I was reading a translated copy in modern English of The Tempest. And one of the sentence of the original text which was

All things in common nature should produce without sweat or endeavour.

Was translated into:

Nature would produce everything people needed, and all of it would be shared equally by all.

According to me, the original sentence just means that the nature should produce everything by itself without any human attempt. But there is no implication that it will be distributed equally. So, is the translation incorrect? English is my third language so I tend to take analytical approach while construing sentence-meaning. But I'm having unprecedented trouble in doing so with "The Tempest". Is there any tip?

  • ell.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask There is no such thing as a translated copy of The Tempest, which is written in English. There may be explanations in modern English of 16th century English. I suggest you read annotated versions of Shakespeare and please don't ask any more questions like these. Thanks. – Lambie Nov 7 '19 at 22:08
  • You're missing the phrase in common. That qualifies all things, not nature. – Colin Fine Nov 8 '19 at 0:02

What Gonzalo was saying here is, Everything would be produced without any hard work/labor, nature would avail enough harvest to share fairly among all his innocent people.(As there will be not crime or weapons)

All things in common nature should produce without sweat or endeavor. Treason, felony, sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine, Would I not have. But nature should bring forth of its own kind all foison, all abundance, To feed my innocent people.

It is when you look at the whole passage where you get the meaning of it.

I hope this helps.

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First, it is poetic language, which may, and frequently does, have multiple meanings and, even more frequently, is allusive. But here the context makes clear that there is a single Utopian meaning albeit slightly allusive. What is not meant is all those things which custom in 16th century England held to be no one's individual property, such as grazing rights on the village common. Rather what is meant is an ideal state in which everyone has enough of what anyone wants or desires without labor. "All things" without property rights: no "bourn," no "bound of land." No labor: "all men idle," "no tilth." When there is superfluity without effort, what need is there of property!

It does not explicitly say that all is to be shared equally. Instead it explicitly says that there is to be "abundance" without "occupation." The "translation" is importing ideas of equality of result into a 16th century context that had no idea of equality in that sense. The idea being expressed is one of universal satisfaction. And the idea of a "common" good at that time was that each had identical rights to use the good, not that the exercises of that right were identical.

This is the problem with trying to "translate" across such great expanses of time: the play was written almost two hundred years before the Declaration of the Rights of Man. It must be read in its own temporal context.

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