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Hannah Dirks
Dr. VanLaningham
ENG 490 Senior Literature Capstone
11 November 2017
Resistance and Revision of Historical Proportions in Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his now famous I Have a Dream

speech in Washington, D.C. as he overlooked a massive crowd that swarmed all the way to the

Lincoln memorial. In this speech he proclaimed;

. . . in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and

hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and

again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. (The

Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. King 225)

Few works emphasize Dr. King’s message of nonviolence over violence more so than Aime

Cesaire’s 1969 play, A Tempest. Cesaire’s revisionist work is especially impactful as it presents a

parallel to the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Cesaire published A Tempest, in 1969 as a response to William Shakespeare’s The

Tempest, Cesaire’s work was later translated from French to English in 1985. As James Arnold,

notes Shakespeare provided the skeleton but it was Cesaire who provided the flesh (248). Cesaire

adapted The Tempest by taking on a post-colonial viewpoint in which he addresses problematic

social codes including issues around race, racial identity and control within colonial oppression.

A Tempest, is also a piece of post-colonial literature because it explores recent history within the
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context of a non-Western society. Cesaire explores this as his work is set on an unnamed African

tropical island (Singh). Through his post-colonial viewpoint he is able to argue that colonialism

works to decivilize the colonized through brutal violence, torture and racial hatred (Kelley xi).

Critics over time respond to Cesaire’s work by examining it within a few different forms

of criticism. Scholars like Arnold analysis A Tempest in relation “. . . to the Shakespearean

model” (236). Others like Jyotsna Singh build upon this by examining Cesaire’s work as a piece

of post-colonial literature due to, “. . . Prospero's ownership of the island and rethinking the role

of Caliban” (Singh). Liang Fei further analyzes Cesaire’s post-colonial viewpoint as, “. . . a call

for freedom and a reflection of the ways to gain freedom” (Fei 1). Robin Kelley focuses on

Cesaire’s personal history and the plays focus on Negritude or what she describes as being, “. .

.the first diasporic “black pride” movement” (Kelly vii). But covering these topics is the

minimum when it comes to examining A Tempest. What these authors miss out on is the

historical inspiration which Cesaire draws from in his to construction of Ariel and Caliban. Only

after Cesaire’s work has been examined in light of its rich historical context can readers have an

experienced reading of A Tempest, as they will understand the historical parallels that inspired

Cesaire’s work.

A Tempest can be examined as an inheritance study of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as he

uses this play as a framework. An inheritance study utilizes an original work and then adapts it in

a new way. A Tempest, can be seen to be an example of this because Cesaire adapts and uses

Shakespeare’s play as a framework. Cesaire had originally planned to translate The Tempest into

French but by the time that he was done, there was not much Shakespeare left and he realized he

had radically rewritten the classic work. Cesaire justified his changing of The Tempest, because a

“. . . great work of art such as Shakespeare’s play belongs to all humanity-and, as such, it can
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undergo as many reinterpretations” (Frassinelli 175). Cesaire’s work acts as an inheritance study

of Shakespeare’s, because he warps The Tempest tragicomedy viewpoint. He does this by

eliminating Shakespeare’s focus on comedy, while bringing stronger elements of tragedy to the

forefront. He zones in on the elements of tragedy due to his post-colonial viewpoint, which show

the reader the dehumanizing effects colonization.

Cesaire decides to take on a post-colonial viewpoint, to not only show the dominating

force of colonial control, but to expose his own personal experiences with colonial oppression.

According to Edward Said post-colonial literature focuses on “. . . a relationship of power, of

domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony” (89). Cesaire within his work

Discourse on Colonialism, further declares that the goal of colonialism was corrupt, as its

purpose was not on improving the lives of the natives, rather it was on domination and economic

gain, as the relationship left no room for, “. . . human contact, but relations of domination and

submission which turn the colonizing man into a class-room monitor, an army sergeant, a prison

guard, a slave driver, and the indigenous man into an instrument of production” (42). Throughout

many of Cesaire’s works, he takes on a post-colonial lens in order to show the dehumanizing

domination that lies at the heart of colonization. Cesaire indirectly uses post-colonial thought

within A Tempest, as a way to show the dominating oppression that African Americans were

facing during the Civil Rights Movement.

In order to pursue his goal of showing the dehumanizing force behind colonization,

Cesaire wrote A Tempest in 1969. Largely swayed by the social context of his time, he drew

inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement of the same decade (Frassinelli 176). Due to his

inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, Cesaire’s work can be studied through the lens of

new historicism. New historicism is when a critic examines the historical and cultural conditions
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in which a work is situated and how these factors are reflected within the text (Abrams 244). By

using thick descriptions or by closely analyzing the play we can see that Cesaire was swayed by

the historical and cultural conditions in which he was living. (Abrams 245). Cesaire was seen to

have found inspiration from the American Civil Rights Movement, because in 1966 he wrote the

poem entitled . . . On the State of the Union in which he lamented about the senseless and brutal

murder of fourteen year old Emmet Till (The Collected Poetry of Aime Cesaire Cesaire 343).

