We have seen this semester that, in simple terms, monstrosity lies in the eye of the beholder, and one group’s monster is another group’s beloved master (or family member, etc.). A number of scholars over the years have considered this issue of perspective, including the influential critic Umberto Eco, whose late work ‘On Ugliness’ explores the monstrous things that repel us. Eco examines what the attraction (and repulsion) is to the gruesome and the horrific, and asks: is ugliness also found in the eye of the beholder? With such ideas in mind, for the first part of your Blogpost I’d like you to address in broad terms the ways in which monstrosity is, in essence, “in the eye of the beholder” as it pertains to one of our recent creatures. I would prefer that you address one of Shakespeare’s characters in ‘The Tempest’ for this part, but if you want to consider the impact/influence of perspective on an ancient or medieval monster studied before spring break that would also be OK.
The second part of your Blog is related, but will be a bit more narrow and specific in its focus. In his novel ‘The Counterlife’, renowned American author Philip Roth (speaking through the perspective of the writer who is the central character in the book) writes that “The treacherous imagination is everybody’s maker – we are all the invention of each other, everybody a conjuration conjuring up everyone else. We are all each other’s authors.” What Roth is subtly getting at in this passage is the fact that we all construct our own reality, and we all perceive the world as we will, serving as the “author” of the truths around us. For class this Thursday, you will be reading excerpts from John Gardner’s masterful novel ‘Grendel,’ which tells the well-known ‘Beowulf’ story from the perspective of the monster. Next week, you will be writing a longer account where you explore and consider the point-of-view of a specific monster, so as a kind of practice for this kind of thinking – and also to fuel some preliminary thoughts about monstrosity and perspective that we can consider in class Thursday – I’d like you to consider how the view of a particular monster changes if he/she is seen from a different perspective – from the point-of-view of another character or person from his/her world, or through the vision of him/her themselves. Lately, we have considered this in the form of the ancient Greek Idylls that offer us the view of Polyphemus the cyclops, and you will obviously be exploring Grendel for class today. So, I’d like you to pick another monster that we have studied of late, and offer some insights about what they might say if they (or someone else from their world) got to tell their story, about how their understanding of certain actions and “realities” would differ from those around them. Feel free to be creative here, if you wish.
If monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder then in the eyes of his (or hers in the case of the movie) slaves and enemies then the sorcerer is a monster. Sure to his innocent daughter he might be seen as a loving parent, but even to strangers he is a person with powerful magical abilities willing to kill to get what he wants.
As for a monster’s point of view look at ghosts. They were once normal people who died and now have to watch the world around them move on. Even I would haunt peopke if someone moved into my house when I’m still there, acted like they owned the place, and acted like they couldn’t see me.
Many people have a different definition of what should be considered ‘monstrous’. Umberto Eco makes an excellent point by stating that ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. What one person considers monstrous could be seen as morally and physically acceptable to another. Actions and appearances are judged and vary from person to person. A character that fulfills this example would be Prospero from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Prospero was previously a Duke before he was tricked by his brother and sent away to an island with only his daughter. He then uses his powers and a servant, Ariel, to get revenge. Some people may view Prospero as a great ruler. Others may view him as the true villain of the play. There are also others, such as myself, that would view Prospero as both good and bad. His actions for wanting revenge may seem justified; however, he treats Ariel just as bad or maybe even worse than the previous witch who enslaved him. Prospero might have had good intentions but used manipulative tactics to get what he wanted.
For the second part of this blog I’ll be looking at the story Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel’s mother. If Grendel’s mother told the story of her death and her son’s, it would be astoundingly different. For starters, Beowulf would not be the hero of the story, instead the villain. He would not be seen as the brave warrior but instead the violent murderer. Grendel’s mother would most likely defend her son’s actions, claiming he was misunderstood by the nasty humans. It’s important to point out that while it is true Grendel had done a bad thing, it makes him no less human than others. Almost every tragic hero, Beowulf included, has some kind of major flaw. In this case Grendel is no different. Finally, Grendel’s Mother would most likely gain sympathy from the audience in a story from her perspective because she will have justified her actions. If you had heard your child had been violently murdered, it’s most likely that you would want some kind of revenge. In this point of view, the whole story changes.
Caliban is one of the monsters in The Tempest that can be misunderstood. He is portrayed as a half man, half fish creature who wants to be free from Prospero. He is a native to the land that Prospero and her daughter arrived at and took over. He is seen as monstrous to Prospero because he either tried or made a threat to assault Miranda, Prospero’s daughter. Trinculo and Sephano also see him as monstrous because of his appearance. But Caliban, himself is not a monster like some may say. He wants to kill Prospero because he wants to be free from her.
From The Tempest, Caliban does not see himself as a monster. If someone were to ask him about his story. He would say that he lived on this land with his mother, who was a witch and were content, until Prospero and Miranda came and took over. He did not speak the language but he was taught and had a somewhat decent relationship until he said he would assault Miranda, but in his defense he did not know any better. He did not now the social norms of these people. He did not mean any harm in what he did or said and has not tried to hurt her since then. He only wants to murder Prospero because he is her slave and is too powerful to disobey. She uses her power for evil. He is only trying to live his life as he did before she and her daughter came.
In the Tempest, Caliban is considered a monster because of his physical appearance, his actions toward Miranda, and trying to kill Prospero. It is said that he tried to rape Miranda, but the audience does not know for sure. He could’ve tried, but at the same time, Prospero could’ve taken his actions to mean something completely different than what it was supposed to be. The audience cannot really know for sure. Another thing to consider would be that even if he did try to rape her in any way, maybe he did not realize what he was doing because he doesn’t understand that it is wrong. Therefore, some believe that he is a monster in the play because he tried to rape Miranda and also because he wants to kill Prospero, but others believe he really isn’t a monster because he was on the island first, when Prospero comes and takes over and starts calling Caliban her “slave.”
