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Music, magic and monsters! We learn how to use the phrase strange bedfellows from The Tempest - and lots of other useful expressions for talking about relationships.

 

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The cat sleeps with the chickens??
Cats don't normally sleep with chickens - do they?! William Shakespeare's in for a shock, and there are plenty more bizarre partnerships in this episode - maybe the storm's making people a bit crazy!

To do

As you watch the video, see how many unusual pairings you can find...

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스크립트 보기 스크립트 숨기기

Narrator
It's late in the evening. William Shakespeare is visiting his actor friend Robert Harley.

Robert
Will! Just one moment… I have to rescue the cat. It likes to sleep with the chickens and it gets locked in the henhouse… come on kitty…

Will
The cat sleeps with the chickens? That's unusual.

Robert Harley
It's strange, but they seem quite happy together. So, Will, I've read your new play The Tempest and I'm very excited about all the magic, the music and the monsters, and my character, Trinculo, the lost traveller: it's a wonderful part. His meeting with Caliban: it's very interesting.

Will
Ah, yes, Caliban. Neither man nor fish – a weird sort of creature.

Robert Harley
You put them both in a storm…

Will
Yes: it's an old trick but it's a good way to bring them together. Trinculo needs shelter and the strange, well, almost monstrous Caliban is wearing a gaberdine: a large coat, big enough for both of them. Trinculo gets under it, safe and warm from the storm.

Robert Harley
But Trinculo isn't happy…

Will
He's feeling very miserable. He actually says: Alas, the storm is come again! My best way…

Robert Harley as Trinculo
Alas, the storm is come again! My best way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabouts: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

Will
Ohh, I do like that line: Misery acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows. When times are hard, people do things they don't normally do…

Narrator
We'll leave them there for now. Shakespeare lived in a time of discovery – strange new lands and creatures, so the mysterious island of The Tempest appealed to Shakespeare's audience as both exciting and scary. These days, the phrase strange bedfellows describes two people or groups that are connected in a particular activity, even though they are very different and are not usually seen together. It's often used for political alliances. For example, a July 2015 report from US broadcaster Fox News described Israel and Hamas as strange bedfellows when they both wanted to stop the growth of so-called Islamic State in Gaza. The headline was:

Clip 1
Israel, Hamas strange bedfellows when it comes to reining in ISIS in Gaza.

Narrator
Strange bedfellows is useful for all sorts of unlikely partnerships.

Clip 2
You think Miley Cyrus and Michael Bublé should write a song together? Well, they'd be strange bedfellows… but it might just work.

Robert Harley
Now Will, it's getting late and there's a storm coming. You must stay with us tonight. You can sleep in the henhouse – or you can share a bed with the Harley family.

Will
Hmmm… To bed or not to bed: that is the question.

Answer

There are lots of unusual partnerships in this episode, for example: the cat sleeps with the chickens, Caliban and Trinculo share a coat, Miley Cyrus and Michael Bublé do a duet! How many did you find?

Vocabulary note

The phrase strange bedfellows appears in Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. Did you know that the word tempest means violent storm?

To do

Have a go at this quiz to see how much you learnt about The Tempest. Watch the episode again first if you like.

Magic, Music and M______?

5 Questions

The Tempest - what's it all about? Answer these questions about Shakespeare's famous play.

잘하셨습니다 퀴즈를 다하셨습니다
Excellent! Great job! 네 안타깝군요 이번 점수입니다:
x / y

How did you do?

4-5 correct - Well done, you can sleep in the Harley house!
0-3 correct - Oh dear! You'll have to sleep with the chickens!

Next

We think you and BBC Learning English are well-suited, so stick with us! Next we'll explore the meaning and use of strange bedfellows - and bring you some more common phrases about relationships!

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content, visit our partnerThe OU

    For teachers:

    Lesson plan and worksheets for Strange bedfellows

    Eight vocabulary activities for the classroom

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    Strange bedfellows

    Meaning
    These days, the phrase strange bedfellows describes two people or groups that are connected in a particular activity, even though they are very different and are not usually seen together.

    Example sentence
    You think Miley Cyrus and Michael Bublé should write a song together? Well, they'd be strange bedfellows… but it might just work.

    Note
    strange bedfellows is often used for political alliances.

    Example sentence
    Israel, Hamas strange bedfellows when it comes to reining in ISIS in Gaza.

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    Extra vocabulary

    like chalk and cheese
    an expression to describe two people who are very different from each other

    an odd couple
    two people who are in a relationship, but seem very different and not well-suited

    a match made in heaven
    a perfect combination of people or things

    made for each other
    a perfect match

    two of a kind
    two people with very similar characters

    tempest
    a violent storm

    gaberdine
    a type of large raincoat

    fellow(s) 
    a person/people who belong to the same group or who share a situation

    bedfellows
    people who share a bed or who are closely involved with each other in a particular situation

    Find out more

    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University

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