David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 2-3

— 3.2 —

On another part of the island, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo were still talking and drinking.

“Don’t criticize me,” Stephano said to Trinculo, who had wanted him to moderate his drinking. “When the barrel of wine is empty, we will drink water, but not a drop before. Therefore, bear up, stand firm, and lift the bottle, and then board ’em and attack — drink! Servant-monster, drink to me.”

“Servant-monster!” Trinculo said. “He is the folly of this island! Only five people are on this island; we are three of them. If the other two have drunken brains like ours, this island is in a terrible state and its inhabitants are in a tottering state.”

“Drink, servant-monster, when I tell you to,” Stephano said. “Your eyes are almost drunkenly set in your head.”

“Where else should his eyes be set?” Trinculo said. “He would be a splendid monster, indeed, if they were set in his tail.”

“My man-monster has drowned his tongue with wine,” Stephano said, “As for me, the sea cannot drown me. I swam, before I could reach the shore, thirty-five leagues — around 100 miles — by fits and starts.”

Trinculo thought, That may be a slight exaggeration.

Stephano said to Caliban, “By Heaven, you will be my military lieutenant, monster, or my standard-bearer.”

Trinculo said, “You better make him your lieutenant. Because of the wine he has drunk, he is not capable of standing.”

Trinculo was punning. An erection is one kind of standing, and as all know, alcohol increases desire but takes away performance.

He added, “But if you enlist him as your lieutenant, he will list to one side like a damaged ship.”

Stephano said, “We will not run away from the enemy, Monsieur Monster.”

“Nor go — walk — either,” Trinculo said, “but you’ll lie like dogs and yet say nothing.”

“Mooncalf, speak once in your life,” Stephano said, “if you are a good Mooncalf.”

“How are you, sir?” Caliban said. “Let me lick your shoe. I will not serve Trinculo; he’s not valiant.”

“You lie, most ignorant monster,” Trinculo said. “I am drunk enough to shove a constable. Why, you debauched fish, has ever a man been a coward who has drunk as much wine as I have drunk today? Why are you telling a monstrous lie, you who are only half a monster? Which of us is valiant? I drink like an entire fish, but you are only half a fish.”

“Listen at how he mocks me!” Caliban said to Stephano. “Will you let him mock me, my Lord?”

“He called Stephano ‘Lord’!” Trinculo said. “I am amazed that a monster should be such a natural fool! Monsters are unnatural!”

“Listen! He mocked me again!” Caliban complained. “Please bite him to death.”

“Trinculo, keep a civil tongue in your head,” Stephano said. “If you mutiny against me, I will hang you from the nearest tree! The poor monster is my subject, and he shall not suffer indignity.”

“I thank my noble Lord,” Caliban said. “Will you be pleased to listen once again to the petition I made to you?”

Petitions are made to Princes; petitions often ask for redress of wrongs. Stephano and Caliban now began to act as if they were in a royal court and Stephano was a Prince.

Stephano said, “Yes, I will. Kneel before me, and repeat your petition. I will stand up, and so will Trinculo.”

Ariel, invisible, now came near the three drunks. He stood behind Trinculo, who was a short distance from Caliban and Stephano.

Caliban said to Stephano, “As I told you before, I am subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer, who by his cunning has cheated me out of this island.”

“You lie!” Ariel said.

Because Ariel was standing behind Trinculo — who could not hear Ariel, who had the power of making sounds, including music, audible only to the people he chose to hear them — and because Ariel was invisible, Caliban and Stephano assumed that Trinculo had said, “You lie!”

Caliban angrily said to Trinculo, “Youlie, you jesting monkey! I wish my valiant master would destroy you! Ido not lie.”

Stephano said, “Trinculo, if you trouble him any more as he tells his tale, I swear that I will uproot some of your teeth.”

“Why, I said nothing,” Trinculo protested.

“Be quiet, then, and say no more,” Stephano said.

To Caliban, he added, “Proceed.”

“I say, by sorcery he got this island. From me he got it. If your greatness will get revenge on him for what he did to me — I know that you are valiant enough to do that, but I am not —”

“That’s quite certain,” Stephano said.

Caliban finished, “— you shall be Lord of this island and I will serve you.”

“How can we accomplish that?” Stephano said. “Can you take me to this magician?”

“Yes, my Lord,” Caliban said. “I will take you to him while he is asleep. Then you can hammer a nail into his head.”

Ariel said, “You lie! You cannot do that!”

