Terms for the masts, sails, rigging and other parts of a sailing ship are common in Shakespearian English, and several continue to be used in modern sailing. A number have a figurative as well as a literal use, as when Romeo enthuses about his rope-ladder to Nurse: ‘Which to the high topgallant of my joy / Must be my convoy in the secret night’ (RJ II.iv.186). The first two scenes of The Tempest are an important location for nautical terminology.

Term Example Gloss
beak Tem I.ii.196 prow
boresprit, bowsprit Tem I.ii.200 pole extending from the bow which holds the lower edge of a sail
bowling, bowline TNK IV.i.147 rope attached to the edge of a sail, to keep it steady
cabin Tem I.ii.197 [as in modern English]
course TNK III.iv.10 sail attached to the lower yards of a ship
gallant E3 III.i.73 flag flown on the rear mast
main-course Tem I.i.35 main sail
mainmast WT III.iii.90 principal mast in a multi-masted ship
mainsail TNK IV.i.148 principal sail of a ship
maintop Cym IV.ii.320 top of the mainmast; or: platform near the top of the mainmast
poop AC II.ii.197 highest deck at the stern of a ship
sail Tem I.ii.147 [as in modern English]
tackling TNK IV.i.144 rigging
top TNK IV.i.149 platform at the top of a mast
topgallant RJ II.iv.186 platform at the head of a topmast
topmast Tem I.i.34 section of mast fitted to the top of the lower mast
topsail Tem I.i.6 sail set above the lower course of sails
waist Tem I.ii.197 middle of a ship; or: middle of the upper deck
yard Tem I.ii.200 crossbar on a mast which supports a sail

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