4.3.2. A marginal observation relating The Tempest and Volcano

I searched to proof the assumption of Richard Paul Roe (Guide to Italy, 2011)
who identifies Shakespeare's waste island as VULCANO.

In The Tempest, I/2 we read—

MIRANDA. If by your art, my dearest father, you have
   Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
   The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
   But that the sea, mounting to th' welkin's cheek,
   Dashes the fire out.

And in IV/1:

PROSPERO. Say again, where didst thou leave these varlets?
ARIEL. I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking ...
           At last I left them
   I' th' filthy mantled pool beyond your cell,
   There dancing up to th' chins, that the foul lake
   O'erstunk their feet.

Indeed, the island with its yellow sands of sulphur, unsettled till the 17th century,
seems a good candidate for Shake-speare's magic stage. Here is the foul lake.




And here a rather good pictureof the yellow sands, seen from the volcano.



In a letter dated 23 March 1576 to Lord Burghley, Benedetto Spinola (residing in London) writes:

Inquesto ponto ho riceputo l{itte}re da vinetia de 26 di Febraro dal mio fr{ate}llo quale mi scriue che l'Ill{ustrissi}mo s{ign}or Conte staua benissimo e continuaua in la sua Resolutione de retornarsene a Casa .... Credo li sia parso strano di no' hauere hauuto maggior provigione di denari, delli 1800 diquali no' si e seruito in napoli ni altri luoghi de Italia.

At this time I have received letters from Venice of the 26th of February from my brother [Pasquino Spinola], who writes me that the most illustrious Earl is very well, and continues in his resolutionto return home ... I understand it has seemed strange to him that he did not have greater provision of money than the 1800 denarii which he did not take up in Naples or in other places in Italy -

The fact that Oxford did not collect the aforementioned 1800 denarii in Naples could lead us to the erroneous assumption that Oxford did not visit the city. However, why would the Spinola brothers have mentioned Naples if they had not been there?
The master-gunner and adventurer Edward Webbe reported that Oxford took part in a tournament in Palermo.

... in the city of Palermo, a thing worthy of memory, where the Right Honourable the Earl of Oxford, a famous man of Chivalry, at what time he travelled into foreign countries, being then personally present, made there a challenge against all manner of persons whatsoever ... (See 4.4.2 B. M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Book I, p. 112.)

If Oxford travelled to Sicily, he did so between the 3rd of January, when he was in Siena, and the 25th of February, when he returned to Venice.

In The Tempest Shake-speare gives us clear directions on how to get to the barren island where the creature Caliban was up to his mischief.
The dramatist describes the route, which Alonso, King of Naples, was following when he was shipwrecked on Prospero's island, in concise detail: Alonso was returning to Naples from Tunis, where he had celebrated the marriage of his daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis. Just how far- and on whose footsteps- Alonso and his entourage had advanced on their journey when they were forced to stay on Prospero's island, can be discerned from the words of Alonso's old honest counselor, Gonzalo.

GONZALO. Methinks our garments are now as fresh as when we put them on first in Afric,
at the marriage of the King's fair daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis.
SEBASTIAN. 'Twas a sweet marriage, and we prosper well in our return.
ADRIAN. Tunis was never grac'd before with such a paragon to their queen.
GONZALO. Not since widow Dido's time.
ANTONIO. Widow! a pox o' that! How came that 'widow' in? Widow Dido!
SEBASTIAN. What if he had said 'widower Aeneas' too?
Good Lord, how you take it!
ADRIAN. 'Widow Dido' said you? You make me study of that. She was of Carthage, not of Tunis.
GONZALO. This Tunis, sir, was Carthage.
ADRIAN. Carthage?
GONZALO. I assure you, Carthage.
ANTONIO. His word is more than the miraculous harp.
SEBASTIAN. He hath rais'd the wall, and houses too.
ANTONIO. What impossible matter will he make easy next?
SEBASTIAN. I think he will carry this island home in his pocket, and give it his son for an apple.
ANTONIO. And, sowing the kernels of it in the sea, bring forth more islands.
ANTONIO. Why, in good time.
GONZALO. Sir, we were talking that our garments seem now as fresh as when we were at Tunis at the marriage of your daughter, who is now Queen.
ANTONIO. And the rarest that e'er came there.
SEBASTIAN. Bate, I beseech you, widow Dido.
ANTONIO. O, widow Dido! Ay, widow Dido.
GONZALO. Is not, sir, my doublet as fresh as the first day I wore it? I mean, in a sort.
ANTONIO. That 'sort' was well fish'd for.

