Last Strokes of Shakespeare's Pen

November 01, 2014

Act I, Scene I of The Tempest

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tempest.
Vol. 46, pp. 397-410 of The Harvard Classics

Monsters of the earth, weird creatures of the air, magic romance, and shipwreck are mingled by a master hand in his thrilling drama. The fanciful, enchanting "Tempest" is the last work of the great bard of Stratford.
("The Tempest" performed at Queen Elizabeth's court, Nov. 1, 1611.)

Act I
Scene I

[On a ship at sea:a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard
Enter a Ship-Master and a Boatswain

  Master  BOATSWAIN!
  Boats.  Here, master; what cheer?
  Mast.  Good; speak to the mariners. Fall to ’t, yarely, 1 or we run ourselves aground. Bestir, bestir.  Exit.

Enter Mariners

  Boats.  Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my hearts! yare, 2 yare! Take in the topsail. Tend to the master’s whistle.—Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough!


  Alon.  Good boatswain, have care. Where’s the master? Play the men.
  Boats.  I pray now, keep below.
  Ant.  Where is the master, boatswain?
  Boats.  Do you not hear him? You mar our labour. Keep your cabins; you do assist the storm.
  Gon.  Nay, good, be patient.
  Boats.  When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin! silence! trouble us not.
  Gon.  Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard.
  Boats.  None that I more love than myself. You are a counsellor; if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more; use your authority. If you cannot, give thanks you have liv’d so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap.—Cheerly, good hearts!—Out of our way, I say.  Exit.
  Gon.  I have great comfort from this fellow. Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him; his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his hanging; make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage. If he be not born to be hang’d, our case is miserable.  Exeunt.

Re-enter Boatswain

  Boats.  Down with the topmast! yare! lower, lower! Bring her to try 3 wi’ the main-course. A plague  A cry within.


upon this howling! They are louder than the weather or our office.—Yet again! What do you here? Shall we give o’er and drown? Have you a mind to sink?
  Seb.  A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!
  Boats.  Work you, then.
  Ant.  Hang, cur! hang, you whoreson, insolent noisemaker! We are less afraid to be drown’d than thou art.
  Gon.  I’ll warrant him for drowning though the ship were no stronger than a nut-shell and as leaky as an unstanched wench.
  Boats.  Lay her a-hold, 4 a-hold! Set her two courses 5 off to sea again! Lay her off.

Enter Mariners wet

  Mariners.  All lost! To prayers, to prayers! All lost!
  Boats.  What, must our mouths be cold?
  Gon.  The King and Prince at prayers! Let’s assist them, For our case is as theirs.
  Seb.        I’m out of patience.
  Ant.  We are merely 6 cheated of our lives by drunkards.
This wide-chapp’d rascal—would thou mightst lie drowning
The washing of ten tides!
  Gon.        He’ll be hang’d yet,
Though every drop of water swear against it
And gape at wid’st to glut him.  A confused noise within.
Mercy on us!
We split, we split! Farewell, my wife and children!
Farewell, brother! We split, we split, we split!
  Ant.  Let’s all sink wi’ the King.
  Seb.  Let’s take leave of him.  Exit.
  Gon.  Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, anything. The wills above be done! but I would fain die a dry death.  Exeunt.

Note 1. Smartly. 
Note 2. Smartly. 
Note 3. Close to the wind. 
Note 4. Bring her close to the wind
Note 5. The mainsail and foresail. 
Note 6. Absolutely. 

[The island. Before Prospero’s cell]