If Medusa were the one to tell the story of what happened to her, it would be much sadder. The audience would sympathize with her because she was raped by Poseidon and when Athena found out, she punished Medusa. Therefore, the true monsters of the story would be Poseidon and Athena, instead of Medusa. Poseidon would be considered a monster for raping Medusa, while Athena would be considered a monster for unrighteously cursing Medusa and turning her into a horrid creature when it was never her fault to begin with.
Many people have very different definitions as to what is ‘monstrous’ and what is not. Some peoples’ ugly is another persons’ beauty. Umberto Eco states the valid point of “ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.” Everybody sees things differently such as one person seeing someone as a monster and another person seeing that same person as physically beautiful. Everyone is different in their own special way and not one person is the same, nor is anyone perfect. One character that fits this example is Prospero from Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest”. Prospero was a Duke until he was misled by his brother and was sent away to an island with only himself and his only daughter. He begins to use his powers with the help from a servant, Ariel, to get revenge on his brother and anyone who helped to send him away. Most people view Prospero as the villain in the play but why not say he is a great ruler? Although he is bad for trying to do wrong by his brother, he is also good in the sense of him trying to protect his daughter out of harms’ way. Prospero also treated Ariel horribly by manipulating him, saying he will set him free, only to get what he wanted from this ‘fairy’.
For the second part of this blog post, I will focus again on Shakespeare’s movie version of “The Tempest.” When seeing Caliban, most people would see what he looks like and call him a monster from his facial features and what his body looks like. If you were to ask Caliban if he was a monster, he would say no, because he did not see himself in that aspect. He and his mother were the first ones on the island until Prospero and Miranda came and took it over. Caliban could not speak their language until they taught him. They had a fairly decent relationship until Caliban said he wanted to assault Miranda. In his eyes, he did not know any better and did not know this would be the wrong thing to do. Since he said that, he has not tried to hurt or touch her at all. He is trying to live the happy, normal life he lived before Prospero and Miranda came to the island, but cannot do this now or ever again, because he is now enslaved by Prospero and she is too powerful for him to ever disobey her. The only thing he wants is to have his regular life back.
For the first blog post, the way the tempest shows that monstrosity lies within the eyes of the beholder. Is the way everything sees and views the half human half monster Caliban. Everyone in the play viewed Caliban as this weird evil person or creature. That’s mostly because Caliban looked different than everyone else with his pale and scaly skin. But also the way he did things and the way he would talk to people. But Caliban only looks and acts that way because his mother was a witch who used dark magic, so he wasn’t going to come out as the most normal being. Also, he had his home stolen away and was also enslaved by Prospero so you can see why he would be upset and act rudely towards others. But just because Caliban looks and acts this way doesn’t mean his is a monster or has anything to do with the view of monstrosity. Its just because he looks different from everyone else in the play and also what he did to Miranda. That he is viewed as a monster with an evil persona.
For the second blog post, I am going to give the perspective of Medusa from the Greek mythology. If someone one day without turning to stone asked Medusa how she came to be this way. She would say that once she was the most beautiful woman in the land and men would drool over her. But she couldn’t do anything about it because she was a priestess to the goddess of war Athena. Which means she wasn’t allowed to marry anyone so that she can stay devoted to Athena. Well, that all changed when Poseidon god of the sea noticed her and got feelings for her. Poseidon ends up raping Medusa and when Athena finds out she gets furious and thinks Medusa doesn’t deserve her anymore. She would say as her punishment that she got turned into this monster being. Also if anyone would look at her then they would turn into stone, so that nobody would love her ever again. From her perspective, Medusa stories change to as showing her being the victim in all this and she ends up getting punished for something she didn’t even do. And nothing ever happens to Athena for turning her and Poseidon for raping her.
The story of The Tempest allows us to find connections between Prospera and Umberto Eco’s notion that ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. While the idea of ugliness is often attributed to one’s physical appearance, it is also the actions and opinions of someone that can make them “ugly”. Prospera can be imagined as a hero in the eyes of Miranda, yet a true monster in the eyes of Caliban. Prospera has both good and bad attributes, yet can be idolized or hated depending on the individual’s viewpoint.
For the second part of the blog post, I will reference the story of Medusa. Medusa was known as a horrible monster who turned men to stone at first sight. However, this was not her original nature. From Medusa’s perspective, she was a beautiful woman who was raped for her beauty and then punished for the actions of her rapist. Her punishment was cruel and was due to actions she couldn’t have prevented. In the end, most stories can be twisted when told from one person to the next. It is important to keep this in mind as we analyze and critique any individual in any story.
Monstrosity is essentially expressed “in the eye of the beholder” due to how a creature portrays its power and threatening qualities. In terms of power, Shakespeare interprets Caliban’s character represents “the eye of the beholder” because he aspired to reclaim his island so he can live peacefully. Since Prospero was the one to enslave Caliban, Caliban sought to murder Prospero with the help of Trinculo and Stefano. We learn that Caliban is capable of harming Prospero and intends to regain the power he initially had. Not only that, Caliban is threatening himself because of his physical appearance and attempt for almost raping Miranda. Therefore, even Caliban is capable of being labeled as a “monster,” but that does not mean that monsters are incapable of learning from their mistakes. I believe expressing monstrous qualities could be physical appearance, but also the intentions of the individual, also known as “the beholder.” Eventually, Caliban learns his lesson since Trinculo and Stefano were making a conspiracy against Caliban and Caliban carries on with the burden of being enslaved to his own island.
