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The Shakespeare for Kids series is aimed at 8 to 11 year olds.
The Tempest for Kids is written as a story that can be read by children, or read to them by parents or teachers who wish to introduce them to Shakespeare.
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A storm was brewing and thunder rumbled in the distance. Caliban staggered under the burden of the wood he had collected but he had to keep going or his master’s spirits would pinch him or frighten him with goblins, or throw him in the mud or lead him astray in the shape of a will-o’-the-wisp. He had to be careful because his master would set the spirits on him for every little thing. Sometimes they looked like apes, and made faces and chattered at him, and then bit him. At other times they looked like hedgehogs that lay tumbled up in his path as he walked barefoot, and raised their spines when he trod on them. Sometimes snakes were twined around him, hissing at him with their forked tongues, until he was driven mad.
He pulled his ragged cloak tightly around him as a large thunder crack, very close, seemed to move the earth. And here was one of Prospero’s spirits now, come to torment him for bringing the wood in too slowly. It was a most weird-looking spirit; half red, half yellow, and wearing a cap with bells on it. Perhaps if he fell flat on the ground the spirit wouldn’t notice him.
The ‘spirit’ was, in fact, Trinculo, the king’s jester. Bewildered by his survival and marooned in this unfriendly place, all alone, he stumbled forward, worried about this alarming storm that was about to break. There wasn’t a bush or a shrub here to keep off the weather at all. That black cloud – the huge one – looked like a foul leather bottle that was about to split open and spill its water. If the storm was going to be like the one that wrecked the ship he didn’t know where he was going to hide his head. That cloud was going to rain down in bucketsful!
He saw what looked like a filthy pile of rags spread on the ground and he stooped and lifted a corner of it. Something moved. He jabbed it with his toe and it moved again, more decisively this time.
What did we have here? Was it a man or a fish? Dead or alive? Trinculo stooped and sniffed, and immediately recoiled. Phoo! A fish. It smelt like a fish, a very old and fish-like smell. A kind of not-so-fresh cheap, dried fish. A strange fish! He bent over and took a closer look at it.
Hmm. It had legs like a man. And its fins were like arms. He touched one of them and sprang back. Warm! His opinion had changed. This was no fish, but an islander who had been struck by lightning.
There was a mighty thundercrash. Trinculo looked about desperately. Hisbest bet was to creep under the monster’s cloak; there wasn’t any shelter around here. He hurried beneath the cloak and lay on top of the still figure, his legs pointing in the opposite direction from the creature’s, and pulled the cloak over him. He would stay there until the storm was past.
The ship’s butler had also survived, although the miracle of it wasn’t something he had been thinking about. He had surfed to shore on a barrel of wine and when he’d been cast up on the island he had made himself a bottle out of the bark of a tree and filled it from the barrel. And now he was quite drunk. He walked along, swaying, not a care in the world, singing: ‘I shall no more to sea, to sea; here shall I die, ashore ..’ He stopped. ‘This is a very depressing song to sing at a time like this,’ he said. ‘Well, here’s my comfort.’ He took a swig and began singing a more cheerful song.
The master, the swabber, the boatswain and I,
The gunner and his mate.
Lov’d 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!
She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch…’
‘This is the wrong song too: but here’s my comfort.’ He took another swig but almost choked as a mournful voice came from the ground near him.
‘Don’t torment me!’
Stephano looked down and saw the heap of old sacks. He prodded it with his foot.
‘Ohhhhh!’ came the voice again.
Stephano crouched down and examined the mound. Two feet stuck out of one end. He looked for the head at the other end and saw that there were two feet sticking out there as well. He stood up and scratched his head. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘Have we got devils here? Are you playing tricks on me like in a freak show hey? I haven’t escaped drowning to be scared, now, by your four legs, and I’m not going to run away.’
Caliban’s voice came again: ‘The spirit is tormenting me! Ohhhhh!’
Stephano swayed and pointed at the thing with his bottle. ‘This is some four-legged monster of the isle who has, I think, a fever. Where the devil did he learn our language? I’ll give him some medicine if that’s the problem. If I can make him better and keep him tame, and get to Naples with him, he’s a present for any emperor who ever wore expensive shoes.’
‘Please don’t torment me,’ wailed Caliban. ‘I’ll bring my wood home faster.’
‘He’s in a fever now and talking nonsense,’ said Stephano. ‘I’ll give him a taste of my bottle. If he’s never drunk wine before it will help subdue his fever. If I can recover him and keep him docile the sky’s the limit. Whoever buys him will pay a lot for him’
Trinculo moved now and Caliban moaned. ‘You haven’t hurt me yet but I know you will. I know it by your trembling. Prospero is controlling you.’
Stephano lifted the cloak: Caliban’s terrified eyes stared up at him.
‘Come on,’ said Stephano, ‘open your mouth. Here’s something that will make you talk. Open your mouth!’ Caliban obediently opened his mouth and Stephano stuck the bottleneck in it. ‘This will shake off your shaking, I can tell you,’ he said.
Caliban sucked on the bottleneck and coughed as the wine hit his throat. Stephano laughed and removed the bottle. When Caliban’s convulsions had subsided he offered the bottle once more. ‘Come on, open your mouth again,’ he said.
Trinculo raised his head. ‘I know that voice,’ he said in a small, frightened voice. ‘It’s …. but he’s drowned. And these are devils. Oh! Help!’
Stephano fell over then struggled to his feet again. ‘Four legs and two voices!’ he exclaimed. ‘A very clever monster! If it takes all the wine in my bottle to help him I’ll do it. Come. Amen. I’ll pour some into your other mouth.’
He lifted the cloak. Trinculo saw him and uttered his relief ‘Stephano!’
Stephano dropped the cloak and turned to run. ‘Is your other mouth calling me by name? Mercy! Mercy! This is a devil, not a monster. I’m off. I don’t have a long spoon!’
He started running. Trinculo called after him ‘Stephano! If you’re Stephano speak to me. I’m Trinculo. Don’t be afraid. Your good friend, Trinculo!’
Stephano stopped and came back cautiously. ‘If you’re Trinculo, come out. I’ll pull you by the smaller legs.’ He examined the legs and saw the jester’s motley. ‘If any are Trinculo’s legs these are the ones.’ He whipped the cloak away. Trinculo rolled off Caliban then stood up. ‘You are Trinculo!’ He embraced his friend.
Caliban was paralysed in his confusion, and lay still, watching the two newcomers. He felt light headed. It was a good feeling. He licked his lips and tasted the delicious wine that had caused it.
‘I thought he had been killed by the lightning,’ said Trinculo. ‘But weren’t you drowned, Stephano? I hope you aren’t drowned. Has the storm blown itself out? I hid under the dead monster’s cloak in fear of the storm.’ He grasped Stephano and began dancing wildly with him. ‘Are you really living, Stephano? Oh, Stephano. Two of us escaped!’
‘Please!’ exclaimed Stephano, pulling himself away from his delighted friend. ‘Don’t turn me around like that; my stomach is unsettled.’