THE LAST PLAYS: PART 5
1.THE SOMERS INCIDENT
For The Tempest I'm using another family library edition. This one was edited by
A.W. Verity, M.A. Sometime Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge (AWV),
(Cambridge University Press, 1897). The edition has an Introduction, Notes,
Appendix A on Gonzalo's Commonwealth, Appendix B on Was The Tempest
written for the court-performance in 1613?, a section on The English Masque, a
section on Metrical Tests (which help to fix the dates of Shakespeare's plays) a
section 'Hints on Shakespeare's English' and a Glossary. I've also used the Web
Renascence edition (text only). AWV divided his 26 page Introduction into 12
parts. Here is part 1 complete:
DATES OF THE PUBLICATION AND COMPOSITION OF THE PLAY
The Tempest was first published, so far as we know, in 1623, in the 1st Folio
edition of Shakespeare's plays. It was written probably towards the end of 1610 or at the beginning of 1611.
The style, metre and general tone of the play prove, independently of other
evidence, that it belongs to the close of Shakespeare's dramatic career and forms
one of the group of plays to which the title of "Romances" is commonly given. Most
modern critics accept the date 1610 (late) or 1611 (early), and associate The
Tempest with an incident which filled the thoughts of the nation at that time.
This incident was the disaster which befell the fleet sent out to Virginia in 1609.
The first permanent settlement of the English in America was made by the Virginia
Company in 1608. (One of the chief promoters of this Company was
Shakespeare's early patron, the Earl of Southampton, to whom Venus and Adonis
and Lucrece were dedicated. Shakespeare therefore may have felt some personal
interest in the Company). In May of the following year a fleet of nine vessels,
bearing settlers and provisions for the new colony, was despatched under the
command of Sir George Somers. On July 25 a storm overtook and scattered the
fleet in mid-Atlantic, and Sir George Somer's vessel, the "Sea-Adventure," was
driven ashore on the Bermudas. The crew were saved, remained on one of the
islands for some months, built two new ships, and in May 1610 continued their
voyage to Virginia. The other vessels (save one) had arrived there safely.
News of the disaster came to England at the end of 1609, and it was supposed
that the "Sea-Adventure" had been lost, until late in the summer of 1610 some of
the survivors returned home with tidings of the ship's safety. The incident excited
great interest-the idea of colonial expansion being in men's thoughts- and a
narrative of the shipwreck and of the adventures which the crew experienced on
the island was published in the autumn of 1610. This was a tract entitled A
Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the Isle of Devils, written by one
Silvester Jourdain, who had been on board the "Sea-Adventure." It is thought that
Shakespeare read this narrative and wrote The Tempest while the impression
made by the incident was still fresh in the public mind. The title of the play, the
description of the storm and ship's stranding and of the desert island, and the
allusion (1.2.229) to the "still-vexed Bermoothes," i.e. Bermudas, tend to confirm
this view, which now finds general acceptance.
I have provided AWV's Part 1 in its entirety because there we have what the
dating of Antony and Cleopatra, Pericles, Timon of Athens, Coriolanus,
Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale hang on, - the dating of The Tempest. Part 2
by AWV has 'further evidence as to date' which we'll look at later. But here we
have just read the primary evidence for the dating of these 7 plays (including The
The first known publication date being 1623 means that dates of printing are of no
use in searching for the date of composition of The Tempest. Therefore the whole
dating of the 'late' plays attributed to Shakespeare depends on the relationship
between the Somers incident and the internal evidence in the play itself, as there
are no known external factors to definitely date the year of composition of The
This brings us directly to face one of the most contentious problems in determining
the identity of Shakespeare the poet/dramatist. Let's begin by knowing more about
where the Somers incident took place. We'll define the place as Bermuda. You
may not find it on an atlas, as it's way out in the North Atlantic. If you have a globe,
it should be shown on it, and should be shown on a poster-size world map, say
not less than 3ft. x 4 ft. To triangulate its position, it's about 784 miles south east
from New York, 1,011 miles north east from Miami, and about 580 miles south
east from Cape Hatteras, all these being on the US eastern seaboard. You'll find
Bermuda in a World Almanac, probably under United Kingdom (British)
dependencies. One such almanac says "...dating from 1620... it is a group of 360
small islands of coral formation, 20 inhabited, comprising 21 square miles in the
Western Atlantic." Another World Almanac says "Isolated archipelago, comprising
about 150 islands, in southern North Atlantic, total land area 21 square miles,
coastline 64 miles. Land use: 0% arable, 0% permanent crops, 0% meadows and
pastures, 20% forest and woodland, 80% other,....Exports..semi-tropical
produce..." A third World Almanac tells us "...it was settled by Virginia-bound
British colonists under Sir George Somers who were wrecked in the islands,
1609...." An encyclopedia tells us "...discovered early in 16th century by Juan
Bermudez, a Spaniard." From various Web sites we find that the first permanent
settlers came 3 years after the Somers incident. Present January temperatures
are about 21 degrees C. or 70 degrees F, with early summer temperatures in the
mid 70s F.
