Description

This is the programme from a 1980 production of Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête (1969). Césaire was a black writer and activist from Martinique, and Une Tempête is a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Une Tempête celebrates Caliban's verbal attacks on Prospero and questions the latter's claims to the island. Set in a colony – a prototype of a Caribbean or African setting – in the throes of resistance and unrest, Césaire's play focuses initially on Caliban's resistance to Prospero's control over language. Here, Césaire is clearly sensitive to the way in which the name Caliban / Cannibal appears in Shakespeare's play and in colonial history as a cultural stereotype for the natives of the Americas. Accompanying Caliban's challenge to language are references to an actual guerrilla movement and an impending black independence. And Ariel, who is labelled a 'mulatto' in this play, represents the mixed races more able to accept their limited oppression.

Overall, this play characterises the changes undergone by the figure of Caliban in productions of the play: in 18th- and 19th-century European productions he was represented as a primitive or 'missing link' from Darwin's theory (i.e. a being in-between apes and humans in the evolutionary process). However, with the advent of national liberation of the non-European races, as in Césaire's play, Caliban was widely depicted as a defiant subject under European rule, or simply an embodiment of any oppressed group.

Transcript