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Aimé Césaire's Reworking of Shakespeare: Anticolonialist Discourse in "Une Tempête"

Author(s): Laurence M. Porter

Source: Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (1995), pp. 360-381
Published by: Penn State University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40247009
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Aimé Césaire's Reworking of Shakespeare:
Anticolonialist Discourse in Une Tempête

During most of the Vichy occupation of Martinique and the remaining

years of World War II (April 1941 to September 1945), Aimé Césaire
carried out the program announced two years earlier in his Cahier d'un
retour au pays natal, opposing racism by inspiring pride in his people. His
journal, Tropiques, published a series of articles intended to put the
Martinicans in touch with their own land, history, and traditions. l But
his political resolve appears to have been crystallized in 1944 by his
seven-month visit to Haiti, symbol and illustration of the possibility for
black autonomy in the Caribbean. He soon was elected mayor of Marti-
nique's principal city, Fort-de-France, and deputy to the French Na-
tional Assembly in 1945. There he led the commission that drafted the
bill of March 19, 1946, establishing the Départements d'Outre-Mer (D.
O. M.). He has been severely criticized for missing the opportunity to
make Martinique independent.2 But such criticism seems unjust: at that
time, Martinique was too weak, economically, to stand alone, owing to
the shortages caused by the Allied blockade, and was stifled politically
by the highly centralized French administration. Only twelve years later
was France to allow autonomy in her former colonies in Africa. In
addition, Césaire respected the request voted on February 6, 1946, by
the governing body of those he represented, the Conseil générale de la
Martinique, which resolved: "Nous voulons l'assimilation, parce qu'elle
est l'aboutissement de toute notre formation, trois fois séculaire." Within


Copyright © 1995. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

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these limitations, Césaire had tried unsuccessfully to reserve special pow-

ers for the D. O. M.3
His vocal support of anticolonialism, as a worldwide movement, wa
prepared by the independence movements in Madagascar and in Vietna
in the late 1940s, and provoked by Octave Mannoni's Prospero an
Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization.* Mannoni's psychoanalytica
speculations attempted to negate the nationalistic implications of th
1947 uprising and its bloody suppression in the then French colony o
Madagascar. Mannoni diagnosed the independence movement as the am
bivalent symptom of the black person's "dependency complex," interac
ing with the white European colonizer's sublimated Oedipal desire f
mastery, in rivalry with the symbolic father. That desire, Mannoni a
gued, led the European to quit country and family in quest of a freedom
and autonomy that the Malagasy themselves - so Mannoni claimed -
could neither imagine nor desire. To rule and dominate the latter was the
Westerner's burden, as symbolic father, and by punishing the rebels, he
would reassure them of the stability of his restraining power.5
Césaire retorted promptly with his Discours sur le colonialismet6 which
reflects his emerging doubts about the efficacy of European Marxism for
helping the Third World achieve eventual independence.7 At the sam
time that he refuted Mannoni's paternalistic views, he also rejected th
Eurocentric left-wing views that would keep the Third World striving fo
autonomy, dependent on the guidance of Marxist thought. To redefin
Caribbean experience in Caribbean terms, he founded his own socialis
Progressive Party in 1958. From 1961 onward, he consistently advocat
an autonomous federation of the D. O. M. in the Antilles and in
Guyane.8 Throughout the 1960s, he attempted to prepare his constituents
psychologically for self-rule and eventual nationhood through both politi-
cal and cultural action.
As a form of cultural action, he wrote three plays that presented
accessible, inspirational models of blacks' struggles for independence.
The international context of the plays aimed to remind the Martinicans
that morally, at least, they were not alone, and that their own striving
for justice could in turn inspire others. Theater made Césaire's state-
ments accessible to even the illiterate.9
The last of these plays, Une Tempête (1969), parodies Shakespeare's
original, satirizing the jarring contrast between the theory and practice of
post-Shakespearean colonialism, between benevolent words and ready

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threats and uses of violence.10 It remains the only fu

adaptation,11 and constitutes a detailed condemnation of
racism, rivaled in Césaire's career only by his master
Often studied, 12 Césaire's parody deserves more attentio
received, to explain the two added framing scenes, th
above all, the changes that transform Shakespeare's dream
a vehicle for a satire of the Eurocentric, colonial imperia
only after Shakespeare's time. 13 Césaire's choice of a
also suggests that no corner of white culture should be i
cal scrutiny. Césaire's intent is not to attack Shakespeare
protesting the derogatory stereotypes of "natives" that T
trayal of a bestial Caliban clearly can be exploited to
though Caliban's mother herself came from Europe, s
second-generation settler. The Tempest itself implic
moral worth of each character according to the depth of
ity to recognize Caliban as akin to the human. 14
The initial suggestion to adapt The Tempest came f
Serreau, the director of Césaire's two previously staged p
ing, Césaire insisted on a free hand and systematically
original into a study of the master/slave relationship
critical reflection on the value system of western hum
236-37). Here we must distinguish among three, not
viewpoints. Although Shakespeare clearly is influenc
and aware of Indians, to whom he refers in his text, 15 th
does occur in the Mediterranean, on a voyage from Tunis
In his depiction of Caliban, Shakespeare himself prim
medieval Wild Man topos, whose topographical referen
be Europe, not the Americas: what if the other were
lacked his own language (except, perhaps, in an incoh
form) and literacy?16 The second viewpoint, against w
tends, is the post-Shakespearean, racist, colonialist vi
that the other is not civilized. And the third viewpo
colonialist one, explains that it is the Europeans' greed
both, which prevent them from recognizing that the ot
lized, although different.
For Césaire's purposes, that Shakespeare's original ve
action on an exotic island17 makes it well suited for
political allegory of the Antilles. The marooned Prospero

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from Césaire's point of view, must have recalled to hirrnthe thousands

