Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jamestown’s troubles relieved--for the moment.

            The new governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, stepped ashore. No sooner had he set his elegant boots on Jamestown’s marshy soil than he sank to his knees in a long, silent prayer. Then he and his company marched into the fort.
Then Lord De La Warr made a brief speech, perhaps not a well-thought one: he blamed the Virginia residents for their present pitiful state and told them they must work harder. (How the Jamestown colonists, so malnourished they were near death, received this speech is not recorded.) At last (this must have been greeted with tears of joy and loud cheers) he told them that he had brought food enough to “serve foure hundred men for one whole yeare.”
Much of what we know about this part of Virginia’s history comes from the colony’s secretary, William Strachey, a diligent and eloquent writer. He recorded not only what happened in Virginia, but what had happened in Bermuda as well. His manuscript would eventually be entitled “A True Reportory of the Wreck and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight, upon and from the Islands of the Bermudas; his coming to Virginia, and the estate of that colony then, and after under the government of the Lord La Warr.”
            Strachey’s manuscript would reach England with consequences he never dreamed of. Shakespeare somehow read Strachey’s work, and then wrote The Tempest, a play about castaways shipwerecked on a remote island. first performed in London in 1611, and a subject of much debate among scholars ever since.

          Meanwhile, the Virginia colony’s troubles were far from over.

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