From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Middles (2)—The Tempest

[a] Tempest  RF
Middles are "impossible," so let's just dive right into the tempest. There is nothing earth-shaking for today's entry—just one of the best plays ever written, by a British social anthropologist named WIlliam Shakespeare (1564-1616). You might have heard of him.

I assign The Tempest each time I teach introductory anthropology, and that is one of the reasons I am highlighting it today. Although this is not particularly new in anthropological discussions, it deserves a hearty restatement every few weeks: anthropology is richly connected (and this is quite often a sorry aspect of its history) with the colonial experience, in all of its messy and troubling corners. Colonial fascination even worked its way into dramas written by people who rarely went abroad, as we shall see. 

The Tempest, for those who are new to it, is a fascinating exploration of "otherness" in many of its manifestations. For those of you who are not new to it, this stuff never gets old. It has often been noted that the play provides an exhilarating (and often troubling) "reading" of political life and utopian/dystopian aspirations held by the island dwellers. Indeed. It has less often been commented that The Tempest shows the little seedlings of several social groups as they sprout up all around the island. It will also not be lost on even the casual reader that the scent of colonialism and exotic otherness is already in the air. Both Stephano and Trinculo (below) mull over the possibilities of bringing the wonder that is Caliban back to "civilization." Shakespeare has a particularly biting wit on this theme, as you shall see.

This segment from the "middle" of The Tempest is one of my favorites, and shows precisely the formation of a tiny little society on a remote corner of an even more remote island. We have a peculiar (pre-Enlightenment) picture of natural man in the (dis)figure of Caliban. When they encounter him, he is cursing Prospero, the undisputed ruler of the island, who makes Caliban haul wood and do menial chores. We may well explore more of The Tempest in future posts, including the "back story" about Caliban and Prospero. If you have read (or are tempted to read) the whole play—and I hope that you do—notice the way that many of the scenes are made up of social triads. There are often (not always, but often) three people sharing, debating, and engaging a rich social dynamic. That is certainly the case as we view the "birth" of a peculiar little society after a fierce set of thunderstorms.

[b] Drifters  RF

There are so many evocative lines here that it would take many further posts to analyze them all. Take the time to read the whole scene. If you have done so before, it will be like having coffee with an old friend. If you have not, this is the time to examine one of the great works in the history of anthropology. 

It's worth watching, but I still think that a good read is best—your choice.

The Tempest II, ii [1]
Another part of the island.
Enter CALIBAN with a burden of wood. A noise of thunder heard.

All the infections that the sun sucks up
From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall and make him
By inchmeal a disease! His spirits hear me,                                  3
And yet I needs must curse. But they'll nor pinch,                         4
Fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me i' th' mire,                          5
Nor lead me, like a firebrand, in the dark                                       6
Out of my way, unless he bid 'em; but
For every trifle are they set upon me;
Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me                           9
And after bite me; then like hedgehogs which
Lie tumbling in my barefoot way and mount
Their pricks at my footfall; sometime am I
All wound with adders, who with cloven tongues
Do hiss me into madness.
                                             Enter TRINCULO                     
Lo, now, lo!
Here comes a spirit of his, and to torment me
For bringing wood in slowly. I'll fall flat.
Perchance he will not mind me.

TRINCULO Here's neither bush nor shrub, to bear off any          18
weather at all, and another storm brewing: I hear it sing 
i' th' wind. Yond same black cloud, yond huge one, 
looks like a foul bombard that would shed his liquor.                    21
If it should thunder as it did before, I know not where 
to hide my head. Yond same cloud cannot choose but 
fall by pailfuls. What have we here? a man or a fish? 
dead or alive? A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient 
and fishlike smell; a kind of not of the newest poor-John.             26
A strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, 
and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but             28
would give a piece of silver. There would this monster 
make a man: any strange beast there makes a man. When         30
they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they                  31
will lazy out ten to see a dead Indian. Legged like a man!
and his fins like arms! Warm o' my troth! I do now let 
loose my opinion, hold it no longer: this is no fish, but 
an islander, that hath lately suffered by a thunderbolt.
[Thunder.] Alas, the storm is come again! my best way          
is to creep under his gaberdine: there is no other shelter            37
hereabout. Misery acquaints a man with strange bed-
fellows. I will here shroud till the dregs of the storm be 
[Creeps under Caliban's garment.]
Enter STEPHANO, singing [with a bottle in his hand].