While this is not a direct connection between Cesaire and Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, it

does show that Cesaire was paying close attention to the American Civil Rights Movement. It is

not a far jump then, to propose that only three months later when Martin Luther King figure

headed the Montgomery Bus Boycotts that Cesaire took note.

Cesaire could be seen to be largely swayed by the historical and cultural conditions of the

Civil Rights Movement, which led him to draw inspiration, from Martin Luther King and

Malcolm X. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential leaders within the Civil

Rights Movement. Dr. King was a Baptist minister who became one of the most visible leaders

of the time due to his nonviolent rhetoric (Martin). Cesaire also drew inspiration from Civil

Rights leader Malcolm X. He was a Muslim minister who became largely influential, due to his

powerful rhetoric which he used to advocate for the rights of blacks, while harshly critiquing

whites (X). Cesaire within his work A Tempest, present varying forms of resistance to

colonization through Ariel and Caliban, who work in parallel to the Civil Rights Movement’s

leaders, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Despite this resemblance, ultimately he favors

Ariel’s nonviolent resistance.

Cesaire’s A Tempest in correlation to Shakespeare’s The Tempest

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When examining A Tempest, one must initially compares its plotline to its counterpart

The Tempest. The biggest differences between these works is that Ariel is a mulatto slave,

Caliban is a black slave and Cesaire has added Eshu a black devil god. Jonathan Bate’s in his

article, “Caliban and Ariel Write Back” makes the argument that Cesaire changes the race of his

characters to show their cultures relationship with nature (173). This argument is supported by

Cesaire’s addition of the black devil god, Eshu who displays the relationship between African

culture and nature. It is Eshu’s relationship with nature which leaves Prospero feeling, “. . .

perturbed . . . My old brain is confused. Power! Power! Alas! All this will one day fade, like

foam, like a cloud, like all the world. And what is power, if I cannot calm my own fears? But

come! My power has gone cold” (Cesaire 49-50). Like Bates claims, Cesaire changes the race of

his characters as a way of showing Africans superior relationship with nature.

Frassinelli furthers the analysis of Cesaire’s focus on race within his article,

“Shakespeare and Transculturation: Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest” in this work he argues that racial

identity is a performance (180). Frassinelli came to this conclusion after reading the opening

lines of the play, in which Cesaire proclaims, “Come, gentlemen, help yourselves. To each his

character, to each character his mask” (7). Frassinelli explains that, “. . . through the use of

masks the play denaturalizes the construction of race by drawing attention to the nonidentity

between performers and characters, and therefore to the artificial mechanism through which

identity is constructed onstage—that is to say, to the play’s performance of (racial) identity”

(180-181). Overall, Frassinelli is making the argument that race is a mechanism that is

constructed and then performed.

Scholars like Singh, on the other hand argue that Cesaire changes the race of his

characters in order to reflect the relationship between the colonized and colonial oppressor. She
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makes this argument because Cesaire’s work accepts and even celebrates Caliban's defiant verbal

attacks on Prospero, while showcasing Ariel as someone who is accepting of, “. . . their limited

oppression” (Singh). By changing their skin color, Cesaire is able to show the relationship

between the colonized and the colonial oppressor, because these two characters act as the

colonized to Prospero’s brutally domination. Cesaire’s deliberate decision to change the racial

identity of his characters is crucial, because it allows him to comment on elements of African

American identity within the Civil Rights Movement, through its leaders Malcolm X and Martin

Luther King.

Another drastic difference between Cesaire’s, Tempest and Shakespeare’s Tempest is that

Cesaire takes on a post-colonial lens. This lens shapes his version, because it becomes the

vehicle which drives his work forward. It’s this critical viewpoint which led Cesaire’s to not

address his Prospero as a magician in comparison to Shakespeare’s magical Prospero (Arnold

239). Rather Cesaire’s Prospero is given “white magic” and is called an inventor, who creates

torturous gadgets (Cesaire 54-61). Cesaire did not hide his distaste for Prospero as he described

him as being, “. . . the man of cold reason, the man of methodical conquest-in other words, a

portrait of the “enlightened” European” (Frassinelli 175). Caliban displays this opinion as he

refers to Prospero, as being “. . . a guy who feels something when he’s wiped someone out. A

crusher, a pulverizer, that’s what he is!” (Cesaire 27). Cesaire made the decision to leave his

Prospero undefined rather than calling him a magician, because he wanted to further address

issues surrounding race. By taking away Prospero’s mythical proportions, he is able to present

him as the oppressive and enlightened colonial power.

Cesaire’s A Tempest, continues to parallel The Tempest as Prospero decides to enslave

both of the islands inhabitants, Ariel and Caliban. Prospero enslaves Caliban only after he had
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showed him around the island and introduced him to all of the native vegetation (Cesaire 18-19).