As Somers' ship (literally) hit Bermuda, he was blown off course some 250-300
miles to the south, depending on his projected landfall at Virginia. The settlement
at Virginia was probably to the British in the early 1600s what the Moon landings
by astronauts were to 20th century Americans. We must, I believe, accept its
importance. But AWV also mentions the 'Bermoothes' reference in the play. I think
we can fairly quickly clear up this often disputed point. Here's the quotation in
... in the deep nook, where once
Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
From the still-vex'd Bermoothes, ...
AWV points out that "some have supposed one of the Bermudas to be the scene
of the play - a notion due to misunderstanding of what Ariel says - FROM the
Bermoothes showing clearly that he had to go to them."
As this very short phrase we've quoted is of importance in dating the play, let's
quote AWV's note on this quotation:
'still-vex'd, constantly vexed by storms, for still = constantly, ever, c.f. III.3..64
In the Act 3 quotation cited by AWV, Ariel is telling humans who have drawn their
swords against him
...You fools, I and my fellows
Are ministers of Fate; the elements
Of whom your swords are temper'd, may as well
Wound the loud winds, or with bemock'd at stabs
Kill the still-closing waters, ...
Personally I don't regard this 2nd quotation as proving the meaning of the word
'still' in the first. I could say to you 'I still don't believe you' and two sentences later
say 'still waters run deep.' The usage of the word 'still' is quite different in each
sentence. But there's much more involved in the Bermoothes reference. Let's
grant AWV his interpretation and assume the phrase in the play meant something
like 'always troubled' waters around Bermuda. That's close to the more recent talk
of the mysterious unsolved losses of ships and aircraft in the 'Bermuda Triangle.'
This gives us one interpretation, the one that until now has been traditionally
used by scholars for over 300 years. Beyond this interpretation there can be
another entirely different meaning to those words, and it's this other meaning that
I believe to be the correct one.
Ariel is telling Prospero that once at midnight he called him up to go to the
Bermoothes to get dew. The 'still-vex'd' has nothing to do with that instruction.
Ariel is a spirit of air and weather makes no difference to him (it?). But now we've
found out that in Hamlet 'hoist with his own petard' is not just what scholars have
always said it was, it's also a somewhat vulgar colloquial expression and the play
has a 'pun' or 'double entendre' on the two meanings. Next, we found in The
Winter's Tale 'advocate's the court-word for a pheasant' was not just what scholars
have lamely explained it as for so many centuries, bribery of magistrates, but it's
a court-legal in-joke about the law-practising Pheasant family. Now I think we
have come across another one of these subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, puns.
Consider this evidence:
1. The 'Bermoothes' was in the late 1500s a rather less than salubrious part of
London known for its alcohol production and consumption: taverns, drunkards,
seedy characters, and distilleries.
2. A still is a distilling apparatus for making spiritous liquors. This meaning goes
back past Elizabethan times to the Middle Ages.
3. 'Mountain dew' is a term that was still in use in the 20th century in some more
remote areas of the US where illicit whiskey was (is?) being made in illegal stills.
4. Elizabethan/early Stuart Englanders were colonizing the New World. Some
colonists were Puritans or other political or religious dissidents. Their language
and speech has in some ways survived in the US whereas it has changed
differently in the UK in subsequent centuries. That's why the US spell 'honour'
honor, and so on.
Putting all this together, and I'm by no means the first to suggest it, what Ariel the
air spirit is reminding Prospero the human magician is, that once in the middle of
the night Prospero called on Ariel to bring him 'dew' or whiskey from the
Bermoothes part of London, an area vexed or troubled by so many alcohol stills,
That I believe is the correct interpretation of the phrase and was another in-joke,
this one for London audiences who would find the pun on AWV's explanation
amusing as a sly reference to a part of their city and the goings on there.
As a result of this interpretation I think we can set aside any claims that
'Bermoothes' in the play goes to show that the Somers incident is imbedded in The
Tempest. That leaves us with the question: is Jourdain's 1610 narrative of the
Somers' incident an integral part of The Tempest? If it is, then either de Vere is
not Shakespeare, or the play is not by Shakespeare, or if de Vere was
Shakespeare he must have left an unfinished play and someone else updated it
for topicality when the Somers incident arose. One of these three explanations,
I would suppose, has to be the truth.
2. SOMERS EFFECT ON THE PLAY
Fortunately for us the present day independent scholar we referred to in chapter
28 (near the end) as A1 has provided on the Web an article 'Dating The Tempest'
which he has done in his usual thorough way. I suggest we accept his scholarship
without tracing his referencing and quotations back to Jourdain, and call him A.
Before we even think of looking at AWV's supplementary evidence in his
Introduction Part II we had better examine A's work in some detail.
