Read Shakespeare’s ‘I Boarded The King’s Ship’ soliloquy from The Tempest below with modern English translation and analysis, plus a video performance.
‘I Boarded The King’s Ship’, Spoken by Ariel, Act 1 Scene 2
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove’s lightnings, the precursors
O’ the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.
Not a soul but felt a fever of the mad and play’d
Some tricks of desperation. All but mariners
Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
Then all afire with me: the king’s son, Ferdinand,
With hair up-staring,—then like reeds, not hair,—
Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.’
‘I Boarded The King’s Ship’ Soliloquy Translation
I boarded the king’s ship. Now on the prow, now on the deck, and in every cabin, I flared terror. Sometimes I divided myself and burnt in many places; I appeared on the topmast, the yardarms and the bowsprit as separate flames, then reassembled and burnt as one big fire. I flashed more brilliantly and more profusely than Jove’s lightning bolts that come before his dreadful thunderclaps. The lightning and roaring thunder were enough to frighten the most mighty Neptune, making his bold waves tremble and his dreadful trident shake.Every single soul was terrified and desperate. All of them, apart from the crew, plunged into the foaming, salty sea, abandoning the ship, which was by then all on fire from me! The king’s son, Ferdinand, his hair all standing up – more like reeds than hair – was the first one to jump, shouting, ‘hell is empty; all the devils are here!’
Why is this a soliloquy and not a monologue when Ariel is clearly giving a report to Prospero?
Thank you for that question. Monologues are spoken by one person, which could be addressed to an audience or another character. A soliloquy is a theatre convention. It is something spoken by a character exclusively to the audience, and which no other character hears. In other words, it is the character thinking, but telling the audience what he/she is thinking. Americans tend to use the term ‘monologue’ for both but that is wrong.