Prospero quickly enslaves the mulatto Ariel, who had been entrapped within a tree. Prospero

muses that it was he, “. . . who freed you from the Sycorax, may I ask? Who rent the pine in

which you had been imprisoned and brought you forth?” (Cesaire 16). With these men enslaved

into his service, he requires them to do tasks for him, which range from chopping wood, to

summing tempests. Cesaire presents his own twist within this reworking through his post-

colonial viewpoint, because he brings Ariel and Caliban’s struggles, to the forefront. From the

chores they have to do, to the brutality they face, to their struggles to gain their freedom at the

hands of the oppressive Prospero, Cesaire is driving his focus on post colonialism to the

forefront, to show the dehumanizing factors, which lie at the heart of colonization.

As the end of the play looms, Cesaire brings his post-colonial viewpoint full circle.

Differing from The Tempest, Prospero decides to remain on the island. While he does free his

faithful servant Ariel, he makes the vow to “save” Caliban (Arnold 248). As the work comes to a

close, Prospero remarks that the island is being dominated by possum, but that he will stand firm

and not let his island be overrun with these vile creatures (Cesaire 65). Through this moment,

Cesaire brings his post-colonial viewpoint full circle, because he is proclaiming that nature is

seizing back the island from the oppressive hands of Prospero, in favor of its African heritage.

But it is Caliban who gets the final line of “FREEDOM HI-DAY! FREEDOM HI-DAY!” (66).

Through this line Cesaire leaves the reader questioning the lasting effects of colonialism.

Caliban’s Resistance

Within A Tempest Cesaire takes on a post-colonial lens in order to show the

dehumanizing domination that lies at the heart of colonization. His post-colonial thought can also

be applied to the brutality and oppression that African Americans were facing during the Civil
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Rights Movement. Cesaire warps this viewpoint in order to show the dominating oppression that

African Americans would have felt living under white hierarchy during the sixties. Post-colonial

thought is then relevant to the Civil Rights movement, because both focus on domination,

resistance and ultimately forming a racial identity amongst these factors.

When examining A Tempest, one can start to see how Cesaire was inspired by the

historical and cultural conditions around him. By using thick description, we can examine how

these characters points of view parallel the Civil Rights Movement’s leaders Malcolm X and

Martin Luther King. Cesaire admitted that this comparison existed within A Tempest, as he is

quoted as saying;

The dominated can adopt several attitudes. One is Caliban’s revolt. Another is Ariel’s

whose path is more complicated-but is not necessarily one of submission, that would be

too simple. … if you want me to specify I’d say there is Malcolm X attitude, and then

there is Martin Luther King’s. (Frassinelli 176)

While Cesaire clearly states, that these parallels are mentioned throughout A Tempest, below are

some justifications that these connects exist and that Cesaire used Malcolm X, in order to shape

his version of Caliban.

Cesaire draws inspiration for his character Caliban from Malcolm X from the onset of A

Tempest. This is the case, because the first time we are introduced to Caliban he defiantly

proclaims that from now he will be called X, because he is like, “. . . a man whose name has been

stolen. You talk about history . . . well, that’s history, and everyone knows it! Every time you

summon me it reminds me of a basic fact, the fact that you’ve stolen everything from me, even

my identity!” (Cesaire 20). The symbolism behind Caliban’s decision to change his name can be

directly linked to Malcolm X, as he too changes his name from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X.
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He made this decision, because the X to him, “. . . symbolized the true African family name that

he never could know. For me, my X replaced the white slavemaster name of “Little” which some

blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears” (X 201). Caliban’s

decision to change his name to X can be directly linked to Malcolm X, because it reflects Cesaire

decision to use Malcolm X as a parallel to Caliban as they both change their names as a way to

reflect their racial identity.

Cesaire also modeled Caliban’s views on varying forms of resistance, based off of

Malcolm X’s viewpoint. Caliban’s point of view on Ariel’s resistance is that it is passive and

submissive, because within his dialogue he states, “What good has your obedience done you,

your Uncle Tom patience and your sucking up to him. The man’s just getting more demanding

and despotic day by day” (Cesaire 26). X similarly stated that, “. . . if you made a list of the

biggest Negro “leaders,” so-called, in 1960, then you’ve named the ones who began to attack us

“field” Negroes who were sounding insane, talking that way about “good massa”” (X 242).

While Malcolm X, doesn’t directly apply his criticism to Martin Luther King, it is easy to infer

that he is correlating this statement to him, as he was one of the biggest leaders of the Civil

Rights Movement. Caliban’s thoughts on his counterpart, perfectly reflect Malcolm X’s as they

both proclaim that their counterparts are acting in both a passive and submissive way as they are

acting as Uncle Toms to their white masters.

