Follow the journey of the Red Dragon, the Hector, and the Consent — the three ships that went on England’s first voyage to reach India.
On their way, the Commander's logs (now lost) state that the sailors performed Hamlet for the Temne people in Sierra Leone, and for each other, "which I permit to keep my people from idleness and unlawful games, or sleep". This is the focus of our original play, The Hamlet Voyage.
The Third Voyage of
the London East India Company (1607-10)
Was this early voyage of the East India Company, and this first performance of Shakespeare outside Europe, a simple case of trade and cultural exchange, or were there colonial intentions from the beginning? That is one of the questions our play explores.
Below you can go along the route they took and read entries from the diaries of the men aboard.
Let's set sail
We are at Tilbury on the river Thames, which I am told is where the Queen Elizabeth made a very famous speech to the men about to fight the Spanish...
21 March 1607
We have got as far now as Plymouth which is the last we will see of England. We hoped to meet the other ships here...
15 April 1607
One of the most difficult things about long voyages, I am learning, is that you quickly run out of water.
7 May 1607
Cape Verde Islands
It is a long time since we saw land, and people are arguing about where we are. We can use instruments to measure our ‘latitude’ (how far north or south we are), but it is more difficult to find out our ‘longitude’ (how far east or west we are)
2 June 1607
Crossing the Equator
Arrived in Sierra Leone. It is a very beautiful country, though it rains a lot, much like back home. The people who live here are called the Temne (pronounced "Tim-in-ee").
6 August 1607
Before I came on this voyage, I was told that when the men on a ship disagree with what the captain says, they can confront him, and sometimes even stage what is called a ‘mutiny’...
17 December 1607
Cape of Good Hope
We have arrived at another new place, an island between Africa and India that the men call Zokatora, and we are the first Englishmen ever to come here. This makes me very proud: I suppose I am a part of history?