Essay Sample on Aime Cesaire's A Tempest: Early Adaptation of Shakespeare's Work

Paper Type:  Argumentative essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1898 Words
Date:  2023-03-27


Adaptation is the process of creating a change in structure, function, and form to produce a better adjustment of the main issue in a novel or a poem (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 54). Aime Cesaire's, A Tempest is an example of the early adaptation to a Western canonical work (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 54). His play is an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Aime Cesaire's play expresses his anti-colonist ideas, examining the relationship between Prospero, the colonial master, and his colonial subjects (Caliban and Ariel) (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 54-55). While comparing the characterization and the colonized relationship between the two plays, this paper will attempt to explicate how Aime Cesaire's, uses Shakespeare's text to address the adverse effects of colonialism, and the main attention being on the colonize using the mechanics of adaptation and appropriation.

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Adaptation simply means the ability to make a play better by creating a change in either the structure, future and form of the poem (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 54). Appropriation means borrowing someone's idea or concept as a raw material to compose an original perspective in your essay, and much of Aime Cesaire's, A Tempest displays ideas of Shakespeare in his "The Tempest" text. Massai (3) suggests that most plays by Shakespeare give a close lens to different situations or aspects that happen around the world (Massai 3). He further elucidates that the mid-twentieth century was selected as a beginning point of Shakespeare's collection because of the concomitant advent of theory, and the augmenting popularity of Shakespearean appropriations by other authors (Massai 16). Most of Shakespeare's plays explain to the audience how the blacks fought for civilization in the United States. For instance, Aime Cesaire's, A Tempest play perpetuates the cultural authority that the blacks had within them to try and lobby for freedom from Prospero and to escape his tyrannical rule over its people (Massai pp. 40-43).

In the process of adaptation, both authors demonstrate a clear and obvious relationship with a specific theme. While in appropriation mechanics, Aime Cesaire's, A Tempest bases its main argument from Shakespeare's "The Tempest", which is about reconciliation (Cesaire 1-2). "Prospero was wronged by his sibling but does not take revenge when he gets his enemy in power. He instead forgives and embraces him" (Cesaire 1-2). The process of adaptation involves interpretation of a text more to show the connection with a similar idea from a different text, whereas appropriations are more subtle (Cesaire 1-2). In his adaptation A Tempest Based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest, Aime Cesaire's speaks to an audience that has not only being colonized but the colonial masters as well. Aime Cesaire adapts and moves the setting of The Tempest from the early modern period in which it was inscribed, to the 1960s where the events of civil rights movement in America and the independence of several African nations were main the main agenda (Cesaire 1-2). The Negritude poet's main intention in the entire adaptation is to demonstrate the ills of colonialism, and therefore colonial mentality in the minds of the colonized individuals (Cesaire 1-2).

In The Tempest, Cesaire's adaptation is designed in the form of a play, it is organized in three main acts and ten scenes. Act 1 encompasses two scenes, Act 11 comprises three scenes, and Act 111 has five scenes (Arnold 237). There are two main changes applied when it comes to the characters in the original Shakespeare's play. In A Tempest, Ariel is a "mulatto" slave, and Caliban is a black slave (Cesaire 2-3). A new character is also included by the name of Eshu and plays the role of a "black devil-god" (Cesaire 2-3). The sons in the play are also changed and modified to create an atmosphere of happiness despite the situation that the characters were forced into, and their quest to gain freedom (Cesaire 2-3).

In the first scene of his adaptation, Cesaire expresses the notions and beliefs that Europeans have of the Caribbean using the comments of Gonzalo as a way of creating the mood for the rest of the play (Cesaire 2-3). He also intends to display the delusion of witchcraft and magic that Europeans think depicts and invades the Caribbean. "Did you see that? There, at the top of the masts, in the rigging that glitter of blue fire..." (Cesaire 2-3). Cesaire castigates the people of the Caribbean in the following scene with a flashback (Cesaire 2-3). Prospero recounts how he was betrayed in his own land and accused of using "scribbling in Hebrew, Syrian, and other demonic speeches" (Cesaire 2-3). Cesaire incorporates constant squabbles between empires seeking to take ownership of foreign lands, it is seen when Prospero is telling Miranda the tale about how he was lied to by his brother with the assistance of the King of Naples just to steal from him the land that he "had managed to discover" (Arnold pp. 236-238).

One of the adverse effects of colonialism is segregation (Cesaire 2-3). The individuals who were brought into the Caribbean to be slaves, ad who afterward regained their freedom through the Emancipation Act of 1833 were confined to live in specific places with their "own people" (Arnold pp. 237-239). Africans and their descendants, most of them being prejudiced as a cause of the abuse to their parents by the white slave masters. They were not allowed to reside in the same areas where the white people lived (Cesaire 2-3). Cesaire firmly reflects this aspect and opinion in his adaption of Shakespeare's text, when Caliban challenges Prospero and informs him that "is it true that you threw me out of your house and made me live in a filthy cave. The ghetto!" (Cesaire 2-3). In Shakespeare's The Tempest, the audience is able to learn that Prospero punishes Caliban by using his magic and commanding spirits to oppress him, but the play does not share any acts of physical abuse from Prospero to Caliban directly (Cesaire 2-3). Rather, in A Tempest, Cesaire accentuates the suffering the slaves were subjected to by creating a narrative of Prospero whipping Caliban when he does not behave in the manner he is expected to. "Enough! be careful, Caliban! If you keep grumbling you will be whipped. If you also do not become active as others, I will beat you" (Cesaire 2-3).

