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The Tempest Transformed:
John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Sea Voyage

Clark University


This essay analyzes the relationship between John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The Sea Venture (1622) and Shakespeare’s Tempest. Composed a decade later than Shakespeare’s play, The Sea Voyage is an offshoot that reflects changes in England’s colonial venture in Virginia, particularly the starving time and the importation of women into the colony. While Fletcher and Massinger borrowed many elements from The Tempest, they modified them to suit a different perspective on Virginia’s brave new world.

On June 22, 1622, the King’s Company presented The Sea Voyage, a comedy written by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, at the Globe. The cast included five of the King’s Company’s leading men: William Eccleston, Nicholas Tooley, John Lowin, and John Underwood, all of whom had worked with Shakespeare and presumably knew him and his work quite well. Their experiences while performing The Tempest may have informed their roles in the Fletcher-Massinger romantic comedy.1

The Sea Voyage was later published in the first Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647, reprinted in the 1679 folio, and performed repeatedly after the Restoration. Samuel Pepys reported in 1667 that he saw a new play at the King’s playhouse. “It is The Storme, a play of Fletcher’s — which is but so so methinks; only, there is a most admirable dance at the end, of the ladies, in a Military manner, which endeed did please me mightily” (Pepys 1974, 8:450). The following day he took his wife to see the new play and raved again about the dance. Yet, a year later, after John Dryden and William Davenant’s adaptation of The Tempest was introduced at the rival Duke’s Theatre, The Sea Voyage seemed less impressive to Pepys: he went “with my wife to the King’s playhouse to see The Storme; which we did, but without much pleasure, it being but a mean play compared with The Tempest at the Duke of York’s, though Knipp did act her part of grief very well (Pepys 1976, 9:133).

Pepys’ preferred play, John Dryden and William Davenant’s The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island (1676), is widely recognized as an important early adaptation of a Shakespearean play.2 Yet Dryden himself recognized that John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s earlier comedy, The Sea Voyage, had borrowed from Shakespeare’s Tempest. In his preface to The Enchanted Island (1667) Dryden (seemingly unaware of the collaboration with Massinger) affirmed that Fletcher “had so great a value for it [The Tempest], that he thought fit to make use of the same Design, not much varied, a second time. Those who have seen his Sea-Voyage, may easily discern that it was a Copy of Shakespeare’s Tempest: the Storm, the desart-Island, and the Woman who had never seen a Man.” Dryden’s prologue refers to the King’s Company’s Storme (The Sea Voyage) as well:

The Storm which vanish’d on the Neighb’ring shore,
Was taught by Shakespear’s Tempest first to roar.
That innocence and beauty which did smile
In Fletcher, grew on this Enchanted isle.
But Shakespear’s Magick could not copy’d be,
Within that Circle non durst walk but he. (Dryden and Davenant 1969, A2v and A4r)

Here Dryden refers to a play crafted over fifty years earlier by playwrights, one of whom not only knew Shakespeare but had also collaborated on Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

As Stanley Wells argues in Shakespeare and Company, it is likely that the King’s Company groomed Fletcher to take over as their lead playwright when Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1613. He suggests that as colleagues in the same acting company, Fletcher and Shakespeare were intimately familiar with each other’s dramatic techniques and occasionally borrowed from each other (2006, 200–223). Fletcher’s most recognizable Shakespearean adaptation, The Woman’s Prize, or, The Tamer Tamed (ca. 1610 while Shakespeare was working on The Tempest), was a sequel to the King’s Company’s earlier comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. Fletcher’s play talks back to Shakespeare by giving Petruchio’s wife Maria the upper hand. Even though The Sea Voyage was written ten years later, four or five years after the elder dramatist’s death, like The Tamer Tamed, it demonstrates Fletcher’s continuing engagement with Shakespeare’s plays.

One might question Dryden’s description of The Sea Voyage as a “copy” of Shakespeare’s original because, although Fletcher’s play adopts several important features of The Tempest’s island setting, as well as echoes of its plot, the text does not replicate Shakespeare’s characters. Rather than a copy, The Sea Voyage is an offshoot. Five decades ago, Ruby Cohn included the play in her list of Tempest offshoots (1976, 268); Sujata Iyengar further explains that an offshoot by its very definition need not be faithful to the original text. Rather, an offshoot transforms elements of Shakespeare’s characters, setting, plot and language to new situations in ways calculated to appeal to changing historical milieux and different audience expectations (2023, 28).

