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"Scamels" - the unsolved Shakespeare mystery

Posted by Dave Butterfield on July 19, 2003

What follows is one of the few unsolved mysteries regarding a single world in the english language, namely a word that is a hapax legomenon and its only context fails to explain its meaning.
The word is "scamels" and is featured iin Shakespeare's Tempest (2.2.148) when Caliban orders another to fetch "young scamels from the rock".
The great OED can throw little definitive conjecture upon the matter.
Possible meanings have been raised over the past few hundred years ranging from various types of shellfish to sea birds to misspellings, degradations or corruptions of the text (should be 'seamels'?).
As I was recently introduced to this site by a friend I hope I am not out on a limb by its not being a phrase, but I am very interested to see if any others know of this obscure word and have any personal, or even self-proclaimed accurate, interpretations.

Regards,

~DB~