10 a ship called the sea venture on the coast of the

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10 a ship called the Sea Venture on the coast of the Bermudas in 1609; chief amongst those texts which he probably read is a lengthy letter by William Stratchey known as the True Reportory of the Wrack . While the letter is dated to July 15 1610, and it was not published until 1625, it is assumed Shakespeare read it in manuscript form (Lindley 9-10). The ship was on its way from England to the newly established English colony of Virginia on the coast of what is now the United States. It was wrecked at the Bermudas, but the survivors managed to make it to the largest island (known as Bermuda today) and to survive there for a while, before somehow managing to then make their way to the colony at Virginia. Certain passages from the accounts and from Stratchey’s in particular, seem to have informed the very wording of Shakespeare’s play. Perhaps most immediately striking amongst these is Ariel’s recounting, beginning at 1.2.231, of his boarding of the ship before the wreck – what Ariel is saying is that he appeared to those on board the ship like St. Elmo’s fire (a kind of ball lightning), wherein his description of his appearing as such significantly echoes Stratchey’s account of his witnessing of this phenomenon before the wreck of the Sea Venture . There are numerous other echoes between the language of Shakespeare’s play and of Stratchey’s account of his experience of the then uncharted island, and of how he and others managed to survive on it. However, if Stratchey’s and others’ accounts of the wreck seem to have inclined Shakespeare’s imagination towards the New World as much as to the Old in his fabricating of the space of Prospero’s island, the character of Caliban is also key in this respect. As we saw above, while Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is one possible source for Gonzalo’s Utopian speech, another is Michel de Montaigne’s essay “Of Cannibals” (1580). The word “cannibal” is an Anglicization of the word—“Caribs”—for the tribe of Native Americans who originally inhabited, and so gave their name to, what is now known as the Caribbean, the northern-most edge of which is marked by Bermuda. That tribe was widely and erroneously held to be cannibals by the European explorers who first encountered them; it should also be noted that those European explorers quickly precipitated their extinction. “Caliban” is thought to be a further corruption of that term, and the description and characterization of Caliban constructs him as a colonial fantasy of what might be called a “generalized Other” of European colonial discourse—a sort of all-around negative image of the native peoples that Europeans encountered when a number of European nations – English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese—were establishing their various colonial empires in places like North, Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Thus while he is immediately associated, genealogically, with Africa, he bears

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