The time between The Tempest’s composition in 1610–11 and that of the Fletcher-Massinger Sea Voyage in 1621–22 may seem short, but in those few years England’s colonial enterprise in Virginia — an underlying concern in both plays — had undergone major changes. In 1610, English efforts to establish a footing in Virginia nearly failed. Awaiting supplies from England, the colonists in Jamestown starved, and the dream of a “brave new world” in North America remained aspirational. By 1622, however, the Virginia Company was more realistic about what could and often did go wrong. The Fletcher-Massinger Sea Voyage dramatizes some of those challenges.

After losing its Restoration competition with the Dryden-Davenant adaptation of The Tempest, The Sea Voyage remained in obscurity until the late twentieth century, when literary scholars became interested in its representation of England’s early seventeenth-century colonial experiences and began to place it within a historical framework. In 1622, the year of Sea Voyage’s first performances, the English colony in Virginia suffered from a brutal Indian massacre that left many in the colony and at home disillusioned about the entire colonial enterprise. Gordon McMullan’s extensive study of Fletcher’s dramatic oeuvre locates The Sea Voyage’s islands off the coast of Guiana and argues that Fletcher and Massinger introduce shipwrecked men into the women’s island utopia to suggest “the transformation of the New World paradise into a place of greed and betrayal upon the intrusion of the colonists” (1994, 236). Writing more recently, Jean Feerick contends that The Sea Voyage raised the question of how English identity could be maintained outside of England. Feerick is not referring here to a “Kurtzian” pattern of going native, but to the ways “alien soils affect elite Europeans,” and were sometimes seen to cause physical degeneration. Drawing upon early modern notions that environment physically changes the body, she explains that The Sea Voyage explores “the effects transplantation might have on elite blood.” According to Feerick, the play’s happy outcome is ensured only by the temperance and self-control demonstrated by the play’s hero, Albert, and as a result, The Sea Voyage implies that Englishness is “a quality of the blood, inhering in the tempered blood that these playwrights equated with an aristocratic class: its men and women, and their capacity to govern self and community” (2006, 28, 29, and 50). Gitanjali Shahani explores The Sea Voyage’s colonial elements more broadly, relating the shipwrecked Europeans’ obsession with gold to contemporary debates about the East Indian trade. The Sea Voyage, she claims, “endorses a mercantile model of colonial intervention that was markedly absent in early discourses of New World conquest, but one that would be central to English contact with the East,” primarily the switch from territorial conquest and settlement to a mercantile model (2012, 17). The Sea Voyage focuses on piracy and the search for riches. In contrast, Prospero’s project — to marry off his daughter and return to Italy — has nothing to do with mercantilism. As Feerick and Shahani contend, The Sea Voyage transformed elements of Shakespeare’s Tempest to fit the context of England’s overseas enterprises in 1622. This essay will highlight those transformations, beginning with the scene most indebted to Shakespeare, the plays’ opening storm.

The Storm

The Sea Venture’s tempest is twice as long as Shakespeare’s, 148 lines as opposed to 68. Although its structure is similar in some ways, as editor Anthony Parr contends, “in content and tone, the two scenes are very different.” In contrast to Shakespeare’s frightening spectacle, Fletcher and Massinger “go for pathos and satire and a joky decorousness.”3 The initial stage directions require “A tempest, thunder and lightning,” before the Master and two sailors enter. They converse for twenty-six blank verse lines, describing the sea’s tumult, the fiery heavens, and the ship’s rocking motions, finally comparing the ship to a drunken woman. The Master exploits nautical terms, shouting “Down with the main mast, lay her at hull / Furl up her linens and let her ride it out” (1.1.8–9). Soon after the Master calls up the Boatswain, but their consultation is interrupted at line 31 with the entrance of five passengers, the French pirate Albert and four adventuring companions. The Master explains their peril: the ship has sprung five leaks, “Her rudder almost spent.” The men should prepare themselves for the worst. This interchange between professional seamen and elite passengers parallels Shakespeare’s 1.1.9–26, where the Boatswain urges Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinand, and Gonzalo to get below: “Out of our way, I say!” (1.1.27).

