He Proclaims Uhuru — Understanding Caliban as a Speaking Subject
Revising William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Aimé Césaire wrote A Tempest as a proclamation of resistance to European cultural dominance—a project to “de-mythify” Shakespeare’s canonical text. In A Tempest, Caliban attempts to authorize his own freedom by speaking it, positioning speech as a tool to empower the colonized. By placing Caliban, the speaking slave, in the pages of a new play with a specific historical trajectory, Césaire’s message of colonial empowerment forces a second critique of Shakespeare while also inhabiting a space of its own. To connect speech with power, Césaire’s text focuses on the role of dialogue within the colonial system, emphasizing its unique ability to move between the disparate subjective spaces of the colonizer and the colonized. Infusing speech theory with politics, Césaire points out the dual possibilities of negotiation between the colonizer and colonized in his play; speech functions both to disrupt and reaffirm the identities of his players in the colonial system. By presenting colonial power structures as contestable, negotiable, and provisional, A Tempest exists outside the boundaries of a simple revision, as it engages with The Tempest to reveal the potential for language to act.