David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 2

— 2.2 —

Caliban was carrying wood on another part of the island when he heard thunder.

“May all the infections that the Sun sucks upfrom bogs, waterlands, and swamps fall on Prospero and make him inch by inch a walking disease! I know his spirits hear me,and yet I must curse him. But his spirits will not torment me,frighten me with goblins that have assumed the form of hedgehogs, throw me in the mire, or lead me, like a torch, in the dark out of my way, unless Prospero orders them to. Still, for my every trifling offense Prospero sets them upon me. Sometime the spirits are like apes that make faces and chatter at me and then bite me. Sometimes the spirits are like porcupines that lie in my way as I walk barefooted. Sometimes the spirits are like snakes that wind themselves around me and hiss at me with their cloven tongues and drive me insane.”

Caliban saw Trinculo, the jester of King Alonso, walking toward him.

Caliban said, “Look, now, look! Here comes one of Prospero’s spirits to torment me because I am bringing in this wood so slowly. I will lie flat on the ground and cover myself with my cloak. Perhaps the spirit will not see and bother me.”

Trinculo said, “Here I see neither bush nor shrub that will shelter me from bad weather, and I know that another storm is brewing. I hear the storm sing in the wind. That black cloud yonder — it’s huge — looks like a foul bottle that would like to bombard me with its liquid or like a cannon that would like to bombard me with its hail of cannonballs. If this storm should thunder the way it did before, I don’t know where to hide my head. That cloud cannot do otherwise but shed rain by pailfuls.”

Trinculo looked down, saw Caliban, and said, “What have we here? Is it a man or a fish? Is it dead or alive? It is a fish. It smells like a fish; it has a very ancient and fish-like smell — a smell not of the freshest fish. It is a strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, and I had this fish painted on a sign and I exhibited this fish, every fool on holiday there would pay me a piece of silver to see this fish. In England, this monster would make a man monetarily wealthy. In fact, in England this fish might be mistaken for a man — any strange beast there makes a man. Although many Englishmen will not give a dime in charity to relieve a lame beggar, they will pay out ten times as much to see a dead Indian.”

Trinculo looked closely at Caliban and said, “This fish has legs like a man, and this fish’s fins are like arms!”

He touched Caliban and said, “He is warm! I think I was mistaken. This is no fish; instead, this is an islander who was recently hit by lightning.”

Thunder sounded.

Trinculo said, “The storm has come again! My best course of action is to creep under this islander’s cloak; no other shelter is available. Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. I will here shroud myself with this cloak until the dregs of the storm have passed over me.”

Stephano, the King of Naples’ butler, walked toward Caliban and Trinculo. He had a bottle of wine in his hand, and he was drunk.

He sang this song:

I shall go no more to sea, to sea,

Here shall I die ashore—”

He stopped and then said, “This is a very scurvy tune to sing at a man’s funeral. Well, this bottle is my comfort.”

He lifted the bottle and drank from it, and then he continued to sing:

The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I,

The gunner and his mate

Loved Mall, Meg, and Marian and Margery,

But none of us cared for Kate;

For she had a tongue with a tang,

Would cry to a sailor, ‘Go hang!’

She loved not the smell of tar or of pitch,

Yet a tailor might scratch her wherever she itched.

Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!

He stopped singing and then said, “‘A tailor might scratch her wherever she itched’ — she did not like real men such as sailors but instead preferred effeminate men such as tailors. Well, as long as her sexual itch gets scratched, she’s happy. This is a scurvy tune, too, but this bottle is my comfort.”

He drank again.

Trinculo had heard Stephano’s voice. He was afraid that it was the voice of a devil, and so he trembled. This frightened Caliban, who thought that a spirit was tormenting him and so moaned, “Do not torment me! Please!”

Hearing Caliban, Stephano looked down, saw the cloak (from which four legs were protruding), and said, “What’s the matter? Have we devils here? Are you devils playing tricks on me by showing me savages and men of the West Indies? I have not escaped drowning to be afraid now of your four legs. An old expression states this: As good a man as ever went on four legs cannot make him retreat. It shall continue to be stated as long as Stephano breathes through his nostrils. I am afraid of no man, including no four-legged man.”