In A Tempest, Cesaire develops a Caliban who is cognizant of the colonial trauma imposed onto him by Prospero (Cesaire 2-3). He acknowledges that his identity was stolen and replaced by one of his colonial masters. In the same context, Cesaire demonstrates how the epistemic violence of all the slaves brought about the erosion of their culture, and assimilation of the Western culture (Liang pp. 118-119). The author also explains the benefits of colonization. He states that colonization helped different empires to exploit resources from Africa that contributed to their economic growth (Liang pp. 118-119). Cesaire adaptation based on Shakespeare's The Tempest is an intriguing and useful postcolonial literature that helps to explain mainly the adverse effects of colonization on the lives of the black slaves (Cesaire 3).

While writing A Tempest Cesaire focuses on language development to achieve its crucial objective because according to him its mystical weapon (Halil 13). In a layman's language, it means Cesaire had turned the language into a weapon to use against the oppressor. Moreover, the mixed language of Cesaire through Caliban's creole (a mixture of mother tongue and colonial master's tongue) demonstrates the sufferings of the oppressed people under the yokes of colonialism (Halil 13-14). The aspect of mastering the language makes his play better than Shakespeare's The Tempest. Cesaire makes his voice heard through most of Caliban's speeches, which is a stirring allegation against colonization. In the play, Caliban states that "you are a great magician, also a good liar... and you deceived me so much about the world, and about myself. It made me end up to lose my image" (Halil 13-15).

In the final scene, after Caliban's character development, Prospero, the colonial master becomes weaker and weaker that he ends up looing his identity (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 60). "Time lapses, demonstrated by the curtain being lowered halfway and re-raised. In a semi-darkness, Prospero appears aged and weary (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 60). His gestures are spasmodic and automatic, his speech is weak and toneless." Cesaire gives an indication that colonization is ending and that the colonial masters are losing their power and grit over the colonial subjects (Abd-Aun and Qaiser 60).

Just like in Shakespeare, The Tempest, Cesaire uses Caliban to develop a plan with Stephano and Trinculo of winning back his freedom (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 58-59). Caliban's plot to overthrow Prospero in both Shakespeare's and Cesaire's plays is almost the same regarding its process and outcomes, however, there are some differences as far as the purpose is concerned (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 58-59). In the Tempest, Caliban is not civilized enough to detect the essence of freedom. He only knows that his master treats him in a cruel manner, and his rage to the master is what spurs his revenge towards him (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 57-59). Caliban recognizes that his rebellion was a sin against the decree of God and nature. However, Cesaire A Tempest shows a different case in terms of Caliban's character development, since the main motive of Caliban here is to front the freedom of his fellow captives from slavery and colonialism (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 57-59). Nevertheless, as he begins to implement the plan to emancipate himself and his fellow blacks from the yokes of colonialism, two drunkards, Stephano and Trinculo screw up the plan and make them even powerless (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 57-59).


In conclusion, based on the strong argument presented in the paper it is evident that Aime Cesaire, uses Shakespeare's text to address the adverse effects of colonialism, and the main attention is on the colonized individuals using the mechanics of adaptation and appropriation. Adaptation is a concept that is widely used by Aime Cesaire's to make his text A Tempest more compelling and intriguing than Shakespeare's The Tempest. Aime Cesaire's uses the mechanics of adaptation to explain how his theme of reconciliation is different in his text as opposed to Shakespeare's one. In his adaptation A Tempest Based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest, Aime Cesaire's speaks to an audience that has not only being colonized but the colonial masters as well. While rejecting colonialism, he displays his view that their no dignity without freedom. However, the freedom that Cesaire alludes to is freedom from the oppressive physical presence of the colonial master (Abd-Aun and Qaiser pp. 60-61).

Works Cited

Abd-Aun, Raad Kareem, and Qaiser Munir Diab. "Adaptation and Appropriation in Aime Cesaire's a Tempest." European Journal of Language and Literature 2.2 (2016): 54-62. Retrieved from:

Arnold, A. James. "Cesaire and Shakespeare: Two Tempests." Comparative Literature (1978): 236-248. Retrieved from:

Cesaire, A. "Tempete. English: A Tempest: Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest: Adaptation for a Black Theatre." (1986). 1-3. Retrieved from:

Halil, Houria. William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Aime Cesaire's Une Tempete and Dev Virahsawmy's Toufann as Intertexts. Diss. 2010. Retrieved from:

Liang, Fei. "A Call for Freedom: Aime Cesaire's A Tempest." Canadian Soc...

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Essay Sample on Aime Cesaire's A Tempest: Early Adaptation of Shakespeare's Work. (2023, Mar 27). Retrieved from

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