A storm was brewing and thunder rumbled in the distance. Caliban staggered under the burden of the wood he had collected. He cursed under his breath. Enraged by a sense of injustice, he wished that all the infections that the sun sucked up from bogs, marshes and swamps would fall on Prospero and infect him inch by inch with disease. He knew that even though he wasn’t cursing out loud his master’s spirits could hear him, but he couldn’t help it – he just had to curse. He knew they wouldn’t 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 unless Prospero told them to. But he had to be careful because his master would set them 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.
Caliban 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 a cap, with bells, on its head. Perhaps if he fell flat on the ground the spirit wouldn’t notice him.
The ‘spirit’ was, in fact, Trinculo, one of the king’s jesters. Bewildered by his survival and marooned in this hostile place, he stumbled forward, apprehensive 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 liquor. If the storm was going to be like the one that wrecked him 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 recoiled. What did we have here? Was it a man or a fish? Dead or alive? He 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! If he were in England now, as he once was, and if he painted a sign there advertising this fish, every holiday fool would give him a piece of silver to see it. This monster would make a man’s fortune there. They wouldn’t give a small coin to help a lame beggar but they’d lay out ten to see a dead Indian.
He bent over and took a closer look at the fish. Hmm. It had legs like a man. And its fins were like arms. He touched one of them and sprang back. Warm, by his faith! 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. His best bet was to creep under the monster’s cloak; there wasn’t any shelter around here. Misery makes a man have strange bedfellows. He lay on top of the still figure, his legs pointing in the opposite direction from his bedfellow, and pulled the cloak over him. He would stay there under this shroud until the dregs of the storm were past.
The ship’s butler had also survived, although the miracle of it wasn’t something he had been thinking about. He had ridden 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 Stephano 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 scurvy tune to sing at a man’s funeral,’ 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;
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.’ 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. ‘Oh!’ 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 with savages and Indians, hey? I haven’t escaped drowning to be scared, now, by your four legs because, as they say, “as handsome a man that ever went on four legs can’t make this man run away.” And it’ll be said again, as long as Stephano breathes through his nostrils.’
Caliban’s voice came again: ‘The spirit is tormenting me! Oh!’
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 soundly 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 petrified eyes stared up at him.
‘Come on,’ said Stephano, ‘open your mouth. Here’s something that will make you talk. Open your mouth!’ Caliban opened his mouth obediently and Stephano stuck the bottleneck in it. ‘This will shake off your shaking, I can tell you,’ he said. ‘You never know who your friends are.’
Caliban sucked on the bottleneck and coughed as the strong liquor hit his throat. Stephano laughed and removed the bottle. When Caliban’s convulsions had subsided he offered the bottle again. ‘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! His front voice speaks well of his friend; his back voice utters foul speeches and insults. 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 touch me and 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 off. Trinculo got off Caliban and stood up. ‘You are Trinculo!’ He embraced his friend. ‘How did you come to be the excrement of this moon-calf? Can he excrete Trinculos?’
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 liquor that had caused it.
‘I took him to be killed with 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 Neapolitans escaped!’
Stephano belched. ‘Please,’ he said, pulling himself away from his delighted friend. ‘Don’t turn me about; my stomach is unsettled.’
It was beginning to dawn on Caliban that these were not spirits sent by Prospero to torment him. He couldn’t take his eyes off Stephano. He was a fine god, and he had heavenly liquor. He would worship this god.
‘How did you escape?’ said Stephano. ‘How did you get here?’ He thrust the bottle at Trinculo. ‘Swear by this bottle how you came here. I escaped on a barrel of wine the sailors threw overboard. By this bottle! I made it from the bark of a tree with my own hands after I was cast ashore.’
Caliban scrambled to him and knelt at his feet. He grabbed at the bottle, which Stephano swept swiftly out of his grasp. ‘I’ll swear upon that bottle to be your loyal subject,’ said Caliban. ‘For this liquor is not earthly.’
Stephano ignored him. ‘Here, swear then, how you escaped.’
