He Proclaims ?Uhuru!?: Understanding Caliban as a Speaking Subject


Brenda McNary

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Shakespeare gave Caliban the unique position of a ?speaking? slave in his play The Tempest allowing him a tantalizing opportunity to subvert his master Prospero?s power by speaking out. However, it was not until C?saire?s political revision, A Tempest that this potential was given the space to be realized. A revision of the classic, C?saire?s A Tempest was written in 1969 as a part of the cultural/political movement called negritude , which swept through rapidly decolonizing French holdings during the 1960?s as a proclamation of resistance to European cultural dominance. Within the sizeable milieu of negritude books and essays, C?saire?s play supports his political agenda not only by rewriting the canonical text, but by illustrating his vision of black liberation through a radicalized Caliban. Significantly, C?saire uses the unique and essential characteristic of the play, performance, to his advantage in reimagining Caliban. Attempting to initiate his own freedom in A Tempest by speaking it, Caliban opens up the space for a critical analysis of speech as a tool to enact liberation for the colonized. Interpreted through the lenses of postcolonial theory, semiotics, and postmodern deconstruction, C?saire?s message of colonial empowerment inhabits a hybrid space between the political and the performative.


Leila Neti




Ford Research Endowment

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