  Mir.  If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had, 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.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallow’d and
The fraughting 1 souls within her.
  Pros.        Be collected;
No more amazement. Tell your piteous heart
There’s no harm done.
  Mir.        O, woe the day!
  Pros.        No harm.
I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.
  Mir.        More to know
Did never meddle with my thoughts.
  Pros.        ’Tis time
I should inform thee farther. Lend thy hand,
And pluck my magic garment from me. So,  [Lays down his mantle.]
Lie there, my art. Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort.
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch’d
The very virtue of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered that there is no soul—
No, not so much perdition as an hair
Betid to any creature in the vessel
Which thou heard’st cry, which thou saw’st sink. Sit down;
For thou must now know farther.
  Mir.        You have often
Begun to tell me what I am, but stopp’d
And left me to a bootless inquisition,
Concluding, “Stay, not yet.”
  Pros.        The hour’s now come;
The very minute bids thee ope thine ear.
Obey and be attentive. Canst thou remember
A time before we came unto this cell?
I do not think thou canst, for then thou wast not
Out three years old.
  Mir.        Certainly, sir, I can.
  Pros.  By what? By any other house or person?
Of anything the image tell me, that
Hath kept with thy remembrance.
  Mir.        ’Tis far off
And rather like a dream than an assurance
That my remembrance warrants. Had I not
Four or five women once that tended me?
  Pros.  Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm 2 of time?
If thou rememb’rest aught ere thou cam’st here,
How thou cam’st here thou may’st.
  Mir.        But that I do not.
  Pros.  Twelve year since, Miranda, twelve year since,
Thy father was the Duke of Milan and
A prince of power.
  Mir.        Sir, are not you my father?
  Pros.  Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father
Was Duke of Milan, and his only heir
And princess no worse issued.
  Mir.        O the heavens!
What foul play had we, that we came from thence?
Or blessed was ’t we did?
  Pros.        Both, both, my girl.
By foul play, as thou say’st, were we heav’d thence,
But blessedly holp hither.
  Mir.        O, my heart bleeds
To think o’ the teen 3 that I have turn’d you to,
Which is from my remembrance! Please you, farther.
  Pros.  My brother and thy uncle, call’d Antonio—
I pray thee, mark me—that a brother should
Be so perfidious!—he whom next thyself
Of all the world I lov’d, and to him put
The manage 4 of my state; as at that time
Through all the signories 5 it was the first,
And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. Thy false uncle—
Dost thou attend me?
  Mir.        Sir, most heedfully.
  Pros.  Being once perfected how to grant suits,
How to deny them, who to advance and who
To trash for overtopping, 6 new created
The creatures that were mine, I say, or chang’d ’em,
Or else new form’d ’em; having both the key
Of officer and office, set all hearts i’ the state
To what tune pleas’d his ear; that now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And suck’d my verdure out on ’t. Thou attend’st not.
  Mir.  O, good sir, I do.
  Pros.        I pray thee, mark me.
I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated
To closeness 7 and the bettering of my mind
With that which, but by being so retir’d,
O’er-priz’d all popular rate, 8 in my false brother
Awak’d an evil nature; and my trust,
Like a good parent, did beget of him
A falsehood, in its contrary as great
As my trust was; which had indeed no limit,
A confidence sans 9 bound. He being thus lorded,
Not only with what my revenue yielded,
But what my power might else exact,—like one
Who having into truth, by telling of it,
Made such a sinner of his memory
To credit his own lie,—he did believe
He was indeed the Duke. Out o’ the substitution, 10
