Caliban, the original monster and barbarian in The Tempest, has been far removed in both time and interpretations from the original one Shakespeare created four hundred years ago. Having been portrayed in literary criticism as a giant fish, a grotesque monster, an American Indian, an African slave, his incarnation changes from "a savage and a deformed slave" to the "quintessential colonial victim". Especially in recent years, Caliban has been a major socio-political emblem throughout the world. This paper tries to summarize the various interpretation of Caliban and to demonstrate Caliban's long and erratic journey through different time.
Although no one knows what Shakespeare intended Caliban to be, it is clear that he used no single idea or figure as Caliban's model. It is extensively believed that a partial source of the model is the English wild man; however, other claims exist. Etymologically, since the words "cannibal" was widely used in Shakespeare's day, many critics insist that this name suggests the savage's moral degradation. Some critics believe Caliban's name is kalebon, an Arabic word for "vile dog". Some argue that it deprives from the gypsy word cauliban, which means "black" or something associated with blackness. Whatever the origin of Caliban's name, it relates to something foul, wild, dirty and uncivilized. Caliban's name makes his debut unpleasant and even disgusting. .
As we know, English wild man has deep roots in English literature and popular culture and encompasses a remarkable variety of types-from fully human to almost animal, from essentially moral to irredeemably corrupt, which may all be the similarities to Caliban; therefore, the interpretations of Caliban are abundant and various. Critical attitudes toward Caliban in the Restoration were basically depreciating since they were based on Dryden and William Davenant's adaptation of Shakespeare's text. Unlike Shakespeare's Caliban, Who appreciates the island's natural treasures and its wondrous music, Dryden and Davenant's Caliban is a completely a monster, insensitive to everything.