French sailors stranded in the Antilles for many months after the N
invasion of France. The islanders had to host and support these fo
eigners - many were ignorant and crudely prejudiced - while frequen
receiving little but hostility and contempt in return.
Shakespeare's essentialist views, not necessarily racist themselves,
readily be used by racists concerned with preserving the status quo. In
Tempest Caliban's revolt is only a secondary disturbance of the so
nexus, destined to be set right as are all such disturbances in Shakespear
plays. The cast of characters foretells the outcome: Prospero's evil broth
is styled "the usurping Duke of Milan," and Prospero himself, "the righ
Duke of Milan." That the first words of the text are "The Scene,
uninhabited Island," underscores that Caliban and Ariel are not hum
to Shakespeare (Ariel himself acknowledges as much with his "wer
human," 5.1.19) and therefore possess no rights beyond those grant
through the indulgence of Prospero. All of Shakespeare's story is told f
Prospero's viewpoint - or more accurately, when other human character
perceptions are directly presented, they are enchanted by love or magic
or deceived in the belief that they are the sole masters of their destiny
Prospero assumes that because he has "created" Caliban as a civiliz
being, Caliban himself cannot be creative. Prospero's exclusive posses
of "magic" (reaffirmed in Shakespeare, ultimately exposed as delusional
Césaire) betokens his (claim to a) monopoly on creativity. If Caliba
defies him, it can only be as a fallen creature, a Galatea gone wrong.
To date, comparisons of Césaire and Shakespeare have limited the
selves to content, neglecting the plays' overall form. By writing entirely
prose, Césaire removes the aestheticizing distraction of verse: he m
his text entirely businesslike, to function as a denunciation of colon
ism. He thus also removes the hierarchical distinction, in Shakespea
between those who speak in prose and those who speak in verse: t
plebeian sailors, Stephano, and Trinculo, as opposed to the nobles. E
ing this invidious distinction, Césaire suggests that all have the s
rights. In contrast, Shakespeare's and Césaire's Prosperos share the b
that Caliban is like an animal, has no language other than what Pros
taught him, and therefore, no valid viewpoint of his own. That Sha
speare's Ariel and Caliban often speak in verse, however, ennobles t
linguistically and problematizes Prospero's elitist viewpoint.
The superficial significance of Césaire's leveling of language is that Pr

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pero's claims to absolute superiority, in his confrontations w

undercut by presenting the discourse of both on roughly t
elegance. The deeper implications, suggested by Caliban's
onstrations of aesthetic and linguistic sensibilities in Shake
applied to drama, parody tends to flatten the text, whe
narrative, it tends to enrich it. I mean that oppositional pa
Gegengesang as distinguished from Beigesang) functions th
that generates an intertextuality (as an awareness in the he
calling into question the self-sufficient, absolute status of an
by confronting it with another, external text, or by exposin
contradictions. 18 Thus parody complicates. But drama, a me
ing voices, forms a sort of Sàngerkrieg in which each voice
itself. To make its point, parody simplifies drama; it reduce
two, in sharp contrast: here, racist authoritarianism ver
protest. Thus Césaire, for example, eliminates the seren
Prospero, and the inquisitive, role-playing, sexually aw
Orgel, 13-20). He passes over the moment when Miranda
of Caliban than is Prospero, when she expresses great reluc
him: " 'Tis a villain, sir, / I do not love to look on"
exclamation that clearly prepares her "Abhorred slave"
misattributed to Prospero (1.2.353-64), who at least wi
Caliban's presence if only to exploit him (1.2.312-15). Cé
Miranda altogether from this confrontation with Caliban, so
racist voice in Prospero.
Both authors frame the play to emphasize its artificiality,
tive effects are quite different. Shakespeare's frame glo
Césaire's diminishes him. The epilogue, a convention
plays though not in Shakespeare's, usually asks the indu
plause of the audience, in a deferred captatio benevolent
adopts it, for once, in this play, identifying himself with P
that has been prepared throughout the final act. 19 Thus h
farewell to the magic of artistic creation and of the the
Tempest, he was to write no more than, at most, Henry
Césaire, in contrast, puts his framing scene at the beg
added character, "Le Meneur du Jeu," urges everyone
corresponding to his or her chosen role. Only half a page lo

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is fraught with suggestions. Most obviously, it demystifies Prospero as th

imperialist magician who stages most of the events at will. No longer is it
he who is the chief master of illusion; no longer does the colonial usurper
exercise an almost unquestioned authority close to that of the playwright
himself. It is the "Meneur du jeu" who actually summons the tempes
implicitly identified as a Yoruba god, Shango (9), although Prospero later
thinks he is summoning it. The failure of Césaire's Prospero in his at
tempts to function as "meneur du jeu" appears most blatantly at two later
moments in the play. During the wedding and at the end, Prospero canno
orchestrate the spectacle of the assimilated savage (this oxymoronic
phrase betrays the unconscious bad faith of the white man's condescen
sion) becoming gratefully subject to the authority of his colonial master.
Moreover, after having overtly subtitled his play "Adaptation pour un
théâtre nègre," Césaire simultaneously introduces the racial differenc
that reflect the Caribbean social hierarchy of the colonial era, by specify
ing that Caliban is black and Ariel mulatto, and denounces these diffe
ences as superficial by using masks. Likewise, Jean Genet, for exampl
had a few years earlier exposed the speciousness of sociopolitical hiera
chies in his anticolonial play Les Paravants. Two generations ago, at th
height of the Négritude movement, or one generation ago, at the height
the assertions of black pride, one might have seen in such a gesture t
dangerous, self-deluding effort to deny the reality of race and to forswe
one's heritage, in a manner attacked by Frantz Fanon in Peau noire,
masques blancs. With the hindsight of a quarter century, however,
Césaire's ostensible masking of his multiracial cast of characters seem
surprisingly modern, reflecting as it does a position lucidly articulated by
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. : " 'race' is a metaphor for something else and not
an essence or a thing in itself, apart from its creation by an act of la
guage ... if we believe that races exist as things, as categories of bein
already 'there,' we cannot escape the danger of generalizing about ob
served differences between human beings as if these differences wer
consistent and determined, a priori ... It is the penchant to generaliz
based upon essences perceived as biological which defines 'racism.' "20
At the same time, Césaire's casting and costuming scene also militate
against emotional identification with individual actors by members of the
audience. Through the calculated artificiality of the masking, the specta-
tors are distanced from the ensuing action, as they are in the epic theater