In all seriousness, if a monster told their story and passed it on an endless circle of folktale, then the stories we here would definitely be different. For instance, if Polyphemus the Cyclops had expressed his perspective of what happened in his own cave, then the story would undeniably be rather unusual compared to a human retelling his story. First of all, the Cyclops may claim that Odysseus and his crew were unlawfully breaking and entering into the Cyclops’s dwelling. Therefore, he probably thought that by trapping the men inside the cave and eating a few of them would suffice. Since he is a cannibal, he may have been hungry and angry at the same time when finding out that there were trespassers on his own property. So, not surprisingly he ate them and threw curveball of what the Cyclops probably thought they deserved. After his meal, he fell asleep, which is what most creatures do after they have a big course. While the Cyclops is sound asleep, Odysseus plans on getting back at Polyphemus by sharpening a log of wood, intending on ramming into his only eye. After attempting to blind him, the Cyclops wakes up and of course, intends on killing the rest of the men… because they took away his only eye. The Cyclops most definitely interpreted this situation as unrighteous and sinful because these men broke some of his most valuable rules.
In Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in terms of monstrosity lying in the eye of the beholder there are different perspectives. It is how someone sees the monster, and is repulsed by the actions/features it beholds. Caliban is the “monster” in “The Tempest” because in many people’s eyes what he does is wrong and monstrous with both his appearances and actions. He wanted to rape Miranda to spread his genes around the island. Rape is obviously very wrong, but you can look at it at a different perspective. Caliban got his home taken over by Prospero, and also had to be his slave. It is horrible and morally wrong to take over someones island who they are so deeply in love with. Caliban talks so highly about his island, but Prospero comes and creates a tyranny. Caliban is very wrong, but so is Prospero. If Prospero had not come and treat Caliban and the island the way he did, he would never had thought to rape Miranda, or plot to kill Prospero. Having these different perspectives allows the person to determine who is the actual monster. People see things differently than others. That is why people come out with different thoughts of who is the “monster”. They are the beholder, and not everyone has the same thoughts.
It is easy to see Beowulf as a hero, but if you look at it in terms of Grendel’s mother’s perspective you see things differently. Grendel’s mother had seen what the men had done to her son that she loved so much. She did not see Grendel as a monster, she just simply saw him as her son. When he came home bloody and hurt, she did what mothers do and got very angry. If someone were to hurt my son, there would be a lot of problems. Through the mothers vision she saw Beowulf and his men as monsters. Just because Grendel and his mother look and act different then the normal, does not mean that they are monsters. Seeing it from Grendel’s mother’s perspective gives you a further understanding for her and her sons “monstrous” retaliation. Getting this type of view makes you realize that there really is not true monster, there’s always different perspectives.
In the Tempest, we are introduced to numerous monstrosities. One of the most monstrous would have to be Caliban. Caliban is portrayed as a human with fish-like qualities. He is definitely misunderstood and judged for this difference. Caliban had lived on this island his entire life with his mother, who was the “ruler” before Prospera and her daughter showed up there. At first, Caliban was fond of them-he let them teach him their language-and from what we are told they seemed to get along well. However, it is claimed that Caliban either went through with or at least threatened to abuse Prospera’s daughter. After this, Caliban is taken in as Prospera’s slave and is treated very poorly. The main question is, is he really a monster? Is this just what they created of him? They came in and took over his land, expecting him to be perfectly fine with it. When he (possibly) acted out, he is then viewed at as terrible and treated like he is property. Besides his “ugly” appearance, the monster that his is was created by the real monster, Prospera.
For the second half of the blogpost, I would like to focus in on Medusa from Greek Mythology. Things would be completely different if people were taught the story from her perspective. She lived through one of the most tragic incidents that can occur. She was a beautiful woman that many people desired. Someone took it upon themselves to overpower and force themselves on her. It was then that she was cursed into the monstrous body that she is known for. Medusa was punished for someone else’s actions. She was cursed so that whenever anyone looked at her they would turn to stone, so she could never properly experience love. Her story is very misinterpreted due to the fact that everyone just hears about a woman having snakes for hair and turning people to stone. Hearing the backstory would completely change people’s opinions about her.
There are many things to consider about Eco’s work on monstrous things. People interpret monsters in many different ways like being evil or misunderstood. Everyone is different in their own way. Depending who you are, people view or imagine things ugly or beautiful. Prospero is an example to Eco’s point “ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. People may see him as a villain for having his spirit Ariel destroy her brothers ship and taking over Caliban’s land. Prospero makes his spirit do certain things that will only benefit him and his daughter. But others may think he is good since he is doing it to protect his daughter.
A monster that I will be discussing for the second part of the blog post is Caliban from “The Tempest.” Right away many people see Caliban as a monster from his physical appearance as people describe to him to be a man and fish. If you were to see the movie from Caliban’s point of view, he would not consider himself to be a monster. He wouldn’t because Prospero is cruel to him. The island that Prospero lives on was taken over by her from Caliban where he grew up and lived. Many people may view Caliban as a monster from his physical appearance, but some may not consider him a monster after seeing that Prospero took over his land.
I believe that ugliness and monstrosity are the same boat as beauty, being in the eye of the beholder. When I think of this, the first example that I think is the Addams family. While I believe that each member of the family could be considered scary, many people believed that Cousin Itt was a monster. Cousin Itt could be seen as a monstrous figure because of his appearance, but to the family, he was just another member. In the case of the Addams family, beauty and monstrosity is seen in the eye of the beholder. As for The Tempest, the same could be said for the character Caliban. When Caliban’s appearance is first described for the reader, he is described to be a human with very fish-like features. The jest and butler are off put by his appearance at first, and could see him as monstrous. And although his appearance doesn’t change, the way he is perceived could. While he may have been seen as monstrous appearance-wise to the other character, he was probably not seen this way by his mother, Sycorax, and maybe even Ariel, who also had a unique appearance.
Looking back to the Ancient Monsters and Pliny the Elder, there are many monsters described that could be seen as misunderstood. Looking back to monsters such as the Androgini, they were seen as monstrous, even though their descriptions just seem to dictate that the only thing separating them was their ambiguous genitalia. If you are looking through their perspectives, they may have even been confused as to why they were outcasted from other human, as the only difference was their sex, or lack of a definite one.
