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September 17, 2010


Joseph Summer

Before I'd finished my setting of the play as an opera, my wife and I were left at sea in the Indian Ocean. We found our way to an isolated shore, where we had to eat what we could find (before ascending a mountain and eventually finding our way back to civilization.) Our first night on the stony shore the normally skittery shore crabs came out, and planted themselves on the rocks to molt their carapaces. Already keenly aware of the Tempest connections to our situation, it struck me then that the crabs were indeed "growing" on the rocks, and I thought that whatever Shakespeare meant, I would forever more recognize that "crabs grow" as simply descriptive of the fact. I could touch them and they didn't move, as they were vulnerable and locked into their shedding. We did eat snails, there, live, which were actually good tasting. When I set the scene in my opera I didn't try to solve for scamels. I just had Caliban's companions question the word, by repeating it incredulously. Go to 6:30 of this link for the "Scamels" excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXItrgK4MP0&list=OLAK5uy_lFDIXNT3mrqm6l7rfQFpJafxALCXU1Unw&index=9&t=0s


Thank you for that interesting essay. I had always imagined (without thinking about it much) that scamels were shellfish, like scallops. Seamells is a much nicer idea.

But I always thought Caliban's diet was meant to be appealing. He is offering a storehouse of treasures. Crabs is surely crab apples. Jays and marmosets may not actually be tasty but they are beautiful and interesting. English hazelnuts are delicious.

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