Prospero's Island? :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs
Very in depth article that proves the point quite admirably.
Short version: Shakespeare's patron funded a trip to colonize the New World and the play was inspired by the trip, labor disputes and the local native tribes.
In hopes of having a fortune waiting if he ever got out of the Tower, Henry decided to fund an expedition to colonize America. It set sail in March 1602. At the helm was a young adventurer named Bartholomew Gosnold, who had recently brought both glory and booty to England as privateer (that is, an officially licensed pirate, expropriating wealth from Spanish ships). By late spring, Gosnold and his crew had reached Maine and were making their way down the coast of what would eventually be called New England. They named places as they went. A cape with plenty of cod became Cape Cod. In honor of his daughter, Gosnold named one island Martha’s Vineyard. Another, very much smaller body of land he called the Elizabeth Island – after Gosnold’s sister, it seems, not his monarch, though it was still a savvy move.
Upon disembarking at Elizabeth, the captain and his men encountered a number of members of the Wampanoag tribe — who were, with the benefit of hindsight, probably much too genial for their own good. Despite the language barrier, gifts were exchanged. The Englishmen managed not to enslave or exterminate anybody. The two groups parted ways amicably. (In later years the Elizabeth Island would be renamed “Cuttyhunk” as a very rough approximation of its orginal Wampanoag name.)
The explorers did not find any gold, but they harvested an enormous amount of sassafras, which recent advances in medical science had shown to be an effective treatment for syphilis. Alas, not really. But until someone figured this out, sassafras was valuable.