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of Bertholt Brecht, so that they will think rather than fe

not catharsis, as an end in itself, but provocation and

Césaire then increases Caliban's stature by greatly reducing the two

competing plots. In Shakespeare, the revenge plot is primary; the secon-
dary plot, the idyll between Miranda and Ferdinand, then provides the
occasion for a reconciliation; and Caliban serves mainly to enhance an
atmosphere of fantasy and to glorify Prosperous clemency, which extends
even to monsters. In Césaire, in contrast, it is Caliban's slave revolt,
rather than the love story, that provides the principal motivation for the
reconciliation: Prospero makes common cause with the other whites as
natural allies who will protect him against Caliban in a racial conflict
In its own terms - whereby Caliban has an allegorical, rather than a
literal, referent - Shakespeare's play seems to imply that Utopia is impossi-
ble, and that "the notion of an ideal state is corrupt in itself."22 But from
the historical perspective of 1969, the play could seem the harbinger of a
vast imperialist expansion, anticipated even in Shakespeare's time by the
first settlements in North America, the founding of the East India Com-
pany, and the development of the British navy (Frye, 183). Then the
supernatural traits of Shakespeare's Ariel and Caliban could appear a mere
ruse for robbing the "natives" of humanity, so as to permit enslaving and
torturing them with a clear conscience; and Prospero's magic could readily
seem a metaphor for the mystifying rationalization of white superiority.
For a traditional Shakespearean, Césaire's race-conscious reworking (his
subtitle is "Adaptation pour un théâtre nègre") may well seem crudely
reductive, if not wrong-headed: it exemplifies the bad manners and nar-
row focus of the protester. The offensive (in both senses of the word)
mainspring of Césaire's parody is a métonymie reversal of cause and effect,
whereby Shakespeare's diagnosis of political ills becomes their symptom.
Césaire's oppositional strategies include debunking the notion that
the white colonizer is benevolent; exposing his hypocrisy through psy-
chologizing; demystifying the myth of his superiority; and presenting the
colonized person as an intellectual, social, and religious being with his
own language, his own network of relationships, and his own beliefs and
values. Regarding benevolence, among Césaire's whites, Gonzalo ap-
pears at first glance even more sympathetic than in Shakespeare. Césaire
underlines the moral contrast, already prominent in the original, be-

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tween the King's virtuous counselor and the other nobles. During th
storm, in Césaire's version, Gonzalo remains calm while Antonio fear
hell; Gonzalo advises seeking the eye of the hurricane to secure a bri
respite to find harbor, while Antonio and Sebastian ignorantly derid
him as a foolish old man. 2.2 gives him a much greater role than in
Shakespeare. Césaire suggests he is superior to the other whites becau
he is more in touch with nature; yet even his attitude toward the isl
which he, like the other Europeans, sees as a potential colony, will
exposed as exploitative and self-centered. His interest in finding guan
to use as fertilizer betrays the lowest common denominator of material-
ism. His reasoning, conforming to the fallacy "like causes, like effect
("C'est clair: une terre merveilleuse ne peut porter que des êtr
merveilleux"), unwittingly mocks both himself and Shakespeare. He
does not seek conquest by force, but his very restraint is based on th
condescending myth of the "noble savage," a form of admiration tha
attempts to relegate the other to an ornamental, peripheral role. H
remarks: "si l'île est habitée, comme je le pense, et que nous la c
Ionisons [note the self-confident, indicative mood - where French wou
more often use the subjunctive - in the second of two successive if
clauses], comme je le souhaite, il faudra se garder comme de la peste d
apporter nos défauts, oui, ce que nous appelons la civilisation. Qu'ils
restent ce qu'ils sont: des sauvages, de bons suavages, libres, sans com
plexes ni complications. Quelque chose comme un réservoir d'éternel
jouvence où nous viendrions périodiquement rafraîchir nos âmes vieilli
et citadines" (2.2.39-41).
Gonzalo's opening advice to seek the eye of the storm, added b
Césaire, corresponds symbolically to his aspirations, suggested later i
both plays, to find an outside to power while remaining within huma
society. He wishes to enjoy domination without guilt, to evade t
violence stirred up by inequality while continuing to benefit from it
a member of a privileged class. Shakespeare had overtly denounced th
delusion (Gonzalo: ... no sovereignty. - Sebastian: Yet he would b
king on't. [2.1.152]). However benevolent, any appropriation of t
Noble Savage effectively erases the other, even via the blandness of
uncritical admiration, in the very act of treating him or her as
protected species. Césaire underscores this point by ascribing to Go
zalo a comical failure to exorcise Caliban, when, after his aborti
revolt, he proves unrepentant (3.5.86): the native who fails to recog

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nize the white man's divinely ordained dominion must

the devil.
As for Prospero, at the conclusion of the Shakespeare
provided moral enlightenment for those who wronged him
unrepentant Antonio), and a moral test for the man w
daughter. Thus The Tempest falls into the tradition of "te
fear" with the aid of allegorical pageants, rituals, and
Merivale has brilliantly traced this tradition from Mozart'
through Hesse's Steppenwolf to John Fowles's The Magus (
add, inspired by Shakespeare).23 Through the internal r
traditional masque to celebrate Miranda and Ferdin
through an assembly of the classical deities simulated b
(4.1), Prospero prepares to reintegrate his former oppre
harmonious society that includes them all, but exc
Caliban. Having achieved this end, he has no more reas
his island. Aside from a final contemptuous order, the last
speare's Prospero regarding Caliban is "this thing of darkn
edge mine" (5.1.275-76). This statement has been ingen
preted in many ways; for instance, as Prospero's acknowle
own dark side. In context, however, it is a flat assertion
Three conspirators have robbed Prospero, attempted to tak
usurp his kingdom; of these, Stephano and Trinculo are Al
pline as he sees fit - by saying as much, Prospero ren
authority in the island and prepares to leave; while the
punishment of Caliban remains Prospero's responsibil
inferior, through his condition and through his crime,
forgiveness ("grace," 295) and does his part in restoring or
to his proper role as an obedient servant. As Shakespear
radically inferior that his only reasonable course is to subm
guidance and domination.
Césaire's Caliban, in contrast, rejects the false image that
imposed on him:

Un sous-dé veloppé, comme tu dis,

un sous-capable,
voilà comment tu m'as obligé à me voir,
et cette image, je la hais! Et elle est fausse!

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When asked what he wants, he offers the simplest of self-assertive

