Caliban is a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest, a deformed servant to Prospero. He is the son of a witch, Sycorax, whom Prospero defeated. Prospero explains his harsh treatment of Caliban by describing how the creature, after initially having been taken into Prospero's family, had lusted after his daughter, Miranda. In his resentment, Caliban plots with the shipwrecked sailors to kill Prospero and become lord of the island, but is ultimately foiled. In recent times, Caliban has been used as a symbol by colonial freedom fighters, especially in the West Indies, who have seen him as an aboriginal inhabitant deprived of his land by European colonizers. The name "Caliban" is related to "cannibal" and "Carib".

Robert Browning wrote one of his dramatic monologues from the point of view of Caliban, Caliban upon Setebos, in which he views Caliban as a Rousseaueanean "natural man". Caliban also gives a lengthy monologue in the style of Henry James in W.H. Auden's long poem The Sea and the Mirror, a meditation on the themes of The Tempest.

Caliban can also be a mythical, deformed figure shaped after the Horned Man and other pagan versions of male fertility / nature spirits. In many Anglo and Saxon legends he takes on forms such as troll, ogres, and other subhumans.