Fletcher and Massinger’s ship’s Master urges, “Let’s die like men” (1.1.42), but this resolve is thwarted with The Sea Voyage’s most dramatic change in the sequence of events: the entrance of a woman, the play’s heroine Aminta. Whereas The Tempest features only one woman, the teen-aged Miranda (unless one counts Sycorax and Claribel, who are discussed but never appear), The Sea Voyage includes six female characters, ranging from young girls to a middle-aged matron, which suggests the Virginia Company’s efforts to increase the number of female settlers in Virginia as a way of stabilizing the colony. In 1619 they had decided to send over “Maides young and uncorrupt to make wifes to the Inhabitants and by that means to make the men there more settled & less moveable” (Kupperman 2007, 287). Certainly Aminta is “uncorrupt,” and she converts the pirate Albert to a virtuous enterprise, the search for her brother.

As the storm mounts, Aminta’s frightened cries are so disturbing that the Master commands her to be clapped under the hatches. But Albert, the play’s hero and love interest, tries to comfort her. After this interchange, the seamen exit at line 70, followed by Albert’s four companions, leaving Albert and Aminta alone on deck, giving Fletcher and Massinger space for a backstory that explains who they are and why they’re on the ship. It’s as if Shakespeare had transposed part of Prospero’s lengthy exposition in 1.2 to the middle of the opening tempest. We learn that the French pirate Albert had abducted Aminta from her family but soon fell in love with her. Ever since, he has shielded her chastity from others’ desires as well as his own, and when the tempest arose, he was sailing his ship from port to port in hopes of locating her brother and restoring her to her family. He ends the conversation by promising that “we shall see a day yet / Shall crown your pious hopes and my fair wishes” (1.1.107–8), a hint perhaps that despite their woes, the drama will end happily.

The lovers depart as the seamen and gentlemen reenter. Here the Master orders the cargo to be thrown overboard, possibly an allusion to what happened to cargo on the Sea Venture off the Bermuda islands in 1609. This allows Fletcher and Massinger to reveal the character of the “gentlemen” travelers, just as Antonio’s, Sebastian’s and Gonzalo’s natures are suggested by their interactions with the Boatswain. Lamure’s goods were purchased by money he made through usury, and Franville is reluctant to throw away the clothes and necessaries he brought to parade his noble status in a new world, perhaps a comment on some of the Virginia gentlemen colonists who expected riches rather than starvation. After Tibalt claims to have nothing of value to throw overboard, the scene concludes with the Master’s “Then cheer lustily, my hearts!” at line 148.

A comparison of the Fletcher-Massinger storm with Shakespeare’s is telling. Both plays dramatize the storm’s impact through the shouts of seamen and the frightened exclamations of the passengers, but while Gonzalo suggests his ship is as “leaky as an unstanched wench,” in The Sea Voyage the double entendres are more overt and suggestive. The Master cries, “How she kicks and yerks! / Down with the main mast, lay her at hull, / Furl up all her linens and let her ride it out.” The first Sailor replies that “She’s so deep laden that she’ll bulge” (1.1.6–10). Fletcher and Massinger also exploit and expand Shakespeare’s representation of the conflict between seamen and courtiers to show that several of his aristocratic characters are not particularly noble. The satirical treatment of Lamure and Franville’s aristocratic pretensions introduces an element of realistic social satire into the mix. But most important is the romance of the scene’s centerpiece, an intimate conversation between lovers, one of whom weeps because she is separated from her brother and fears he has drowned. From the very beginning Fletcher and Massinger make it clear that, in contrast to the theme of the uses and abuses of authority that Shakespeare introduces into his short tempest scene, the love affair between Albert and Aminta is this play’s linchpin, and its subsidiary plots — whether comic or serious — are subordinated to our interest in their fate. In sum, the opening scene provides the typical ingredients of Fletcherian tragicomedy.

