Strange bedfellows Introduction
I'm Trinculo. I'm the jester so I'm always ready with a punch line or two. It also means I'm never without a drink or a boast. And you know what I think?
Here's neither bush nor shrub, to bear off
any weather at all, and another storm brewing;
I hear it sing i' the wind: yond same black
cloud, yond huge one, looks like a foul
bombard that would shed his liquor. If it
should thunder as it did before, I know not
where to hide my head: yond same cloud cannot
choose but fall by pailfuls. What have we
here? a man or a fish? dead or alive? A fish:
he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-
like smell; a kind of not of the newest Poor-
John. A strange fish! Were I in England now,
as once I was, and had but this fish painted,
not a holiday fool there but would give a piece
of silver: there would this monster make a
man; any strange beast there makes a man:
when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame
beggar, they will lazy out ten to see a dead
Indian. Legged like a man and his fins like
arms! Warm o' my troth! I do now let loose
my opinion; hold it no longer: this is no fish,
but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a
Alas, the storm is come again! my best way is to
creep under his gaberdine; there is no other
shelter hereabouts: misery acquaints a man with
strange bed-fellows. I will here shroud till the
dregs of the storm be past. (2.2.18-41)
Who Said It and Where
A creature named Caliban is busy fetching wood and cursing Prospero for the mean things he does, like sending spirits to torment him while he works. As Caliban complains of apes that chatter at and bite him, hedgehogs that prick his feet, and snakes that hiss him to madness, Trinculo enters, and Caliban assumes the stranger is another one of Prospero's nasty spirits.
Yet he's nothing of the sort. Trinculo is a jester and member of a group shipwrecked on the island, and he is wandering alone searching for cover, should another storm come. He spots Caliban, and seeing he is maybe a man or a fish (or both), immediately thinks of how people in England would pay to see an odd thing like this. Then he decides Caliban's deformed shape is simply that of a native islander recently hit by lightning.
Brain Snack: In 16th- and 17th-century England, people paid money to see American Indians who had been brought over from the New World and were exhibited like circus animals. Yep—that's precisely as awful as it sounds. But it explains a lot about what's happening here.
Hearing more thunder, Trinculo (quite a wuss, to put it indelicately) immediately jumps under Caliban's cape, seeking shelter. Just then, Stefano, the drunken butler, wanders in singing saucy songs about which women will put out for sailors, and which women won't. Surprised at seeing Caliban as a four legged creature (because Trinculo is under his cape), Stefano announces he did not escape drowning to fall to savages.
Caliban, thinking Stefano is another of Prospero's spirits, cries out. Stefano is shocked that this four-legged monster knows his own language, and thinks the monster suffers from some fever. Stefano will give the monster a drink to ease him, but also hopes he might drunkenly tame the monster and lure him back to Naples as a present for a European emperor.
Meanwhile, the still scared and hiding Trinculo thinks he recognizes Stefano's voice and calls out to him. Finally, after some silly nonsense, Stefano and Trinculo discover each other, and Caliban realizes the two are not spirits, but must be gods, what with the celestial liquor Stefano carries. Stefano doesn't deny it, and drunkenly claims that he was the man in the moon until recently, when he fell down.