screech, Penguin Classics, 2003.
  • Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Edited by David Lindley, Arden Shakespeare, 2018.


What is the contrast in the treatment of Caliban and Ariel?

The contrast in treatment of Caliban and Ariel in “The Tempest” is quite significant. While Caliban is shown as a savage and is often subjected to abuse and punishment by Prospero, Ariel is treated with more respect and is given tasks that require intelligence and skill.

How is Caliban treated in “The Tempest”?

In “The Tempest,” Caliban is treated as a slave by Prospero. He is often subjected to harsh labor, abuse, and punishment. Caliban is seen as a savage and is constantly reminded of his lowly status.

How does Prospero treat Ariel?

Prospero treats Ariel with more respect and kindness compared to Caliban. He values Ariel’s magical abilities and uses him as a tool to manipulate the events on the island. Prospero promises Ariel freedom once his tasks are completed.

What is a major difference in the way that Caliban and Ariel are treated?

A major difference in the way Caliban and Ariel are treated is in the level of respect and dignity given to them. While Caliban is seen as a brute and treated as a slave, Ariel is appreciated for his magical abilities and is promised freedom by Prospero.

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How does the treatment of Caliban and Ariel differ in “The Tempest”?

In “The Tempest,” the treatment of Caliban and Ariel differs greatly. Caliban is abused, punished, and treated as a subhuman slave, while Ariel is seen as a valuable spirit and is treated more respectfully by Prospero, who appreciates his services.

What is the major difference in the way that Caliban and Ariel are treated?

The major difference in the way that Caliban and Ariel are treated is that Caliban is often portrayed as a savage and is enslaved, while Ariel is depicted as a more ethereal and spiritual being, and serves Prospero willingly.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.