Modern Prose

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Caliban, meanwhile, grudgingly gathered wood for Prospero. Approaching thunder evoked perfectly Caliban’s mood. With Prospero far away Caliban grumbled aloud.

“May all the infections bred by the sun from bogs, fens and swamps fall on Prospero and give him a disease, limb by limb. His spirit servants might be able to hear me but even so I need to curse him. But they won’t frighten me with apparitions or by pinching me. They won’t throw me in the mud or lead me astray in the dark with will ‘o the wisps, unless he has decreed it. Any little offence and he sets them loose on me! Sometimes they act like monkeys chattering, jeering and biting me. Or like hedgehogs lying in my path so that I stand on them and prick my feet. And sometimes Prospero sends adders to wrap themselves round me and hiss and point their tongues at me until I’m terrified!”

Caliban stood still. He saw one of Prospero’s spirits. But he was mistaken- it was Trinculo, a jester from the ship.

“Look!” Caliban said to himself, “here comes one of Prospero’s spirits to torment for being too slow gathering wood. I’ll lie flat and with a bit of luck he won’t see me.”

Caliban lay on the ground behind a decaying log. The log was punctuated with a few holes which allowed Caliban to keep an eye on the movements of Trinculo. Caliban not being particularly intelligent did not perceive how hesitant and disorientated Trinculo was.

“Oh, there’s neither bush nor shrub here to keep off the weather at all and there’s another storm brewing. I hear the wind picking up. The black cloud yonder, the far big one, looks like a rotten barrel that’s about to explode and spew its booze. If it thunders like it did before I don’t know where I can protect myself. That cloud is holding a brewery!”

Trinculo wandered around listlessly, hopelessly resigned to another soaking. He decided to sit on a log. The log behind which Caliban was hiding!

“What have we here? A man or a fish? Dead or alive? A fish. He smells like a fish. A very ancient, fishy smell.”

Caliban still thought that this was one of Prospero’s malevolent spirits and did not move.

“What kind of fish?

A kind of old salted hake.

A strange fish! If was in England now, as I once was, and had this fish painted every bumpkin would pay me a piece of silver for a peek! This monster would make me rich in England- any monster would make you rich in England! They won’t give a halfpenny to a lame beggar put they pay ten to see a dead Indian!”

Excited by Caliban’s lucrative potential Trinculo inspected him more closely.

“He has legs like a man. His fins are like arms! Lord, he’s warm! I will have to change my mind- forget what I said before. This is not a fish, this is one of the locals, struck by a thunderbolt!”

As if to confirm Trinculo’s opinion thunder boomed off the clouds again.

“Alas, the storm is back again! My best hope is to hide under his cape, there’s no other shelter around here. Misery acquaints man with strange bedfellows, that’s all I can say! I’ll stay here until the storm tires itself out.”

Trinculo gingerly stretched Caliban’s canvas cape over himself, apprehensively making the best of his lot. As the thunder eased Caliban and Trinculo heard some peculiar noises. It was the sound of bad singing. The singer was carrying bottle of liquor the swigging of which interrupted his singing. It was Stephano, the butler from the ship.

“I shall no more to sea, to sea
Here shall I die ashore-”

Stephano paused visibly unhappy at the sentiment of the song.

“Oh, this is a poxy song to sing at a man’s funeral! Never mind, I’ve got my booze for comfort!”

Stephano took a long drink and after smacking his lips once again launched into song:
“The master, the deckhand, the bosun, and I,
The gunner and his mate,
Loved Moll, Meg and Marian, and Margery,
But none of us cared for Kate,
For she had a tongue with a tang,
Would scream at a sailor, ‘Go hang!’
She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch:
Yet a tailor could scratch her wherever she had an itch.
Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!”

He paused: “This is another poxy tune! Back to my comforting bottle!”

While Stephano was singing Caliban was still curled up in a terrified ball and thought the noise being made by Stephano was actually coming from Trinculo.

“Don’t torment me!” Caliban groaned to Trinculo, still lying beside him.

Stephano heard Caliban’s pleas and started.

“What’s the matter? Have we devils here?”

He looked at his bottle of alcohol and then took a few paces around to investigate. He saw the bundle languishing behind the log and was dismayed.

“Is this a trick show with savages and Indians? I didn’t escape drowning to be frightened now by something with four legs! As proper a man ever went on four legs wouldn’t make me take to my heels, as the saying goes!”

“Oh, the spirit torments me!” Caliban squealed.

Stephano leapt back.

“This is some native creature with four legs and, as I guess, some kind of wound. How the devil did he learn our language? I’ll give him some medicine to help him, if it’s a minor thing. If I can nurse him and tame him and get him back to Naples he’d be quite a present for any emperor ever to wear shoe leather!”

Caliban still believed it was Trinculo who was talking.

“Please, don’t torment me. I’ll bring the wood in faster!”

“He’s having a fit and is not talking any sense,” Stephano said. “I’ll give him a taste if my bottle. If he’s never drunk wine before it will help get rid of this fit. If I can cure him and tame him I won’t take too much from him, just enough to buy an awful lot!”

Stephano crouched to feed Caliban the alcohol. Meanwhile Trinculo had been shaking with terror and this got worse as Stephano approached and triggered off total panic in Caliban.