Again, Caliban and Stephano assumed that Trinculo the jester had spoken.

“What a pied ninny is this!” Caliban said, referring to the jester’s clothing made of patches of different colors — a style called pied or motley. You scurvy patch!”

Caliban was capable — occasionally — of wit. The word “patch” referred to the jester’s clothing made of patches — “patch” also meant “fool, clown, simpleton,” words that described Trinculo well. In fact, events would show that Caliban was more intelligent than either Trinculo or Stephano.

Caliban said to Stephano, “I do beg your greatness, give this fool blows and take his bottle from him. When his bottle is gone, he shall drink nothing but brine water because I will not show him where the springs of fresh water are.”

“Trinculo, run into no further danger,” Stephano, who was a bit of a bully, said. “Interrupt the monster one word further, and, by this hand, I will fire my mercy the way we fire a servant and turn it out of doors, and I will treat you like a salted fish — I will beat you in order to tenderize you.”

“Why, what did I do?” Trinculo complained. “I did nothing. I’ll go farther away from you.”

Stephano asked him, “Didn’t you say that the monster lied?”

Ariel said, “You lie!”

“I lie?” Stephano said. “Do I now? Take that.”

He hit Trinculo and said, “If you like this, then tell me once more that I lied.”

“I did not call you a liar,” Trinculo protested. “Are you out of your mind? Are you deaf? A pox on your bottle! Wine and drinking can make people act like you! May your monster catch the plague, and may the devil take your fingers!”

Caliban laughed at Trinculo’s discomfort.

“Now, monster, go forward with your tale,” Stephano said.

He said to Trinculo, “Please, stand farther away.”

“Beat him up,” Caliban said. “After a little while, I’ll beat him, too.”

“Stand farther away,” Stephano said to Trinculo. To Caliban, he said, “Come on, proceed. Tell me what you have to tell me.”

“Why, as I told you,” Caliban said, “it is a custom with him to sleep in the afternoon. At that time, you can brain him, after you have seized his magic books, or you can use a piece of wood to batter his skull in, or you can stab him with a stake. Or you can cut his throat with your knife. Remember first to take his magic books because without them he is only a fool, as I am, and he will not be able to command any spirits — they hate him as deeply as I do. Burn only his books. He has fine furnishings — so he calls them — with which he intends to adorn his house, when he has a proper one. Those fine furnishings will be yours. But even more important is that you can win his daughter, who is beautiful. The magician himself calls her a nonpareil — her beauty is supposed to be without equal. I never have seen a woman except for two: Sycorax, who was my dam, and the magician’s daughter, who as far surpasses Sycorax in beauty as the greatest surpasses the least.”

 “Is she so splendid a lass?” Stephano asked.

“Yes, Lord,” Caliban replied. “She will look good in your bed — I guarantee it — and she will give birth to splendid children for you.”

Caliban had cleverly pointed out the benefits Stephano would receive if he killed Prospero.

“Monster, I will kill this man,” Stephano said. “His daughter and I will be King and Queen — God save our graces! — and Trinculo and you shall be viceroys.”

He added, “Do you like the plot, Trinculo?”


“Let’s shake hands,” Stephano said to Trinculo. “I am sorry I hit you, but as long as you are alive, keep a good tongue in your head. Don’t insult the monster or me.”

“Within this half hour, the magician will be asleep,” Caliban said. “Will you destroy him then?”

“Yes, on my honor,” Stephano replied.

Ariel thought, I will tell my master about this plot.

Caliban said, “You make me happy. I am full of pleasure. Let us be jocund. Will you sing the song that you taught me recently?”

“At your request, monster,” Stephano said, “I will do anything within reason. Come on, Trinculo, let us sing.”

Stephano and Trinculo sang this song:

Flout ’em and jeer at ’em

And jeer at ’em and flout ’em

Thought is free.”

They were drunk and sang poorly, and Caliban complained, “That’s not the tune.”

Ariel began to play the tune with his small drum and wind instrument.

“What is this sound?” Stephano asked.

“This is the tune of our song, played by the picture of Nobody,” Trinculo said.

Ariel was invisible, and so he was Nobody because he had no body.

“If you are a man, show yourself in your true shape,” Stephano said. “If you are a devil, then I challenge you to a duel.”

Afraid that the devil was willing to accept the invitation to fight a duel, Trinculo said, “Oh, God, forgive me my sins!”

Stephano said, “He who dies pays all debts. I defy you, devil.”

