Leviticus 25: The Jubilee and The Tempest

A New Source, A New Date for The Tempest, Part 3

II. Subplot in The Tempest

A. Thou did promise to bate me a full year

Ariel.  Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains,
xxxxxLet me remember thee what thou hast promis’d,
xxxxxWhich is not yet perform’d me.
Prospero.  How now? moody?
xxxxxWhat is’t thou canst demand?
ArielMy liberty.
Prospero.  Before the time be out? No more!
Ariel.  I prithee,
xxxxxRemember I have done thee worthy service;
xxxxxTold thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, serv’d
xxxxxWithout or grudge or grumblings. Thou did promise
xxxxxTo bate me a full year.
(I.ii.242-50: emphasis added)

Why does Prospero promise to give Ariel his liberty for ‘a full year’? Shakespeare is alluding to the biblical Jubilee at Leviticus 25:10 (fn. 20) : ‘And ye shal halowe that yere, euen the fiftieth yere, and proclaime libertie in the land to all the (f) inhabitants thereof …’ The marginal note (f) refers to those inhabitants ‘Which were in bondage’. Further explanation at Leviticus 25:40-41: ‘But as an hyred seruant, and as a soiourner he shal be with thee: he shal serue thee vnto the yere of the Iubile. 41 Then shal he departe from thee, …’

B. Make holiday

[Ceres.]  …
xxxxxSpring come to you at the farthest
xxxxxIn the very end of harvest!

(IV.i.114-5: emphasis added)

Iris.  …
[s.d.] Enter certain Nymphs.
xxxxxYou sunburn’d sicklemen, of August weary,
xxxxxCome hither from the furrow and be merry.
xxxxxMake holiday; …
[s.d.] Enter certain Reapers, properly habited: they join with the Nymphs in a graceful dance, towards the end whereof Prospero starts suddenly, and speaks; after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, they heavily vanish.
(IV.i.134-6, 138 s.d.: emphasis added)

Shakespeare is again alluding to the biblical Jubilee at Leviticus 25:11: ‘This fiftieth yere shalbe a yere of Iubile vnto you: ye shal not sowe, nether reape that which groweth of it selfe, nether gather the grapes thereof, that are left vnlaboured.’ The Jubilee is the culmination of seven Sabbath years. Leviticus 25:3-4 tells us to harvest our fruits in the sixth year before the land is to be rested in the seventh.(fn. 21)  The marginal note (a) at Leviticus 25:3 informs us ‘The Iewes began the count of this yere in September: for then all the frutes were gathered.’ Per Leviticus 25:9, the beginning of the Jubilee is in the seventh month (September) which indeed follows Shakespeare’s ‘August weary’ harvest season. His sicklemen would rest (‘Spring come to you at the farthest / In the very end of harvest’) and ‘make holiday’ for a year as per the command at Leviticus 25:10 to free all servants during the Jubilee year.

In the stage direction, Shakespeare alludes to the blowing of the trumpet after the harvest (‘after which, to a strange, hollow, and confused noise’) which signals the start of the Jubilee.(fn. 22)  Shakespeare’s noise is ‘strange, hollow, and confused’ per the admonition at Matthew 6:2 to give alms in secret and not to blow one’s trumpet as the Jews do.(fn. 23)  Whereas the Christian will be rewarded by God in heaven for his secret almsgiving, the Jews are rewarded by their fellow man. Thus, the blowing of the trumpet is heard quite often by the Jews; the Christians, not until the resurrection of the dead.(fn. 24)

As proof of such, compare both Prospero’s ‘Spirits, which by mine art / I have from their confines call’d to enact / My present fancies.’ (IV.i.120-2: emphasis added) as said within the masque and his earlier exchange with Ariel,

Prospero. … for I must
xxxxxBestow upon the eyes of this young couple
xxxxxSome vanity of mine art. …
Ariel. Presently?
Prospero.  Ay, with a twink.
(IV.i.39-41; 42-43: emphasis added)

with that part of the Burial Service from the BCP which quotes 1 Corinthians 15.51-52: ‘Beholde, I shewe you a misterye. we shall not all slepe: but we shall al be chaunged, and that in a momente, in the twynkelynge of an eye by the last trumpe. For the trumpe shall blowe, and the deade shall rise incorruptible, & we shall be chaunged.’(fn. 25)