Prospera is a powerful leader of a mysterious island. She was banished to that island from her position as a duke of Italy. She is seen as a monster by Caliban, who is her slave, Alonso, Sebastian, Gonzalo and Antonio. Four of those men landed on that island when their ship landed on it after Prospera had created a terrible storm to bring them to her. She purposely brought those men onto the island to get her revenge on them. They were the ones who banished her to the island. Caliban’s mother, Sycorax, was killed by Prospera when she landed on the island after she got banished from Italy. Caliban was then made Prospera’s slave, as a punishment for his mother’s actions. Caliban lived on that island his entire life then all of a sudden he is his mother’s killers slave for the rest of his life. He was also accused of sexually abusing Miranda, which led to more mistreatment from Prospera. However, she is not seen as a monster by her other slave, Ariel. Ariel is a spirit that was held as a prisoner and killed by Sycorax. When Prospera killed Sycorax she released Ariel’s spirit but only under the condition that he becomes her servant. Although, he is still Prospera’s slave, she set him free and she treats him much better than how she treats Caliban.
If Medusa got to tell her story she would explain why what happened to her was unfair and traumatizing. If she got to tell her story, I’m not sure that she would be perceived as a monster because her story would make the audience be sympathetic towards her. Medusa never used to be a scary looking monster that could turn people to stone. She used to be a beautiful girl that was sexually abused by Poseidon. Athena had been jealous of her and her beauty, so when she found out about what happened with Poseidon, she punished Medusa and put her under a spell that would turn her into the ugly, snake haired monster that has the power to put anyone to stone that looks her in the eyes that she is known to be. Medusa would say this was unfair because she was punished for something she had no control over, if anyone should have been punished, it should have been Poseidon for abusing her.
When it comes to monstrosity, it truly is in the eye of the beholder. Monstrosity comes down to which perspective the situation is being viewed by. Although one person or group of people may believe someone is a monster, from the other person’s point of view they may be the monsters. An example of this from The Tempest could be Caliban. From Caliban’s perspective he was the original inhabitant to the island with his mother, but to Prospera and Miranda he is the monsterous one because of how he looks and acts. On the other hand, Caliban sees Prospera as the evil one due to her harsh treatment of him. This also connects to the political monsters section we did previously. Often times each political side portrays the opposition as monsterous.
For the second part, I will focus on Polyphemus the cyclops from the Odyssey. If the story was to be retold from his perspective it would be quite different. He would likely say that he was minding his own business on his island when these humans came and bothered him. They entered into his cave without permission, and then tried stealing things from him. In the end, they ended up mutilating him by stabbing him through his eye. From the point of view of Polyphemus, the humans come off as being the monsters. This can also be supported by him persuading his father Poseidon that they are the bad ones and not him. You would assume Poseidon would not send awful storms to attack the men if he did not believe they were the monsterous ones.
A perfect example of beauty or ugliness being in the eye of the beholder would be Vampires. They are a very misunderstood monster in my view. They are creatures that can only survive off of human blood, however that is not a life that they chose. The ugliness of their condition can often be overshadowed by the romanticized culture of vampires therefore making them more of an attractive monster rather than one that would be considered repulsive or ‘ugly’. There are many books and movies that portray mortals / humans falling in love with these enticing monsters with their charm and sex appeal to lure in their victims. Conflicting feelings within the monster often spare these humans, again making them appear to be less of a monster and more relatable to readers / viewers.
In ‘The Tempest’ Caliban is considered a monster by many people, by the way he looks and acts throughout the story. Physically he is hard to look at and his behaviors could be perceived as monstrous. There is a language and cultural barrier in the beginning which gives him another disadvantage. However his land that was left to him by his mother was taken from him by Prospero. To make things worse Prospero enslaves Caliban on the land that was taken from him! If something like this were to happen to me, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t be a pleasant person after such occurrences. That would make anyone bitter and angry.
The idea that monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder can be seen in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in the difference of viewpoints between Prospero and Caliban. To Prospero, Caliban was an unlearned, savage fish-creature that, despite the mercy and benevolence that he was shown, attempted to violate his daughter. To Caliban, Prospero was a cruel tyrant and a usurper that controlled him by use of magic curses and spirits. Prospero took ownership of the island that Caliban’s mother left him when she died. To both, the other acts as an evil entity that needs to be either manipulated and subjugated, in Prospero’s eyes, or murdered, according to Caliban, justifying all actions that are taken to achieve these goals. Depending on the point of view of the reader, either man can appear more sympathetic, painting the other as the perceived monster.
From Caliban’s point of view, Prospero would be shown in the same light as Prospero’s brother appears to Prospero. To Caliban, Prospero came and usurped what was left to him by his deceased parent; the only world he has ever known. Caliban’s story would show how he and Prospero lived amicably at first, however, Prospero would gradually assert his dominance using his magic. Being reduced to a slave and kept obedient under threat of pain, Caliban would build up resentment for Prospero over the years and eventually, realizing that he had no chance in harming, would attempt to rape Miranda as an act of defiance and frustration. From this perspective, Caliban would look like a tragic story of a man driven mad rather than one of a mindless savage.
I truly do believe that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but also, much like Umberto Eco’s theory, ugliness can also be in the eye of the beholder. With this in mind, one being can be “monstrous” in someone’s view, but completely normal in another’s. For example, in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, there is debate on how monstrous- or unmonstrous Prospero is. Many say he is a monster because of his enslavement of Ariel and how he mistreats Caliban. I do agree that he should not hold the fact that he saved Ariel from Sycorax over their head, but his mistreatment of Caliban is justified in my opinion. For instance, Caliban, as the story goes, attempted to rape Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, and due to that he banished Caliban to live on a small rock and to not leave. This makes people question just how “good” Prospero is, even though he is technically the protagonist.
