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4.8: Shakespeare’s The Tempest

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    The Module 2 sound-scape features an excerpt from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which was inspired in part by the sinking of the Sea Venture while it was en route to Jamestown in 1609. The text accompanying the sound-scape gives you a brief synopsis of the Sea Venture’s real-life story. 1

    Listen to an excerpt from William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest — Act 2, Scene 1, and follow along with the text on this page.

    Click on the audio player to listen.

    An audio element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can listen to it online here:


    I’ th’ commonwealth I would by contraries
    Execute all things. For no kind of traffic
    Would I admit. No name of magistrate.
    Letters should not be known. Riches, poverty,
    And use of service—none. Contract, succession,
    Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard—none.
    No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil.
    No occupation. All men idle, all.
    And women too, but innocent and pure.
    No sovereignty—


    Yet he would be king on ’t.


    The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.

    The Tempest by William Shakespeare is in the Public Domain

    The establishment of the colony of Virginia captivated the imagination of people in England. At the time, it was rare for people to travel more than a few miles from home, so they were fascinated by stories of far-away places. Virginia made its way into popular culture as well. Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, written in 1610 or 1611 and first performed in November 1611, is an example of this. According to many scholars, Shakespeare based this play in part on the shipwreck of the Sea Venture, which was part of a convoy sent from England in 1609 to resupply the struggling settlement at Jamestown. In July 1609, en route to Jamestown, the Sea Venture encountered a hurricane which separated it from the rest of the convoy. The Sea Venture was badly damaged, but the 153 passengers and crew were able to evacuate and save some of the supplies before it sank near the coast of Bermuda. The castaways made it to shore, and spent the following ten months living on Bermuda, which at this time had not been settled by Europeans. They managed to build two small boats which they sailed to Jamestown, arriving in May 1610. The castaways had been given up for dead, so you can imagine what a surprise their arrival in Jamestown was! The people of England were fascinated and inspired by their exciting story of survival in an exotic land. The story reinvigorated interest in Virginia and England’s commitment to ensure the floundering colony’s survival.

    Excerpts from the book A Plaine Description of the Barmudas. You can read the full text on

    John Smith 1624 map of Bermuda with Forts 01 by John Smith
    CC licensed content, Original

    4.8: Shakespeare’s The Tempest is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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