A introduces his sources by saying:
"Several accounts of the wreck and survival of the "Sea-Venture" were rushed into
print in the fall of 1610. The first of these. A Discovery of the Bermudas, came out
in October; it was written by Sylvester Jourdain, who had been aboard the
"Sea-Venture" and had returned to England with Gates. (A tells us earlier that Sir
Thomas Gates was the newly appointed Governor of the colony and Sir George
Somers was the Admiral of the Virginia Company). A continues "A month later A
True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia was published. This was
edited together from various documents as a piece of pro-Virginia
propaganda..."(later A tells us it was anonymous). "Shakespeare almost certainly
read the two above pamphlets and used them in writing The Tempest, but more
important than either was William Strachey's True Reportory of the Wrack, and
Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight. Though it was not published until 1625,
Strachey's account is dated July 15, 1610, and circulated among those in the
know; it is addressed to an unidentified "Excellent Lady," who was obviously
familiar with the doings of the Virginia Company. As I will show, this letter saturates
The Tempest, providing the basic scenario, many themes and images, and many
details of plot and language. The first recorded performance of The Tempest was
at Court on November 1, 1611, allowing us to date the play's composition with
remarkable accuracy to the roughly one-year period between the fall of 1610 and
the fall of 1611. "
Later A tells us that 'Strachey himself was heavily involved in the London
theater...a sharer in the Children of the Queen's Revels. In his capacity as sharer,
Strachey worked with the playwrights who wrote for the company, including
Jonson, Marston, Chapman, and Day...' A provided all this information to show
that the man from Stratford could have read the unpublished letter in 1610. This
would also apply to William Stanley, Earl of Derby, who himself had a company
What I have done first is to list the reference A gives for each remark or statement
by Jourdain, the True Declaration, and Strachey, which A finds repeated in close
or identical language in The Tempest. The results are in Note 1.
Next, I summarized by act or scene the references given by A. These are
tabulated in Note 2.
From this we see that 42.6% of the references are in the first Act (which has
scenes 1 and 2); 25% in the second Act (which has scenes 1 and 2); little in the
3rd Act (5.9%), 14.7% in the 4th Act and 11.8% in the 5th Act.
Here are A's first two examples, as illustrations of his method:
Strachey describes the storm as 'roaring' and 'beat[ing] all light from heaven;
which like an hell of darkness turned blacke upon us...The sea swelled above the
clouds, which gave battel unto heaven' (6-7). In The Tempest, Miranda describes
the waters as being in a 'roar,' and says that 'the sky it seems would pour down
stinking pitch./But that the Sea, mounting to th'welkins cheek,/Dashes the fire out.
Strachey says that 'Our clamours dround in the windes, and the windes in thunder.
Prayers might well be in the heart and lips, but drowned in the outcries of the
officers' (7); in the play the boatswain says, 'A plague upon this howling' they are
louder than the weather, or our office' (1.1.36-7), and a few lines later the mariners
cry, 'To prayers! To prayers!' (1.1.51).
It could be argued that much of this kind of material is common to all small sailing
ships in distress, but I propose to accept these comparisons as genuine without
trying to pick them apart.
After providing the numerous parallels A found between the pamphlets relating
to the Somers incident and lines in The Tempest, he mentions broader issues of
comparison which we need to consider.
The first is A's statement "it is well known that Shakespeare got the wording for
Gonzalo's speeches from Florio's English translation of Montaigne's De
Cannibales, published in 1603..." This was also mentioned by AWV as the first of
his four points "Further Evidence as to Date" as follows:
Gonzalo's description of an ideal commonwealth (II.1.147-164) was inspired, we
can scarcely doubt, by a passage in Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays.
This translation was published in 1603.
The difference in title is because Essay 4 (of 21) was entitled De Cannibales. The
essays are somewhat long and rambling, although Montaigne seems always to
come back to his argument precisely where he left it. He was very reasonable in
his judgements. For example, in the Cannibales essay he says, speaking of the
New World indigenous peoples:
"... I find that there is nothing barbarous and savage in this nation, by anything that
I can gather, excepting that every one gives the title of barbarism to everything
that is not in use in his own country."
Both A and AWV are of course assuming without doubt that Shaxper from
Stratford on Avon was Shakespeare and therefore he relied on the translation
from the French. But if de Vere was Shakespeare he would presumably have read
Montaigne's 'Essais' published in French in 1575 and de Vere might have brought
a copy back to England as he was in France that year and returning home through
France in 1576. I suggest that if de Vere was Shakespeare he would also have
read Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (1598-1600) which contained an account of
a 1593 shipwreck in Bermuda, and the vessel that de Vere was once interested
in purchasing, the Edward Bonaventure, is said to have been one of the ships
involved in that wreck.
For these reasons I don't think we can accept the date of 1603, Florio's translation
date, as concrete evidence for dating The Tempest.
Another general comment by A is that Strachey at one point cites "Gonzales
Ferdinandus Oviedus the Spaniard who had written the first description of the
Bermudas ninety years earlier (14); this suggests the names of Gonzalo and
Ferdinand (in the play)." This may seem a reasonable assumption, although
Ralegh in his Discovery of ...Guiana (1596) mentions in association a Gonzalo,
Alonso, Ferdinand and Antonio. In his case the Ferdinand was a son of the
Antonio. Ralegh also mentions the Bermudas as "a hellish sea for thunder,
lightning and storms."