Caliban and Malcolm X continue to parallel as they take on similar stances in relation to

nonviolent resistance. Caliban doesn’t believe in nonviolent resistance, because he asks Ariel;

What do you believe in, then? In cowardice? In giving up? In kneeling and groveling?

That’s it, someone strikes you on the right cheek and you offer the left. Someone kicks
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you on the left buttock and you turn the right . . . that way there’s no jealously. Well

that’s not Caliban’s way. . . (Cesaire 27)

Caliban rejects Ariel’s resistance, because he sees it as being submissive and weak minded.

Malcolm X similarly did not believe in passive resistance rather he was ready to lay down his

life for the cause rather than “begging-the-white-man kind of dying. . . all of this sitting-in,

sliding-in, wading-in, eating-in, diving-in, and all the rest” (X 255). Both similarly favored dying

for their causes rather than “kneeling and groveling” or “sliding in” which they saw as being

passive, submissive and even ultimately a weak form of resistance.

Another interesting way in which Malcolm X and Caliban, can be analyzed is through

their similar education frustrations. From the onset of Malcolm X’s life he had a negative

experience with education, which largely resulted from a school experience in which his teacher

told him he needed to be;

. . . realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer-that’s no realistic goal for a nigger. You need

to think about something you can be. You’re good with your hands-making things.

Everybody admires your carpentry shop work. Why don’t you plan on carpentry? People

like you as a person-you’d get all kinds of work. (X 37)

This experience influenced him so much, that when he was in the ninth grade he decided to quit

school and drop out. After his departure he faced a life of poverty, crime, imprisonment and drug

abuse. Looking back on his life in his autobiography, he later remarked that it was one of his

biggest regrets that he did not get the education he deserved, which halted him from becoming a

lawyer like he always dreamed (X 386). The metaphor continues as Caliban had his education

influenced by Prospero. Caliban remarks that Prospero, did not teach him anything except to

understand his language so he could obey his orders as Prospero was “. . . too lazy to do it
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yourself. And as for your learning, did you ever impart any of that to me? No, you took care not

to” (17). This is an element of tragedy, because both Malcolm X and Caliban face belittlement at

the hands of their educators, which then shaped the way they were not only viewing themselves

but whites.

Another connection between Caliban and Malcolm X, is that they were penalized after

their interactions with white women. Within the rising action of the play, Caliban is penalized

after his interaction with Miranda, because her father sees him as being impulsive and

animalistic, which leds him to believe that Caliban attempted to rape his daughter. But Miranda

never admits to this encounter, rather she states that Caliban kept pursuing her and that he thinks

of her during his dreams (Cesaire 38). The audience is left questioning if Caliban ever committed

this crime, as he never admits to this brutality, rather he proclaims that all he did was lust after

her (Cesaire 19). Malcolm X too was brandished for his interactions with a white women. He felt

wronged, because he believed that he was imprisoned due to his sexual relationship with a white

women, rather than his role within a string of robberies. He believed that the prosecutors

couldn’t see beyond the fact that he was a black man, who had taken a white man’s women (X

151). Through these similar interactions with white women, Cesaire is seen to draw inspiration

form Malcolm X in his crafting of Caliban, because both were penalized as a result of their

interactions with white women, due to their race and social standing.

It is no surprise then that these past experiences resulted in both taking on an anti-

integration stance. It is this point of view which lead Caliban to proclaim;

That’s right, that’s right! In the beginning, the gentlemen was all sweet talk: dear

Caliban here, my little Caliban there! And what do you think you’d have done without

me in this strange land? Ingrate! I taught you the trees, fruits, birds, the seasons, and now
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you don’t give a damn. . . Caliban the animal, Caliban the slave! I know the story! Once

you’ve squeezed the juice from the orange, you toss the rind away! (Cesaire 19)

Through this quote Caliban is not in favor of integration, because after he was done helping

Prospero understand the islands tropical setting he was tossed away. Malcolm X similarly felt

this way as he preached that “No sane black man really believes that the white man ever will

give the black man more than a token integration. No! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches

that for the black man in America the only solution is complete separation from the white man!”

(X 248). Through these quotes Cesaire is driving elements of tragedy to the forefront, because

both Malcolm X and Caliban did not see racial integration as being a possible outcome.

Malcolm X and Caliban continue to compare to each other through their passionate

resistance. Both resist in a passionate manner, because while their rhetoric and actions are often

fiery and bold they don’t aim to instigate violence. Caliban shows his passionate resistance

within the falling action of the play when he proclaims, “Better death than humiliation and

injustice” and that he would be willing to, “. . . get hold of a few barrels of your infernal powder

and as you fly around up there in your blue skies you’ll see this island, my inheritance, my work,

all blown to smithereens . . . and, I trust, Prospero and me with it. I hope you’ll like the fireworks

display-it’ll be signed Caliban” (Cesaire 28). Malcolm X similarly showed his passion for

resistance, when in a 1965 speech he questioned, “What shade of black African polluted by devil

white man are you? You see me – well, in the streets they used to call me Detroit Red. Yes! Yes,

that raping, red-headed devil was my grandfather!” (Howard-Pitney 108). Ultimately, Cesaire

presents us with this similarity as a way to explore passionate resistance, which while bold

doesn’t aim to instigate violence.