“You haven’t hurt me yet but I know you will from the way you are trembling! Now Prospero has you doing his business!” Caliban yelled at Trinculo while Stephano, presuming this was aimed at him, stood bewildered.

“Over here: open wide! This booze is strong enough to get a cat to make sense! Open your mouth- I can tell you, and tell you sincerely, this will shake off your shaking! You don’t recognise me as a friend! Now open your mouth wide.”

Sheltered beneath Caliban’s cape, Trinculo was stirring.

“I should know that voice! It should be him – but he drowned! These are devils! Oh, help me!” Trinculo squealed.

“Four legs and two voices! What a unique monster! His front voice is for speaking well of his friend and his back voice is used for foul speeches and detractions. If a little wine in my bottle cures him it will be worth it. Come you, enough!”

Stephano tottered about to find the source of Caliban’s other voice to give that mouth some of the cure. When he found it he was amazed.

“Stephano!” Trinculo squealed.

“Is you other mouth calling me? Mercy, mercy! This is a devil not a monster! I will leave him. I don’t have a spoon long enough to sup with the devil!”

“Stephano! If you be Stephano, touch me and speak to me! I’m Trinculo. Don’t be frightened- your good friend Trinculo!”

“If you are Trinculo show yourself. I’ll pull you by the two small legs. If any legs are Trinculo’s it must be these. You are indeed Trinculo! How come you came out of there? Does he go to the toilet for a Trinculo?”

“I thought he had been killed by a thunderbolt. But what about you – weren’t you drowned, Stephano? I hope you’re not a ghost. Has the storm passed? I hid under the dead monster’s cape to hide from the storm. And you are living, Stephano? Oh, Stephano, two Neapolitan survivors!”

Trinculo grabbed Stephano and shook and spun him to verify he too was alive.

“Please, don’t spin me around. My stomach isn’t up to it!”

Caliban sat watching with interest and curiosity trying to piece together the puzzle that was confronting him.

“These are fine men, if they are not spirits,” Caliban thought to himself. “This Stephano is a brave god and bears a celestial potion, I will kneel to him.”

“Trinculo, how did you escape?” Stephano asked. “How did you get here? Swear, by this bottle, how you got here! I escaped clinging to a wine cask the sailors threw overboard! I swear by this bottle I made here from tree bark”

Before Trinculo could answer Caliban leapt up and fell at Stephano’s feet.

“I’ll swear on that bottle to be your loyal subject. That liquor is heavenly!”

“Swear how you escaped, Trinculo,” Stephano persisted.

“I swam ashore, like a duck. I’m a great swimmer, I swear.”

“Here drink the holy liquor. You might be able to swim like a duck but you are a bit of a goose.”

“Oh, Stephano, do you have any more?”

“A cask! My cellar is in a cave by the seaside, there I’ve hidden my wine. Well, monster, how’s your fever?”

“Have you dropped from heaven?” Caliban asked.

“From the moon, I assure you. I was the man in the moon!”

“I have seen you in her and I adore you! My mistress showed you to me, and your dog and your bush.”

“Oh! Come on, swear to that! Take another drink. There’ll be plenty more later!”

“Goodness, this is a very silly monster. I afraid of him? What a weak monster! The man in the moon! A most credulous monster! Well drunk, monster!”

Caliban was still grovelling at Stephano’s feet.

“I’ll show you every fertile inch of this island. And I will kiss your feet. Please, be my god!”

Caliban saw that Stephano was nodding off, as he spoke he reached his hand out to get Stephano’s bottle.

“Heavens, a wicked and drunken monster! When his god’s asleep he tries to steal his bottle!” Trinculo yelled, shaking Stephano.

“I’ll kiss your feet, I’ll swear to be your subject.”

“Come on, then: down and swear.”

“I’ll laugh myself to death because of this monster. He’s so stupid I could beat him!” Trinculo said.

“Come on, kiss!” Stephano said wagging his feet at Caliban.

“Oh, that poor monster is drunk, an abominable monster!”

“I’ll show you the best springs. I’ll collect berries for you. I’ll fish for you and get you all the wood you need. A plague upon the tyrant that I serve! I’ll gather no more wood for him, be your disciple, you wondrous man!”

“Oh, what a ridiculous monster to mistake a drunkard for a god!” Trinculo sneered with a hint of jealousy.

“Please, let me show you where the apples grow. My long nails will allow me to dig you groundnuts. I’ll show you a jay’s nest and teach you how to snare the trickiest monkeys. I’ll show you a cluster of nuts and sometimes I’ll bring young birds from the cliffs. Will you go with me?”

“Pray, lead the way, without any more talking. Trinculo, since the King and the rest of the party have been drowned we will inherit this island. Here, Trinculo, carry my bottle. We will fill it soon.”

As Caliban led then away he began to sing a good riddance to Prospero:
“Farewell, master, farewell, farewell!”

“A howling monster! A drunken monster!” Trinculo said in despair.

Caliban persisted with his singing.

“No more dams I’ll scour for fish;
No fetching wood for firing
At Prospero’s requiring:
No wood bowl scraped, nor washed dish:
‘Ban, ‘Ban, Ca-Caliban
Has a new master- got a new man!”

Caliban paused and took a break from singing to shout at the lush vegetation: “Freedom, liberty! Liberty, freedom! Freedom, liberty!”

“O brave monster! Lead the way!” Stephano said, suitably impressed.