Drunk Stephano then realized that he had mixed his words up. He should have challenged the man to a duel and asked the devil to appear in his true shape. Challenging a devil to a duel is not a good idea.

Stephano cried, “God, have mercy upon us!”

“Are you afraid?” Caliban asked him, thinking that he was afraid of the music.

Not wanting to appear to be a coward in front of Caliban, Stephano replied, “No, monster, not I.”

Not convinced, Caliban replied, “Be not afraid. This island is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and do not hurt. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about my ears, and sometimes I hear voices that, if I then had waked after a long sleep, will make me sleep again, and then, as I dreamed, I thought that the clouds would open up and show me riches that were about to drop upon me — when I woke up, I cried because I wanted to dream again.”

“This will prove a splendid kingdom to me, where I shall have my music for free,” Stephano said.

“After Prospero the magician is destroyed,” Caliban said.

“That shall be soon,” Stephano said. “I have not forgotten.”

“The music is going away,” Trinculo said. “Let’s follow it, and afterward kill the magician.”

“Lead, monster; we’ll follow,” Stephano said. “I wish that I could see this musician; he plays well.”

Caliban hung back. He wanted to kill the magician first.

“Are you coming?” Trinculo asked Caliban. He said to Stephano, “I will follow you, Stephano.”

Stephano and Trinculo left. Caliban followed them.

— 3.3 —

King Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Adrian, Francisco, and others had been walking, searching for King Alonso’s son, Ferdinand. Sebastian and Antonio stood at a distance from the other men.

“I can go no further, sir,” Gonzalo said. “My old bones ache. Here is a maze trod indeed through straight paths and winding ways. Please, sir, I must rest.”

“Old Lord, I cannot blame you for wanting to rest,” King Alonso said. “I also am worn with weariness, and my spirits have dulled. Sit down, and rest. Now I will stop hoping that my son is alive; I will no longer try to comfort myself with the thought that he may have survived. No, he did not survive. My son, whom we are searching for, has drowned. The sea mocks our useless search for him on land. Well, I will accept that he is dead.”

Antonio whispered to Sebastian, “I am very glad that King Alonso has lost hope that his son is alive. He is depressed and discouraged. Do not, although we failed once to assassinate the King and Gonzalo, give up our plan that you agreed to.”

Sebastian whispered back to Antonio, “We will seize by the throat the next opportunity we have to do what we planned.”

Antonio whispered back, “Let it be tonight; now they are weary with walking, and they will not, and they cannot, use such vigilance as they do when they are fresh and rested.”

Sebastian whispered, “Yes, tonight. We are agreed.”

Solemn and strange music began to play, and Prospero, who was invisible, stood on a height, and watched the group of men as strange spirits brought a table and put on it a banquet as they danced as if to welcome King Alonso and the other men. The spirits gestured to the men to eat the banquet, and then the spirits left although the music continued to play.

“What harmony is this?” King Alonso asked. “My good friends, listen!”

“This is marvelous sweet music!” Gonzalo said.

“May the Heavens give us kind keepers!” King Alonso said. “What were these beings?”

“We have seen a living puppet show,” Sebastian said sarcastically. “Now I will believe that unicorns exist, and I will believe that in Arabia on one tree, the phoenix’ throne, one phoenixis right now reigning there. Only one phoenix exists at a time, and every 500 years it bursts into flame and then is resurrected as a young bird.”

“I will believe in both of those mythological beings,” Antonio said sarcastically, “and if anything else wants to be believed in, then let it come to me, and I will swear that it exists. I believe that travelers never lie, although fools at home condemn them.”

Without sarcasm, Gonzalo said, “If I would report in Naples what I just saw with my own eyes, would the people there believe me?If I would say, I saw such islanders — certainly, this island has inhabitants — who, though they are of monstrous shape, yet you shall find that their manners are better and more charitable than the manners of many — make that most — of our human species.”

Prospero thought, Honest and old Lord, you have spoken truly because some of you humans present here and now are worse than devils.

“I cannot stop marveling that such shapes, using gestures and sounds, are able to express, although they lack the use of speech, a kind of excellent silent communication,” King Alonso said.

Prospero thought, Keep your praise until the end. You may find that you have not received the welcome that you think you have.

Francisco said, “They vanished strangely.”

“That does not matter,” Sebastian said, “since they have left their banquet behind. We have good appetites.”

He asked King Alonso, his brother, “Will it please you to eat the banquet that is here?”