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Both Caliban and Malcolm X continue to show similarities, due to the symbolism in the

legacies they left behind. As A Tempest resolution looms, Prospero remarks, that “. . . for some

time now we seem to be overrun with opossums. They’re everywhere. Peccarys, wild boar, all

this unclean nature! But mainly opossums. Those eyes! The vile grins they have! It’s as though

the jungle was laying siege to the cave” (Cesaire 65). As nature is reclaiming its role on the

island, Caliban declares his rightful ownership when he declares, “FREEDOM HI-DAY!

FREEDOM HI-DAY!” (Cesaire 66). Caliban’s legacy is then forcing people to notice the lasting

effects of colonialism. As the play closes Cesaire brings his post-colonial lens full circle, because

Caliban has ripped back the curtain to show the control that lies at the heart of colonization.

Malcolm X’s legacy on the other hand is complex, as many think of him as violent, biased and

racially insensitive, this is not entirely true. This is not the complete picture because Malcolm X

acted as, “. . . a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has

committed against my race” (X 388). What people often miss when examining Malcolm X is that

he was not violent, rather he was a person who had a shifting and evolving ideology. Overall,

both Caliban and Malcolm X acted as a mirror to show people the horrors of racial injustices.

Ariel’s Resistance
Within A Tempest, Cesaire presents us with varying forms of resistance to colonization

through his characters, Ariel and Caliban. Cesaire presents us with these methods of resistance as

a way to further his post-colonial lens. While Caliban resists in a passionate way, Ariel takes on

a nonviolent approach. Despite these contrasting forms of resistance both show the

dehumanizing domination at the heart of colonization. But Cesaire’s post-colonial thought can

also be applied to the oppression and brutality that African Americans were facing during the

Civil Rights Movement in the sixties, as they too were resisting domination.
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Cesaire found inspiration from the cultural and historical context around him, because

his characters Caliban and Ariel work in parallels to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. He

admitted that he drew inspiration from the American Civil Rights Movement, as he stated;

I have always recognized that what was happening to my brothers in Algeria and the

United States had its repercussions in me. I understood that I could not be indifferent to

what was happening in Haiti or Africa. Then, in a way, we slowly came to the idea of a

sort of black civilization spread throughout the world. (Discourse on Colonialism Cesaire


By applying thick description we can recognize that Cesaire was paying close attention to the

racial injustices occurring within the United States. It is not a far jump then to assume that

Cesaire was aware of the injustices occurring during the American Civil Rights Movement.

One of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who Cesaire may have been aware of

was Martin Luther King. King is widely known for his six principles of nonviolence which came

as a result of his involvement in the 1955-1956 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. King stated

that this was the birth place of his principles because the people in Montgomery were, “. . .

willing to grapple with a new approach to the crisis in race relations. It is probably true that most

of them did not believe in nonviolence as a philosophy of life, but because of their confidence in

their leaders and because nonviolence was presented to them as a simple expression of

Christianity in action, they were willing to use it as a technique (The Autobiography of Martin

Luther King, Jr. King 68). It is from this movement, which King’s six principles of nonviolence

were created. King reflected on the birth of his six principles of nonviolence within his work

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, which was published in 1957. So it is possible
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that when Cesaire published A Tempest in 1969, that he had read this work and was influenced

by King’s principles.

King’s first principle of nonviolence is that one must resist evil without resorting to

violence (Martin). This is reflected in Ariel’s ideology, because within the rising action he states,

“No violence, no submission either” (Cesaire 27). Ariel says this as he does not need to become

violent in order to overthrow his oppressor. Rather he remains nonviolent, but not submissive to

Prospero. Cesaire presents us with this parallel as a way to showcase the necessity of nonviolent

resistance. Ariel and King continue to show similarities, as they both wish to become friends

with their opponents, which will allow them to better understand their adversary’s actions.

King’s second principle of nonviolence is to, “. . . not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent,

but to win his friendship and understanding” (Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

King 102). Ariel represents this ideal as he strives to become friends and even brothers with both

Caliban and Prospero. Ariel inspires to this, because within his dialogue he states that he, “. . . .

dreams that one day Prospero, you, me, we would all three set out, like brothers, to build a

wonderful world, each one contributing his own special thing” (Cesaire, 27). Cesaire is seen to

be drawing inspiration from King in his crafting of Ariel, as both wish to form friendships with

their oppressors, as a way of better understanding their advisories actions and motivations.