A later says:
This is not to say that Shakespeare used no sources from before 1604 - Cawley's
article, cited in note 3, lists many possible or probable ones - but these were
mostly used for specific details, such as the name Setebos (taken from Eden's
Historie of Travayle).
Earlier A had said:
For completeness' sake I have tried to include all the significant parallels I could
find, even though not all of them are of equal importance. Many of these are quite
striking, involving similar wording in similar or identical context. Others are less
impressive when looked at in isolation, since they are of a type that might be found
in other travel narratives, but their sheer number and breadth (much greater than
in other narratives) is significant. Taken as a whole, these parallels constitute very
strong evidence - virtual proof, I would say - that Shakespeare had read Strachey's
account closely and had it in mind when he wrote the Tempest.
As the above list shows, Strachey's True Repertory (and to a lesser extent the
other two narratives) pervades the entire play. It provides the basic premise and
background of the shipwreck, many details of the storm, the general
characteristics of the island along with many details, the basic elements and many
details of the conspiracies, many verbal parallels (most of them involving similar
or identical contexts), and direct suggestions of the magic, love-story,
wood-carrying, and Prospero vs. Caliban elements of the play. Moreover it is
obvious that Shakespeare could only have borrowed from Strachey, Jourdain, and
A True Declaration rather than the other way around; this was not another work
of fiction Shakespeare was basing his play on, but three independent accounts of
actual events which did not happen until 1609-10.
I don't agree with A in extrapolating his many line by line references to say that the
basic premise, the magic, love-story, and Prospero vs. Caliban are derived from
the Somers incident 1609-1610 literature. It seems to me unfortunate that he mars
his good work by such a generalization. The 2nd half of the 20th century was
replete with books on Spacemen on earth, Gods from Space, the Velikovsky
series, the TV series Startrek and Startrek: the Next Generation, plus many spin-offs and films on space travel. All this began with V2 rockets at the end of WW2.
In Elizabethan England Magellan and Drake's voyages around the world, the
discovery of the American continent, the fascination with other previously unknown
races and customs, strange fruits, vegetables, and so on, the dangers and
adventures of mariners in sailing ships, were subjects of great interest. For us, the
last 50 years have been inundated with space travel. For Elizabethans, exploration,
discovery and colonization were the topics of interest. I conclude from all this that
The Tempest basic premise and plot reflected the general ongoing interest in
fantastic stories about new discoveries, and not any one in particular.
A's conclusion is:
I hope the above has been convincing in showing that the writer of The Tempest
was heavily influenced by the Bermuda narratives of 1610, especially Strachey's
letter, and thus that the Earl of Oxford (who died in 1604) was not the author.
I think A has provided us with evidence that shows beyond a reasonable doubt
that The Tempest in the form that we have it in the First Folio of 1623 shows
numerous parallels with the 1610 pamphlets and letter, that it is pointless to try to
argue that Strachey's letter was not published until 1625 and therefore not a
source. As a consequence of A's work it seems apparent that de Vere could not
have written the play as we now have it.
3. DID SHAKESPEARE WRITE THE TEMPEST?
One last quotation from A: J. Thomas Looney, the originator of the Oxford theory,
accepting this dating... (1610-11) ... in the writing of 'Shakespeare Identified'
...denigrated the play mercilessly in an attempt to show that it was not written by
'Shakespeare' (i.e. Oxford).
Looney's book was published (in England) in 1920. I suggest we'd better look at
his arguments as to why he thought The Tempest was not a Shakespearean work,
although not necessarily accepting his conclusion, unless it is
inescapable. We'll refer to him as JTL.
His "Shakespeare Identified" pages 503-530, Appendix 1, is about The Tempest.
That's where he states his conclusion that this play was not written by the
Shakespeare who was the author of the other plays. Here are his main points:
1. The only authoritative fact seems to be that a play of this name was amongst
those performed to celebrate the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to the Elector
Frederick in 1613. There existed, however, a forged reference to it connecting it
with the year 1611.
2. There is no record of its having been registered and no indication of its having
been in print before 1623,
3. Facts like these ... in connection with a stage favourite like The Tempest... are
not what we should have expected, whoever the author of the play may have
been... it is very improbable that such a play should have been written and allowed
to remain unstaged for many years, seeing that the staging element in it is more
pronounced than in any other play attributed to 'Shakespeare.
4. It is held to contain traces of contemporary events of the early years of James
1st's reign and even to be in part indebted to a pamphlet published in 1610. This
fact by itself presents no insurmountable difficulty, seeing that the interpolation of
other men's work is quite a recognized feature of the later Shakespearean plays
but taken along with its non modern character and, what seems to be the less
Elizabethan quality of its diction, it appears to justify the assumption that the work
as a whole belongs to the date to which it has been assigned.