And executing the outward face of royalty,
With all prerogative, hence his ambition growing—
Dost thou hear?
  Mir.        Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.
  Pros.  To have no screen between this part he play’d
And him he play’d it for, he needs will be
Absolute Milan. Me, poor man!—my library
Was dukedom large enough—of temporal royalties
He thinks me now incapable; confederates—
So dry 11 he was for sway—wi’ the King of Naples
To give him annual tribute, do him homage,
Subject his coronet to his crown, and bend
The dukedom yet unbow’d—alas, poor Milan!—
To most ignoble stooping.
  Mir.        O the heavens!
  Pros.  Mark his condition and the event, then tell me
If this might be a brother.
  Mir.        I should sin
To think but nobly of my grandmother.
Good wombs have borne bad sons.
  Pros.        Now the condition.
This King of Naples, being an enemy
To me inveterate, hearkens my brother’s suit;
Which was, that he, in lieu o’ the premises 12
Of homage and I know not how much tribute,
Should presently extirpate me and mine
Out of the dukedom, and confer fair Milan
With all the honours on my brother; whereon,
A treacherous army levied, one midnight
Fated to the purpose did Antonio open
The gates of Milan; and, i’ the dead of darkness,
The ministers for the purpose hurried thence
Me and thy crying self.
  Mir.        Alack, for pity!
I, not rememb’ring how I cried out then,
Will cry it o’er again. It is a hint 13
That wrings mine eyes to ’t.
  Pros.        Hear a little further,
And then I’ll bring thee to the present business
Which now’s upon ’s, without the which this story
Were most impertinent. 14
  Mir.        Wherefore did they not
That hour destroy us?
  Pros.        Well demanded, wench;
My tale provokes that question. Dear, they durst not
(So dear the love my people bore me) set
A mark so bloody on the business; but
With colours fairer painted their foul ends.
In few, they hurried us aboard a bark,
Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepared
A rotten carcass of a butt, 15 not rigg’d,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively have quit it. There they hoist us,
To cry to the sea that roar’d to us, to sigh
To the winds whose pity, sighing back again,
Did us but loving wrong.
  Mir.        Alack, what trouble
Was I then to you!
  Pros.        O, a cherubin
Thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,
Infused with a fortitude from heaven,
When I have deck’d the sea with drops full salt,
Under my burden groan’d; which rais’d in me
An undergoing 16 stomach, to bear up
Against what should ensue.
  Mir.        How came we ashore?
  Pros.  By Providence divine.
Some food we had and some fresh water that
A noble Neapolitan, Gonzalo,
Out of his charity, who being then appointed
Master of this design, did give us, with
Rich garments, linens, stuffs, and necessaries,
Which since have steaded much; 17 so, of his gentleness,
Knowing I lov’d my books, he furnish’d me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
  Mir.        Would I might
But ever see that man!
  Pros.        Now I arise.  [Puts on his robe.]
Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.
Here in this island we arriv’d; and here
Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit
Than other princess can that have more time
For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.
  Mir.  Heavens thank you for ’t! And now, I pray you, sir,
For still ’tis beating in my mind, your reason
For raising this sea-storm?
  Pros.        Know thus far forth.
By accident most strange, bountiful Fortune,
Now my dear lady, hath mine enemies
Brought to this shore; and by my prescience
I find my zenith 18 doth depend upon
A most auspicious star, whose influence
If now I court not but omit, my fortunes
Will ever after droop. Here cease more questions.
Thou art inclin’d to sleep; ’tis a good dulness,
And give it way. I know thou canst not choose.  [MIRANDA sleeps.]
Come away, servant, come; I am ready now.
Approach, my Ariel; come.


