Michel de Montaigne, The Essayes, 1603 - 'Of Cannibals' p.100.

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Date:1603

Description:A source for Caliban in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Florio’s translation of Montaigne was registered in 1600, and it is possible that Shakespeare saw a manuscript before the Essays were printed in 1603. Gonzalo’s speech, in The Tempest, (2,1, lines 148-174) on the commonwealth, with a Utopian style of government owes its direct origin to the Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cannibals’.


[Chapter 13, page 100 begins:

At what time King Pyrrhus came into Italy after he had surveyed the marshalling of the army, which the Romans sent against him: ‘I wot [know] not,’ said he, ‘what barbarous man these are (for so were the Grecians wont to call strange nations ) but the disposition of the army, which I see is nothing barbarous.’ So said the Grecians of that which Flaminius sent into their country. And Philip viewing from a tower the order and distribution of the Roman camp, in his kingdom under Publius Sultitius Galba [said]: Low how a man ought to take heed lest he overweening follow vulgar opinions which should be measured by the rule of reason, and not by common report...
[The section of this essay which relates to the ‘ideal world’ which provided a source for Gonzalo’s speech in The Tempest follows on page 102 and reads:]
‘Those nations seem therefore so barbarous unto me because they have received very little fashion from human wit and are yet near their original naturality. The laws of nature do yet command them which are but little bastardised by ours... it is a nation would I answer Plato that hath no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politic superiority, no use of service, of riches, or of poverty, no contracts, no successions, no dividedness, no occupation but idle, no respect of kindred but common, no apparel but natural, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corn or metal. The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, dissimulation, covetousness, envy, detraction, and pardon were never heard amongst them. How dissonant would he find his imaginary commonwealth from this perfection?'...


Full title: Michel de Montaigne,(1533-1592) The Essayes of Lo: Michaell de Montaigne now done into English by John Florio, London, Val. Sims for Edward Blount, 1603.


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Source: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Library

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