5. Some authorities (give the play) an earlier date of composition: Hunter 1596;
Knight 1602-3, Dyce and Staunton after 1603, Karl Elze 1604. JTL is not
convinced as to an earlier date or 'the intervention of a strange hand.'
6. JTL asks his readers to read Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's
Dream, and As You Like It,... to get a sense, as it were, of Shakespeare's force
of intellect and wit, the packed significance of his lines, his teeming imagery, the
fecundity of his ideas... his incised glances into human motives,... the precision and
refinement of his distinctions, the easy flow of his diction, the vocal qualities of his
word combinations, (then) read The Tempest... and he will probably experience
a much greater disappointment than he anticipated.
7. JTL cites Act 1, Scene 2, where Prospero is relating his misfortunes to Miranda
and comments on the prosy character of the narration, broken by Prospero's
harping on... whether Miranda was (paying attention) or not, makes one wonder
what there is in it to justify the attempt at blank verse.
On recent reading of The Tempest my written comment on Act 1 Scene 2 was
'very pedestrian and repetitive, not WS. ' Now that I've reread the whole play I
would say this tedious explanation of how and why Prospero and Miranda came
to be where they are, taking 186 lines, ending with Miranda appropriately falling
asleep would have been dealt with by Shakespeare in a few gifted lines while
moving the plot forward. But at its end it does tell us something about de Vere's
life after he left the Court (if de Vere is Shakespeare):
Knowing I love my books he furnish'd me,
From my own library, with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
That's just prose cut into strips, and not I think by de Vere, though it could well
have been by Stanley, writing about their common experience, after both left Court
But, back to JTL:
8. He quotes from the play judging... not by its worst, but what is accepted as its
best passages..the one singled out for special notice by others:
...These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep -...
This is from 4.1.123-133. JTL comments that it is simple cosmic philosophy... the
most dreary negativism that was ever put into high sounding words.
Shakespeare's soul was much too large for mere negation. I don't agree with him
but do note the repetition of 'into thin air,' the use of the word 'gorgeous,' with
'and' at the end of a line. This seems to me unlike Shakespeare's more pungent
vocabulary. It may be that someone padded this out from Shakespeare's notes.
9. JTL pulls apart the last sentence in the quotation. He contrasts its vagueness
with the incisiveness of
all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players,
I suggest JTL is mistaken here. I think the last sentence is by a mature writer who
sees life with a beginning and an end. The 'stage' quotation is from a younger
writer with more sparkle in his expression but less wisdom. Both seem to me to be
10. Turn over the great Shakespearean dramas noticing the stage directions. For
the most part these are little more than... enter, exit, aside, sleeps, rises and
advances, trumpets, noise within, and such like... Turn to the stage directions in
'A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard'
'Enter Prospero, alone, invisible. Enter several strange shapes, bringing in a
banquet, they dance about it with gentle actions and salutations; and, inviting the
king, etc. to eat, they depart.
JTL quotes 3 more lengthy examples. And there is still more of this kind of thing.
11. JTL continues
In the First Folio only 6 out of all Shakespeare's plays are prefaced with lists of
dramatis personae. Of these The Tempest is one and Timon of Athens, an
admittedly 'collaborated' work, is another... Turning to the list in The Tempest we
find that one character is described as 'drunken, another as 'honest' and a third as
'savage' ... alien to the spirit of Shakespeare, whose method is naturally to reveal
the character of his personae in the working of the plays.
12. Coming now to the question of general workmanship... take any other of the
great Shakespeare comedies--- the constant clash of wit and the subtle teasing
that takes place whenever young men and women meet--- playful cross-purposes
in which Shakespeare's lovers invariably indulge... in (The Tempest) we get the
milk and water sentimentality of Miranda and Ferdinand unillumined by a single
flash of intellect. They... arranged their first tryst 'half an hour hence' ... How
interminable that half-hour must have seemed to the young people...but when...
they are at last alone together, for the first time ... they pour out their mutual
affection in a rapturous game of chess.
My comment. I partly disagree here. As the poet grew older we would expect the
flashes of youthful exchanges to be replaced by something more mellow and
mature, but I do agree that there should still be some spark of intellect in the
conversation, which in this play there is not. I further agree that if the lovers were
to play a game together they could not have picked a more ruthless mental
exercise than chess to muffle and subdue their passion. It's not a game, it's an
intellectual fight to the death. It seems to me the whole concept of this lovers'
meeting is not Shakespeare's.
To continue with JTL:
13. It is the only play ... with a background of the sea and seafaring life; the
nearest approach to it... being Pericles... It is the only one that has the practice of
magic as a dominant element the... Midsummer Night's Dream not being under
human control and direction... It is the only play attributed to Shakespeare which
makes any attempt at conforming to the Greek unities....It is contrary to the free
spirit of his genius, and it is an illustration of that 'tongue tying of art by authority'
which he explicitly repudiates.
