Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Caliban: "You're a Monster!"

From my previous blog, I touched on Sycorax's son Caliban. In here I would like to talk about his description, and also the history behind his name and where it came from... And here we go.
I guess I should start with Prospero's description, then I'll backtrack a tad to the beginning of Caliban's birth, where it will get interesting, I promise.

By various characters in the play "The Tempest" Caliban is illustrated vividly as being a "Hag-born", "whelp," not "honoured with human shape", "Demi-devil","Poor credulous(gullible) monster", "Hag-seed", "Mooncalf" and even a "Strange fish."  We know from my post about Sycorax, that she was impregnated by The Devil and gave birth to this "monster." Which confirms that Caliban was basically half "witch" and half "devil". When he is described as being a "Mooncalf", that meant that he had the appearance of an aborted fetus. Due to superstitious  beliefs, this happened to cows giving birth to an undeveloped calf while the "moon" was present, but later on it also happened to human babies. Now when it talks about Caliban looking like a "Strange fish", it got me thinking. Are there people out there that have skin conditions that look similar to fish or
reptile skin? To my surprise, there was! This skin condition is called "Ichthyosis".
What this means is that the skin of the body becomes dry, tends to crack, is thickened, scaly or even flaky. The word ichthyosis comes from the Ancient Greek word "ichthys" which means "fish". Very interesting! Caliban was described as looking like a "Strange fish". Coincidence? I think not! especially since Shakespeare knew a variety of Greek words, and I'm quite positive he knew this one.

Since one of Caliban's description was being a "Demi-Devil", back then Europeans believed that the Devil and his demons had horns. I wanted to find out if they had skin conditions for people that had horns growing from their heads, and low and behold... there is! It is called "Cutaneous-horn". It is a skin tumor, that grows on various places of the body. It is unknown what causes it, but it is as plain as the nose... "horn" on their face.

Now let's get to the name. The name comes from the Romani language kaliban or cauliban, which means "black" or "with blackness". With this detail, it fits perfectly with Sycorax, because she was from Algeria, which would logically means that she had dark skin. The name also comes from the Carib people AKA Caribbean as in "Pirates of the Caribean". Explorers in the 15th century believed that the Carib people ate human flesh, because they saw human skeletons in the Carib people's homes. Due to this belief, it later coined the origin of the word "Cannibal". "Caliban" and "Cannibal", both similar words and meanings when you think about it. Anyway, modern day scholars have clarified that the Carib people were not cannibals, those human remains they kept were actually their ancestors. The Carib people wanted to keep the skeletons of their family members to remember them by.
Now I'm not ruling out the possibility of cannibals and origins , I'm just giving you a taste of historical facts that support ancient literature even today. "Eat your heart out!"

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