swers: to be rid of Prospero and to regain his island and his freedo
Illustrating Césaire's parodie technique of questioning the motives of th
master, Caliban knows that Prospero will choose to remain before Pr
pero knows it himself, and in advance, defies him.
To support a status quo favorable to him, the colonialist will con
sciously or unconsciously adopt the philosophical position of Plato
realism or essentialism. This involves the concept of "race" (dark ski
an outward and visible sign of a presumed absolute intellectual and mora
inferiority, based on biology);24 and the myth of a transcendent origin a
destiny for the ruler (the divine right of kings, the Apostolic successio
Manifest Destiny, and the like) that justifies governing without the con
sent of the governed. The other becomes an empty sign whose only valu
is the value added through the civilizing mission of the conqueror. First
the blacks and Indians had no culture, the imperialist argument ru
then they had European culture, and upon the extent of their assimilati
depended the justification of their claims to be treated as human. T
lucid slave is a happy and appropriately grateful slave who endorses his
her oppression.25 Any resemblance between a "native's" preexisting
ture and that of Europe was seen as a depraved, revolting, and fal
The lie of the civilizing mission has deceived Césaire's Prospero himself.
He has become intoxicated (Caliban's term) with the exercise of an arbi-
trary power that would have been impossible in Europe. Nor can Prospero
leave the island, as Caliban has come to understand, without admitting to
himself that his work of colonization has been pointless and ineffectual; he
has not won Caliban's love; he has not converted Caliban to his values; and
the isle itself could function perfectly without him (3.5 passim). By remain-
ing, he leaves open his relationship with Caliban, and can thus avoid
confronting his moral defeat. More fundamentally (Césaire has the He-
gelian Master-Slave dialectic in mind, as we shall see), he has become
enslaved to his slave, which is to say, dependent on him for his own sense of
identity. This ultimate dependency emerges clearly in the final psychotic
break in which his identity fuses with that of Caliban: "Toi et moi! Toi-Moi!
Moi-Toi!" (3.5.92). Caliban does not heed Prosperous desperate call.
In Césaire's play, the essence of Prosperous strategy for claiming cultural
superiority is the rejection of reciprocity, a willful erasure of the other. He
insists on always using his native language between them (1.2.24), while

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never bothering to learn a word of Caliban's tongue.27

use of his own language "impolite," and interprets his s
protests in Prospero's language as breakdowns of comm
justify brutality. (Even in Shakespeare, Prospero does not s
that the unredeemable Caliban reforms as soon as he is no
and can envision the prospect of eventual freedom).28 For
compliance counts as a proof of understanding: "Calib
Attention! Si tu rouspètes, la trique! Et si tu lanternes,
sabotes, la trique! La trique, c'est le seul langage que tu
bien, tant pis pour toi, je te le parlerai haut et clai
(1.2.27).29 In both Shakespeare's and Césaire's versions,
and tortures his slave during their everyday interactio
bolster his apparently shaky self-worth, but also to vent t
that his conscience prevents him from venting on his Eur
"The exchange of curses between Prospero and Caliban
they have much in common. What Prospero hates a
Caliban is the forbidden part of himself" (Paris, 271).
Against essentialist dogmas, Caliban, like other colon
adopts the perspective of psychological relativism and
colonizer not as monolithic, but as split, at best, betw
protestations and tyrannical behavior. The colonized p
this behavior in pragmatic terms. Whether the colonize
of benevolence are hypocritical or sincere, whether t
conscious or unconscious bad faith, does not matter so
exposed by the contrast between words and deeds, whe
tion," in practice, entails violence and murder. Similarly
of linguistic and cultural relativism on the conceptual m
nies, by oppositional discourse, means that the empty
tive" is filled, thwarting the colonist's efforts to imagine
ing with the present, and a "land without ghosts."30
Regarding The Tempest, critics - and Shakespeareans
could reject Caliban's psychologizing since it is both an
belated, as well as ignorant of the nature of fictional r
attributes an unconscious to Prospero as if he were a r
reflecting an outmoded, nineteenth-century understan
characters. Powerful, regarding Shakespeare's world as
tion can nevertheless alert us to the essence of Césaire's rev
egy. In Shakespeare, Prospero feels justified in his ill treat

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because the latter, as he openly admits, had tried to rape Miranda: "Thou
didst prevent me. I had peopled else / This isle with Calibans."31 Césaire's
Caliban, in contrast, diagnoses in Prospero the phenomenon of psych
projection: "Violer! violer! Dis-donc, vieux bouc, tu me prêtes tes idée
libidineuses. Sache-le: je n'ai que faire de ta fille" (1.2.27). Césaire, to b
sure, preserves ambiguity regarding Caliban's desires by having Miran
characterize him as "l'affreux Caliban, lequel me poursuit de ses assiduités
et hurle mon nom dans ses rêves idiots!" (3.1.54). But overall, Césaire'
satire depends on questioning Prospero's motives. That these motives a
represented as unconscious, refutes Ariel's argument that the colonize
can change for the better, and that attentisme - opposition rather tha
resistance32 - is therefore justified.
Both Shakespeare's slaves will choose compliance, Ariel from the begin-
ning. Faced with an insurmountable power differential, he only begs for
justice and does not protest that justice deferred is justice denied. Césaire
depicts him similarly, but with a message that becomes pointed when Ari
argues with Caliban. From the Martinican leader's viewpoint, Ariel's sub-
servient attitude is explained by the preferential treatment he has receiv
from Prospero, and from the lure of eventual emancipation that Prospero
has dangled before him. In short, with reference to slavery in the United
States, Caliban is the "field Negro" and Ariel is the "house Negro," th
white-collar slave (so to speak) who, unlike Caliban, need not do heav
work with his hands (Hale, 25);33 with reference to the Caribbean, Ariel i
the collaborationist mulatto class, privileged owing to his lighter skin.
Shakespeare's Caliban moves from attempted resistance to compliance,
seeking "grace" from his master. His initial intransigence causes a typicall
Shakespearean disturbance of the social nexus followed by a restoration of
equilibrium, when the naturally inferior subject submits to his rightf
lord. Césaire, in contrast, decenters Prospero by endowing Caliban wi
greater lucidity than his master. To dramatize it, he adds to Shakespeare's
version (where Caliban may not even be aware of Ariel's - or, for th
matter, Ferdinand's existence) a formal debate scene between the tw
slaves to reinforce his portrait of them as rational adults, not childre
whose weak impulse control makes them require constant surveillanc
and discipline. Moreover, "splitting the ambivalence" of the oppresse
person's reactions between Ariel and Caliban allows the creation of
character (Césaire's Caliban) who is entirely and inspiringly resolute
his defiance:

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... a quoi t'ont servi ton obéissance, ta patience d'oncle Tom, et

toute cette lèche? Tu le vois bien, Phomme devient chaque jour
plus exigeant et plus despotique . . .


... Ni violence, ni soumission. Comprends-moi bien. C'est Pros-

pero qu'il faut changer. Troubler sa sérénité jusqu'à ce qu'il
reconnaisse enfin l'existence de sa propre injustice et qu'il y mette
un terme . . .


. . . Que la conscience naisse à Prospero? Autant se mettre devant

une pierre et attendre qu'il lui pousse des fleurs! (2. 1.36-38).