Along with this, I would like to focus on is Bisclavret and how if this story was told in his point of view, it would be very different. If it was in his POV, we would have possibly been able to find out how and why he was a werewolf, and why exactly his clothes had so much significance to his changing. A lot of the unanswered questions and the background and origin of him being a werewolf could have been addressed. The story would have been more personal to Bisclavret, instead of just told from an author’s POV.
Monstrosity can be viewed as “in the eye of the beholder” in many reasons, and those reasons are very similar to how they are as beauty despite what people do and do not want to believe. To some people monstrosity can be defined as something as little as a facial mark that is different from their own where others may only view monstrosity based upon what is on the inside, and how a certain person acts. One monster that I believe to be a good example of monstrosity as held to be “in the eye of the beholder” is Medusa. Medusa was once seen as very beautiful for her looks, but some people saw her as ugly because of the way she acted. It wasn’t until she was cursed and turned to stone that everyone saw her as a monster. That thought can put a lot on a person and that in turn made what she held inside turn ugly too.
For the second part of this blogpost I would like to use Medusa again. If her story was told from her viewpoint it would not be the same at all. I would be a love story at first that soon turns to tragedy and heartbreak, leading to sadness and self-hate. Because people saw her as ugly and disgusting and talked about her in a horrid manner, it is hard to not believe what they say when it is going on for an extended period. If they stopped and thought about her feelings, they would see that she was following her heart and doing what she wanted to do with her life, which is very hard for people to do both back then and today. Medusa will be able to show the world her side of the story, that she grew to hate herself and in turn chose to hate others as well and use her curse as a scare tactic, so others could feel her pain and hatred for herself. There are always two sides to every story, and many people still fail to notice that.
While it may be an overused cliche in modern society, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. This can be proven whenever one looks at something “monstrous” or “ugly” from a different perspective. There is no clear-cut definition or system that qualifies something as ugly, as the word beauty is subjective and open to interpretation. As we have seen with multiple monsters throughout the course of this semester, things are not always as black and white when it comes to monstrosity. Something may appear to be a monster in one aspect, such as appearance, but appear to be normal, even virtuous, in other aspects. Caliban from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is a perfect example of how monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder. Upon seeing Caliban in the film and later reading his description in “The Tempest,” I actually thought Caliban was more man than beast. I interpreted him as a man with a physical deformity and an odor problem. Aside from his appearance, Caliban seems to be a normal, coherent individual. Aside from his lone “monstrous” act of possibly attempting to rape Miranda, Caliban displays normal human behavior. He acts “monstrously” or with contempt towards Prospero/a because he is treated so poorly. This is a normal human response to being mistreated. When we really look at Caliban’s behavior, especially his passion for Ariel’s music, he is not really a monster at all.
Even with monsters, perspective has a profound impact on our opinion of things. This may stem from the idea that everybody feels in their own mind that they are doing what is right or necessary, even when they are doing something that is taboo or wrong in society’s eyes. Even Adolf Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. If we once again look at Caliban from “The Tempest,” we really see the value of perspective in analyzing monstrosity. Caliban was born on the island. From a young age, the island belonged to him and his mother, Sycorax. Then, Prospero and Miranda come in and completely destroy his way of life. They impose their language and religion upon him and treat him well at first, but then enslave him over time. From Caliban’s perspective, Prospero is the real monster. The characters of Prospero can actually be interpreted as white Europeans as a whole. Meanwhile Prospero symbolizes the many different groups of people that whites completely disregarded and mistreated during the colonial period, such as Native Americans and blacks. When one takes this into account, Caliban looks much less like the monster in “The Tempest.”
For the first part of my blog post I am going to talk about the ways in which monstrosity is in essence, “in the eye of the beholder”. In Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” there is many different example of monstrosity. I’m going to start off with Caliban, Caliban was already living on the island when Prospera and Miranda arrived. Caliban is portrayed as this monstrous man who is also they believe to be part fish. Prospera makes Caliban her slave and he gets very angry about it. Caliban tells Prospera how his mother used to be the ruler of this island so it should belong to him. Prospera doesn’t care and still enslaves him. To me this makes me think, is Caliban the real monster here or does Prospera drags these monstrous actions out of him? Prospera came onto this island by accident and just because she has these magical powers Caliban is forced to be her slave. Caliban does create some pretty monstrous plans to kill Prospera, but would these plans have transpired if they all lived in peace?
For the second part of my blog post I am going to talk about Caliban again and how his family would tell his story from their point of view. Caliban’s mother Sycorax is a very powerful witch that was well respected on the island that Prospera rudely took over. Prospera is an evil witch that enslaves the poor innocent Caliban from the island where he has lived way before she intruded. Sycorax tells Caliban’s people about the evil actions that were done to her poor son. Being the witch that she was Sycorax told her people that Prospera was not just this witch but this monstrous woman that would lock Caliban in a cage at night and only give him left over scraps for his meals. She would make Caliban perform manual labor like collecting all the wood and sticks on the island, and fetching for endless amounts of water. Caliban is known as a hero to all of his people. He didn’t deserve the cruel, evil punishment he received just because he physically looked like a monster, and she had magical powers. All should use any type of magical powers for good not evil, if you use your powers for evil you are easily a monster.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare was the last play that he was known to right on his own and plays with the idea of perception. How one is perceived plays a large role in how the audience relates and sympathies with the characters. In the Tempest the clear monster is Caliban and the audience knows this based on how other characters such as Prospero, Miranda, and the Fool interact with him. In doing so the audience then also perceives Caliban as a monster. Though the question remains who is the monster? In the play we have two separate accounts on what happened has caused Caliban to be a monster. In the end, the readers are unsure which story is true. In contrast the audience sympathies with Prospero based on how he is perceived by characters like Ariel and Gonzalo. It is because of this perspective that the audience is more inclined to believe what Prospero says in regards to Caliban. Once again showing how Shakespeare is playing with perspective.