C. Thy food shall be

Prospero.  … Come,
xxxxxI’ll manacle thy neck and feet together:
xxxxxSea-water shalt thou drink; thy food shall be
xxxxxThe fresh-brook mussels, wither’d roots, and husks
xxxxxWherein the acorn cradled. Follow.
(I.ii.461-5: emphasis added)

Here, Shakespeare is alluding to Leviticus 25:12: ‘For it is the Iubile, it shal be holy vnto you: ye shal eat of the increase thereof out of the field.’ Compare Lev 25:6: ‘And the (d) rest of the land shalbe meat for you, …’ The marginal note (d) tells us ‘That which the land bringeth forthe in her rest.’

D. Thou must restore

Alonso.  … Thy dukedom I resign, and do entreat
xxxxxThou pardon me my wrongs. …

Prospero.  No.
xxxxxFor you, most wicked sir, whom to call brother
xxxxxWould even infect my mouth, I do forgive
xxxxxThy rankest fault‒all of them; and require
xxxxxMy dukedom of thee, which perforce, I know
xxxxxThou must restore.
(V.i.118-9, 129-34: emphasis added)

Once again, Shakespeare is alluding to the biblical Jubilee at Leviticus 25:13: ‘In the yere of this Iubile, ye shal returne euerie man vnto his possession.’ The marginal note at Leviticus 25:23 tells us that land ‘colde not be solde for euer, but must returne to the familie in the Iubile’. In a Jubilee year, Antonio ‘must restore’ Prospero’s dukedom to him.

E. Ferdinand as hired servant

Leviticus 25:39-41: ‘If thy brother also that dwelleth by thee, be impouerished, and be solde vnto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serue as a bonde seruant, 40 But as an hyred seruant, and as a soiourner he shal be with thee: he shal serue thee vnto the yere of the Iubile. 41 Then shal he departe from thee, bothe he, and his children with him, and shal returne vnto his familie, and vnto the possession of his fathers shal he returne.’

Prospero has hired Ferdinand to work in the same occupation as Caliban in exchange for his daughter. Prospero must release his hired servant in the year of the Jubilee, whereupon Ferdinand will return to his father.

F. Caliban as bond servant

(a) Leviticus 25:44-46: ‘Thy bonde seruant also, and thy bonde maid, which thou shalt haue, shal be of the heathen that are rounde about you: of them shal ye bye seruants and maids. 45 And moreouer of the children of the strangers, that are soiourners among you, of them shal ye bye, and of their families that are with you, which they begate in your land: these shalbe your (t) possession. 46 So ye shal take them as inheritance for your children after you, to possesse them by inheritance, ye shal vse their labours for euer: but ouer your brethren the children of Israel ye shal not rule one ouer another with crueltie.’ Marginal note (t): ‘For thei shal not be boght out at the Iubile.’

Clearly, a bond servant may be ruled over with cruelty as indeed Prospero has ruled over Caliban (a heathen who worships false gods) in such ill manner.

(b) Leviticus 27:24: ‘But in the yere of Iubile, the field shal returne vnto him, of whome it was boght: to him, I say, whose inheritance the land was.’

Caliban.  …
xxxxxThis island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
xxxxxWhich thou takest from me. …
(I.ii.331-2: emphasis added)

Although Caliban will remain a bond servant, his inheritance (the island) will return to him in the year of the Jubilee.

G. No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil

Gonzalo.  … No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil; …
(II.i.154: emphasis added)

Historically, the declared immediate source for Gonzalo’s line has been John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s 1580 ‘Des Cannibales’: ‘no vse of wine, corne, or mettle.’(fn. 26)  Naseeb Shaheen further suggests Gonzalo’s line is patterned on Psalm 4.8 from the Psalter (1584 ed. as bound with the Bishops’ Bible): ‘their corne and wine and oyle increased’.(fn. 27)

However, while Montaigne’s statement includes ‘no use’, it does not include ‘oil’. Similarly, Psalm 4.8 lacks ‘metal’ and, furthermore, talks about the victuals being increased rather than the usage of such.