Césaire has inverted Shakespeare's terms so that it is the master, not the
slave, who proves irredeemable (a condition underscored by Prospero's
choosing to remain on Caliban's isle at the end). In the context of the
1960s, Caliban's temptation to violence recalls Frantz Fanon. Confront-
ing Prospero, however, weapon in hand, Caliban will not strike unless his
master defends himself, and Prospero taunts "Tu vois bien que tu n'es
qu'un animal: tu ne sais pas tuer" (3.4.79). As at the conclusion, Prospero
equates civilization with murder. In contrast, Ariel's nonviolence recalls
Martin Luther King.34 Together, these two figures reflect Césaire's ambiva-
lence, determined by his own ambiguous, problematical role in founding
the D. O. M. so as to preserve a French presence, like Prospero's at the
end of the play. Césaire insisted that he saw himself in both Caliban and
Ariel.35 Caliban himself eventually abjures violence in favor of separa-
tism, which he - unlike Césaire, as a political leader - can achieve at
once: Caliban's outcome may involve wish-fulfillment.
In Shakespeare, Caliban never appears on stage at the same time as
either Ariel or Ferdinand (except when, in 3.2, Ariel remains invisible
and unrecognized). For Césaire to depict Caliban and Ariel's debate is to
represent them as part of a social class, to deexoticize them, and to
reinforce their added allegorical function as a symbol of oppressed peoples
everywhere. Caliban's cries of "Uhuru!" ("Freedom!" in Swahili), "Free-
dom now!," and his allusion to Malcolm X, who dropped his white "slave

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name," ("Appelle-moi X. ... Chaque fois que tu m'appeleras, ça m

rappellera le fait fondamental, que tu m'as tout volé et jusqu'à mo
identité! Uhuru!" [1.2.28]), in his first confrontation with Prospero,
sert him into an international framework that, by implication, dignifie
his revolt as a potential inspiration for others. The change of title from
"The Tempest" to "A Tempest" similarly identifies Caliban's revolt as onl
one among many.
Shakespeare's play, like Césaire's, dramatizes all four possible courses of
action for the slaves: collaboration, opposition, resistance, and separa-
tism. But the added debate scene in Césaire makes these choices explicit,
reversing Shakespeare's hierarchy of lucidity, in which Prospero alone
possesses insight while the slaves have only instinct. It is Prospero's will to
power, not the slaves' reactions, that Césaire wishes to characterize as
unreasoning and instinctual.36
From Caliban's viewpoint, Prospero's only superiority is technological;
and his technology serves not to advance civilization but only to enable
oppression. Faced with noncompliance, technology cannot negotiate or
compromise, but only destroy. When Stephano and Trinculo complain of
the mosquitoes, shortly after having joined Caliban in his assault on
Prospero, Caliban explains: "C'est pas les moustiques. C'est un gaz qui
vous pique le nez, la gorge, et donne des démangeaisons. Encore une
invention de Prospero. Ça fait partie de son arsenal . . . anti-émeutes"
(3.4.77). The colonizer enjoys a purely material ascendancy; he lacks
both moral authority and contact with nature, the ground of our exis-
tence. Nature is alien to him: in the psychotic break that concludes the
play, Prospero fancies that the South American opossums gathering round
his cave are leering at him, defying his civilizing mission. He reacts by
firing his revolver wildly in all directions, killing all the inoffensive ani-
mals, with the cry "Je défendrai la civilisation!" (3.5.92). Thus the naked
brutality underlying colonialization is unmasked, and "civilization" im-
posed on others emerges again as only one more form of violence.37
The Tempest, as far as we know, is one of only two plays whose plot was
entirely invented by Shakespeare.38 When contrasted to the keen preci-
sion of the history plays, the fantasy setting of The Tempest can seem to
imply that blacks have no history of their own because they have had no
organized civilization, and that, therefore, they are not fully real. From
there, it takes only a step to see a justification for benevolent despotism.
Césaire, in a 1969 interview with L. Attoun, joins the opposing minority

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of those whom Berger called "the hard-nosed" as oppose

mental" interpreters of Prospero:

Je m'insurge lorsque Ton dit que c'est l'homme du p

est essentiel chez lui, c'est la volonté de puissance. A
Prospero est l'homme de la raison froide, l'homme de l
autrement dit, c'est un portrait de l'homme europé
en face du monde primitif colonisé.
Il ne faut dissimuler qu'en Europe, le monde de la rai
inévitablement à un totalitarisme.
En face, il y a Caliban, l'homme proche de la natu
communications avec elle ne sont pas encore inter
participe à un monde merveilleux. Il est en même te
de la révolte, c'est un héros positif exactement comme
c'est l'esclave qui est le plus important, car c'est

In other words, the colonizer sees the slave as immanent, a

transcendent. By invoking Hegel's Master-Slave dialectic, Cé
these terms. It is not conquest but liberation that enables t
Shakespeare's Prospero, a superior person in Italy, wh
perhaps, was a reluctance to exercise power there, returns
he is able. Césaire's Prospero, in contrast, is the white em
in mastery over the colonized a compensation for his fai
successfully in his homeland. He can do to Caliban wha
done to him. Therefore Prospero has no desire to retur
when the opportunity arises. As the only European in a "pr
ety, he can imagine himself as a culture hero orchestrating
the supposed moral imperative of the white man's burd
second major argument in defense of his "civilizing mission
was nothing in the Third World before, that the "natives"
speaking, tabulae rasae. What the Négritude movement had
out tactfully and indirectly, Césaire now affirms with veh
Caliban as his spokesman: one person's "state of nature"
another person's ignorance. Shakespeare had given Calib
until Mathilda taught him hers; you could even perversely
signs of his superiority to many of the characters - his spe
and his lyrical response to the magic of the isle - derive fr