The Island

Shakespeare’s choice of an unknown island as the setting for his play created a “second world” that could provide commentary on the first world (for good or for ill) and offer the audience scope for the imagination. As Caliban tells us, the island is “full of noises, / Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not” (3.2.148–49); indeed, Shakespeare creates this imaginary space primarily through sound, , whether cacaphonious or as Ferdinand describes it, “Harmonious charmingly” (4.1.131). We learn of scamels and nimble marmosets, but for the most part, the island is understandably ill-defined, given that the action took place upon the bare stage of the Blackfriars Theatre. Accordingly, in Shakespeare’s 2.1, the European court party offers contradictory images, both of which might be true of this imaginary landscape. Adrian reports that even though the island is inaccessible and uninhabited, “The air breathes upon us here most sweetly.” Gonzalo adds that “Here is everything advantageous to life” and notes that the grass looks green and lusty. While to Sebastian and Antonio, it smells as if it were “perfumed by a fen,” and it seems obvious to them that the island offers no means to support life (2.1.49–59). The island is thus transformed from scene to scene by the perceptions of the characters. They make their way from one location to another, moving around the island, meeting strange creatures (Caliban, spirits in varied shapes, furies, dogs, and so on) and finally find each other in the play’s final, discovery scene.

Fletcher and Massinger followed Shakespeare’s lead in locating The Sea Voyage in a geographical space far from England, but instead of Shakespeare’s double image, they separate the locales into two separate islands, one barren, the other fertile. The shipwrecked Portuguese Sebastian describes the barren island in terms reminiscent of the Jamestown settlers’ “starving time” in 1610:

Here’s nothing but rocks and barrenness,
Hunger and cold to eat. Here’s no vineyards
To cheer the heart of man, no crystal rivers
After his labour to refresh his body
If he be feeble. Nothing to restore him
But heavenly hopes. Nature that made those remedies
Dares not come here, nor look on our distresses,
For fear she turn wild like the place and barren (1.2.24–31).

When asked if there is any meat to be found, any sustenance for life, Sebastian tells the French pirates that there is “Nor meat nor quiet; / Nor summer here to promise anything.” On this island,

The earth, obdurate to the tears of heaven,
Lets nothing shoot but poisoned weeds.
No rivers, nor no pleasant groves; no beasts;
All that were made for man’s use fly this desert;
No airy fowl dares make his flight over it,
It is so ominous. (1.3.134–41)

No wonder the French pirates talk of cannibalism and are tempted by the thought of dismembering and eating the fair heroine, Aminta.

In contrast to a barren island where men turn to cannibalism to survive, Fletcher and Massinger’s second island is a rural paradise ruled by a woman, Rosellia. After losing her husband in an earlier contest with French pirates, Rosellia has created a female commonwealth, where she, her daughter Clarinda, and three other ladies live as Amazons, hunting prolific herds of deer and cultivating the land. When the young hero Albert arrives on Rosellia’s shore, he calls it “A Paradise inhabited with angels” (3.3.182) and later describes it as “The Elysian shade” (2.2.78). In 5.4 Rosellia recounts how the women landed on “This pleasant island” (36). The two islands are separated by a body of water, referred to variously as a “black lake” (2.2.3), the “Stygian gulf” (2.2.76), and a “hellish river” (2.2.216). By emphasizing that the bountiful Amazonian island is separated by a dangerous body of water from the barrenness of the other island, Fletcher and Massinger transform the binary that in Shakespeare’s Tempest had been a perception of the imagination into physical reality. The diverse islands embody the opposite sides of the colonial enterprise, which could lead to prosperity or starvation. Moreover, the fertile island is inhabited only by women and ruled by Rosellia and her “Amazons.” Fletcher and Massinger thereby gender the fertile island female. The barren island, in contrast, is overrun by hungry, dissatisfied men whose bickering satirizes the vices of Virginia’s aspiring gentlemen.