(The Tempest, II/1)

The Tempest is not the first work of literature in which King Alonso's sea route is described. In Virgil's Aeneid, the destination of the Trojan Aeneas is Latium (Italy). However in the third book, an oracle prophecies that before he reaches his destiny, he will make a long sea journey. The Trojan hero sails along the Sicilian coast to Carthage where Queen Dido falls so much in love with him that when he leaves, she stabs herself. Aeneas sails around Sicily to get back to Italy passing the Aeolian Islands, one of which bears the name of Vulcania, later known as Vulcano, the home of Vulcan, the god of forging- finally dropping anchor in Cumae which is only a few miles north of Naples.



Every learned contemporary of Shake-speare will have been familiar with Virgil's description of Vulcania.

An island, its rocks smoking, rises steeply by
the Sicilian coast, near the flanks of Aeolian Lipare.
Beneath it a cave, and the galleries of Etna, eaten at
by the Cyclopean furnaces, resound, and the groans from
the anvils are heard echoing the heavy blows,
and masses of Chalybean steel hiss in the caverns,
and fire breathes through the furnaces. It is Vulcan's home
and called Vulcania. Here then the god
with the power of fire descended from the heavens.
In the huge cave the Cyclopes, Brontes, Steropes,
and bare-limbed Pyrcamon, were forging iron.

(Aeneid, 8.416-426)

In the book Madness Unchained: A Reading of Virgil's Aeneid (2007) by Lee Fratantuono we find a passage which is conducive to a better understanding. "Virgil now introduces the Cyclopes in this busy, factory-like role. Venus' cajoling is followed by the placating of all nature, as it were. Even Venus' lover Mars' chariot will have to wait for Aeneas' shield- a remainder that Book 8 offers a quiet moment of peace in the Italian war, a suspended narrative. The volcanic island where the Cyclopes and Vulcan work (Volcania, the modern Vulcano) was near Aeolus' traditional home: the Aeolian geography recalls Juno's visit to the wind god for a favor in Book 1. What had been a region of fear and ill omen when the Trojans were first approaching Sicily has now become the source of Aeneas' shield; the Cyclopes have been transformed in Virgil's epic, as it were, from monsters silhouetted on a beach in Book 3 to obedient laborers in Book 8. This too represents the coming of order and the rule of rational thought; the untamed Sikcilian beasts of Book 3 are now employed, and they work in the services of heroes who will execute the will of the gods."

They held a lightning-bolt, shaped with their hands,
like many of those the Father hurls from all over
the sky, part of it polished, part still left to do.
They'd added three shafts of spiralling rain, three of watery
cloud, three of reddening fire, and the winged south wind.
now they were blending terrifying flashes, into the work,
sounds and fears, and fury with following flames.
Elsewhere they pressed on with a chariot for Mars, with winged wheels,
with which he rouses men, with which he rouses cities:
and a chilling aegis, the breastplate of Pallas,
competing to burnish its serpent scales of gold,
its interwoven snakes, and the Gorgon herself
on the goddess's breast, with severed neck and rolling eyes:
'Away with all this,' he shouts, 'remove the work
you've started, Cyclopes of Etna, and turn your minds to this:
you're to make arms for a brave hero. Now you
need strength, swift hands now, all the art now of a master.
An end to delay.' He said no more, but they all
bent quickly to the toil, and shared the labour equally.
Bronze and golden ore flowed in streams,
and steel, that deals wounds, melted in a vast furnace.
They shaped a giant shield, one to stand against all
the weapons of Latium, layering it seven times,
disc on disc. Some sucked in air and blew it out
again with panting bellows, others dipped the hissing bronze
in the lake: the cavern groaned beneath the weight of anvils.
With mighty force they lifted their arms together in rhythm,
and turned the mass of metal, gripping it with pincers.

