It may not appear obvious, but there is an example of linguistic imperialism in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero and Caliban have a pretty complicated relationship which reflects a typical situation between the colonizer and the locals at the time. It results in the unpleasant occurrence of language barrier and misunderstanding, which Prospero decides to solve in a cruel way.
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The main character of the play, Prospero, arrived on the island many years before the main timeline. He immediately declared that he can now own it. The only local person there was Caliban, the witch‘s son. According to Prospero, the islander was more savage than someone worthy of ruling the whole island. Not only Caliban looked dirty, but his manners and language were unappealing. Here is where is the theme of colonization comes into the game. Shakespeare wanted to highlight that the standard ways of dealing with the indigenous population do not work. He used Prospero and Caliban’s relationship to picture it.
As it often happens with colonizers, Prospero decided that he should help a poor savage to become more of a man. For this purpose, the language lessons were organized. The magician believed that it would make Caliban more civilized. As it turned out later, the islander had to pay a prize for that and become Prospero’s slave. The main idea is that Caliban was pleased with his life and language and didn’t need to be rescued. One of the main problems with colonization at the time was that people weren’t even trying to learn the language and culture of the locals. Instead, they were pushing their own language and rules on them. Prospero doing the same with Caliban is the best representation of linguistic imperialism.
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