14. Although it contains a king and a duke no one can feel in reading it that he is
in touch with the social structure of a mediaeval feudalism. Prospero, the Duke of
Milan, represents in no way a ducal dignity, or the functions of a dukedom. He is,
first and last, a magician, and it would have mattered little to his part in the play if
he had been originally a patriarchal deacon.
King Alonso can hardly be regarded as a personage belonging to the play. In
certain important scenes he is only required to stand and ejaculate such
expressions as 'Prithee peace' or 'Prithee be stil.'... Prospero's brother, Antonio,
the usurping duke, is a very ordinary stage villain... his only part in the final act
involving disaster to his fortunes is to make a single remark - about fish.
15. JTL tells us Shakespeare had a very great deal to say on the subject (of
women) - not in The Tempest, though. The Tempest also lacks the usual
prominence given horses and horsemanship. JTL quotes these awkward lines:
Like unback'd colts they prick'd their ears,
Advanced their eyelids, lifted up their noses,
As they smelt music...
JTL refers to lack of reference to falconry or game - no deer, stag or pricket, hare
or hound, greyhound, game, slips, or trumpet, once appears.
16. Scansion: JTL refers to the large proportion of bad metre to be found... There
is nothing to be gained by rating the work below its true value, but ... we suspect
the writer of building up his pentameters by mechanically counting syllables on his
fingers: and counting badly.
JTL refers again to the 1.2 scene dialogue between Prospero and Miranda...much
of it is not verse at all in the true sense, but merely prose, artificially cut up into
short strips: precisely as, in an earlier chapter, we saw was actually done in
Coriolanus. Versification... always implies that... the pause formed by the end of
the line corresponds to a pause, however slight, in the spoken utterance...
JTL quotes an example of cut up strips
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
Now, it is hardly possible to get two words more closely connected to spoken
utterances than a Principal and an Auxiliary Verb when no adverb comes between
them, as in the case of this verb, 'have put.' JTL quotes 6 examples from The
Tempest, none can be found in Hamlet.
17. Conjunctions: This 'and' at the end of lines in The Tempest is quite a feature
of its author's style... not once does this defect appear in Hamlet. We have also
instances of the conjunction 'but' placed at the end of lines (not) once... in Hamlet.
JTL gives similar instances for conjunctive Pronouns and conjunctive Adverbs,
and Prepositions (upon, at, of, with, on).
JTL goes on to say that when... we turn to the plays which 'others were called
upon at a later date to finish'... we have the same non-Shakespearean situation -
for example- Cymbeline... if... The Tempest terminations are still in mind, we
recognize at once that in Cymbeline 'and' 'but' and conjunctive pronouns (to end
lines) are met with frequently; and in versification... there is a general...similarity...
If then the substance of the play of Cymbeline is Shakespearean, everything is
suggestive of its having been versified by the writer who composed The Tempest...
the later works having to receive their versification from strange hands...In the
case of The Tempest we believe... the entire drama must be given over to those
who were engaged in finishing off 'Shakespeare's plays.
My comments. As you know by now, I partly agree with this. I am adding that the
'strange hands' was in fact no stranger, but a son-in-law. Stanley. JTL's comments
also bring to light the fact that the last few plays which scholars point out have
these differences in versification from Shakespeare's earlier work indicate that a
competent writer but someone less skilled as a poet was doing the finishing of the
plays. My point here is that there is a deterioration in style of this later work
characterized by less poetic versifying, less clarity of comprehension, and a shift
in patterns of imagery. This suggests a different, though kindred spirit behind the
finished work, of a somewhat lesser order than Shakespeare, unless one wants
to argue that Shakespeare's mental faculties deteriorated with age. To create
effects this other writer if there was one relies more on spectacle, less on
JTL concludes: We are prepared to maintain, then, on the strength of the various
points indicated, that The Tempest is no play of Shakespeare's. It is not the
absence of an odd Shakespearean characteristic, but the absence of so many
dominant marks of his work, along with the presence of several features which are
quite contrary to his style, that compels us to reject it. If... it was... 'put forward'
during (Shaxper's) lifetime as a genuine Shakespearean play this is additional
testimony to the previous death of the dramatist.
I do not believe it's wholly by 'a strange hand' as JTL asserts, because I respect
the First Folio editors sufficiently to assume it would not have been included if that
were the case. They omitted Pericles, which has since been thought by scholars
to have been partly written by a 'strange hand,' but partly by Shakespeare.