Spectacle and Stage Effects

Aside from the initial storm scene, there are few sound effects in The Sea Voyage and very little music. Stage directions call for the horns of hunters in 2.1 and 3.1 to introduce the Amazons, and as a ritual sacrifice is about to be enacted in the final scene, the stage direction calls for “Horrid Music.” Otherwise, the only sounds are human voices. Similarly, there are no nonhuman characters on the island, no natives, and no monsters. When the long-shipwrecked Sebastian and Nicusa enter in 2.3, the French pirates speculate (perhaps an allusion to Trinculo’s remarks when he first confronts Caliban), “What things are these? Are they / Human creatures?” Sebastian replies, “We are men as you are / Only our miseries make us seem monsters” (1.3.94–107). If Fletcher and Massinger thought, as many contemporary commentators do, that “Caliban” was a metathesis of “cannibal,” 3.1’s comic rendition of attempted cannibalism as the hungry pirates fantasize about eating the delicate Aminta may also be a nod to Shakespeare’s puppy-headed monster. Despite the strangeness of The Sea Voyage’s geography, its denizens are decidedly human and European to boot.

Fletcher and Massinger provide strangeness in other ways, mainly by having the stranded Portuguese women of the second island dress and live as Amazons, building their own commonwealth and eschewing the company of men. Their bows and quivers no doubt add an exotic touch, reminiscent perhaps of Zelmane in Philip Sidney’s New Arcadia (Parr 1995, 140). Still, it’s evident from their first appearance that these Amazons are actually European women, just as the stranded colonists Sebastian and Nicusa and the French pirates are European men.

A couple of Fletcher and Massinger’s scenes suggest the kinds of spectacle found in The Tempest. The storm is, of course, a case in point. The finale also alludes to Shakespeare’s harpy scene in 4.1. Instead of Ariel as a harpy, however, Aminta describes the Amazon women as “furies / In their full trim of cruelty” (5.4.5–6). As they lead Albert and Raymond to an altar prepared for ritual sacrifice, Rosellia delivers a speech somewhat akin to Ariel’s, denouncing the crimes the men have committed and calling for revenge. The stage direction reads, “She takes up the knife from the altar,” but just as she is preparing to strike, one of the women brings in Rosellia’s long-lost husband Sebastian. In a discovery scene more reminiscent of The Winter’s Tale than The Tempest, Rosellia is reunited with the husband she had long presumed dead, providing the play with a seemingly miraculous and exceedingly brief happy ending.

On a more mundane level, The Sea Voyage mimics Trinculo and Stephano’s delighted discovery of elaborate clothing in 4.1 of The Tempest. The starving Portuguese colonists Sebastian and Nicusa offer the French pirates the riches of the island — heaps of gold they had extracted from their lost colonies. The French noblemen Franville, Moriallat, and Lamure, crazed at the thought of gold, turn on each other and, in the process, wound Albert. The gold, it turns out, is meaningless when there is nothing to buy, especially no food, just as the gorgeous robes Stephano and Trinculo don lose their sumptuary significance.

Aside from The Sea Voyage’s island setting, which Fletcher and Massinger vaguely describe, there is nothing very exotic about the play. Even the Amazon women turn out to be perfectly conventional European women who want to marry and prosper. When John Dryden claimed in his prologue that Restoration audiences no longer believed in magic, he might have added that the magic died forty years earlier. Fletcher and Massinger’s answer to The Tempest eschews both the monstrous and the divine, focusing instead on the human condition as they knew it in the London of 1622.


The overriding motif of Shakespeare’s Tempest involves the usurpation (or attempted usurpation) of authority. William Strachey’s “A True Reportery” of the wreck of the Sea Venture and the Virginia colonists’ sojourn on Bermuda describes the “dangerous and divellish disquiets . . . inraged amongst ourselves, to the destruction each of other[;] into what a mischief and misery had wee bin given up, had wee not had a Governour with this authority, to have suppressed the same?” (2011, 321–22). The threat to authority permeates Shakespeare’s play. Prospero’s initial loss of his Dukedom in a coup staged by his brother is mirrored in two subplots, first in Antonio and Sebastian’s conspiracy to murder Alonso and Gonzalo, making Sebastian King of Naples; and less seriously, in Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo’s plan to kill Prospero and take over the island. In The Sea Voyage no such overriding theme ties the action together. Rather, Fletcher and Massinger combine a traditional tragicomic romance with a quasi-exotic tale of Amazons and social satire on the foibles of London’s young courtiers. According to Dryden’s preface, William Davenant liked the idea of adding a man who had never seen a woman to Shakespeare’s cast and, to add symmetry, giving Miranda a sister who could eventually couple with him. But The Sea Voyage’s convoluted plot makes one wonder if this was original to Davenant, because one striking characteristic of Fletcher and Massinger’s adaptation is its multiplication of plot and character.