Cesaire continues to draw from King’s six principles of nonviolence, as both realize that

it is evil which evokes people to do bad things, thus it is this evil which they seek to eradicate.

King proclaims that, “It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons

victimized by evil” (Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story King 103). Ariel echoes

this ideal, because he realizes that it is nether Caliban or Prospero’s fault that they can’t get

along, rather it is the evil which is controlling them. After coming to this realization he decides
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that it is his job to intervene and conquer the wickedness living within them. He confronts

Prospero’s corruption when he proclaims, “. . . Prospero is the one we’ve got to change. Destroy

his serenity so that he’s finally forced to acknowledge his own injustice and put an end to it”

(Cesaire 27). Ariel also acknowledges the wickedness within Caliban, when he states, “Master,

let me intercede for him and beg your indulgence. You’ve got to understand: he’s a rebel”

(Cesaire 50). Through these quotes Cesaire is driving elements of tragedy to the forefront,

because both King and Ariel want to eradicate the evil which victimizes people.

Ariel continues to echo King, as both are willing to suffer as result of their nonviolent

ideology. Within his fourth principle of nonviolence King remarks that, “. . . those committed to

nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retaliation as suffering itself can be redemptive”

(Martin). Ariel suffers at the hands of Prospero, because he is left feeling tired and disgusted

after he had summoned the tempest, which he did, “. . . most unwillingly. It was a real pity to see

that great ship go down, so full of life” (Cesaire 16). In this scene Ariel echo’s King’s fourth

principle, because he suffers at the hands of his oppressor but remains true to his nonviolent

resistance. Despite enduring this pain Ariel finds it redemptive, as he never gives up his hopes

for freedom stating, “You’ve promised me my freedom a thousand times. And I’m still waiting”

(Cesaire 16). Cesaire is using this as a metaphor, because both King and Ariel despite their

suffering remain committed to their nonviolent resistance.

Ariel’s nonviolent resistance continues to echo Kings as both remain true to nonviolent

resistance, by refusing to give in to internal or external violence. King stated that the nonviolent

protestor must, “. . . avoid not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit.

The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him”

(Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story King 103). He furthered this ideal as the
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nonviolent protestor must remain true to agape, or the Greek word for love, which is

overflowing, groundless, creative, spontaneous and unmotivated (Stride Toward Freedom: The

Montgomery Story King 104). Ariel’s resistance represents agape, as within a scene he states that

he is working to free himself, Caliban and even his oppressor Prospero. He showcases this as he

states he is “. . . not fighting just for my freedom, for our freedom, but for Prospero too, so that

Prospero can acquire a conscience” (Cesaire 27). Cesaire uses King’s fifth principle nonviolence

as a way to shape Ariel’s character, as both represent agape which allows them to avoid internal

and external violence while staying true to their nonviolent resistance.

King’s sixth and final principle of nonviolence is that the nonviolent resistor must have a

deep faith in the future or “. . . the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.

Consequently, the believer in nonviolence has deep faith in the future” (Stride Toward Freedom:

The Montgomery Story King 106). This principle is reflected in Ariel, because as the resolution

of the play looms he gains his freedom, vowing that he will keep fighting for others. He promises

Prospero that he, “. . . shall be the thrush that launches its mocking cry to the benighted field –

hand, “Dig, nigger! Dig, nigger!” (Cesaire 58). By making this proclamation at the climax of the

play he is showing his faith in the future, because he aims to spread the message of nonviolent

resistance, in the hope that one day everyone will be freed from the hands of their oppressors.

Untimely, Cesaire presents this parallel to the reader, because he wants to leave them feeling as

if they too can stand up and fight for their freedoms.

Ariel’s Superior Resistance

Through A Tempest, Cesaire presents us with varying forms of resistance to colonization

through his characters, Ariel and Caliban who work in parallel to Malcolm X and Martin Luther

King. Cesaire presents these differing forms of resistance in order to critic colonialism and the

racial injustices happening in the United Sates during the Civil Rights Movement. He offers
D i r k s P a g e | 18

contrasting methods of resistance through Caliban’s passionate resistance and Ariel’s nonviolent

ideology. He focuses on both of these methods of resistance as a way to show the dehumanizing

domination that lies at the heart of colonization. Cesaire does this to critique the oppression and

brutality that those who were living under colonialism and during the Civil Rights Movement

would have felt.

Cesaire offers varying forms of resistance through Caliban and Ariel, as Caliban favors

passionate resistance, while Ariel favors nonviolence. Cesaire fashioned these contrasting forms

of resistance, as a way to allow the reader to divulge into both methods of resistance. Ariel’s

ideology not only works in parallel to King’s six principles of nonviolence, but his approach also

echo’s Aime Cesaire’s resistance against his own colonial oppressor. Ultimately, Cesaire is seen

to favor Ariel’s nonviolent resistance, because it parallels his own activism.

