“I would fain die a dry death”; an excerpt from The Tempest by William Shakespeare (ca. 1610–1611)


In the opening scene of The Tempest, one of William Shakespeare’s later plays, a ship at sea encounters a mighty storm and threatens to sink. Shakespeare reportedly used as one of the sources for his tale William Strachey‘s account “A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight.” Circulated in London in the years prior to The Tempest‘s first staging, Strachey’s manuscript told of the near-sinking of the Sea Venture on its way to Jamestown in 1609. Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.



A tempestuous noise of Thunder and Lightning heard: Enter a Ship-master, and a Boteswaine.

Master. Boteswaine.

Botes. Heere Master: What cheere?

Mast. Good: Speake to th’ Mariners: fall too’t, yarely, or we run our selves a ground, bestirre, bestirre.


Enter Mariners.

Botes. Heigh my hearts, cheerely, cheerely my harts: yare, yare: Take in the toppe-sale: Tend to th’ Masters whistle: Blow till thou burst thy winde, if roome enough.

Enter Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Ferdinando, Gonzalo, and others.

Alon. Good Boteswaine have care: where’s the Master? Play the men.

Botes. I pray now keepe below.

Anth. Where is the Master, Boson?

Botes. Do you not heare him? you marre our labour, Keepe your Cabines: you do assist the storme.

Gonz. Nay, good be patient.

Botes. When the Sea is: hence, what cares these roarers for the name of King? to Cabine; silence: trouble us not.

Gon. Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboord.

Botes. None that I more love than my selfe. You are a Counsellor, if you can command these Elements to silence, and worke the peace of the present, wee will not hand a rope more, use your authoritie: If you cannot, give thanks you have liv’d so long, and make your selfe readie in your Cabine for the mischance of the houre, if it so hap. Cheerely good hearts: out of our way I say.


Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath no drowning marke upon him, his complexion is perfect Gallowes: stand fast good Fate to his hanging, make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our owne doth little advantage: If he be not borne to bee hang’d, our case is miserable.


Enter Boteswaine.

Botes. Downe with the top-Mast: yare, lower, lower, bring her to Try with Maine-course. A plague-

A cry within. Enter Sebastian, Anthonio & Gonzalo.

upon this howling: they are lowder then the weather, or our office: yet againe? What do you heere? Shal we give oer and drowne, have you a minde to sinke?

Sebas. A poxe o’your throat, you bawling, blasphemous incharitable Dog.

Botes. Worke you then.

Anth. Hang cur, hang, you whoreson insolent Noysemaker, we are lesse afraid to be drownde, then thou art.

Gonz. I’le warrant him for drowning, though the Ship were no stronger then a Nutt-shell, and as leaky as an unstanched wench.

Botes. Lay her a hold, a hold, set her two courses off to Sea againe, lay her off.

Enter Mariners wet.

Mari. All lost, to prayers, to prayers, all lost.

Botes. What must our mouths be cold?

Gonz. The King, and Prince, at prayers, let’s assist them, for our case is as theirs.

Sebas. I’am out of patience.

An. We are meerly cheated of our lives by drunkards, This wide-chopt-rascall, would thou mightst lye drowning the washing of ten Tides.

Gonz. Hee’l be hang’d yet, Though every drop of water sweare against it, And gape at widst to glut him.

A confused noyse within.

Mercy on us. We split, we split, Farewell my wife, and children, Farewell brother: we split, we split, we split.

Anth. Let’s all sinke with’ King

Seb. Let’s take leave of him.


Gonz. Now would I give a thousand furlongs of Sea, for an Acre of barren ground: Long heath, Browne firrs, any thing; the wills above be done, but I would faine dye a dry death.


ca. 1610-1611
William Shakespeare writes The Tempest, reportedly using William Strachey's account of the near-sinking of Sea Venture as one of his sources.
November 1, 1611
William Shakespeare's players present the first recorded performance of The Tempest before King James I and the royal court at Whitehall Palace. The play is in part based on the shipwreck of the Sea Venture, a ship bearing colonists to Jamestown in Virginia.
APA Citation:
Shakespeare, William. “I would fain die a dry death”; an excerpt from The Tempest by William Shakespeare (ca. 1610–1611). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Shakespeare, William. "“I would fain die a dry death”; an excerpt from The Tempest by William Shakespeare (ca. 1610–1611)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 18 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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