The Tempest and Magellan’s Circumnavigation

The Tempest is first play of the First Folio. Ship-master and Bote-swain are the first two characters on the stage. The beginning of the First Folio works like a preface to all Shakespeare’s plays.

[A tempestuous noise of Thunder and Lightning heard: Enter a Ship-master, and a Boteswaine.] [1]

Bote-swaine. [2]

Here Master: What cheer? [3]

Good: Speak to the Mariners: [4]
fall to it, yarely, or we run ourselves a ground, bestir, bestir.

Exit. [5]
Enter Mariners.

Heigh my hearts, cheerly, cheerly my harts: yare, yare: [6-1]
Take in the top-sale:
Tend to the Master’s whistle: [6-3]
Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough.

[Enter Alonso, Sebastian, Anthonio, Ferdinand, Gonzalo, and others.] [7]

Good Boteswain have care: where’s the Master? Play the men. [8]


[1] The stage direction “Ship-master, and a Boteswaine” can spell Mary Sidney and Ben Jonson.

Ship-master,and a Boteswaine-- Mary Sidney Ben Jonson

[2] Bote-swaine can spell Ben Jonson. Bote-swaine is a variant of boatswain, one who must follow his master’s order. Bote is an obsolete form of boot, meaning advantage or profit. The boteswain Ben Jonson works to profit Wilton House poets.

[4] “Good: Speak to the Mariners” can spell Shakespeare, Mary Sidney, a wordplay saying that the mariners are poets under Mary Sidney’s patronage. “Good” isn’t a necessary word in meaning, but it provides the needed letter d and g for anagrams. “Good Mariners” can spell anagrams, saying that Mary’s mariners use Shakespeare anagrams to speak.

Good Speak to the Mariners--Shakespeare, Mary SidneyGood Mariners--anagrams

[5] Ship-master has no line in the play after this scene; boatswain will speak again at the end. It’s an unusual arrangement.

[6-1] Original spelling is “toppe-sale”; sale can be an obsolete form of sail. The word sale appears 9 times in the First Folio, but only here being used as sail. “Top-sale” hints at the ticket sale and prosper of Shakespeare’s drama. Sail has the definition of a voyage, venture; Shakespeare is the venture of Wilton poets led by Mary Sidney.

[6-2] This line blesses Shakespeare’s plays with top-sale: “whistle” has the definition of call or summon; “blow” of boast or brag; “wind” of empty talk, vain speech or twisted plot; “room” of room for wordplay or room of a theater. [6-3] Tend to the Master’s whistle: this line can spell Mary Sidney, Wilton House.

Tend,Master's whistle thou--Mary Sidney,Wilton House

[7] The three characters, Ferdinand, Sebastian, and Anthonio are borrowed from the journal of Magellan’s expedition. Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) started the first circumnavigation in 1519; he died in the Philippines in 1521. The expedition was completed by Juan Sebastian Elcano (1476–1526) in 1522. The journey was recorded by Antonio Pigafetta (1491–1531).

The role Francisco appears in several stage instructions, e.g., “Enter Alonso, Sebastian, Anthonio, Gonzalo, Adrian, Francisco, and others.” He speaks twice, but no one calls his name in the play, so audiences don’t know this name. Francisco is an unnecessary name in The Tempest.

Francisco Albo was a sailor who kept a formal logbook of Magellan’s expedition besides Antonio Pigafetta.

Magellan and Shakespeare’s Brave New World

Setebos is a rare name appeared in Pigafetta’s journal as an inferior pagan god. Shakespeare used it for Caliban's mother Sycorax’s god. This rare name appears in "Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo" by Antonio Pigafetta who recorded the journey, said to be published in 1550–59.

"... sbuffavano come tori, chiamando fortemente Setebos, che li aiutasse. . . . Al diavolo grande = Setebos."
"... they raged like bulls, calling loudly for Setebos to aid them. . . . for their big Devil Setebos." (Translated by James Alexander Robertson.)

Naming of The Tempest compares Shakespeare’s achievement in drama with the first circumnavigation in history, which is hinted by Miranda’s “brave new world.”

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here?
How beauteous mankind is? O, brave new world
That has such people in it.

’Tis new to thee.

Creature has the definition of one who owes his fortune to a patron, i.e., poets under the patronage of the addressee. “How many goodly creatures” can spell Mary Sidney, Wilton House.

How many goodly creatures--Mary Sidney,Wilton House

Prospero is a perfect anagram of “O pro-sper”; sper is an obsolete form of spere or sphere. William Shakespeare is a perfect anagram of Will may shake a spere, or a both-way anagram of Will may shake a sphere. Will has the definition of the willing to do something; spere is an obsolete form of sphere or speer (meaning to inquire, ask). The will of Wilton House poets shakes the sphere in the drama world.

William Shake-speare--Will may shake a spere
Will may shake a spere (sphere).

William Shake-speare--Will may shake a sphere
Will may shake speare (in the drama world).

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