  Ari.  All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure, be ’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curl’d clouds. To thy strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality. 19
  Pros.        Hast thou, spirit,
Perform’d to point 20 the tempest that I bade thee?
  Ari.  To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flam’d amazement. Sometime I’d divide,
And burn in many places. On the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege, and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.
  Pros.        My brave spirit!
Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil 21
Would not infect his reason?
  Ari.        Not a soul
But felt a fever of the mad, and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plung’d in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
Then all afire with me. The King’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,—then like reeds, not hair,—
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, “Hell is empty,
And all the devils are here.”
  Pros.        Why, that’s my spirit!
But was not this nigh shore?
  Ari.        Close by, my master.
  Pros.  But are they, Ariel, safe?
  Ari.        Not a hair perish’d;
On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
But fresher than before; and, as thou bad’st me,
In troops I have dispers’d them ’bout the isle.
The King’s son have I landed by himself,
Whom I left cooling of the air with sighs
In an odd angle of the isle, and sitting,
His arms in this sad knot.
  Pros.        Of the King’s ship
The mariners say how thou hast dispos’d,
And all the rest o’ the fleet.
  Ari.        Safely in harbour
Is the King’s ship; in the deep nook, where once
Thou call’dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
From the still-vex’d Bermoothes, there she’s hid;
The mariners all under hatches stow’d,
Who, with a charm join’d to their suff’red labour,
I have left asleep; and for the rest o’ the fleet,
Which I dispers’d, they all have met again,
And are upon the Mediterranean float 22
Bound sadly home for Naples,
Supposing that they saw the King’s ship wreck’d
And his great person perish.
  Pros.        Ariel, thy charge
Exactly is perform’d; but there’s more work.
What is the time o’ the day?
  Ari.        Past the mid season.
  Pros.  At least two glasses. The time ’twixt six and now Must by us both be spent most preciously.
  Ari.  Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains,
Let me remember thee what thou hast promis’d,
Which is not yet perform’d me.
  Pros.        How now? moody?
What is ’t thou canst demand?
  Ari.        My liberty.
  Pros.  Before the time be out? No more!
  Ari.        I prithee,
Remember I have done thee worthy service,
Told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, serv’d
Without or grudge or grumblings. Thou did promise
To bate 23 me a full year.
  Pros.        Dost thou forget
From what a torment I did free thee?
  Ari.        No.
  Pros.  Thou dost, and think’st it much to tread the ooze
Of the salt deep,
To run upon the sharp wind of the north,
To do me business in the veins o’ the earth
When it is bak’d with frost.
  Ari.        I do not, sir.
  Pros.  Thou liest, malignant thing! Hast thou forgot
The foul witch Sycorax, who with age and envy
Was grown into a hoop? Hast thou forgot her?
  Ari.  No, sir.
  Pros.        Thou hast. Where was she born? Speak; tell me.
  Ari.  Sir, in Argier. 24
  Pros.        O, was she so? I must
Once in a month recount what thou hast been,
Which thou forget’st. This damn’d witch Sycorax,
For mischiefs manifold and sorceries terrible
To enter human hearing, from Argier,
Thou know’st, was banish’d; for one thing she did
They would not take her life. Is not this true?
  Ari.  Ay, sir.
  Pros.  This blue-ey’d hag was hither brought with child,
And here was left by the sailors. Thou, my slave,
As thou report’st thyself, was then her servant;
And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr’d commands,
Refusing her grand hests, 25 she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison’d thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there, where thou didst vent thy groans
As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was this island—
Save for the son that she did litter here,
A freckl’d whelp, hag-born,—not honour’d with
A human shape.
  Ari.        Yes, Caliban her son.
  Pros.  Dull thing, I say so; he, that Caliban
Whom now I keep in service. Thou best know’st
What torment I did find thee in; thy groans
Did make wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts
Of ever angry bears. It was a torment
To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
Could not again undo. It was mine art,
When I arriv’d and heard thee, that made gape
The pine, and let thee out.
  Ari.        I thank thee, master.
  Pros.  If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an oak
And peg thee in his knotty entrails till
Thou hast howl’d away twelve winters.
  Ari.        Pardon, master;
I will be correspondent 26 to command
And do my spiriting gently.
  Pros.        Do so, and after two days
I will discharge thee.
  Ari.        That’s my noble master!
What shall I do? say what. What shall I do?
  Pros.  Go make thyself like a nymph o’ the sea; be subject
To no sight but thine and mine, invisible
To every eyeball else. Go take this shape
And hither come in ’t. Go, hence with diligence!  Exit ARIEL.
Awake, dear heart, awake! Thou hast slept well;
  Mir.    The strangeness of your story put
Heaviness in me.
  Pros.        Shake it off. Come on,
We’ll visit Caliban my slave, who never
Yields us kind answer.
  Mir.        ’Tis a villain, sir,
I do not love to look on.
  Pros.        But, as ’tis,
We cannot miss him. He does make our fire,
Fetch in our wood, and serves in offices
That profit us. What, ho! slave! Caliban!
Thou earth, thou! speak.
  Cal.        (Within.) There’s wood enough within.
  Pros.  Come forth, I say! there’s other business for thee.
Come, thou tortoise! When?

Note 1. Composing the freight. 
Note 2. Depth. 
Note 3. Trouble. 
Note 4. Management. 
Note 5. Lordships. 
Note 6. To check for excessive ambition. 
Note 7. Seclusion. 
Note 8. Was more valuable than popularity. 
Note 9. Without. 
Note 10. From being deputy. 
Note 11. Thirsty. 
Note 12. In return for the conditions. 
Note 13. Occasion, suggestion. 
Note 14. Not to the purpose. 
Note 15. Old tub, hulk. 
Note 16. Enduring. 
Note 17. Stood in good stead. 
Note 18. The highest point in my fortunes. 
Note 19. Power. 
Note 20. Not to the purpose. 
Note 21. Turmoil. 
Note 22. Sea. 
Note 23. Reduce my service. 
Note 24. Algiers. 
Note 25. Commands. 
Note 26. Responsive. 

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