STEPHANO             I shall no more to sea, to sea,
                                      Here shall I die ashore—
This is a very scurvy tune to sing at a man's funeral. 

Well, here's my comfort.
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!'                                             50
 She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch;
Yet a tailor might scratch her where'er she did itch.
     Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!

This is a scurvy tune too: but here's my comfort.

CALIBAN Do not torment me. O!

STEPHANO What's the matter? Have we devils here? Do 
you put tricks upon's with savages and men of Inde, ha? 
I have not scaped drowning to be afeard now of your
four legs; for it hath been said, 'As proper a man as ever 
went on four legs cannot make him give ground'; and                 60
it shall be said so again while Stephano breathes at 

CALIBAN The spirit torments me. O!

STEPHANO This is some monster of the isle, with four 
legs, who hath got, as I take it, an ague. Where the devil
should he learn our language? I will give him some
relief, if it be but for that. If I can recover him, and keep 

him tame and get to Naples with him, he's a present 
for any emperor that ever trod on neat's leather.                          69

CALIBAN Do not torment me, prithee; I'll bring my 
wood home faster.

STEPHANO He's in his fit now and does not talk after the
wisest. He shall taste of my bottle: if he have never 
drunk wine afore will go near to remove his fit. If I 
can recover him and keep him tame, I will not take too               75
much for him; he shall pay for him that hath him, and 
that soundly.

CALIBAN Thou dost me yet but little hurt.
Thou wilt anon; I know it by thy trembling.                                   79
Now Prosper works upon thee. 
STEPHANO Come on your ways: open your mouth: here 
is that which will give language to you, cat. Open your                82  
mouth. This will shake your shaking, I can tell you, and 
that soundly [Gives Caliban drink.] You cannot tell 
who's your friend. Open your chaps again.                                   85

TRINCULO I should know that voice: it should be—but 
he is drowned; and these are devils. O, defend me!

STEPHANO Four legs and two voices: a most delicate 
monster! His forward voice now is to speak well of his
friend; his backward voice is to utter foul speeches and 

to detract. If all the wine in my bottle will recover him, 
I will help his ague. Come. [Gives drink.] Amen! I will 
pour some in thy other mouth.

TRINCULO Stephano!

STEPHANO Doth thy other mouth call me? Mercy, 
mercy! This is a devil, and no monster. I will leave 
him; I have no long spoon.                                                            97

TRINCULO Stephano! If thou beest Stephano, touch me and
speak to me: for I am Trinculo—be not afeard—thy
good friend Trinculo.

If thou beest Trinculo, come forth. I'll pull thee
by the lesser legs. If any be Trinculo's legs, these 

are they. [Draws him out from under Caliban's garment.] 
Thou art very Trinculo indeed! How cam'st thou to be 
the siege of this mooncalf? Can he vent Trinculos?                    105

TRINCULO I took him to be killed with a thunder-stroke. 
But art thou not drowned, Stephano? I hope now thou 
art not drowned. Is the storm overblown? I hid me
under the dead mooncalf's gaberdine for fear of the
storm. And art thou living, Stephano? O Stephano,
two Neapolitans 'scaped!

STEPHANO Prithee, do not turn me about; my stomach is 
not constant.

CALIBAN [Aside] 
These be fine things, an if they be not sprites.                             114
That's a brave god and bears celestial liquor.
I will kneel to him.

STEPHANO How didst thou 'scape? How camest thou 
hither? Swear by this bottle how thou camest hither. I
escaped upon a butt of sack which the sailors heaved 
o'erboard, by this bottle, which I made of the bark of a 
tree with mine own hands since I was cast ashore.

CALIBAN I'll swear upon that bottle to be thy true subject,
for the liquor is not earthly.

STEPHANO Here! Swear then how thou escapedst.

TRINCULO Swum ashore, man, like a duck. I can swim 
like a duck, I'll be sworn.

