Johns Hopkins University Press
School of Arts and Humanities
While working on the final stages of this essay, I went to a local children’s bookstore to look for a retelling of The Tempest to assist the eleven-year-old in my life with a drama audition. The audition required him to memorize the monologue in which Trinculo finds Caliban on the beach and asks, “What have we here? a man or a fish? dead or alive?” (2.2.24–25). The owner of the shop—who knows my field of research and advises me when new books arrive that she thinks would interest me—asked whether I had seen the latest Armin Greder book, The Mediterranean, which had arrived in her shop that week. I had not, so she brought the book over to me. The only words in the narrative appear on the first page: “After he had finished drowning,/ his body sank slowly/ to the bottom,/ where the fish/ were waiting.” The echo between Trinculo’s monologue and Greder’s prologue resonates with me as a haunting reminder of the proximity of life and death and the capacity of human beings and federal governments for refusing care.