If you were to look at me today you would die the moment our eyes met however, I was once just like you little girl. I was once a priestess and vowed to serve the virgin goddess and took her vow of chastity. I was not much older than you are now when He set his sights on me. He was determined to have me no matter the price. I took my vows seriously until they were taken from me. He would not listen, no matter how many times I had said “no.” He did not care. All that he cared about was getting what He wanted. And what He wanted was me. Then one day he decided that he would wait no longer. I could feel His eyes following me the entire day setting the hairs on my neck and arms to stand at attention. It was at dusk that He made His move. I could feel His breath penetrating my personal space and His hands traveling my body without permission. Somehow, I managed to get away from Him. I ran as if my life depended on it yet something even more precious was on the line. I made it to the temple of my Goddess. I fell to my knees and prayed to her; I prayed for her guidance and protection just as you are now. She did not answer my prayers and she will not answer yours. She cares not for her disciples. It was there in that temple that He took all that He could from me and then He left me. Instead of her sympathy I only received her wrath. She cursed me to be this monster. To walk the earth forever as this hideous creature never knowing human company again.
For my first paragraph I would like to discuss Prospero from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” Everyone might think the real monster was Caliban, but in ways Prospero was a monster too. This is where we can see how monstrosity lies in the eyes of the beholder. Prospero did not look like a monster like Caliban; however, he sure did act like one. Once he arrived on the island and found Ariel and Caliban, he automatically felt superior and made them his slaves. We all look at monsters in different ways. Someone you believe to be a monster may not be a monster to me. It depends on morals, beliefs, and what side of the story you hear. In “The Tempest,” we do not really hear Caliban’s side of things, we read what happened to Prospero and side with him as innocent instantaneously. The monstrous part of Caliban did not come out until Prospero pulled it out of him. Overall even though one may physically look like a monster, they may not be the biggest monster.
For my second paragraph I would like to talk about Medusa. In the story they made her look like a monster and nothing but a monster. I think if she got to tell the story from her perspective more people would sympathize her. Medusa was raped and they made it seem like it was her fault. If she was able to tell that part of the story more than I definitely believe people would pity her and not think she is a monster. Medusa could tell the audience that she never wanted to hurt anyone; however, there was nothing she could do about the curse cast upon her. They made her a monster and even when she was a monster she never wanted to cause harm. If people looked at her in the eyes they turned to stone. At the end of the day with the curse she could not stop people from looking at her and she could not stop from turning them into stone. The people that cursed her are monsters. Medusa was not a monster, the curse was. More people would be able to see that if the story was written from Medusa’s perspective.
I believe the claim that monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder is valid. Seeing that everyone brings out their own opinions and perspectives when deciding on what is deemed “monstrous”, there are going to be conflicting ideas. One person in the group may think that sharp teeth are frightening, and believe that those who have sharp teeth are monstrous and scary. However, another person in the group thinks they’re cool, and to them that certain attribute is less frightening and more intriguing. In regards to Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the stance on whether or not the character of Ariel is a monster could be put on debate. One might say “he’s purposefully attacked people with no regard for their safety, that makes him monstrous,” whereas someone else might take the defensive side and say, “he’s just working as Prospero’s puppet, and if he doesn’t do what he’s told then he’ll be imprisoned! This makes Prospero the real monster, not Ariel.” Ariel’s actual character never changes, just people’s opinion of his character does.
If you were to ask a ghost what their story was, it would be completely different from the story given by those who were being haunted. Most likely they just want some peace. Most of the time those who become “ghosts” had died in horrific ways, and honestly if I were a ghost who had a horrific death I’d want some alone time as well. Or they could even feel like the new owners of their house are disrespecting the deceased, or disrespecting what was once their property, and they’re lashing out in defiance. That’s not too different than what living people do when they feel like they’ve been disrespected, and in a way shouldn’t seen as that monstrous of an act. As a final “ghost theory,” maybe the person doesn’t even know they’re dead. In that sense, when telling their story they’d play the ignorance card. To them, there are just random people moving into their homes and setting up shop, and the ghost is rightfully mad. Overall, when theoretically conversing with a ghost (or any monster), their side of the story would be vastly different from the story that our “heroes” tell.
In The Tempest, Caliban is considered a monster because of his appearance. He doesn’t look like the Italians that came onto his island, so they make him into a monster due to the fact he is not like them. They try to make him more like them by trying to teach them to speak their language but when he tries to rape Miranda because he does not understand that raping someone is a bad thing because he is not civilized, he is also considered a monster.
I think that a monster’s story that would be told differently from their point of view would be Medusa. This is because she was raped by Poseidon and was turned into a monster by Athena, so her way of becoming a monster is different. She was not born into being a monster, but was human then became a monster. Therefore, she could make the audience relate and sympathize with her more. Especially in some cases there are people who are raped and are seen to be the monster and the cause of what happened rather than their rapist being the monster.
Within The Tempest, one of the most misunderstood characters is Caliban. Being cast away to his own island, he is already a marked character as he is isolated from the rest of the world. Not only is he isolated, but he is also viewed as an unknown creature. Being explained as half human and half fish, Shakespeare does not give much insight as to what he truthfully is. This leaves the mind open to determine the visuals of Caliban and assume for themselves what they want him to be. His history also reveals itself to be sorrowful as his mother sent him away for his outward appearance and Prospero takes advantage of this himself. Prospero enslaves Caliban with no remorse and forces him to live to appease her wishes. With a lengthy unfortunate past, Caliban has no choice but to abide by the rules in fear of being killed or enchanted by her magic. While people make their first impressions based on appearance, Caliban is immediately viewed as the monstrous character. Monstrosity truly is in the eyes of the beholder as you really do not know the struggles one is going through on the inside when the world tends to judge a book by its cover.
