March 3: Minor Characters

Discuss the importance of Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano. What is the significance of their stations in life? How do they compare to the major characters in the play (i.e, Prospero, Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian)?

6 thoughts on “March 3: Minor Characters

  1. Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo represent the lowest members of society. Caliban, an indigenous slave, Stephano and Trinculo, blue collar servants, are all representative of the dregs of society. They are significant, however, because they hatch a plan to overthrow the ruler of the island. Caliban states referring to Prospero, “I’ll yield him thee asleep/ where thou mayst knock a nail into his head” (III. Ii. 67-68). Caliban and his gang are attempting to overthrow the hierarchical power structure of society on the island. In contemporary England society was firmly hierarchical, and jumping from one place to another was frowned upon. Thus the three minor characters are significant because they present a cultural challenge to the norms of contemporary England.

  2. Trinculo, Caliban, and Stephano are the only characters in The Tempest who are inherently low class members of society. Prospero is a rightful Duke of Milan, Miranda is technically royalty since she’s his daughter, Alonso is a king, Antonio is a duke, Ferdinand is a prince, Gonzalo is a councilor, and Ariel is a magical being so I guess that puts him above Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban. The three of them, being low class, uneducated, individuals provide a lot of the comedy that’s present in the first three acts. It’s kind of similar to the dynamic that the three shepherds in The Second Shepherd’s Play had, that type of Three Stooges, one bumbling idiot working off of the other two formula. They’re the comic relief amongst all of the drama of the other characters. Granted their goal is very serious, in that Caliban wants to kill Prospero, but you can never really take them seriously in their pursuit.

  3. Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo not only illustrate the universal desire for power, as Wilson pointed out, but also serve as a comedic way to introduce larger issues in the play such as class structure. In Act II, Stephano and Trinculo are introduced to Caliban when they accidentally stumble upon him wrapped in his cloak. They mock him as low-class and “an abominable monster” (2.2.165). The people on the island, especially Prospero, also see Caliban as low-class. Prospero describes him as “filth” (1.2.415) and a “poisonous slave” (1.2.483). However, while Stephano and Trinculo make fun of Caliban, they also treat him much better than the other islanders. This is possibly because they share a similar class. Their low status unites the three in a common goal to gain power.

  4. Trinculo, Caliban and Stephano are representative of the lower class members of the society and serve as a contrast to the main characters which in turn represent the higher classes of society. Caliban is a slave to Prospero, and both Trinculo and Stephano are servants as well. This shows their relationship as being minor characters as well as lower in class. Whereas Prospero is the real Duke of Milan, Alonso is a king, Antonio another duke and Ferdinand is a prince. Throughout these sections, the ultimate goal of the trio is to overthrow the hierarchy, their means and methodology are seen as almost comical. These minor characters could also be relatable to a reader of a lower class, and connect with their feelings on gaining power in the society.

  5. These characters are important because they are almost the underdogs. They show no importance in the start of the play. But soon the readers learn they plan to team up and over throw the leader. They compare to the main characters because during this time period social status was very important. So it is frowned upon for lower status people to try to rule or even revolt. It isn’t socially correct.

  6. Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano are all three lower classes. While Caliban is off carrying wood for Prospero, who “reminded” Caliban of his place by making him do such pithy labor, Trinculo and Stephano are drunk and happy to wander, signs that they aren’t worried about power, succession of the throne or wealth. They are all a stereotype of the lower class, and so their “problems” are that of a lower class. Caliban worries about being pestered and hurt by the spirits on Prospero’s orders. Caliban’s problems are not something of a “lord’s” problem, as they don’t need to worry about being controlled by someone of a higher rank.

    Trinculo and Stephano are more entertained by Caliban’s strange attempt to hide, and then more interested in getting Caliban to drink with them. They don’t try to find Ferdinand or kill each other to gain power or wealth. The two sailors only want to enjoy themselves and drink. This sort of “drunk and disorderly” vibe the two give off are large comedy tropes in movies about drunken, poor men who don’t care about the larger things at play, and only pay attention to their drinking.

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