(Aeneid, 8.427-453)

What better location could there be for Prospero to work his magic than Vulcania, Vulcan's forge? Did Prospero not want to tame Caliban and the "Calibanean" power of the island?
In his cell’ Prospero fans the flames for the processes which are necessary for a civilized society. Not only does he call Ariel, the charming spirit, and subdue the half-beast Caliban, son of a witch to his aid, he also evokes the classical spirits whom we find in Virgil’s Aeneid: the impulsive Juno and her messenger Iris, but also Ceres the goddess of agriculture grain crops and fertility - und Venus, the goddess of love, beauty and desire.


   No tongue! All eyes! Be silent.       [Soft music]

          Enter IRIS

IRIS. Ceres, most bounteous lady, thy rich leas
   Of wheat, rye, barley, vetches, oats, and pease ...
   -the Queen o' th' sky,
   Whose wat'ry arch and messenger am I,
   Bids thee leave these; and with her sovereign grace,
   Here on this grass-plot, in this very place,
   To come and sport. Her peacocks fly amain.
   [JUNO descends in her car]
   Approach, rich Ceres, her to entertain.

          Enter CERES

CERES. Hail, many-coloured messenger, that ne'er
   Dost disobey the wife of Jupiter ...
   -why hath thy Queen
   Summon'd me hither to this short-grass'd green?
IRIS. A contract of true love to celebrate,
   And some donation freely to estate
   On the blest lovers.
CERES. Tell me, heavenly bow,
   If Venus or her son, as thou dost know,
   Do now attend the Queen? Since they did plot
   The means that dusky Dis my daughter got,
   Her and her blind boy's scandal'd company
   I have forsworn.
IRIS. Of her society
   Be not afraid. I met her Deity
   Cutting the clouds towards Paphos, and her son
   Dove-drawn with her. Here thought they to have done
   Some wanton charm upon this man and maid,
   Whose vows are that no bed-rite shall be paid
   Till Hymen's torch be lighted; but in vain.
   Mars's hot minion is return'd again;
   Her waspish-headed son has broke his arrows,
   Swears he will shoot no more, but play with sparrows,
   And be a boy right out.       [JUNO alights]
CERES. Highest Queen of State,
   Great Juno, comes; I know her by her gait.
JUNO. How does my bounteous sister? Go with me
   To bless this twain, that they may prosperous be,
   And honour'd in their issue.       [They sing]
JUNO. Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
   Long continuance, and increasing,
   Hourly joys be still upon you!
   Juno sings her blessings on you.
CERES. Earth's increase, foison plenty,
   Barns and gamers never empty;
   Vines with clust'ring bunches growing,
   Plants with goodly burden bowing;
   Spring come to you at the farthest,
   In the very end of harvest!
   Scarcity and want shall shun you,
   Ceres' blessing so is on you.
FERDINAND. This is a most majestic vision, and
   Harmonious charmingly. May I be bold
   To think these spirits?
PROSPERO. Spirits, which by mine art
   I have from their confines call'd to enact
   My present fancies.
FERDINAND. Let me live here ever;
   So rare a wond'red father and a wise
   Makes this place Paradise.

(The Tempest, IV/1)


Which do the notorious "Bermoothes" have to do with all this?
Precious little! They are mentioned by way of a joke after Ariel had quartered the ship wreck survivors in a safe place.


PROSPERO. Of the King's ship,
   The mariners, say how thou hast dispos'd,
   And all the rest o' th' fleet?
ARIEL. Safely in harbour
   Is the King's ship; in the deep nook, where once
   Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
   From the still-vex'd Bermoothes, there she's hid -

(The Tempest, I/2)


The Bermudas was an old name for a district in London - thought to have been the narrow alleys in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, St. Martin's Lane, and the Strand- which was a sanctuary for debtors and law-breakers, where the residents had certain privileges against arrest. (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1889.)