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Who or what is Setebos? What is going on with the pronouns, and why does the speaker, Caliban from Shakespeare’s late play “The Tempest”. Twenty years after Browning had written Caliban upon Setebos he once singled it out as his most representative ” dramatic ” poem.’ For Browning the word. Significant quotes in Robert Browning’s Caliban Upon Setebos with explanations .

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Caliban has been told by his witch mother Sycorax who is now dead, about a god, Setebos, who lives in the moon: He also seteobs him.

This is a poem about, and exemplifying, art as acliban as creation, writing as well as making. Caliban lives on an island, governed by the nobleman-enchanter Prospero and his daughter Miranda. This will bring down their wrath. He identifies strongly with Setebos as creator, and he imagines emulating him, perhaps by making a bird and sending it off to snap up flies, and then replacing its broken leg with three legs.

Caliban both worships and dreads Setebos, and hopes that eventually he will be conquered by the Quiet, or fall into a long decrepit doze.

Department of English

It would be possible to produce a more complex explanation for the adoption and effect of these graphic signs. Oxford University Press, The place may seem to be in the West Indies, but it has a universal quality, with creatures and vegetation drawn from diverse and incompatible habitats.

And then, at the end of an hour or so of this monologue, with, apparently, only himself as his audience, Caliban realises that Setebos has found him out: She said that Setebos did not make, but merely toyed with, the creatures of the island. The real Caliban spends most of his puon doing pointless work for Prospero and Miranda.

Project MUSE – Robert Browning’s Decoding of Natural Theology in “Caliban Upon Setebos”

Newman’s Apology in which he says that “he is as convinced of the existence of God”—an individual, not an external force merely—”as of his own existence: There scuds His raven that has told Him all! Rather, he lovingly and imaginatively dramatises him, without disguising his faults and limitations. The storm which ends his speculations may — though Browning refused to confirm this — be the same storm as the one at the start of The Tempest.


The account Caliban gives of Setebos’ behaviour owes much to his detailed observation of the island’s flora and fauna. Browning here seems aware of how arguments such as Newman’s can be appropriated, taken out of context, and used on incursions into the scientific sphere to justify the enterprise of natural theology, even if Newman’s argument for the existence of God is not being used for that purpose in the passage under discussion. Browning probably composed the poem inand seems to have absorbed detail from Darwin ‘s The Voyage of The Beaglebut not the concepts of The Origin of Speciesstill less of The Descent of Manwhich was not published until For instance, they set the spoken monologue and written text in play against each other.

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In one sense Prospero, and yet we hear relatively little about him, or at least, not directly. The monologue is soon over, so there isn’t time for Caliban to undertake some great or groping spiritual pilgrimage. Setebos, Caliban believes, created everything but the stars.

And then, at the end of an hour or so of this monologue, with, apparently, only himself as his audience, Caliban realises that Setebos has found him out:.

He’s not omnipotent, and rather than blessing his creation he capriciously torments or spares it. Book titles OR Csliban titles. But perhaps Caliban is the rightful heir to the island?

He arbitrarily kills or maims some crabs, while saving others, as they scuttle down to the sea. Caliban thinks that some of Setebos’ creatures are finer and more talented than their maker, yet they are also dependent on him for doing anything at all.

In the poem the polarities are constantly shifting. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. Is Browning satirising evolutionary theory, biblical criticism, Calvinist doctrine — or even the critics of these troubling currents of thought?

The wind Shoulders the pillared dust, death’s house o’ the move, And fast invading fires begin! Browning, in bestowing on Caliban this distinctive rough yet immensely sophisticated language, will put into his mouth many more such two-term compounds as “eft-things.


Caliban Upon Setebos – English – Ryerson University

Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. I find the poem ironical rather than satirical. Or maybe Caliban will continue into and through Shakespeare’s play, and at the end of it find some sort of grace.

Yet the alcohol also makes him more cleverly manipulative, to the point where you wonder whether he is going to get the upper hand, like the Slave in Hegel’s dialectic of Master and Slave, or the slaves in Nietzsche’s Christian revolt against the noble Ancients. Browning uses square brackets to show Caliban introducing as well as observing himself, and will use the same notation when Caliban takes his leave.

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These were made by the Quiet, a mysterious and indifferent higher god uponn is the antithesis of the capricious, vindictive and noisily thunderous Uon. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: White blaze — A tree’s head snaps- and there, there, there, there, there, His thunder follows!

Contact Contact Us Help. View freely available titles: Caliban initially talks of himself in the third person while sprawling on his stomach, his chin propped on his balled fists, and his feet splashing in murky water, with little newts tickling his back and arms and mimicking the circulation of his blood:. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

He may be a part of the natural order but he has achieved some form of individuation, self-awareness and individual agency.