Clarinda, Rosellia’s daughter, is the woman who has never seen a man, or at least who cannot remember ever seeing one. Rosellia recounts in 2.2.185–205 how many years before she, her husband Sebastian, her daughter Clarinda, and their three ladies were run out of their Portuguese plantation. They took with them gold and jewels, the profits of their colonial efforts, but at sea they were attacked, the ships separated. Rosellia, Clarinda, and the ladies were stranded on a fertile island and have lived there since in an Amazonian commonwealth. Rosellia has never forgotten or forgiven the depredations of the French pirates who plundered her home and, she believes, murdered her husband; she has vowed revenge on (or at least separation from) all men. The scene is thus set for the arrival of a new batch of French pirates, which throws the ladies into a tizzy. They so convince Rosellia that without men to propagate children, their commonwealth will expire, that she allows them each to choose a man to their taste and cohabit with him for a month. If the resulting children are female, they can remain on the island. If they are male, they will be banished with their fathers. The dialogue here, much like that between Hippolito, Dorinda, and Miranda in the Dryden-Davenant Enchanted Island, is “innocent” on the surface but replete with double entendres. If there is a Prospero figure in The Sea Venture’s plot, it must be Rosellia (was Rosellia the first female Prospero?), and her determined vengefulness suggests that her predecessor Prospero might not have been the beneficent providential figure featured in many Restoration and eighteenth-century performances. At the same time, unlike Prospero, Rosellia’s control over events is extremely limited. After some years of governing her little Amazonian commonwealth, she readily gives up “herself, her power and joys and all” (5.4.96) when she is reunited with her husband Sebastian.

Women are everywhere in The Sea Voyage, and the reiteration of women’s perspectives is quite different from The Tempest’s emphasis on patriarchal control. Fletcher provides three noble ladies in addition to Clarinda who are attached to Rosellia’s commonwealth, while the play’s central plot features the heroine, Aminta. The influence of Twelfth Night is palpable in the separation of Aminta from her brother Raymond, a pirate, and their seemingly miraculous reunion. After Albert fell in love with Aminta and repented of his violence against her, he set out in search of that brother, only to be shipwrecked with his fellow pirates on the barren island. Seeking food, Albert swims the “black lake” to arrive, Ferdinand-like, on the Amazonian island, where Clarinda immediately falls in love with him. Albert sees danger in her overtures, but he needs her assistance, so he describes the fair maiden he is trying to rescue, Aminta, as his sister. As the plot progresses Clarinda confidently pursues him, but when she learns that Aminta is not his sister but his true love, she joins her mother in the quest for vengeance. A romantic disaster is only avoided in the play’s last few lines with the appearance of Rosellia’s husband, aptly named Sebastian, as well as Raymond, Aminta’s long-lost brother, who quite conveniently pairs with a complaisant Clarinda, much as Shakespeare’s Sebastian couples with Olivia.

Another feature of Fletcher and Massinger’s convoluted plot is social satire on men who hope to make their fortunes abroad. Lamure, Morillat, and Franville are comic butts in several scenes, their social pretensions the subject of harsh remarks from Tibalt, described in the cast list as a “merry gentleman.” At the play’s conclusion Tibalt embraces Crocale, the ringleader of Rosellia’s ladies, and declares:

 Here I fix.
She’s mettle, steel to the back, and will cut
My leaden dagger if not use with discretion (5.4.105–7).

The text does not clarify what happens to the other pirates and the other ladies, but Pepys’s description of the “admirable dance” that concluded the Restoration performance suggests that all were paired up, the pirates — much like those of Gilbert and Sullivan — resolved to reform for the sake of their newfound female partners.


