One of the essential themes of the Tempest is the duality between nature and society. This is made evident through the character of Caliban: the disfigured fish-like creature that inhabits the island at which the play takes place. Caliban lacks civilized influence due to the fact that he was born on the island deprived of any social or spiritual morality other than nature and instinct. He is literally man untamed. Caliban is not monstrous simply for the sake of being frightening, his ghastly visage is intended to literally depict the duality between civilization and natural instinct.
Caliban is literally man untamed. Part fish, part man, but not really either because he is more mentally sophisticated than a fish, but devoid of any characteristics generally associated with civilized beings. He displays promise in becoming civilized, but eventually it becomes evident that it is impossible to fully tame a wild animal, which is what Caliban essentially is. Caliban is more of an animal rather than a monster. While he is labeled a monster throughout the play due to his appearance, he is in fact an animal. He is not inherently evil or malicious, but relies on his own instincts and skills that he has learned to adapt to his surrounding and survive. What is vital to survival in society is not necessarily important in nature; and vice versa.
In nature only the most basic aspects of survival are required. Nature is all about survival, at any cost. Society is not. Civilization was developed out of convenience with the mental and physical skills of man. It has been from the very beginning, about making life easier. Basic ideals that are present in almost every society in the world are no murder and no theft. These are present because life is easier with rules like this. Human beings no longer had to worry about being killed or being looted as much as long as they were within the confines of a civilization. People started to be able to take up specialized professions and be able to count on other people to perform tasks such as carpentry, cooking, etc. Governments were formed to organize the people and efficiently run a civilization. Now the individual was not responsible for every aspect of survival but contributed to the overall survival of a civilization. From this economies were born either through trade or currency. However, the cornerstones of human civilizations (money and power) have lead to a whole new form of evil and brutality that was never present in nature. Its almost of a blind perversion of human nature. Through bettering our situation, we have corrupted ourselves to an extent (greed). Civilization can produce more savage and evil beings than nature. While Caliban is perceived as being evil and monstrous, he really is not. He just does not know any better. However, Antonio is much more malicious than Caliban because he knows what he has done is evil This goes back to the concept of nature vs. society.
Caliban is Shakespeare’s representation of natural instinct and how it collides with society. Of course Caliban could have simply been a man raised in nature, but his image enhances his character by fulfilling, in his own flesh, the opposition and seemingly impossible compromise between nature and society. Caliban is in a sense a living breathing paradox. He cannot be tamed, but he shows characteristics of a tamed being; as does he show promise to be tamed. But he seems to revert back to his instincts and natural intelligence. Shakespeare’s message is that no matter how hard we try we cannot unlearn things that have become our nature, what we are cannot be changed, it can be tamed to an extent, but the beast within will eventually shine through (physical image of Caliban). We will always revert back to what has been imprinted into our minds from the beginning of our lives, everything else will always seem foreign and no matter what we will always slip up somehow. The character of Caliban fully exemplifies nature vs. society and their clash, both physically and as a character within the play.