Trinculo continued to tremble, and Caliban moaned, “The spirit torments me!”

Stephano saw the trembling and said, “This is some monster of the island with four legs, who is, I believe, shivering from a fever. He speaks English, but where the devil did he learn our language? I will give him some relief, if only because he speaks English. If I can cure him and tame him and get to Naples with him, I will give him as a present — provided I receive a royal reward — to any emperor who has ever trod on shoes made of leather.”

Caliban said, “Do not torment me, please. I’ll bring my wood home faster.”

Stephano said, “He’s having a fit now and does not talk like a wise man. He shall drink wine from my bottle. If he has never drunk wine before, it is likely to stop his fit. If I can cure him of his fever and keep him tame, I will not sell him cheaply — too much money will not be enough. Whoever wants to buy him shall pay for him — and pay well.”

Caliban said, “So far you have hurt me only a little, but I know that you will hurt me more. I can tell by your trembling that Prospero is giving you orders to hurt me.”

Stephano uncovered Caliban’s head and said, “Come on and open your mouth. I have something that will give you language, cat. You know the old proverb: Ale will make a cat speak. Open your mouth and drink; this will shake your shaking from fever, I can promise you, and it will do that quickly and thoroughly.”

Caliban drank, but never having tasted wine before, it tasted strange to him and he spit it out.

Stephano said, “You don’t know who your friends are. Open your mouth again.”

Trinculo said, “I should know that voice. I recognize it. It belongs to — but he drowned, and this is a devil who is speaking! Help me, God!”

“Four legs and two voices: a most cunningly made monster!” Stephano said. “The purpose of his forward voice is to speak well of his friend; the purpose of his backward voice is to utter foul and insulting speeches. He resembles the figure of Fame. If all the wine in my bottle will cure him, I will cure his illness. Amen! I will pour some wine in your other mouth.”

“Stephano!” Trinculo cried.

“Does your other mouth call me?” Stephano said. “Mercy, mercy! This is a devil, and no monster. I will leave him; I have no long spoon, and he who will eat with the devil must have a long spoon.”

“Stephano!” Trinculo shouted. “If you are Stephano, touch me to show me that you are not a devil and then speak to me, for I am Trinculo — don’t be afraid. I am your good friend Trinculo.”

“If you are Trinculo, come forth,” Stephano said. “I will pull this monster’s lesser legs. If any of this monster’s four legs are Trinculo’s legs, these are they.”

He pulled Trinculo out from underneath Caliban’s cloak — and from between Caliban’s legs — and said, “You really are Trinculo indeed! How did you come to be a turd of this Mooncalf? Can this Mooncalf shit Trinculos?”

Mooncalves are misshapen monstrosities. The Moon is sometimes thought to be not always a benign influence.

Trinculo replied, “I thought that he was an islander who was killed by a thunderbolt. But you are not drowned, Stephano? I hope that you are not drowned. And has the storm blown over us? I hid myself under the dead Mooncalf’s cloak because I was afraid of the storm. But you are alive, Stephano. Two Neapolitans have escaped drowning!”

Trinculo danced around Stephano with happiness and jostled him.

“Please, do not bump into me,” Stephano said. “My stomach is not settled.”

“These are fine things, if they are not spirits. That is a splendid god and he carries celestial liquor,” Caliban said to himself. “I will kneel to him.”

Caliban’s first taste of wine had not been Heavenly to him, but a few swallows had made him like wine.

Stephano asked Trinculo, “How did you escape? How did you come to be here? Swear by this bottle that you will truly tell me how you came to be here. I myself escaped upon a barrel of sack — Spanish Canary wine — that the sailors heaved overboard. I swear that by this bottle, which I made from the bark of a tree with my own hands after I was cast ashore.”

“I’ll swear upon that bottle to be your true subject,” Caliban said. “The liquor in that bottle is not Earthly.”

Stephano ignored Caliban and said to Trinculo, “Here. Take the bottle. Swear upon it to tell me truly how you escaped being drowned.”

