Legg'd like a man! and his fins like arms! Warm, o' my
troth! I do now let loose my opinion, hold it no longer: this is
fish, but an islander, that hath lately suffer'd by a
[Thunder.] Alas, the storm is come again! My best way is to
under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout:
acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. I will here shroud till
dregs of the storm be past.
A storm has shipwrecked Trinculo, a jester, with his
aristocratic keepers on an uncharted island. Trinculo happens upon
the supine form of Caliban, a deformed native whom he first takes
to be some sort of strange fish. When he realizes that Caliban has
arms and legs and is warm-blooded, he correctly deduces that what
seemed a fish is an islander.
As the storm resumes and thunder sounds, Trinculo is forced into
the nearest shelter, which happens to be Caliban's gaberdine (a
loose-fitting cloak). As Trinculo famously puts it, "misery
acquaints a man with strange bedfellows," and he uses the phrase
more literally than we do. He must, to avoid the storm, actually
lie down with the petrified Caliban (who thinks Trinculo a
tormenting spirit) and share his garment as bedclothing. Trinculo's
"strange" can mean either "foreign," "unknown," or "odd," while we
use "strange" only in the last sense. We've also adapted the phrase
to more metaphorical uses, meaning by "strange bedfellows"