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The Tempest: the wild man

The "wild man"

The wild man was a well-known figure in the literary tradition Shakespeare inherited. He makes a characteristic appearance in the anonymous drama Mucedorus: first published in 1598, revived in 1610, just before Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, and reprinted the remarkable number of seventeen times in the sixteenth century (more than any other play in the period). Here he accosts the heroine Amadine, and finds himself captivated by her. Note the bloodthirsty overtones of cannibalism.

    Enter Amadine solus.
Amadine: God grant my long delay procures no harm
Nor this my tarrying frustrate my pretenses
My Mucedorus surely stays for me,
And thinks me overlong. At length I come
My present promise to perform.
Ah, what a thing is firm, unfeigned love!
What is it which true love dares not attempt?
My father he may make, but I must match;
Segasto loves, but Amadine must like
Where likes her best; compulsion is a thrall.
No, no, the hearty choice is all in all;
The shepherd's virtue Amadine esteems.
But what! methinks my shepherd is not come.
I muse at that; the hour is at hand.
Well, here I'll rest till Mucedorus come.
    She sits down.
    Enter Bremo, looking about, hastily takes hold of her.
Bremo: A happy prey! Now, Bremo, feed on flesh.
Dainties, Bremo, dainties, thy hungry paunch to fill!
Now glut thy greedy guts with lukewarm blood.
Come, fight with me; I long to see thee dead.
Amadine: How can she fight that weapons cannot wield?
Bremo: What, canst not fight? Then lie thee down and die.
Amadine: What, must I die?
Bremo: What need these words? I thirst to suck thy blood.
Amadine: Yet pity me and let me live awhile.
Bremo: No pity I; I'll feed upon thy flesh;
I'll tear thy body piecemeal joint from joint.
Amadine: Ah, how I want my shepherd's company.
Bremo: I'll crush thy bones betwixt two oaken trees.
Amadine: Haste, shepherd, haste, or else thou com'st too late.
Bremo: I'll suck the sweetness from thy marrowbones.
Amadine: Ah, spare, ah, spare to shed my guiltless blood!
Bremo: With this my bat will I beat out thy brains.
Down, down, I say; prostrate thyself upon the ground.
Amadine: Then, Mucedorus, farewell; my hoped joys, farewell.
Yea, farewell, life, and welcome, present death.
    She kneels.
To thee, O God, I yield my dying ghost.
Bremo: Now, Bremo, play thy part.
How now, what sudden chance is this?
My limbs do tremble and my sinews shake;
My unweakened arms hath lost their former force.
Ah, Bremo, Bremo, what a foil hast thou
That yet at no time ever wast afraid
To dare the greatest gods to fight with thee,
    He strikes.
And now wants strength for one downdriving blow!
Ah, how my courage fails when I should strike.
Some new-come spirit, abiding in my breast,
Saith, "Spare her," which never spared any.
Shall I spare her, Bremo? Spare her, do not kill.
To it, Bremo, to it! say again.--
I cannot wield my weapons in my hand;
Methinks I should not strike so fair a one.
I think her beauty hath bewitched my force
Or else within me altered nature's course.
Ay, woman, wilt thou live in woods with me?
Amadine. Fain would I live, yet loath to live in woods.
Bremo: Thou shalt not choose; it shall be as I say,
And, therefore, follow me.

[Later Bremo also captures Amadine's love, Mucedorus (disguised as a hermit and unfortunately unarmed). Mucedorus manages to plead for his life, claiming that he will help Bremo in his depredations. The Wild Man is often gullible and naïve, however (compare Caliban and Stephano); Mucedorus deceives Bremo by asking to be taught how best to club a man to death, whereupon Bremo shows him, first giving him his club to practice with. Big mistake.]

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This page last updated on 28 August 2006. © Michael Best, 2002.