“I swam ashore, man, like a duck,” Trinculo said. “I can swim like a duck — I will swear to that.”

“Here, kiss the book,” Stephano said.

People sometimes kiss the book — the Bible — to confirm an oath. Stephano had no Bible, but he did have a bottle of wine. By ‘kiss the book,’ he meant for Trinculo to confirm his oath by taking a drink of wine from the bottle.

Stephano added, “Though you can swim like a duck, you look like a goose.”

Trinculo drank some wine, and then he asked, “Oh, Stephano, do you have any more of this?”

“I have a whole barrel of it,” Stephano said. “My wine cellar is in a rocky cave by the seaside — that is where I hid my wine.”

He then said to Caliban, “How are you, Mooncalf! Are you recovering from your illness?”

“Did you drop from the Heavens?” Caliban asked.

“I dropped from the Moon, I assure you,” Stephano joked. “Once upon a time, I was the Man in the Moon.”

Caliban replied, “I have seen you on the Moon, and I do adore you. My female teacher showed me you and your dog and your bush.”

Miranda had taught Caliban the story about how the man became the Man in the Moon. He, accompanied by his dog, was gathering firewood — dry bushes — on Sunday. This was a sin, and as punishment for that sin, he, his dog, and the wood he had gathered were placed on the Moon.

“Come, swear to that,” Stephano said, “Kiss the book. Don’t worry. I will furnish it soon with new contents. Swear on the book.”

Trinculo said, “In this good light provided by the Sun, I can see the monster clearly, and I can see that he is not a deep thinker — this is a simple-minded monster. I cannot believe that I was afraid of him! He is a very weak-in-mind monster! He believed that you are the Man in the Moon! He is a very poor and credulous monster!”

Caliban drank, and Trinculo said, “Well done! That was a mighty long drink, monster!”

Caliban said to Stephano, “I will show you every fertile inch of the island, and I will kiss your foot. Please, be my god.”

“He is a very perfidious and drunken monster! When his god is asleep, he will steal his wine.”

“I will kiss your foot,” Caliban said to Stephano. “I will swear to be your subject.”

“Come on then,” Stephano said. “Get down on your knees, and swear.”

Trinculo said, “I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster. He is a most scurvy monster! I could find in my heart to beat him —”

Stephano gave Caliban the bottle and said to him, “Come, kiss the bottle.”

“— except that the poor monster is drunk. He is an abominable monster!”

Books had already mastered Caliban: Prospero’s books of magic. Now he was being mastered by another “book”: Stephano’s bottle of wine.

Caliban said to Stephano, “I will show you the best springs; I will pluck berries for you. I will fish for you and I will get firewood for you. A plague upon the tyrant whom I serve! I will carry no more sticks to him, but instead I will follow you, you wondrous man.”

“He is a most ridiculous monster — he is calling a poor drunkard ‘wondrous’!” Trinculo said.

“Please,” Caliban said, “let me bring you where crabs shed their shells and grow new ones. I with my long nails will dig peanuts for you. I will show you a jay’s nest and I will teach you how to snare the nimble marmoset monkey. I will lead you to clustering hazelnuts, and sometimes I will get for you young birds that nest in the rocks. Will you go with me?”

“Yes,” Stephano said. “Lead the way without any more talking.” He added, “Trinculo, since the King and all the people we traveled with have drowned, we will inherit this island.”

Stephano said to Caliban, “Carry my bottle.”

Caliban sang drunkenly, “Farewell, master; farewell, farewell!

Trinculo said, “This is a howling monster; he is a drunken monster!”

Caliban sang, “No more dams I’ll make for catching fish

Nor fetch in firewood

On request.

Nor scrape wooden platters, nor wash dishes.

’Ban, ’ban, Ca-Caliban

Has a new master. My old master can get a new man.

Freedom, hey-day! Hey-day, freedom!

Freedom, hey-day, freedom!”

Stephano said, “Oh, fine monster! Lead the way!”

Stephano and Trinculo followed Caliban.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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