As one of the most inextricable enigmas of Shakespeare's theatre, Caliban's name channels the intrinsically indefinite nature of the character that bears it. As an addition to the explanations that have already been suggested, in this essay I offer a new possible etymological origin, that is, chalybs, the Latin word for ‘steel'. This etymological connection might resonate with many core features of Caliban, which achieve further meanings if addressed in relation to the pervasive alchemical imagery of The Tempest. The role of Caliban within the plays' complex alchemical architecture has received much less critical attention than Prospero's or Ariel's but, if we think of his name as coming from chalybs, a completely new alchemical role seems to be in store for him. As I argue, Caliban seems to be the only character to be excluded from Prospero's alchemical project, since he as chalybs only embodies a flawed version of a pure metal that cannot be transformed. Torn from his natural state, forged, hardened, and turned into a man-serving and deadly weapon, steel Caliban can thus be construed as the ‘dross' of Prospero’s opus, the discarded version of something known and pure, the earthly dregs separated during the process of purification.

Compagnoni, M. (2023). “Steel Caliban: A New Etymological and Alchemical Inquiry into The Tempest”, Shakespeare, 2023, DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2023.2241858. SHAKESPEARE, 1-16 [10.1080/17450918.2023.2241858].

“Steel Caliban: A New Etymological and Alchemical Inquiry into The Tempest”, Shakespeare, 2023, DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2023.2241858.

michela compagnoni
2023-01-01

Abstract

As one of the most inextricable enigmas of Shakespeare's theatre, Caliban's name channels the intrinsically indefinite nature of the character that bears it. As an addition to the explanations that have already been suggested, in this essay I offer a new possible etymological origin, that is, chalybs, the Latin word for ‘steel'. This etymological connection might resonate with many core features of Caliban, which achieve further meanings if addressed in relation to the pervasive alchemical imagery of The Tempest. The role of Caliban within the plays' complex alchemical architecture has received much less critical attention than Prospero's or Ariel's but, if we think of his name as coming from chalybs, a completely new alchemical role seems to be in store for him. As I argue, Caliban seems to be the only character to be excluded from Prospero's alchemical project, since he as chalybs only embodies a flawed version of a pure metal that cannot be transformed. Torn from his natural state, forged, hardened, and turned into a man-serving and deadly weapon, steel Caliban can thus be construed as the ‘dross' of Prospero’s opus, the discarded version of something known and pure, the earthly dregs separated during the process of purification.
2023
Compagnoni, M. (2023). “Steel Caliban: A New Etymological and Alchemical Inquiry into The Tempest”, Shakespeare, 2023, DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2023.2241858. SHAKESPEARE, 1-16 [10.1080/17450918.2023.2241858].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/474008
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