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had a lofty model, and that he himself deserves little credit for an indep
dent linguistic sensibility. Césaire's Caliban, however, knows his mother
language, is fluent in French, and has at least shreds of English a
Césaire's ending remains indeterminate, since Ariel has been freed but
Caliban officially has not. Césaire thus implies that there may alway
enslaved peoples somewhere in the world, but that they can preserve th
dignity by continuing to fight for liberation. That Caliban can ran
untrammeled over the island at the conclusion, celebrating his autonom
depends on Césaire's own magic. Unrealistically - in political terms -
eliminates from his version the acolytes through whom power is mediat
(that is the mulattoes) throughout the colonial history of the Caribbean
and the commercial powers that presently keep the Third World in a st
of economic dependency. Ariel and the Europeans (other than Prosp
simply depart. Then Césaire's Caliban has only to reject the myth of
inferiority for it to disappear. Thus he figures a mental liberation that
Césaire knows, must precede a political one.
Reflecting the awkward, embarrassing, and continuing presence of th
French, Césaire's Prospero remains on the island, with his weapons
his "mission civilisatrice," and Caliban cannot drive him away
Caliban remains involuntarily within the European orbit, but he is
longer of it. His master/slave symbiosis with Prospero now exists only
the latter's imagination. Indeed, Césaire suggests that French power
ultimately fade, when he has Prospero momentarily sense the vanity
power: "Tout cela passera un jour comme l'écume . . . Ma puissance
froid!" (3.3.71; one recalls that Caliban's major task in Shakespeare w
to gather firewood). At the end of the play, Césaire's Caliban goes
own way, pursuing his own, unmediated projects, and the last words of
text are "La liberté!" The same words in the monster's comical, drunken
and deluded shout at the end of Shakespeare's 2.2 - in the powerf
ironic context of absolute submission to a substitute, less worthy maste
have been transformed by Césaire into the lucid affirmation of a n
found dignity.
How will this dignity be exercised, and how will it lead eventually
full independence? The one major character that Césaire added to
central play, the Yoruba trickster-god Eshu, suggests a gradualist appro
in laying the groundwork for a new, black society, through the rediscov
of authentic, African cultural values. The white master, in Césair

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version, hopes to effect cultural genocide by erasing from

World of colonial empire all traces of the substrate of b
Prospero has designed the betrothal ceremony for Miranda
to transmit his colonizer's values to the next generation
[emphasis added] le spectacle de ce monde de demain
beauté, d'harmonie, dont, à force de volonté, j'ai jeté l
(3.3.67). But as captive spirits enact Prosperous spectacle,
rupted by Eshu. Prosperous show has been ordered up,
appearance is spontaneous. He bursts in, uninvited, with
that uncovers, beneath the ceremonial pomp, the realist
sion in marriage (one recalls how anxious Shakespeare'
been, before the wedding, to preserve Miranda's virgi
generally, the "democracy of the body," where all masters
equal. Eshu is a god who shows us that no humans are gods.
a ritual affirming Prospero's power into a carnival that cal
From an autobiographical perspective, Prospero's show recalls the Euro-
centric, classical education that Césaire received in Paris in the 30s. In
contrast, Eshu represents an invigorating infusion of African and Carib-
bean cultural vitality from Jacques Roumain, Senghor, and others. Eshu is
not just a clown: he represents the Yoruba religion from West Africa, which
provided the major component of the syncretistic religions that, borrowing
also from Catholicism, preserved black culture in the New World as voodoo
(Haiti), santeria (Cuba), and condomblé (Brazil). The irrepressible
Eshu - like the Yoruba god of thunder, Shango, invoked by Caliban's
hymns - implies that the slaves of the black diaspora retain an authentic
cultural heritage far richer than that imagined by Shakespeare.41
Michigan State University


1 . Cofounded and coedited by René Ménil in Fort-de-France, Tropiques was reissued in

1978 (Paris: Michel Place, 2 vols.)- For a discussion of its importance and of the continuity
of Césaire's thought on the role of art in opposing racism, see Marianne Bailey Wichmann,
The Ritual Theater of Aimé Césaire: Mythic Structures of the Dramatic Imagination (Tubingen:
Gunter Narr, 1992) 15-17.

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2. Notably by Raphaël Confiant in his Aimé Césaire: une traversée paradoxale du siècle
(Paris: Stock, 1993). Edouard Glissant forcefully claimed that departmentalization of t
Antilles in 1946 was a "Concrétisation la plus achevée de la peur et du déni de soi, elle marque
limite extrême de V aliénation, " but he does not blame Césaire, whom he elsewhere mentio
respectfully (Le Discours antillais [Paris: Seuil, 1981] 154).
3. For background and additional documentation on this particularly tumultuous pe
riod in Césaire's legislative career, see Mbawil a Mpaang Ngal, Aimé Césaire: un homme à
recherche d'une patrie (Dakar: Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1975) 208-14; and Thomas A.
Haie, Les Ecrits d'Aimé Césaire: bibliographie commentée (Montréal: Presses de l'Universit
de Montréal et Etudes françaises, numéro spécial, 14/3-4, 1978, 251-77).
4. The title of the French original (Paris: Seuil) does not include the revealing name
of Shakespeare's characters, included in the English and the American editions.
5. The execution of the movement's leaders as an expiatory sacrifice; for a cogent
critique of this argument, see Maurice Bloch, forward to [Dominique] Octave Mannon
Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1990
The French version was published by Seuil in 1950.
6. Paris: Editions Réclame, 1950; republished by Présence Africaine, 1955.
7. He was to break with Thorez after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.
8. See his "Crise dans les départements d'Outre-Mer, ou crise de la depart-
mentalisation," Présence Africaine 36: 1 (1961): 109-11: "le grand mal dont souffrent
Antilles est d'être encore des colonies, les seules, les dernières colonies françaises." Social a
economic discrimination persists, he continues, ilV assimilation n'étant pas autre chose qu'u
forme de la domination et peut-être la plus absolue" (109-10).
9. Among others, those who come to mind are Kateb Yacine, who, as of 1976, stopped
writing novels in French in order to create popular theater in Arabic; Ngugi wa Thiongo
who now composes his novels and plays in Gikuyu instead of English; and Gabriel Gar
Marquez, who provisionally changed his style from esoteric to journalistic (he is an accom
plished political journalist) in writing the lucid, propagandistic El Secuestro (1983).
10. Editions used are Aimé Césaire, Une tempête; d'après "la Tempête" de Shakespear
Adaptation pour un théâtre nègre (Paris: Seuil, 1969), with reference in the for
Act. Scene. Page; and William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Frank Kermode (London
and New York: Routledge, 1992 [1954]), with references in the form Act. Scene. Verse.
For definitions and discussions of parody, see, among others, Michel Foucault, "Do
Quichotte," 60-64 in Foucault, Les Mots et les choses: une archéologie des sciences humain
(Paris: Gallimard, 1966); Sandor L. Gilman, Nietzschean Parody (Bonn: Grundmann
1976); Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Form
(New York: Methuen, 1985); and Margaret A. Rose, Parody I Metafiction: An Analysis
Parody as a Critical Mirror to the Writing and Reception of Fiction (London: Croom Helm
1979), and Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern (New York: Cambridge UP, 1993
11. According to Chantai Zabus, "A Calibanic Tempest in Anglophone and Franc
phone New World Writing," Canadian Literature 104 (1985): 35-50 (40)- not counti
such versions in other media as the Royal Swedish Ballet Company's Stormen, called to m
attention by Eric Sellin, nor the many very free interpretations of the original. For the
latter, with illustrations, see Stephen Orgel, éd., The Tempest (Oxford: Clarendon, 198
"Introduction," 1-87.
12. See A. James Arnold, "Césaire and Shakespeare: Two Tempests," Comparative Litera
ture 30 (1978): 236-48; Aimé Césaire, "Le Noir, cet inconnu," Les Nouvelles littéraires, Ju
17, 1969, 12 (reprinted in S. Belhassen, "Aimé Césaire's A Tempest,n in Lee Baxandal
éd., Radical Perspectives in the Arts (Middlesex: Penguin, 1972); Francis Barker and Pet