‘I swam ashore, man, like a duck. I can swim like a duck. I’ll swear to that.’
‘Here, have a swig. ‘You may be able to swim like a duck but you’re shaped like a goose.’ Stephano laughed as Trinculo drank.
Trinculo swigged then wiped his lips. ‘Oh Stephano, do you have any more of this?’
‘The whole barrel, man. My cellar is in a rock by the beach, where my wine is hidden.’ He looked down at Caliban. ‘Hello, monster! How’s your fever?’
Caliban’s eyes were misty. ‘Have you dropped from heaven?’ he said.
‘Out of the moon, I assure you,’ said Stephano, winking at Trinculo. ‘I was the man in the moon once upon a time.’
‘I’ve seen you in her,’ said Caliban eagerly, ‘and I worship you. My mistress showed you to me and she showed me your dog and your bush.’
‘Come, swear to that,’ said Stephano. ‘Here, kiss the book and I’ll fill it up again with more. Swear!’
Trinculo looked sneeringly at Caliban. ‘By this good light,’ he said scornfully, ‘this isn’t much of a monster! The man in the moon!’ He laughed. ‘I afraid of him?’ He gave Caliban a clip on the side of his head. ‘A very weak monster!’ He grabbed the bottle from him. ‘That’s a very big swig you’ve taken, monster, I have to say!’
Caliban clung to Stephano’s legs. ‘I’ll show you every fertile inch of this island,’ he said. ‘I’ll kiss your foot. I beg of you, be my god,’ he said.
‘By this light, a most treacherous and drunken monster,’ said Trinculo. ‘When his god’s asleep he’ll steal his bottle.’
‘I’ll kiss your foot. I’ll swear to be your subject,’ said Caliban.
Stephano lifted his foot, inviting him to do it. ‘Come on then, down, and do it.’
Trinculo sneered. ‘I’ll laugh myself to death at this silly monster,’ he said. ‘A most scabby monster. I could beat him.’ He raised his hand.
‘Come kiss,’ said Stephano.
Caliban did, eagerly, with smacking sounds.
Trinculo let his arm drop. ‘But the poor monster’s drunk. An abominable monster!’
Ignoring Trinculo, Caliban kissed Stephano’s other foot. Then he looked up at his idol. ‘I’ll show you the best springs; I’ll pluck berries for you; I’ll fish for you; and get enough wood for you. A plague on the tyrant that I serve! I’ll carry no more wood for him, but follow you, you wonderful man.’
‘A most ridiculous monster to be so impressed with a poor drunkard!’ laughed Trinculo.
Stephano patted Caliban on the head. Caliban grasped his hand and kissed it. ‘I beg of you,’ he said, ‘let me take you to where apples are growing; and I’ll dig you peanuts with my long nails. I’ll show you a jay’s nest and teach you how to trap the nimble monkey. I’ll take you to clusters of nuts and sometimes I’ll get you young seagulls from the rocks. Do you want to come with me?’
‘I pray you now, lead the way without any more talking,’ said Stephano. ‘Trinculo, with the king and all the rest of our company drowned, we’ll inherit this place. Here.’ He handed the bottle to Caliban. ‘Carry my bottle.’ When Trinculo was about to object Stephano put his arm round his shoulders. ‘Trinculo, my mate, we’ll fill it again soon,’ he said.
Caliban led the way, staggering and swaying and waving his arms about wildly. ‘Farewell, master, farewell, farewell,’ he sang.
Tinculo shook his head disapprovingly. ‘A howling monster!’ he exclaimed. ‘A drunken monster!’
Caliban stamped his feet rhythmically, celebrating his liberation from his master, and sang in a hoarse, tuneless voice:
No more dams I’ll make for fish;
Nor fetch in firing
Nor scrape trenchering, nor wash dish;
Ban, Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new master – get a new man.
He whooped and jumped up in the air and raised a fist to the sky. ‘Freedom high-day! high-day, freedom! freedom, high-day, freedom!’
Stephano tried to match his freedom dance and raised his fist too. ‘O brave monster,’ he cried. ‘Lead the way!’