I think we have to grant JTL his point that the last group of plays, including The
Tempest, are in a style that is relatively consistent among themselves, but does
not seem to be a natural development for Shakespeare, is rather the work of 'other
hands.' My only contribution here is to say that the evidence seems to point to
this other hand being Stanley. Fenner's letter we quoted previously said that
Stanley was busy 'penning' comedies for the common players. Penning is not
necessarily the same as writing. Writing implies authorship, penning may imply
an amanuensis. If de Vere was Shakespeare, then I suggest Stanley's role before
1604 was more as an amanuensis, but after de Vere's death, he found he had the
additional responsibility of actually composing the completion of the plays. He was
by far in the best position to do this, being married to a de Vere daughter, having,
I believe, worked with de Vere on some of the plays for a number of years, being
a literate man himself, a musician, and having his own company of players. If I am
right, he did a very commendable job, pulling together into a coherent whole the
ideas of the plays, the scattered notes, outlines, a speech here and there, or just
a few lines or phrases. His work was good enough to have fooled Shakespearean
editors and scholars who for centuries have protested at the anomalies in this last
group of plays, but have never realized they were mistaking Stanley for
Shakespeare. It's a facade, and not real Shakespeare. That's my conclusion from
4. FURTHER EVIDENCE FOR DATING
Now that we've reviewed the dating by A, and JTL's conclusions about The
Tempest, we should look at AJV's Part II Further Evidence as to Date. There are
1. The Florio translation of Montaigne as source for Gonzalo's speech. This was
discussed and dismissed above.
2. The 'cloud capp'd towers' quotation. This was discussed in chapter 33 and
found too remote to be evidence.
3. A reference to the Court performance in 1613 of a play of that name. This tells
us nothing about date of composition.
4. The Ben Jonson reference in the Induction (Introduction) to his Bartholomew
Fair. This was discussed in chapter 33 with the possibility that it implied plural
authorship of the late plays, to which Jonson may have been referring . It does
not date the composition of the plays.
None of all the evidence so far considered dates the origin of The Tempest,
though it probably dates its completion. There remains one test to try.
5. THE 'EXPUNGED' VERSION OF THE PLAY
I went through the downloaded Renascence edition and deleted all the references
given by A, except those few I questioned as explained in (*) to (****) attached to
the table in Note 1.
The final step was to re-read the play, taking into account only those lines that
were left after the removal of the Jourdain, True Declaration and Strachey
material, as listed by A. It is this 'expunged' edition that I propose to use now to
provide my summary of the play. We'll be able to see for ourselves how much the
Somer's incident deletions affect the whole play, and whether we still have a
viable play. If we do, that is plausible evidence that the play existed before the
Somer's incident was tacked on to make it topical.
6. MY SUMMARY OF THE PLAY
(With gratuitous comments)
(Note - words in these brackets [ ] are stage directions
- direct quotations are in italics).
Alonso, King of Naples
Ferdinand, his son
Sebastian, brother to Alonso
Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan
Antonio, his brother, the usurping Duke of Milan
Gonzalo, an honest old counsellor
Adrian, Francisco, lords
Trinculo, a jester
Stephano, a drunken butler
Master of a ship, Boatswain, and Mariners
Caliban, a savage and deformed slave
Miranda, daughter to Prospero
Ariel, an airy spirit
Iris, Ceres, Juno, Nymphs, Reapers, presented by Spirits
Other Spirits attending on Prospero
Scene - On board a ship at sea; afterwards various parts of an island.
Act 1 Scene 1 (1.1)
[On a ship at sea; a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard.
Enter a Shipmaster and Boatswain]
Boatswain: Here, master; what cheer?
Master: Good! Speak to th' mariners; fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground:
bestir, bestir. [Exit.
The bosun (boatswain) gives orders,
[Enter Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, Gonzalo, and others]
Where is the Master, boson?
you mar our labour: keep your cabins: you do assist the storm.
Some of the royal party question the bosun, he repeats his orders to them and
what cares these roarers for the name of king?
He exits, Gonzalo says he has confidence in the bosun. The passengers exit.
The bosun returns, gives the crew more orders.
Sebastian, Antonio and Gonzalo return,
The Bosun: 'Yet again! What do you here? Shall we give o'er, and drown? Have
you a mind to sink?'
They call him a 'whoreson, insolent noisemaker'
The bosun gives more orders to the crew.
Near the end of the scene, cries of 'farewell my wife and children' 'farewell my
brother' and from the royal party 'let's all sink with the king.'
The bosun exits, as do Antonio and Sebastian, ending the scene.
The original scene had about 72 lines apparently in prose. After removing A's
listings of 24 lines and half-lines, the remaining scene is unimpaired as to sense
and meaning as quoted here. AWV's Victorian edition eliminated the 'whoreson'
reference, also a reference to the ship being as 'leaky as an unstaunched wench',
also omitted here because it's one of A's quotations from Strachey.
The nautical language of the bosun and master in the scene includes 'yare' or
'yarely,' variously translated by glossaries as nimbly. briskly, ready, sharp and
quick. The bosun's sailing orders are:
Take in the topsail
Bring her to try wi' th' main course
Lay her a-hold
Set her two courses; Off to sea again.
Lay her off.
