On The Tempest
Shakespeare scholars, beginning in the 17th century, have adapted history to fit their own theories about William Shakespeare. The words in The Tempest about the boat (of the Duke of Naples which miraculously landed on Prospero’s island):
“it is in the deep nook, where once thou called me up at midnight to fetch dew from the still-vex’d Bermooth’s – there she’s hid”
The speaker is Ariel, Prospero’s fairy assistant. In my opinion they represent (Ariel) John Lyly (Edward de Vere’s secretary and writer in his own right) and (Prospero) Edward de Vere himself. Edward was jailed in the Tower of London for two and a half months in the spring of 1581 after having fathered the illegitimate son Edward Vere on Anne Vavasour, the Queen’s maid of honour.
The verse above apparently speaks about John Lyly (asked by his patron Edward de Vere – to whom he dedicated his book Euphues and his England (1580)) to fetch drink (‘dew’) from outside Edward’s prison cell in the Tower of London.
The boat found refuge in ‘the deep nook’ (metaphorically probably Edward’s cell in the Tower) where Edward asked his secretary to fetch “still-vex’d Bermooth’s i.e. Vermouth (Germans called it Wermut / Wermöd (worm-wood) and French called it vermouth which, in the process of distilling (cf. ‘still vex’d) the wine is ‘vexed’ (affected, influenced) with a worm-wood taste. Vermouth is kept in casks made of worm-wood shrub wood. And there, we believe, Edward (1581) conceived the idea of The Tempest which was written later (1591-2?) before his daughter Elizabeth’s marriage with William Stanley, Earl of Derby (see my book, Essay 5).
She is the ‘Miranda in the play who marries Ferdinand. (name of the deceased brother of William Stanley). During the actual writing of the play, Edward de Vere remembers his imprisonment (when he conceived the idea of the play) and the fact that John Lyly had fetched the vermouth for him from outside the Tower.
Moreover, there are other aspects which obviate the ‘shipwreck on Bermuda’ story which Stratfordians put forth as their ‘silver bullet’ to down the Oxfordians. The book Euphues and His England, dedicated to Edward by John Lyly in 1580, includes mention of ‘tempests’ incurred at sea as Euphues and his companion Philautus sail from Naples to Dover in England across the Mediterranean and up the west coast of Europe (note that in The Tempest the boat saved on Prospero’s island’s shore was also from Naples). After a difficult storm-affected trip Euphues and Philautus arrive at Dover safely and then proceed to Canterbury where they lodge with an English gentleman called Fidus. Fidus tells the two young man the story of Callimachus (cf. ‘Caliban’ in The Tempest) and says that the English monarchs (in particular Queen Elizabeth) are:
“like the sweete dew… ..which falleth (equally) upon low shrubs and high trees”
Here we have an earlier writing about royal ‘dew’ which simile/metaphor is again reflected when Edward de Vere writes in The Tempest about the ‘dew’ (liquor) which John Lyly fetched for him in prison.
Thus, using Lyly’s help (in fetching the vermouth to the prison cell) and the term ‘dew’ with its double meaning (a liquor, or the Queen’s benevolence) Edward is recalling John Lyly and his Euphues writing (1580) as well as his own imprisonment in the Tower of London (1581).
‘Bermooth’s’ interpreted as Bermuda is a serious mistake (the Stratfordian’s ‘silver bullet’ against Oxfordians), especially since the terms ‘still vex’d’ cannot refer to a country or island but more properly refers to something distilled. Even believing ‘still’ is an adverb doesn’t help in relation to the island country of Bermuda. But ‘still’ as a machine of distillation and ‘vexed’ as an influence within the still makes sense when it is applied to a distilled drink such as Vermouth which is produced in a worm-wood context, giving a special flavor.
The word berm in French means ‘a raised bank or flat strip of land’ and together with French état (country) you have Bermuda. But ‘Bermooth’s
interpreted as Bermuda - if you combine it with ‘still vex’d’ - makes no sense. Mark Anderson in “Shakespeare” by Another Name (Gotham Press 2005) is the leading American ‘Oxfordian’ and he treats the ‘silver bullet’ use of the 1609 miraculous rescue of the Jamestown migrants in Bermuda on pp. 401-403 of his book as nonsense. But even he did not see my identification of ‘Bermoothe’s with Vermouth wine. He noted an area of Westminster. London called ‘the Bermudas’ and that it was there ‘dew’ (liquor) was sought for ‘Prospero’. But my theory is even better because it explains the ‘still-vex’d’ adjective.
One of the reasons for dwelling so long on this, John, is that (as your professor noted) an important argument against the de Vere authorship of ‘Shakespeare’ is the shipwreck on Bermuda incident which occurred after Edward de Vere’s death (1604). But I believe I have shown above that The Tempest can be quite well explained without such Atlantic shipwreck if we take into account John Lyly, his book on Euphues and his relation with Edward de Vere and a logical (within the context) interpretation of the word ‘Bermooth’s
ADDENDA TO 27 ESSAYS
Photograph: Hedingham Castle, Essex, by Derek Voller