STEPHANO Here, kiss the book. [Gives him drink.] Though       127
thou canst swim like a duck, thou art made like a goose.            128

TRINCULO O Stephano, hast any more of this?

STEPHANO The whole butt, man: my cellar is in a rock 
by th' sea-side where my wine is hid. How now, moon-
calf? How does thine ague?

CALIBAN Hast thou not dropped from heaven?

STEPHANO Out o' th' moon, I do assure thee. I was the 
Man i' th' Moon when time was.                                                   135         

I have seen thee in her and I do adore thee.
My mistress showed me thee and thy dog, and thy bush.

STEPHANO Come, swear to that; kiss the book. I will 
furnish it anon with new contents. Swear.

TRINCULO By this good light, this is a very shallow monster! 
I afeard of him! A very weak monster! The Man i'
th' moon? A most poor credulous monster!— Well
drawn, monster, in good sooth!

CALIBAN I'll show thee every fertile inch o' th' island;
And I will kiss thy foot. I prithee, be my god.

TRINCULO By this light, a most perfidious and drunken
monster! when 's god's asleep, he'll rob his bottle.

CALIBAN I'll kiss thy foot. I'll swear myself thy subject.

STEPHANO Come on then. Down, and swear!

TRINCULO I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-               150
headed monster. A most scurvy monster! I could find 
in my heart to beat him—

STEPHANO Come, kiss.

TRINCULO But that the poor monster  's in drink. An 
abominable monster!

I'll show thee the best springs; I'll pluck thee berries;
I'll fish for thee and get thee wood enough.
A plague upon the tyrant that I serve!
I'll bear him no more sticks, but follow thee,
Thou wondrous man.

TRINCULO A most ridiculous monster, to make a wonder 
of a poor drunkard!


I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;                             163
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts,                              164
Show thee a jay's nest and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset; I'll bring thee
To clustering filberts and sometimes I'll get thee
Young scamels from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?                  168

STEPHANO I prithee now, lead the way without any more
talking. Trinculo, the King and all our company else 

being drowned, we will inherit here. Here, bear my                     171
bottle. Fellow Trinculo, we'll fill him by and by again.                   172

Caliban sings drunkenly 
CALIBAN Farewell master; farewell, farewell!

TRINCULO A howling monster! a drunken monster!

          No more dams I'll make for fish
             Nor fetch in firing
             At requiring;
          Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish                                    178
          'Ban, 'Ban, Ca—Caliban
          Has a new master: get a new man.
Freedom, high-day! high-day, freedom! freedom,
high-day, freedom!

STEPHANO O brave monster! Lead the way.

                             [Line notes from The Pelican Shakespeare]
II, ii A place on the island near Prospero's cell.  3 By inchmeal inch by inch   4 nor neither
5 urchin-shows apparitions in the form of hedgehogs  6 like a firebrand in the
form of a will-o'-the-wisp  9 mow makes faces   18 bear off ward off    
21 bombard leather bottle;  his its  26 poor-John dried hake
28 painted i.e. on a signboard outside a booth at a fair   30 make a man (also
with the sense of 'make a man's fortune')  31 doit small coin  37 gaberdine cloak
69 neat's leather cowhide  75-76 not take too much i.e. take all I can get   
79 anon soon  82 cat (alluding the the proverb 'Liquor can make a cat talk')  85 chaps jaws
97 spoon (alluding to the proverb 'He who sups with the devil must have a long spoon')
105 siege excrement; mooncalf monstrosity  114 an if if
127 book i.e. bottle  128 like a goose i.e. with a long neck   
135 when time was once upon a time  163 crabs crab apples  164 pignuts peanuts   
168 scamels (unexplained, but clearly either a shellfish or rock-nesting bird; perhaps 
a misprint for 'seamels,' sea mews)  171 inherit take possession
172 by and by soon  178 trenchering trenchers, wooden plates

[1] Adapted from Northrop Frye, ed, The Pelican Shakespeare (New York: Penguin Books, 1959), 65-71.

Northrop Frye, ed. The Pelican Shakespeare. New York: Penguin Books, 1959.

No comments:

Post a Comment