Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0655  Tuesday, 20 March 2001

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 16 Mar 2001 13:00:52 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 16 Mar 2001 18:06:18 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Mar 2001 13:00:52 -0500
Subject: 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)

> I agree with Larry Weiss that his use of geographical accuracy to argue
> against a colonialist discourse in the Tempest, and by extension, all
> post colonialist readings and all historicist readings of Renaissance
> lit, is unsupportable.

Did I say that?  Geez!  I shall be more careful in future.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Mar 2001 18:06:18 -0000
Subject: 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0637 Re: Kermode (Tempest Reference)

> Actually, the evidence that Shakespeare had closely read the Bermuda
> pamphlets of 1609-10 in writing *The Tempest*, particularly William
> Strachey's "True Reportory", is far stronger than David Lindley
> implies.  There are many verbal parallels, tied in with numerous
> structural and plot parallels.

I've looked again at Dave Kathman's essay, and, I'm afraid, remain
unconvinced.  The evidence that will establish a particular text as a
'source' may take a number of forms.  The easiest is, of course, a
continuous recollection of an original. So, in this play, the fact that
Prospero's 'Ye elves' speech is derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses via
Golding's translation is inescapable. Shakespeare must either have known
it off by heart, or have been referring closely to it as he wrote the
speech.  Dave Kathman's argument for the Strachey letter is rather that
accumulation of a number of small details generates a constellation of
ideas and phrases only to be found in that particular source and in The
Tempest.  There is, of course, a potential here for a circularity of
argument - as indeed Dr Kathman recognises - in that some of the
parallels he cites are fairly tangential, and could only be entertained
if one first accepts the larger contention that Shakespeare had read the
Strachey letter closely.  I would want to argue that this is the case
for virtually all the instances he collects.

So, for example, he cites Strachey's 'we... had now purposed to have cut
down the Maine Mast' as a parallel to the boatswain's 'Down with the
topmast',  but apart from the consideration that this must have been a
necessary action in any storm, one might think that Ovid's Metamorphoses
11. l. 158 in Golding's translation, which reads 'Anon the Master cryed
strike the toppesayle, let the mayne / Sheete flye' is both rather
closer, and derived from a source which undoubtedly Shakespeare was
consulting as he wrote the play.

Kathman cites Strachey's 'Prayers might well be in the heart and lips'
as precedent for the mariner's cry 'to prayers! To prayers', but, again,
this is part of standard storm description, and can be found, for
example, in Newton's translation of Seneca's Agamemnon: 'To prayer then
apace we fall, when other hope is none'.  The description of St. Elmo's
fire in Ariel's speech, which Mowat also considers 'echoes only Strachey
amongst the play's recognised infracontexts', has, to my mind, a analogy
at least as close in Erasmus's Colloquy, 'Naufragium', where (in a
modern translation) 'the blazing ball slid down the ropes and rolled
straight up to the skipper ... After stopping there a moment, it rolled
the whole way round the ship, then dropped through the middle hatches
and disappeared'. (There are one or two other possible parallels to this
source in the play.)

Overall, I would still stand by my feeling that whilst the Strachey
letter is a *possible* source for The Tempest, it is not a *necessary*
source, in the way that Ovid or Montaigne both are, nor does it provide
a particular point of reference in the way that The Aeneid does.

In the end, of course, it's very much a matter of individual judgement -
members of this list might very well, and properly, be more convinced
than I.  Greenblatt famously characterised source hunting as 'the
elephant's graveyard' of literary criticism - and what is most
interesting, and most important, are the kinds of investment one brings
to tracking down sources, and the different kinds of consequence one
draws from their recognition.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
School of English
University of Leeds
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.