From the resolution of the play, Cesaire is in favor of Ariel’s nonviolent ideology,

because his resistance is successful while Caliban’s is not. Prospero simply gives Ariel his

freedom by stating, “Go! Scram! Before I change my mind!” (Cesaire 59). But Caliban’s

resistance on the other hand is not successfully, thus it is not favorable to Cesaire. Caliban’s

resistance is not successful, as he is not given his freedom at the end of the play. Rather he is left

alone on the tropical island setting, with Prospero. As the play ends we hear Caliban defiantly

scream Uhuru. By yelling this, the audience is left pondering if Caliban will ever gain his

freedom from Prospero. Overall, Cesaire would be in favor of Ariel’s resistance as it is

successful as he is granted his freedom, while Caliban remains enslaved by Prospero.

While Ariel’s resistance is not only more successful, it is favored by Cesaire. This

comparison can be drawn, because both favor nonviolence resistance in the way they stood up to

their oppressors. Cesaire choose nonviolence by becoming a teacher, which enabled him to stand
D i r k s P a g e | 19

up to his oppressors by spreading the message of peace within his classroom (Hale 135). He then

incorporated this into Ariel’s resistance as he not only tries to teach Caliban and Prospero to love

each other, but he too wants to spread the message of nonviolent resistance (Cesaire 58). Cesaire

is then in favor of Ariel’s resistance, as they both become teachers of nonviolence.

Cesaire further favors Ariel’s resistance as both spread the message of resistance through

creative way. Cesaire launched the cultural magazine, Tropiques to spread the message of peace

to the masses. The publication of this magazine is important, as it was launched during World

War II (Hale 135). Launching this magazine allowed Cesaire to express how he felt about

Hitler’s actions and the Vichy regime which was dominating his home of Martinique. Ariel

reflects this, because at the plays climax he tells Prospero that he will inspire people to take back

their freedom from the hands of their oppressors. While Ariel may not be spreading his message

through the written word like Cesaire, he is still spreading his message in the hope that it will

inspire his audience to take action. Cesaire is then in favor of Ariel’s resistance, as they both

work to spread the message of nonviolence in a creative way.

In order to pursue his goal of showing the dehumanizing force behind colonization,

Cesaire wrote A Tempest in 1969. Using Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a framework A Tempest

acted as an inheritance study, as he changed the racial identity of his characters. Cesaire made

the decision to change his characters racial identities, as a way to show the relationship between

the colonial oppressor and the colonized. This allows him to present the reader with varying

forms of resistance to colonization. Cesaire presents us with these differing methods of resistance

as Caliban resists in a passionate way, while Ariel takes on a nonviolent approach. Cesaire’s

structuring of Ariel and Caliban’s resistance was largely swayed by the context in which he was
D i r k s P a g e | 20

living. This is the case, because he drew inspiration from the American Civil Rights Movement

of the sixties. Due to Cesaire’s inspiration from the historical and cultural conditions around him,

his work can be studied through the lens of new historicism (Abrams 244). By applying thick

description, we can see that Cesaire was swayed by not only the American Civil Rights

Movement, but by its leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. While there is no direct

connection between these men, Cesaire was quoted as saying that he found inspiration from the

American Civil Rights Movement, and that there is a Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

attitude within A Tempest. Ultimately within A Tempest, Cesaire presents the reader with varying

forms of resistance to colonization through Ariel and Caliban, who echo the Civil Rights

Movement’s leaders, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Despite this resemblance, ultimately

he favors Ariel’s nonviolent resistance.

Nonviolence is not only more successful within the context of A Tempest, it is also more

successful today. According to The Washington Post’s article, “How the world is proving Martin

Luther King right about nonviolence” “. . . from 1900 to 2015, nonviolent campaigns succeeded

51 percent of the time, whereas violent campaigns succeeded 27 percent of the time. So far this

decade, 30 percent of nonviolent campaigns have succeeded, whereas 12 percent of violent

campaigns have succeeded” (Chenoweth). On average, nonviolent movements gain 11 times

more participations than armed uprising. Nonviolence is then more successful today, as these

campaigns gain more participants, and are more prosperous than their counterparts. While there

are varying methods of resistance within both A Tempest and within the contemporary world,

nonviolent resistance is more successful within both contexts. Be it the leaders of the Civil

Rights Movement or Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest all inspire us to continue striving for not only

what we believe in, but for equality for all.

D i r k s P a g e | 21

Works Cited

Abrams, M.H., and Geofrey Galt Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. tenth ed.,

Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.

Arnold, A. James. “Césaire and Shakespeare: Two Tempests.” Comparative Literature, vol. 30,

no. 3, 1978, pp. 236–248. JSTOR,


Bate, Jonathan. “Caliban and Ariel Write Back.” Shakespeare and Race. Edited by Cathering

M.S. Alexander and Stanley Wells, Cambridge University Press, 2000, 165-176.