For the second part of this blog post, I wanted to discuss Ariel’s character from The Tempest as well. Ariel is an extremely passive character which is interesting from his perspective. Being enslaved his entire life may cause some to frequently rebel against their masters to try to gain their freedom. Instead, Ariel chooses to obey Prospero’s every command with no questions asked. The scene where Prospero threatens Ariel would be completely different if told from Ariel’s perspective. It can be assumed that being broken down both mentally and physically throughout his life has caused him to believe that he was meant to serve others. This sorrowful assumption adds to the ambiance of his character as the whole story changes when viewed in his eyes. What is viewed as a weak slave is really just a misunderstood creature who has never been treated in the right way.
Monstrosity lies within the eye of the beholder. What one person may view as monstrous, another may view as desirable. Throughout the years scholars have tried to explore the perspective of individuals on ugliness. However, not everyone deems the same things ugly. The Tempest has many examples of monstrosity dispersed throughout its characters. Caliban is a monster who is misunderstood. Before Prospero and Miranda arrived, Caliban and Sycorax lived peacefully on the island. Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, was a vessel of dark-magic, eventually passing her ways onto her half-human, half-fish son. With little to no influence from any other figure except his mother, Caliban became accustomed to the ways of dark-magic. Prospero and Miranda view Caliban as monstrous because he does not look the same as they do, had little social interaction, and is a vessel of dark-magic.
However, Caliban does not view himself as a monster. Caliban was born the way he is and knows no different. Caliban grew up around his mother who taught him to be the way he is. Upon Prospero and Miranda’s arrival, Caliban did not even speak the same language as them. Prospero and Miranda viewed Caliban as monstrous because he was different from them and not accustomed to the social norms of Italy. In Caliban’s world, Prospero and Miranda came to his island and enslaved him making them the monstrous ones in his eyes. Prospero and Miranda come from a developed world while Caliban comes from his own world. Caliban was stripped of his home and forced to follow rules of a society he does not come from or understand.
est Caliban is treated very poorly by Prospero and made to be a slave. Caliban gets angry with the people and does militias acts that would in a sense give him that ugly look that he perceived to have. I believe that there is a cause and effect situation here, because people are mean to Caliban taking over his island enslaving him, but when he retaliates he is looked at as an ugly monster.
When we look at the people who perform in freak shows and are used to make people laugh due to deformities we might not really know how they feel about this. Yes, it makes them money and gives them a passage but it also discriminates these people when others laugh and make fun of some of these disabilities or abnormalities. If they got to tell their story about the freak shows it would probably be a crazy story to listen to. It may be fun for some of the freaks, but in a better sense, the freaks being laughed at and looked at as different most likely feel isolated and alone, similar to Grendel. It is hurtful not to be accepted into society and labeled as different, especially when you scare people due to an ugly appearance. The freaks may be tired of being clown exhibits and may eventually stand up to these freak shows that can be potentially ruining the freaks’ confidence.
In the Tempest* (paragraph 1 correction)
Monstrosity is definitely “in the eye of the beholder.” In Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Ariel would be seen as a monster by the men who were on the ship that he destroyed, but to Prospero he is not because he is working for him. It all has to do with a person’s values and beliefs and also how the “monster” has affected the person judging them. It comes down to people and creatures being complex. Many peoples’ idea of monstrosity is based on appearance. A lot of the monsters we have in society offer no real harm but are considered monsters because of the way they look. Personally, my idea of monstrosity is based on action, not appearance.
If the dragon from Beowulf could tell the story from his perspective, it would definitely be a lot different than Beowulf’s version. Beowulf would not be presented as this heroic man if the dragon told the story. Beowulf would undoubtedly be the villain. The dragon would also talk about how he had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to die. Also, the fact that the dragon was asleep when Beowulf killed him would be a big focus in his version of the story. His version would be a very angry retelling.
I messed up on the second half and mixed up the story. To fix it, if the dragon from Beowulf could tell the story from his perspective, it would definitely be a lot different than Beowulf’s version. Beowulf would not be presented as this heroic man if the dragon told the story. Beowulf would undoubtedly be the villain. The dragon would also talk about how he had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be attacked. Also, the fact that the dragon was asleep when Beowulf came into his home and tried to steal from him would be a big focus in his version of the story. His version would be a very angry retelling.
When it comes to differentiating beauty and ugliness, monstrosities and norms, it is clear that these views are of course “in the eye of the beholder”. Through out the semester we have talked about how people tend to categorize other people, animals or even things, because it is our basic natural instincts. When we, as humans, see others whom are different from us, we tend to categorize them as clearly being different. While watching the movie ‘The Tempest’, it was clear that Prospera felt she was above all of the other creatures on the island, including Caliban. It was obvious that she looked at him as different, because he looked different from her, and so she treated him differently. She wasn’t the only one who took notice as to Caliban being visually different, as Stephano and Trinculo also make comments of how fish-like he appears and they both question if he’s actually even human.
When looking at the point of view of the monsters rather then that “hero’s”, I decided to take the perspective of the dragon from the literature we read on Beowulf. Though Beowulf fought multiple creatures, it seems as though the only one in the wrong was Beowulf himself. If you take a look at the perspective of the dragon, he was rightfully pissed off that someone woke him in his sleep, and was trying to steal gold from him. After catching the thief attempting to steal, the dragon took his rage out on the village, which resulted later in his death. I don’t believe that he was in the wrong, because someone was doing wrong to him first, but the dragon was made out to be the monster, not the thief.
Due to the fact that everyone has their different opinion on what is monstrous, monstrosity is “in the eye of the beholder”. One person’s morals can be completely different from others. This automatically has an effect on their perception of what is good or evil. In “The Tempest”, Caliban is considered a monster. He is half man and half fish. Caliban is definitely a misunderstood monster. He only seeks for revenge has his mother ruled the island until Prospero took over. Caliban wants to be free and not a slave. Due to his situation it reflects heavily on his actions. If he didn’t have a different appearance he wouldn’t be as “monstrous”.
One of the monsters that we’ve gone over recently that definitely has strong point of view would be Medusa. If her story was told from her side, the whole story would be different. The audience would sympathize with her due to her being raped and turned into a hideous monster. People’s reaction to this story would be pure sadness.