The most salient difference between Shakespeare’s Tempest and Fletcher and Massinger’s Sea Voyage is agency. In the latter play there is no overriding authority figure — Rosellia rules her commonwealth to be sure, but she has no supernatural means to control the men who invade her island. Fletcher and Massinger eschew magic and the spectacle that goes with it for a focus on the human. What assures a happy outcome for Fletcher and Massinger is not forgiveness sparked by an airy spirit, for it is clear that without the sudden appearance of Sebastian, Rosellia’s plan for a ritual sacrifice would have been carried out. Instead, the arrival of her husband in the final scene serves as a human deus ex machina that miraculously insures the happy ending. The Sea Voyage focuses most clearly on simple human virtues, such as Tibalt’s essential decency that leads him to intervene in the “cannibal” scene, or Sebastian’s recognition that the gold he worked for is worthless without human community. Most important is Albert and Aminta’s commitment to each other in the face of terrible trials and torments, a plot device that perhaps presages the kind of love tragedies that became so popular under the patronage of Queen Henrietta Maria. This change of emphasis, from the supernatural to the human, is reflected in the play’s language, which is more straightforward and regular than Shakespeare’s difficult extra metrical lines. The Sea Voyage’s staging does not require elaborate effects (Shakespeare’s wedding masque, for example) but depends simply on the movement of actors from one space to another.

The Storme (The Sea Voyage) that Pepys saw may have been a success for the rival King’s Company, but in The Enchanted Island John Dryden and William Davenant created an adaptation far more suited to “the taste of the times” (Iyengar 2023, 178). During the Restoration, the challenges English colonists had faced in the early seventeenth century were mitigated. The Virginia Colony had survived the massacre of 1622 and, by 1667 it, like its sister colonies in New England, was thriving — starvation and cannibalism were no longer topical. At a time when King Charles II was securely restored to his throne, Dryden and Davenant underscored Prospero’s oversight and patriarchal authority. Instead of chronicling the miseries caused by piracy and shipwreck, they exploited the Duke Theatre’s resources to create amazement: flying spirits, music, dance, etcetera. Yet, when it came to the characters, the dramatists perhaps owed more to Fletcher and Massinger than they were ready to admit. Although Dryden did not credit The Sea Voyage’s influence on anything but the woman who had never seen a man, the multiplication of characters — Aminta and Albert, Clarinda and Crocle, etcetera — are likely progenitors of Hippolito and Dorinda. Indeed, the innovations in plot and characters made by John Dryden and William Davenant in 1667 grew, in part, out of the offshoot Fletcher and Massinger had created only eleven years after The Tempest was first performed.


Cohn, Ruby. 1976. Modern Shakespeare Offshoots. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Dryden, John, and William Davenant. 1969. The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island. In After the Tempest, edited by George Robert Guffey. Los Angeles: Augustan Reprint Society, Special Series No. 4.

Feerick, Jean. 2006. “‘Divided in Soyle’: Plantation and Degeneracy in The Tempest and The Sea Voyage.” Renaissance Drama 35: 26–54.

Iyengar, Sujata. 2023. Shakespeare and Adaptation Theory. London: Arden Shakespeare.

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. 2007. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge, MA.: Belknap Press.

McMullan, Gordon. 1994. The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Parr, Anthony, ed. 1995. Three Travel Plays. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Pepys, Samuel. 1970–83. The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Edited by Robert Latham and William Matthews. 9 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Shahani, Gitanjali. 2012. “Of ‘Barren Islands’ and ‘Cursèd Gold’: Worth, Value, and Womanhood in The Sea Voyage.” Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies 12 (3): 5–27.

Strachey, William. 2011. A true repertory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates . . . , repr. In The Tempest, edited by Virginia Mason Vaughan and Alden T. Vaughan, 310–24. London: Arden Shakespeare.

Vaughan, Virginia Mason. 2011. Shakespeare in Performance: The Tempest. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Wells, Stanley. 2006. Shakespeare and Company. New York: Pantheon.


1. I am grateful to historian Alden T. Vaughan for feedback on this essay and information about the early years of the Virginia Colony.

2. For a contextual analysis of the Dryden-Davenant Tempest, see Virginia Mason Vaughan. 2011. Shakespeare in Performance: The Tempest (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press), 18–27.

3. See editor Anthony Parr, 1995, Introduction,” in John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, The Sea Voyage, 22. Parr’s introduction offers a detailed contextual framework for The Sea Voyage’s colonial ramifications. Quotations from The Sea Voyage are taken from this edition and are cited by act, scene, and line numbers.