Was it an attempted rape?

shakeHad this debate about whether Caliban tried to rape Miranda in The Tempest.

To my disappointment, the bard seemed to have suggested so. But then the problem – as always with Shakespeare – is that whether it is fair to call that an attempted rape, for Caliban puts it ever so shrewdly:

O ho, O ho! would’t had been done!
Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans.

How rightly so! If that presumptuous Prospero thinks that he has the sole proprietorship to his precious idiotic daughter, so be he. But what does he intend to do with that piece of clueless creature of a virgin? She is so ravenous for a man that even someone as useless and characterless as Ferdinand manages to bag her. This girl has only seen two men so far in her life – and were it not for her father’s hatred of Caliban indoctrinated into her little gullible mind from an early age, she could have engendered several little calibans already.

So what did Prospero intend to do if Ferdinand never came along? Sleep with her himself? Let her die an old ignorant virgin? Of course you could argue that it’s all in his plan: that he would use magic to land a man – any man in fact – on the island for her daughter to sleep with. A postcolonial reading would compare this with the very impractical practice of shipping brides to the colonies from the metropolis (think E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India). The idea of a marriage with the indigenous people is simply outrageous as they are marginalised, outcast, and simply non-existent.

But all those polemical tones aside, there still is a question left to be pondered: can we justify Caliban’s attempt to intercourse with Miranda from his perspective? Is that attempt necessarily evil in nature?

Personally I think it is completely justifiable. As there are only two men on the island that Miranda can copulate with, Caliban is right to think himself the only eligible candidate to perform that sacred job of procreation – at least he still has the decency to rule out the possibility of incest between Miranda and Prospero. And what but the oppression from the institution of religion, of the precipitation from those highly useless books of Prospero’s, and the tyrannical injustice emanating from the self-crowned Prospero would inhibit the natural and inevitable physical unison between the only female and the only male species on an island? Is Caliban expected to conform to Prospero’s wish that his bloodline be terminated? Are we being just to side with Prospero on this matter?


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