William Shakespeare's Caliban laying down in a fetal position
32" ×
Oil on Canvas

Caliban is one of my favorite characters from TheTempest, one my favorite plays by Shakespeare.Described in the dramatis personae as a “salvage and deformed slave”. Caliban generally comesacross in the play as a brooding, sullen fellow who performs menial tasks for Prospero. In Act III,however, Caliban explains the magical character of Prospero’s island in a speech which, for me, makesof him a very sympathetic and fascinating character. When two shipwrecked sailors are frightened bethe sounds of the island, Caliban tells them:

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,/
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not./
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about  mine ears; and sometimes voices,/
That if I then had wak’d after long sleep,/
Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,/
The clouds methought would open, and show riches/
Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d/
I cried to dream again.”

I have pictured Caliban outside Prospero’s cell sleeping off the effects of the wine given to him by the sailors. Caliban is often depicted as a hairy beast; in keeping with my sympathetic take on him, I decided to make Caliban a normal human whose “deformity”, if any, is confined to his character or his hidden face. He wears some of Prospero’s cast off 16th/17th century clothing and is surrounded by objects that reflect the strange magic of the island. The stone relief of classical sea deities behind Caliban is from the “altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus”, a Roman work of around 70 B.C.

Represented by
Jane Hamilton Fine Art

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