A much better source for Gonzalo’s line is Nehemiah 5:11: ‘Restore, I pray you, vnto them this day their lands, their vineyardes, their oliues, and their houses, and remit the hundreth parte of the siluer and of the corne, of the wine, & of the oyle (l) that ye exact of them.’ The marginal note (l) points to ‘the hundreth parte’ [usury], ‘Which ye take of them for the lone.’

Gonzalo’s ‘use’ refers to the biblical concept of ‘usury’ rather than the actual usage of such metal and victuals. The remittance of ‘the hundreth parte’ on ‘the lone’ back to the people at Nehemiah 5:11 equates to ‘no use’ (‘no usury’) of ‘metal, corn, or wine, or oil’. In fact, the Great Bible (1540 ed.) specifies ‘usury’ in the immediately preceding verse: ‘… do lend them money & corne: but as for vsurye, let vs leaue it.’(fn. 28)  Although several other biblical verses contain ‘corn’, ‘wine’, and ‘oil’, none of these also include ‘metal’ (except Hosea 2:8 which talks about multiplying ‘silver and gold’ rather than its use).(fn. 29)

The restoration at Nehemiah 5:11 is consistent with the command at Leviticus 25:13 to return all possessions in a Jubilee year; the remittance, with Leviticus 25:37: ‘Thou shalt not giue him thy money to vsurie, nor lend him thy vitailes for increase.’

H. O brave new world

Miranda.  O, wonder!
xxxxxHow many goodly creatures are there here!
xxxxxHow beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
xxxxxThat has such people in’t!”
Prospero.  ‘Tis new to thee.
(V.i.181-4: emphasis added)

Scholars have long assumed Miranda’s ‘O brave new world’ refers to a geographical New World. However, Arthur Golding’s translation of John Calvin’s 1555 sermon on Deuternomy 15.16-23, with its side-note regarding the Jubilee year, gives us an interesting alternative:

… [W]e must vnderstand that the yeere of Iubile was excepted, as we may see in other places. And in very deede, the compasse of fiftie yeeres was called a worlde, and the worde that Moses vseth is taken sometimes for the age of a man, His meaning then is, that he which consenteth to be a bondeslaue, shall abide in that state for euer, that is to say euen vntill the state of the countrie be renewed, as well concerning mens Landes as their persons: at which time euery man entered againe into his owne heritage, that God might alwayes be knowen to be both souereigne Lord and as it were the onely Lorde of the soile, & that the inhabiters were not owners and freeholders, but onely as tennauntes at will, or farmers, for those are the verie termes that our Lorde vseth. Therefore his will was that the parting of the Lande which was made by his commaundement shoulde bee kept: the meane whereof was that euery man shoulde returne to his owne inheritaunce & possession at the fiftith yeere, at which time the whole state of the Realme was chaunged in all other thinges. Thus see we now what was the effect of this Lawe.

According to Calvin (per Golding), a period of fifty years was called a ‘world’. Such ‘world’ would be renewed in the year of the Jubilee. In light of the aforementioned allusions to the biblical Jubilee in The Tempest, Miranda’s reference to the ‘new world’ is a biblical New World as begun in the year of the Jubilee, rather than a geographical one.

Prospero’s response to his daughter, ‘’Tis new to thee.’, is certainly apt in that the now 15-year-old Miranda is not old enough to have witnessed a Jubilee. However, Prospero’s words suggests he has witnessed at least one. And any Jubilee Prospero would have witnessed would have been the Roman Jubilee as devised by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. Although Boniface’s Jubilee was to be celebrated every hundred years, later popes decreased the interval to fifty, then thirty-three, and, finally, twenty-five years in 1470.(fn. 31)

