IT is a matter of some interest to playwrights that the first notions or rudiments of The Tempest, of all his plays the least local and circumstantial, should have been drawn by Shakespeare from a contemporary event. The enchanted island, the storm, the wreck, the miraculous preservation, and the sad meeting of the diminished fleet0--these, the recognizable first elements of the play, by a process which, when we speak of Shakespeare, we feebly call magic, were imported by the dramatist from life. It was in the summer of 1609 that this tempest rose and fell, driving the Admiral ship of the Virginia fleet with all hands on the Bermudas. Nearly a year passed, and they had long been given up for dead, when the whole party, Admiral and all, appeared one day in two vessels of their own building on the coast of Virginia. They had had a miraculous escape, 'not a soul perished'; and had emerged from the perils of an island which was, they declared, most certainly enchanted and the home of devils.
They returned to England, where they were received with much wonder and thankfulness, and their strange narrative was eagerly read. It was read by Shakespeare, who instantly perceived the possibilities of an adventure so richly compounded of Providence, magic, and the sea. 'His mind and hand went together.' Last autumn's tale was still fresh in men's minds when in 1611 The Tempest was finished, and down for performance before the king. In these matters, it would appear, there are no rules, but only genius and happy casualty.
The story of the play is distinct from these foundations, and