chapter  9
18 Pages

Thomas Harriot and the Mariner’s Culture: On Board a Transatlantic Ship in 1585

These words, shouted in despair at sailors by the character of the boatswain in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, refer to a ship initially bound for Virginia. It is acknowledged that the bard’s play was written a few years after the real shipwreck of a Virginia company’s merchantman.2 It is also acknowledged that Shakespeare himself knew mariners who possibly, served as technicians on stage, handling the ropes and the pulleys of theatrical machinery. He certainly had the opportunity of hearing them tell stories of seafaring and of using their highly specialized vocabulary. About 25 years earlier, Thomas Harriot had a better opportunity of recording the language of sailing men, on board the ship on which he crossed the ocean to land in America.