A Tempest

Dialogues

A Tempest was originally written in 1969 in French by Aime Cesaire and translated into English in 1985 by Richard Miller. It is written as a postcolonial response to The Tempest by William Shakespeare. The story is the same: a big storm, an angry Duke who's been usurped by his brother, all the devoted courtesans, and, of course, the natives. This play deals mostly with the natives, Ariel and Caliban. It is Cesaire's comment on the colonization of the "New World." He has many of the same ideas as C.L.R. James,and Franz Fanon, and he as inspired newer Caribbean writers like Michelle Cliff.

About the author: Aime Cesaire was born in Martinique in
1913. He is renown poet, playwright, and essayist. He began a movement called Negritude Modernisme involving the work of native Caribbean writers and artists. His work has influenced other writers as well as sociologists (see Cesaire link below), like Franz Fanon.

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  Dialogues
A Tempest is related to much of the other texts represented in this site in various ways. The trials of Caliban and Ariel are related to the oppression felt in No Telephone to Heaven (http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/notelephonetoheaven.html) by Clare (Note 1). Actually, Cartelli relates Clare to Miranda in her search for identity (Note 2). Clare decides not to use the
privilege her light skin affords her and embraces the "Caliban [or the Savage] within." This makes one wonder which one Clare is closer to, Miranda or Caliban?

Cesaire's obvious use of a strong, militant black man in Caliban shows similarities with C.L.R. James. Caliban's denial of his name and opting to go with "X" instead, much like Malcolm X to
shed the name give to him by his master (Note 3). Cesaire hands this one to us thought as if we aren't smart enough to understand his allusion. He could have been a little less heavy-handed.

This play is obviously connected to Shakespeare's The Tempest which is seen more mainstream than perhaps this play would be. This would make it easier to pull the ideas A Tempest presents,
which is what I am doing in my English class where we are reading The Tempest as their exposure to Shakespeare in English 2 at Portage Community High School. We will be exploring the
differences between the two. Teenagers' attitudes about it give me more hope.

  Notes
1. There is more information on Michelle Cliff and No Telephone to Heaven in the webpage on this site by Mickey D'Loughy. The slightly stronger Miranda in A Tempest as opposed to the one in The
Tempest shows a closer resemblence to Clare Savage. They both seem to be searching for identity of their own instead of the one imposed on them by their parents.

2. Cartelli paints Clare Savage as a new world Miranda "as the self-determining agent of their own education".

3. Rider points this out in his webpage http://www.wdog.com/rider/writings/butterfly_tempest.htm This page is worth looking at for this point of view.

  Links
A Tempest Links:

**http://www.barnard.edu/english/reinventingliteraryhistory/americas/shakespeare/tempest.htm
this site is the complete text of the play along with some links to other postcolonial sites.

*** http://www.publishit.com/Authors/B/Becker_Zachary/AimeCesairesATempest/page001.html
this page is an excellent resource. The author here has some quite insightful views on the
psychology behind Prospero's and Caliban's actions in play.

*** http://www.wdog.com/rider/writings/butterfly_tempest.htm This site compares M. Butterfly
and A Tempest, and then contrasts them with their respective imitated plays. This page was
created and maintained by a student, Shawn Rider. He also has a link to another essay he wrote
connecting the Night of the Living Dead to Postcolonial Theory: very interesting.

Cesaire Link:

**http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/cesaire.htm This page is a comprehensive look at Cesaire's life. It
also connects his views as an influence of Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks.

Postcolonial Theory Link:

**http://www.gettysburg.edu/~fackma02/colonial.html This site is a quick look at imperialism
and postcolonialism. It is a good link because it has other links at the end. Those links are ones
that are referred to in other pages on this site.

 

  Teaching
I am currently using A Tempest in a high school English class in comparison with Shakespeare's
The Tempest. My students are loving it because it is easier for them to read, but they are asking questions about it because it is different than the original, which is good because that is what I want them to do. We have great conversations about the difference between the two Calibans. They seem to like the one in Cesaire's play better.
  Citations
Cesaire, Aime. A Tempest. New York: Editions du Seuil, 1992.

Retamar, Roberto Fernandez. "Caliban: Notes Toward a Discussion of Culture in Our America," in Caliban and Other Essays. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

Rodo, Jose Enrique. Ariel. Cambridge : Cambridge U.P., 1967.

Cartelli, Thomas. "After The Tempest: Shakespeare, postcoloniality, and Michele Cliff's new, new world Miranda." Contemporary Literature v36n1 (Spring 1995): 82-102.

Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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Last Updated: 4/23/02