Cesaire, Aime and Robin D. G. Kelley. Discourse on Colonialism. Monthly Review Press,


Cesaire, Aime. A Tempest. New York, NY, Theatre Communications Group, 1969.

Césaire Aimé, The Collected Poetry of Aime Cesaire. Berkeley, University of California Press,


Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J. Stephan. “How the world is proving Martin Luther King right

about nonviolence.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Jan. 2016,



Fei, Liang. “A Call for Freedom: Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest.” Canadian Social Science, vol. 3,

no. 5, Oct. 2007, pp. 1–3.

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Frassinelli, Pier Paolo. “Shakespeare and Transculturation: Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest” Native

Shakespeares: Indigenous Appropriations on a Global Stage, edited by Craig Dionne and

Parmita Kapadi, Aldershot, 2008, 173-186.

Hale, Thomas “Aimé Césaire: A Biobibliographical Note” Callaloo 17 (1983): 134–136.

Howard-Pitney, David, et al. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle

of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents. Boston, Bedford/St. Martin's,


Kelley, Robin. “Poetry & the Political Imagination: Aime Cesaire, Negritude & the Applications

of Surrealism.” A Tempest, Theatre Communications Group, 1969, pp. vii-XVI.

King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York, Harper, 1958.

King, Martin Luther. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson,

New York, NY, Intellectual Properties Management Inc., 1998.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. And The Global Freedom Struggle.” Nonviolent Resistance, Stanford

University, 2017.



Edward, Said. “Orientalism” The Post-Colonial Studies Reader edited by Bill Ashcroft et

al., Routledge, London, 1995, 87-91.

Singh, Jyotsna. “Post-Colonial Reading of The Tempest.” The British Library, The British
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Library, 24 Feb. 2016, https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/post-colonial-reading-of-

the-tempest. Accessed 22 Aug. 2017.

X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Brattleboro, Vermont, Grove

Pres, INC., 1964.

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Weathering the Capstone Tempest

My capstone process began in a rather unusual manner. It’s summer 2017, Childish

Gambino’s “Redbone” is loudly pouring from my cars speakers, and the wind is whipping

through my open car windows. It is this sensation which made the summer feel like it could last

for eternity. But as I watched the late August sun set in my review mirror, I knew that this was

not the case, but I still didn’t want to admit that the upcoming semester was quickly gaining on

me. As I looked at my friend in the passenger seat, I mumbled to him that the dreaded school

year would soon be upon us. As he looked at me and chuckled, he sarcastically inquired as to

what my goals were for the semester ahead. I paused. I needed to think about the semester to

come and it was only then that, it dawned on me the process that lay ahead. I mean I had not one

but TWO capstone papers, to not only write but to present. As I looked at him, I wittily replied

that my goal was to simply make it through the storm that lay ahead of me.

As the summer slowly drew to a close and I watched as the late August sun, shine its

every fading rays on the school year ahead, I slowly begrudgingly began to accept, that it was

time. Time to start my capstone. But where to start? On Saturday, August 12th 2017 I decided

that it was time to start. It started off like any other Saturday, I woke up at 4:50 a.m. for my shift

at Einstein Brothers Bagels. But as the day grew to a close, I decided to turn on the news, a

decision I’ll never forget. I watched as a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia were

merciless run over. I was stunned at the racial hatred and violence, which was being spewed in

Charlottesville. My disappointment only grew when I didn’t hear President Trump condemn the

white nationalists. As I watched these shocking events unfold, I knew that it was time. Time to

start my capstone. As the summer dwindled down, I tore through A Tempest once again, then I
D i r k s P a g e | 25

scavenged for any and all sources that I could find that would help me relate A Tempest to the

tumultuous society around me.

As the last of summer’s glories rays faded into obscenity, and the fall leaves soon began

to dominate the horizon, the school year was upon me with a gusto. Gone were the long

thoughtless lazy dog days of summer. In their stead stood the mechanical and head splitting days

of the school year. It was finally time, time to really get cracking on my capstone. Time to start

reading my sources, writing, editing, and yes even meeting with my readers. As this dawned on

me, I wondered if it was too late to run? Or to at least drop one of my majors? I mean what other

crazy person decides to take two capstones within one semester? As these questions pounded my

every waking moment I decided that I had come this far, and that I needed to weather the

tempest ahead of me. Man I’m happy that I did. Weathering this has taught me, that I actually

enjoy some aspects of the writing process. Something I would’ve never admit before this.

Weathering the tempest that has been my capstone process, has more importantly taught

me invaluable things about myself. While I may not be the most vocal person, this process has

taught me that I have a voice, and that I need to stand up and fight for what I believe in. This

paper allowed me this opportunity, as never before would I a white twenty-one year old girl from

Dubuque, Iowa had a conversation about race. It is this paper which gave me confidence in

which to utilize my voice. It is my newfound voice and confidence, which will allow me to keep

fighting and standing up for what I believe in.