Afraid of the strange shapes that had brought the food, King Alonso said, “I will not eat that food.”

Gonzalo advised him, “Truly, sir, you need not fear. When we were boys, who would believe that there were mountain-dwellers dew-lapped like bulls, whose throats had hanging from them wallets of flesh that are also known as goiters? Or who would believe that there existed men whose heads were in their breasts? But now that we are grown up, we find that one in five travelers brings us reports of having seen such people.”

“I will eat some of this food,” King Alonso decided, “even though it may be my last meal. That does not matter since I believe that the best part of my life is over now that my son has died. Brother, and my Lord the Duke of Milan, take the risk and eat, also.”

Thunder sounded and lightning flashed. Ariel, who had changed his shape to that of a Harpy, a bird with the face of a woman, entered with two other spirits in the shape of Harpies. Harpies had befouled the food that Aeneas, the survivor of Troy who carried out his fate of going to Italy and becoming an important ancestor of the Romans, and his men had prepared on the Island of the Harpies during their wanderings around the Mediterranean. Ariel clapped his wings, and the food disappeared.

Still in the form of a Harpy, Ariel said to King Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio, “You are three men of sin, whom Destiny, which has power over this lower world and what is in it, has caused the never-surfeited sea to belch you upon this island where men do not live because you do not deserve to live among men. I have made you insane, and men sometimes hang or drown themselves with their insane courage.”

King Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio — the only men who could hear Ariel — drew their swords.

Ariel continued, “You fools! I and my fellows are ministers of Fate. The elements, of which your swords are created, may as well try to wound the loud winds, or with mocked-at stabs kill the waters that close together again as soon they are parted. They are as likely to do that as to harm one filament of one of my feathers. My fellow ministers of Fate are likewise invulnerable. Even if you could hurt us, your swords are now too heavy for your strength and you can no longer lift them.”

The three men dropped their now-too-heavy swords to the ground.

Ariel continued, “But remember — this is what I must tell you — that you three men deposed Prospero and cast him from Milan, throwing him and his innocent child, exposed to the elements, upon the sea, which has avenged your evil deed. Because of your foul deed, the higher powers, which delayed your punishment but did not forget it, have incensed the seas and shores and all the creatures against you. King Alonso, you have been bereft of your son. The higher powers have ordered me to inflict on you a lingering, gradual, and slow destruction that will be worse than any quick death can be. Slow destruction will follow you every step of your way. The only way to escape the wraths of the higher powers, which otherwise will fall upon your heads, is for the three of you to repent your sins and to lead a life innocent of sin.”

Amid thunder, Ariel and the two other spirits vanished.

Soft music played, and other spirits danced as they made mocking grimaces and gestures at the three sinners, and then the spirits carried out the table on which the food had been placed.

“You have splendidly acted the role of the Harpy, Ariel,” Prospero said. “Your acting had grace, even as you spirited away the food. You left out nothing of what I commanded you to say in your speech, and the spirits — all of whom are lesser than you — who worked with you performed their roles excellently with great attention to detail. My high magic works, and these my enemies are all confused and distracted. They now are in my power, and in these fits I leave them, while I visit young Ferdinand, whom they think has drowned, and Miranda, whom both he and I love.”

Prospero departed.

Gonzalo, who had not heard Ariel’s speech, said to King Alonso, “In the name of something holy, sir, why do you stand here and seem utterly amazed?”

“Oh, it is monstrous, monstrous,” King Alonso said. “I thought that the billows spoke and told me the name of Prospero; the winds did sing the name of Prospero to me, and the thunder, that deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounced the name of Prospero. In a bass voice, the winds and the waves have sung out the name of the man I wronged. Because of my sin, my son is bedded in the ooze at the bottom of the ocean. I will seek him deeper than ever any plummet has sounded and with him I will lie there in the muddy ooze.”

King Alonso walked away.

Sebastian said, “If I can fight one fiend at a time, I will fight their legions one after another.”

Antonio said to Sebastian, “I’ll be your second in each fight.”

Sebastian and Antonio walked after King Alonso.

Gonzalo said to the other Lords, “All three of them are desperate. Their great guilt for what they did to Prospero, like poison that is designed to work a great time after it is taken, now begins to bite them. I do beg those of you who have suppler joints, follow them swiftly and keep them from doing what their frenzy may provoke them to do.”

Adrian said, “We will go. Follow after us.”

Gonzalo and the other Lords followed King Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved




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