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Hulme, "Nymphs and reapers heavily vanish: The discursive contexts of

John Drakakis, éd., Alternative Shakespeares (London: Methuen,
Brown, M 'This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine': The Tempest an
Colonialism,** in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfeld, eds., Politica
Essays in Cultural Materialism (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985) 48-71; Thom
pero in Africa: The Tempest as Colonial Text and Pretext,** in Jean E. H
O'Connor, eds., Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideolo
London: Methuen, 1987) 99-115; Gérard Durozoi, "De Shakespeare
Notes sur une adaptation,** L1 Afrique littéraire et artistique 10 (April, 197
Griffiths, " 'This Island's Mine*: Caliban and Colonialism,** Yearbook of
(1983): 159-80; Thomas A. Hale, "Sur Une Tempête d'Aimé Césaire,**
(April, 1973): 21-34; Ania Loomba, chapter 6, "Seizing the Book,"
Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1989);
sive additional bibliography); René Richard, "Césaire et Shakespeare,"
sur le théâtre négro-afncam (Abidjan, 15-29 April 1970), (Paris: Présen
122-34; Zabus; and, in most detail, Richard Bonneau, "Comparaison en
William Shakespeare et Une Tempête d'Aimé Césaire," Annales de l'Un
série d: Lettres 4 (1971): 31-119.
13. See Stephen Greenblatt, Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of th
cago: U of Chicago P, 1991) passim, and especially Meredith Anne Sku
the Individual: The Case of Colonialism in The Tempest," Shakespeare Q
14. See Northroo Frve. Northrob Frye on Shakesùeare (New Haven: Yale UP, 1986) 181.
15. Caliban's dam, Sycorax, worshipped the Patagonian deity Setebos (1.2.372; see
Orgel 33); and Brown emphasizes "Shakespeare's patronal relations with prominent mem-
bers of the Virginia Company," with The Tempest reflecting "the struggle to produce a
coherent discourse adequate to the complex requirements of British colonialism in its
initial phase" (48).
16. See Stephen J. Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (New
York: Routledge, 1992) 21-26; Kermode, éd., xxxvii-xxxix; Orgel, éd., 26; and Alden T.
Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan, Shakespeare's Caliban: A Cultural History (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge UP, 1991) 56-85. Vaughan and Vaughan conclude: "The strongest claim
for a partial source, we believe, can be made for the English wild man, but only if he is seen as
one among many - a primacy of influence, not a monopoly" (274). In the staging history, he
is definitely not associated with an American Indian (see 274-75), but rather with "carni-
valesque forces that challenge dominant hierarchies" in literary contexts (85). On later
adaptations of Caliban as a black colonial victim, see Vaughan and Vaughan, 144-71.
1 7. The setting of Shakespeare's original in 161 1 may have been in part suggested by the
1609 shipwreck, off Bermuda, of the flagship of the Earl of Southampton's expedition to
colonize Virginia. But other elements of the text could point to Malta or yet other Mediter-
ranean islands. Shakespeare's topographical indeterminacy' is deliberate. See Jan Kott,
"Prospero's Staff," in Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary (Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
1964) 163-205. Meredith Anne Skura convincingly shows that contemporaries situated
the "desert" and the "wild man" Caliban in a traditional European context.
18. Thus parody is the opposite of confirmation, of documenting assertions so as to
anchor them in the real world, and appealing to authority so as to anchor assertions in an
intellectual universe of consensual discourse.
19. See Douglas L. Peterson, Time Tide and Tempest: A Study of Shakespeare's Romances
(San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1973) 247-48, and many others.

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20. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Talkin' That Talk," in Gates, éd., "Race," Writing, and
Difference (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986) 402-20.
2 1 . Césaire makes it clear that Caliban belongs on the island as no European could. Whe
the slave leads Trinculo and Stephano to attack his master, the insects and animals of th
forest, summoned by Ariel at Prospero's bidding, block Caliban's path. But, unlike i
Shakespeare's version, Caliban can dismiss them with a friendly word and then celebrate h
affinity with nature, whereas, as he observes, "Prospero, c'est l'anti-Nature. Moi je dis: A
l'anti-Nature! Voyez, à ces mots, notre hérisson se hérisse? Non, il rentre ses piquants! C'e
ça, la Nature! C'est gentil, en somme! Suffit de savoir lui parler!" (3.4.74-75).
More broadly, Césaire's island functions like a mirror: how individuals respond to i
discerning either beauty or ugliness, reveals their character. Early in the play, when Pr
pero insults Caliban's mother, Sycorax, and exults in her death, Caliban retorts: "Tu ne l
crois morte que parce que tu crois que la terre est chose morte . . . C'est tellement pl
commode! Morte, alors on la piétine, ou la souille, on la foule d'un pied vainqueur! Moi, je
la respecte, car je sais qu'elle vit ..." (1.2.25-26). In Shakespeare, the sound of thunder
(stage directions at the outset of 2.2) represents a threat to Caliban, a reminder of Pr
pero's mastery over nature and the spirits that inhabit the isle. In Césaire's scene wit
Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo (immediately following the encounter with the hedg
hog), Caliban communes ecstatically with the thunder god, Shango, and with the spirit o
the sea. His effusions are incomprehensible to his debased companions, who cannot distin
guish between nature and Prospero's technological disruption of nature (2.4.75-76; cf
3.5.89). To Césaire, nature represents a power higher than, and unrecognized by, Prosper
As Bonneau points out (79), Prospero's daughter Miranda, unlike him, lives in harmon
with nature and appreciates its beauty, which she wishes to share with Ferdinand (1.2. 1
20, 31). It is precisely when she expresses the latter sentiment that Prospero brusque
uncomprehendingly silences her.
22. See O. B. Hardison, Jr., "Shakespeare's Political World," 2-26 in Frances McNeel
Leonard, ed. , Politics, Power, and Shakespeare (Arlington: Texas Humanities Resource Ce
ter, 1981) 23-25; and Kott, 193 and passim.
23. See Merivale, "Learning the Hard Way: Gothic Pedagogy in the Modern Romant
Quest," Comparative Literature 36 (1984): 146-61. In Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circ
lation of Social Energy in Renaissance Engfand (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988), Steph
Greenblatt discusses this strategy in The Tempest (42-47), tracing it back further to Ar
totle's Poetics and its doctrine of effecting purgation of unworthy feelings through inspirin
pity and fear.
24. See Gates, "Editor's Introduction," in Gates, éd., 2-15; and Michel Leiris, "Le
préjugé racial," in Leiris, Contacts de civilisations en Martinique et en Guadeloupe (Paris:
Gallimard, 1955) 126-60.
25. See Heinrich Heine, "Das Sklavenschiff," Poetry and Prose, ed. Jost Hermand and
Robert C. Holub (New York: Continuum, 1982) 84-95.
26. See Greenblatt, Marvellous Possessions, 184-91.
27. Compare the railway strike leader Bakayoko negotiating with the French administra-
tors in Sembene Ousmane's Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu; "étant donné que votre ignorance
d'au moins une de nos langues est un handicap pour vous, nous emploierons le français,
c'est une question de politesse. Mais c'est une politesse qui n'aura qu'un temps" (Paris: Le
Livre contemporain, 1960) 277. For general considerations on the use of an official lan-
guage as an instrument of power, see Pierre Bourdieu, "The Production and Reproduction
of Legitimate Language," in Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge: Harvard
UP, 1991) 43-65.

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28. Bernard J. Paris, "The Tempest: Shakespeare's Ideal Solution," in P

Fate: Psychological Crises and Conflicts in Shakespeare and His Plays
Books, 1991) 275.
29. Césaire himself had lived Caliban's experience of being excoriat
grateful for his and his people's subjugation. On at least one occasion
colonialization in speeches to the French National Assembly, he prov
colleagues and of the media, who, like Shakespeare's Miranda (or more
the eyes of some editors who refuse to attribute these lines to her, since
her only expression of anger in the play), felt he should have been grat
taught the language of civilization. See Hale, 24 and 32-33; and Joseph
Love and Power: On Shakespeare's Play (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984) 14
For considerations of Caliban and of the Wild Man myth in varying c
Roberto Fernandez Retamar, "Caliban Revisited," Caliban and Other Ess
Baker (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1989) 46-55; Vaughan and Va
White, "The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea," in E
Maximilian E. Novak, eds. , The Wild Man Within: An Image in Wester
Renaissance to Romanticism (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1973) 3-38
30. The title of a bemused Chinese tourist's diary of reactions to
Totalitarians attempt to exorcise ghosts, the past, the record of their in
many works such as George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four; Milan K
Laugfiter and Forgetting; Driss Chraïbi's La Mère du printemps; and Gab
Cien anos de soledad. Memory defends the integrity of one's selfhood, f
or nation, as the motto of the province of Québec, "je me souviens," s
does, through antiphrasis, the Latin American pun on the name of
"estamos hundidos."
31. The Tempest, 1.2.352-53.
32. "Oppositional behavior consists of individual or group survival tactics that do not
challenge the power in place, but make use of circumstances set up by that power for
purposes the power may ignore or deny. It contrasts, then, with revolution, which is a mode
of resistance to forms of power it regards as illegitimate, that is, as a force that needs to be
opposed by a counterforce" (Ross Chambers, Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional
(in) Narrative [Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991) 1).
33. For a memorable dramatization of the metaphorical contrast between house Negro
and field Negro, see the scene from Spike Lee's film "Malcolm X" where Malcolm confronts
a black Ph. D. in a television debate.
34. That these identifications were present in Césaire's mind has been confirmed by his
interview with Michel Benamou, published as "Entretien avec Aimé Césaire à Fort-de-
France le 14 février, 1973," Cahiers césaixiens 1 (Spring 1974): 4-8.
35. See his interview by G. Sandier in La Quinzaine littéraire, November 1-15 (1969) : 28.
36. Césaire reworks 1 . 2 to stress from the outset the moral superiority of the slaves over
the Europeans. In Shakespeare, Prospero's error, like King Lear's, was his unwise attempt to
renounce the responsibilities of rule while retaining its privileges (Summers, 141); and he
wishes to harm no one: he asks Ariel whether the travelers he shipwrecked are safe
(1.2.217). But in Césaire's version, Ariel scrupulously protests against having been obliged
to cause the death of some of the travelers in the manufactured storm:


Je vous ai obéi, mais pourquoi le cacher, la mort au coeur. C'était pitié de voir sombrer
ce grand vaisseau plein de vie.

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Allons bon! Ta crise! C'est toujours comme ça avec les intellectuals! . . . Ecoute
une fois pour toutes. J'ai une oeuvre à faire, et je ne regarderai pas aux moyens!

So Prospero is no better than those who had wronged him.

37. Césaire's play underscores the fundamental narcissism of the colonizer by creating a
paternalistic, self-centered Prospero who lacks generativity toward even his own daughter.
Uninterested in her education, he is concerned primarily with consolidating his own
political power by marrying Miranda to the king's son. So despotically does he overwhelm
her personality that, in the play's original version, the empathie Caliban observes: "Encore
une de tes victimes ... Tu gouvernes jusqu'à ses rêves!"
38. See Paris, Bargains with Fate, 261-77.
39. Aimé Césaire, "Le Noir, cet inconnu," Les Nouvelles Littéraires, July 17 (1969): 12;
reproduced in S. Belhassen, "Aimé Césaire's A Tempest," Radical Perspectives in the Arts, Lee
Baxandall, éd. (Middlesex: Penguin, 1972). See also Harry Berger, Jr., "Miraculous Harp:
A Reading of Shakespeare's Tempest," Shakespeare Studies 5 (1970): 261-79.
A similar reversal of the categories of conquest and liberation is adopted as an opposi-
tional practice in feminist writing; see, for example, Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe
(Paris: Gallimard, 1949) Chapter 16 and passim.
40. See Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American
Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford UP, 1988) 5-42, esp. 21, 31-35, where he associates
the Yoruba trickster-god Esu (sic) with black culture's search for a voice, and with its
rejection of rigid, judgmental dichotomies.
41. Cf. Haie, 27. Perhaps Eshu's syncopated rhythms, which disrupt the orderly ballet of
the goddesses, also correspond, in Césaire's mind, to the irruption of jazz in the Western
musical tradition.

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