In The Tempest, Shakespeare establishes a dichotomy between the oppressor, Prospero, and his slave, Caliban, in order to provoke sympathy for the enslaved. Whereas Prospero is all-powerful and assumes control of the island with his magical powers, Caliban has no choice to submit and renounce his own culture. The brutality of colonialism is captured in Caliban's complaint that, 'for every trifle are they [Prospero's spirits] set upon me', as it highlights how Prospero micro-manages Caliban's behaviour and punishes him even for minor transgressions. This is influenced by the context of Spain's colonisation of the New World, during which Spanish settlers would monitor the amount of rare metals that each slave found, with the least 'efficient' slaves being dismembered. Moreover, Shakespeare exposes the prejudice of Western ideology when Prospero calls Caliban, 'a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick', as it suggests that Caliban is fundamentally incapable of achieving moral virtue. Yet Prospero, and thus colonisers, are undercut here through the irony created: the irony that Prospero does not realise he is exhibiting more devilish behaviour than Caliban ever did.
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