Dropping the fore topmast, a procedure of doubtful use, intended to increase
stability, but mentioned in the scene and by A as in Strachey, is therefore
AWV has an Appendix on Shakespeare's seamanship. He quotes from Malone a
commentary by a naval officer (Lord Mulgrave 1744-1792) who says:
The first scene of the Tempest is a very striking instance of the great accuracy of
Shakespeare's knowledge in a professional science, the most difficult to attain
without the help of experience. He must have acquired it by conversation with
some of the most skilful seamen of that time. The succession of events is strictly
observed in the natural progress of the distress described; the expedients adopted
are the most proper that could have been devised for a chance of safety, ... the
words of command are... strictly proper... no superfluous ones of detail...
These remarks are by a naval officer who knew only ships driven by wind as a
means of voyaging. In my days as a naval officer, specializing in navigation, I
knew only ships driven by fuel oil, but we both dealt with high seas, high winds,
currents, tides, shoals, headlands, reefs, and harbours.
Many sailing ships ended piled up on rocks. This was not in most cases through
negligence. In bad or 'heavy' weather visibility may be at a minimum, with driving
rain squalls. On the bridge of a ship about 50 ft. above the waterline you may only
see intermittently over the top of the next wave. Shakespeare's time was before
the days of loran, radar, echo sounding and now GPS (global positioning system)
and before the days of even the sextant, by which, using an accurate chronometer
and spherical trigonometry after taking 2 or 3 'sights' of celestial bodies, where
they crossed on the chart would locate your position. John Hodley invented the
sextant in 1731. By its use at sea given a clear sky by day or twilight I could
always locate the ship's position within about 300 yards. Today, with GPS it's a
few yards, day or night.
Without these refinements, in bad weather an Elizabethan sailing ship lookout
might not spot land ahead until it was very close or the sound of breakers on
shore or rocks was heard. Possibly a sailing ship would be running before the
wind, on one tack or another, perhaps with minimum sails set to maintain
steerage way and avoid pooping (water coming on board over the stern), There
would be very little time to change course and reset the sails.
The basic principles of sailing were that the more sail you could crowd on the
faster you would go. A keel at the base of the ship would be knife-like and heavy,
to keep the ship steady in the water and so reduce drift downwind. Otherwise the
wind would tend to blow on the 'topside' of the hull (above water) pushing it
downwind. If the wind were blowing to shore, it would blow a ship in that direction.
The rudder, controlled by a wheel (helm) would steer the ship. Set in conjunction
with the effect of the keel it would tend to keep the ship on the desired course
despite the drift effect caused by the wind on the body of the ship. But there could
also be an incoming tide towards the shore, and then around headlands and near
river mouths there can be other currents as well. These are indicated on
navigational charts and in tide tables of the area, if you have them. Sails come in
many different shapes and sizes requiring a mass of rigging to control them. A
fully rigged 3 masted ship (3 vertical masts: fore, main and mizzen, front to back)
with a bowsprit and jib boom forward (near-horizontal masts at the front) and a
boom at the stern (or back) could carry 29 sails.
In the case of The Tempest shipwreck what apparently happened was that the
ship's lookout spotted land on the lee side (downwind). They lowered the fore top
sail (highest on the front mast) for better stability, tried to shift tack to a course at
least parallel to or away from the land, if they had room enough to make the
maneuvre. Then, being perilously close to shore, they hoisted the mainsail and
foresail setting course on the windward tack to try to clear the land that way. But
although they sailed as close to the wind as possible the ship could not quite clear
the point or headland and ran aground, possibly through wind effect on the hull
and possibly adverse tide and/or current.
Shakespeare uses 'course' instead of sail. So his 'set her two courses, off to sea
again' was setting the mainsail and foresail, the ship set for an offshore tack.
My conclusion from all this is that Shakespeare probably drafted this opening
scene, and someone else later tacked on a few phrases to make it topical as a
result of the Somers incident. If de Vere was Shakespeare, he had crossed the
Channel to the Continent and back at least three times, apparently sailed from
Italy to Sicily and back, and was in Venice for some months, a major seaport and
shipbuilding centre. He was a personal friend of the maritime explorer Sir Martin
Frobisher; he would also have known and talked with Ralegh and Drake at Court.
And if de Vere was Shakespeare, we know who the writer was who updated the
play for topicality: his son-in-law Will Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.
Back to the play:
[The Island: before Prospero's cell.
Enter Prospero and Miranda.]
O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who no doubt some noble creature in her,
Dash'd all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor souls, they perish'd.
The AWV edition has Prospero's reply begin
The Renascence edition:
No more amazement: tell your piteous heart
There's no harm done.
Cutting out all the verbiage of their speeches, the essence of it is :
I should inform thee further...
Twelve years since, Miranda,...
Thy father was the Duke of Milan, and
A prince of power....
My brother and thy uncle, call'd Antonio
...He, whom next thy self
Of all the world I lov'd, and to him put
The manage of my state...
...and for the liberal arts...
...these being all my study
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies...
... he did believe
He was indeed the Duke...
...he needs will be
Absolute Milan. Me, poor man- my library
Was dukedom large enough-...
He thinks me now incapable; confederates, ...
...wi' th' King of Naples,
To give him annual tribute...
This King of Naples, being an enemy
To me inveterate, hearkens my brother's suit: