Magazine article Monthly Review

Shakespeare and the Subaltern

Magazine article Monthly Review

Shakespeare and the Subaltern

Article excerpt

I was, as usual, much interested by Alan Wald's literary-political analysis and particularly appreciative of the research-in-depth that informed his biographical notes on Guy Endore, in his article "The Subaltern Speaks" (MR, April 1992). However, I must register a small demur at the misleading impression conveyed of a more important writer--the author of The Tempest.

Wald is no doubt correct in saying, "it is unlikely that Shakespeare created Caliban with the objective of vivifying or activating the colonial subject from the perspective of the subject himself." But the statement unmodified certainly gives one no idea of the attitude toward colonialism made explicit in Caliban's accusation:

This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother,

Which thou tak'st from me; when thou camest first

Thou strok'st me, and made much of me, would'st give me

Water with berries in't, and teach me how

To name the bigger light, and how the less,

That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee,

And showed thee all the qualities o' th' isle,

The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile. …

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