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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Miranda—The Tempest

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(1):7-8. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.189.
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In 1609, seven ships and two pinnaces (light sailing ships) left Plymouth, England, to supply the newly established Jamestown colony in Virginia. On July 24, 1609, within 7 or 8 days of their expected arrival at Point Comfort, the gateway to Jamestown at the mouth of the James River,2(p4) the ships were caught in a tropical hurricane off the Azores and separated from one another. The flagship, Sea Venture, carrying on it the acting governor, Sir Thomas Gates; the admiral of the fleet, Sir George Somers; and the governance plan for the colony, was battered for 4 days by wind and rain. The sky became pitch black; “it was a dreadful storm and hideous,” an “unmerciful tempest.”2(p4) To the consternation of those on board, the ship began to leak with water rising on the deck, requiring continuous pumping around the clock and the dumping overboard of much valued cargo. The passengers were frightened and awestruck to see St Elmo's fire, created by static electricity, on the mast. Finally, Somers saw land. Mariners knew the land as Devil's Island for its threatening rocky inlets and strange nighttime sounds. Remarkably the ship reached the island and wedged in between rocks, initially remaining upright. All 150 men, women, and children on board survived. Passenger William Strachey, an aspiring playwright, was on board and recorded the lives of the survivors over the ensuing 10 months while they built 2 new small ships, Deliverance and Patience, which allowed them to finally reach Jamestown 10 months later in May 1610. Many did not want to leave Bermuda, for it was not a Devil's Island but had an abundance of fish, wildlife, and pigs; the mysterious night sounds were those of birds that made sounds unfamiliar to them.3Article

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John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), English. Miranda, 1916. Oil on canvas, 45.7 × 60 cm. Private Collection/© The Maas Gallery, London, United Kingdom/The Bridgeman Art Library.

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Figure. John Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Swiss-English. Ariel, ca 1800-1810. FPa22. Oil on canvas, 92.7 × 71.5 cm. By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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