Question: Is Shakespeare's description of this storm technically accurate?
Answer: Yes, undoubtedly. On Shakespeare's description of the management of the ship in the storm the second Lord Mulgrave, a
distinguished naval officer, says:
"The first scene of The Tempest is a very striking instance of the great accuracy of Shakespeare's knowledge in a professional science, the most difficult to attain without the help of experience. He must have acquired it by conversation with some of the
most skilful seamen of that time."
Lord Mulgrave then gives the following analysis of Shakespeare's
FIRST POSITION. Fall to 't yarely, or we
run ourselves aground.
Land discovered under the lee; the wind blowing too fresh to hawl
upon a wind with the topsail set. Yare is an old sea term for briskly, in use at that time. This
first command is therefore a notice to be ready to execute any orders
SECOND POSITION. Yare, yare, take in the
topsail, blow till thou
burst thy wind, if room
The topsail is taken in. Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough. The danger in a good sea
boat is only from being too near the land; this is introduced here to account for the next order.
THIRD POSITION. Down with the top-mast! Yare! lower, lower! bring her to try with
The gale increasing, the topmast is struck, to take the weight from aloft, make the ship drift
less to leeward, and bear the mainsail under which
the ship is laid to.
FOURTH POSITION. Lay her a hold, a hold; set her two courses, off to
sea again, lay her off.
The ship, having driven
near the shore, the main-sail is hawled up; the
ship wore, and the two courses set on the other
tack, to endeavor to clear the land that way.
FIFTH POSITION. We split, we split.
The ship, not able to
weather a point, is driven
How to cite this article:
Fleming, William H. How to Study Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1898. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/thetempest/questionst/accuratestorm.html >.