The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1609)

Your favourite bit, aside from the clichéd I cried to dream again and brave new world that has such people in’t?

Mine’s got to be Caliban’s few words while basted on booze or, as he lovingly calls it, celestial liquor.

What tickles is the characteristic hallmarks of the drunk as he tries to give the also carted Stephano and Trinculo instructions on how to polish off Prospero [Caliban’s boss].

He’s truly bowsered. Or, as the irksome and obsequious Ariel puts the state, red-hot with drinking.

It’s all here. The frowning. The determined imperative. The repetition of idea. The aggression. You don’t have to see the play to see him swaying, lurching, finger-pointing.

So, having just told them both that he’ll take them to Prospero where thou mayst knock a nail in his head, he expands on the theme.

(Why is knock a nail in his head so funny here? Why. Perhaps because it’s such an absurdly violent and premeditated (given the tools needed) thing to do, uttered by an inebriate who can hardly stand up. Perhaps it’s the euphony and alliteration in those first three syllables that make it sound such a casual and easy task.)

And so he goes on,

‘I the afternoon to sleep: there thou must brain him,

Having first seized his books; or with a log

Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake…

New verb for me there: to paunch is to disembowel (an animal). I guess that figures, glancing down.

Or cut his wezand with a knife…

Now, ouch.

I don’t know either, nor does the dictionary. But I do know that I’d like my wezand intact. Whatever, wherever, it is.

Just as it is.

Must’ve been one helluver hangover.

Thanks for being here.

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Guy Nicholls

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