The play William Shakespeare wrote, “The Tempest”, was very interesting due to all the different interpretations that could take place. “The Tempest” has a lot of instances where a character’s monstrosity is in the eyes of the beholder. An example of a character with traits the could be interpreted differently could be Caliban. This creature was considered a man with characteristics of a fish. Caliban could be thought of as a monster because of his appearance yet, he is not, because he shows emotion like a human would in tough instances. Another aspect of Caliban’s monstrosity is the mentioning of him attacking innocent Miranda. This section could be interpreted as a sexual attack or a physical attack out of possible rage. Although I do not support sexual harassment in anyway, Caliban’s situation could be reasoned with. Caliban grew up on an island on his own with only his mother and a fairy like creature. Growing up in a situation like that could have an effect on the way he understands his feelings. Also never seeing another beautiful woman other than possibly his half fish mother can impact the incident.
If the story Beowulf was told from a different perspective, I would choose Grendel’s mother. If she told the story, there would be a more understanding audience on the actions of her son and herself. It would depict Beowulf as the villain because he is hurting them because they are visually different than the average human. The mother-son relationship would be able to be more in detail making the audience pity the not so monstrous monsters after all. The story would possibly have told with less of a bias on looks and more on the actions of the characters. Beowulf would have been a depressing story rather than a positive one about victory.
One so called “Monster” to discuss the concept of “Monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder” is Caliban from ‘The Tempest’. Caliban is described by Shakespeare very vaguely but it is known that he is viewed as a monster. By keeping his description vague I believe Shakespeare is leaving how ugly or gruesome he is to the mind of the audience. Not knowing what he could look like leaves him at the will of the imagination of the readers. Another thing about monstrosity is that most people called monsters are said to be that only due to physical appearance. Some people may be attracted to something ugly while others aren’t so someone is only a monster if you view them that way. Others may not see that monstrosity in them.
Caliban from “The Tempest” is a perfect example as to how perspective works and how if you look through a different perspective you can see Caliban might not be that bad after all. Caliban has been made a servant of Prospero but the island was originally his. At first his bad attitude makes him more unappealing but if you see through his perspective all of his anger directed towards Prospero is justified. They also claimed he tried to rape Prospero’s daughter but could it have been a misunderstanding and could he have only been thought of doing something bad due to his monstrous appearance. Caliban sums up “monstrosity is in the the of the beholder” perfectly as well as how perspective can affect someones view of you.
If monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder then people who could be considered good can be a monster to others. In the case of “The Tempest” Prospero can be seen as a monster by her slaves. Prospero says how she saved Ariel from a horrible place, but how she treats him is probably just as bad as the horrible place he was in. She forces him to do unjustly things. When asked if she could give him what she promised him she told him that she will put him back in the tree if she did not follow her orders. In the eyes of Ariel I would definitely call Prospero a monster.
Caliban may seem like a monster through the story “The Tempest”, but he may not be. Caliban is portrayed as a half man, half fish kind of creature. Caliban was native to the island where Prospero and her daughter now live. Prospero and her daughter have taken over the land and made Caliban her slave all because it was said that Caliban allegedly tried to rape Prospero’s daughter. If this story was told from Caliban’s point of view, I think I would feel much pity for him and possibly even grow to hate Prospero and her daughter. He does not look like the social norm, but that doesn’t make him a monster.
Umberto Eco discusses the concept of ugliness in his work ‘On Ugliness’ and asks if ugliness is found in the eye of the beholder. This idea stands true when considering Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, specifically the character of Prospero. Although Prospero has no specific physical ugliness or monstrosity, his heart is as ugly as they come. To his daughter Miranda, Prospero is a loving father, trying to protect her and make the best of their situation. Prospero tells Miranda lies endlessly and only allows her to see the good parts of himself. To everyone besides his daughter, Prospero is an ugly and monstrous person with no consideration for anyone besides himself. To Caliban and Ariel, who are both considered “real” monsters, he is heinous and cruel, showing his true colors.
The monster story I would like to retell is that of Medusa. As we know she is depicted throughout Greek literature as a horrible monster, she seduces men and turns them to stone with her hair but she was not always that way. If she or someone close to her were to tell her story I believe they would explain what actually happened. Before her name struck fear into the hearts of men, Medusa was a beautiful woman who served as a priestess in the goddess Athena’s temple. One day, as she was going about her duties, the god Poseidon came down and defiled her on the steps of the temple. Medusa was so ashamed she prayed to Athena and asked for guidance and forgiveness. Athena took her rape as betrayal and cursed her loyal servant. Medusa was cursed with many changes but she is best know for her vile snake hair and eyes that turn people to stone. On top of being cursed, Athena banished her. Medusa asked for none of this and became bitter, turning her into the monster she was cursed to be.
Monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder. In “The Tempest”, Shakespeare keeps his description of Caliban vague in order to allow the reader to use their imagination. Each reader could view him completely differently. It also allows for many different discussions about whether he is actually a monster or if he is just being discriminating against for looking different.
For the second half of my blog post I will be looking at Medusa from a different perspective. She was known for being a hideous monster who could turn a person into stone with one glance, but before that she was a beautiful woman. She was taken advantage of by Poseidon because of her good looks and turned into a monster by Athena because of jealousy. She was unjustly killed by Perseus when she was not threatening anyone. The story is set to show Perseus as the hero, but if you switched it around the Medusa’s point of view he wouldn’t seem like much of a hero.
” In the eye of the beholder”, monsters can be anything they see, or feel fit to be. Shakespear was vague in his description and leaves the reader open to what a ” monster” could be. Just because one see’s something as “monstrous” doesn’t mean other see the same thing. Is Beowulf a monster? a hero? a villlon? a hero? depends what point of view your looking at. He he attacking to defend his land or just being aggressive because he can?