=== GO TO Queen Elizabeth and Susanna in The Tempest ===


(20)  The Jubilee in the fiftieth year is referenced at Leviticus 25:8-13: ‘8 Also thou shalt nomber seuen Sabbaths of yeres vnto thee, euen seuen times seuen yere: and the space of the seuen Sabbaths of yeres wil be vnto thee nine and fourty yere. 9 (e) Then thou shalt cause to blowe the trumpet of the Iubile in the tenth day of the seuenth moneth: euen in the day of the reconciliacion shal ye make the trumpet blowe, through out all your land. 10 And ye shal halowe that yere, euen the fiftieth yere, and proclaime libertie in the land to all the (f) inhabitants thereof: it shal be the Iubile vnto you, and ye shal returne euerie man vnto his (g) possession, and euerie man shal returne vnto his familie. 11 This fiftieth yere shalbe a yere of Iubile vnto you: ye shal not sowe, nether reape that which groweth of it selfe, nether gather the grapes thereof, that are left vnlaboured. 12 For it is the Iubile, it shal be holy vnto you: ye shal eat of the increase thereof out of the field. 13 In the yere of this Iubile, ye shal returne euerie man vnto his possession.’

Marginal note (e): ‘In the beginning of the 50. yere was the Iubile, so called, because the ioyful tidings of libertie was publikely proclaimed by the sounde of a cornet.
Marginal note (f): Which were in bondage.
Marginal note (g): Because the tribes shulde nether haue their possessions, or families diminshed nor confounded.

(21)  Lev. 25:3-4: ‘(a) Six yeres thou shalt sowe thy field, and six yeres thou shalt cut thy vineyard, and gather the frute thereof. 4 But the seuenth yere shalbe a Sabbath of rest vnto the land: it shall [b]e the Lords Sabbath: thou shalt nether sowe thy field, nor cut thy vineyarde.’

(22)  Lev. 25:9: ‘Then thou shalt cause to blowe the trumpet of the Iubile in the tenth day of the seuenth moneth…’

(23)  Matt. 6:2: ‘Therefore when thou giuest thine almes, thou shalt not make a trumpet to be blowen before thee, as the (a) hypocrites do in the Synagogues and in the stretes, to be praised of men. Verely I say vnto you, they haue their (b) rewarde.’ Marginal notes (a): ‘Whose workes procede not of a right faith, but are done for vaine glorie’; (b): ‘In that thei are praised & commended of men’. (emphasis added)

(24)  1 Cor 15:52: ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shal blowe, and the dead shal be raised vp incorruptible, and we shalbe changed.’ (emphasis added)

(25)  ‘The Order for the Buriall of the dead’ in BCP, f.104-v.

(26)  In actuality, the phrase ‘nul metal, nul vsage de vin ou de bled’ from Montaigne’s 1580 ‘Des Cannibales’ translates into ‘no metal, no use of wine or corn’.

(27)  Naseeb Shaheen, Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays (Newark, DE, 1999, 2011), 743-4.

(28)  At Nehemiah 5:10, both the Geneva (1560 ed.) and Bishops’ (1568 ed.) have: ‘… let vs leaue of this burden.’ See the Genevan marginal note at Nehemiah 5:7 which equates ‘burdens’ with ‘vsurie’. Note: The book ‘Nehemiah’ is called ‘2 Esdras’ in both the Great and Bishops’ Bibles.

(29)  Deut. 7:13; 12.17; 14:23; 18:4; 2 Chron. 31:5; Nehemiah 10:39; 13:5, 12; Hosea 2:22; Joel 1:10; 2:19; Haggai 1:11.

(30)  The sermons of M. Iohn Caluin vpon the fifth booke of Moses called Deuteronomie, trans. Arthur Golding (London, 1583), 591; emphasis added. URL: http://name.umdl.umich.edu/A17698.0001.001; accessed 16 November 2015. Sermon entitled ‘On Munday the iiij. of Nouember. 1555. The XCvj Sermon, which is the fourth vpon the fifteenth Chapter.’ Deut. 15:16-18 discusses the release of servants after six years of service, unless he chooses not to go, whereupon his ear will be pierced and he will be a servant forever (until the year of the Jubilee). Deut. 5:19-23 explains how ‘The first borne of the cattel must be offred to the Lord.’ (chapter topical summary).

(31)  With the exception of Pope Nicholas V, who reverted back to the fifty-year Jubilee in 1450.

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