At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean (Shakespeare Now) by Steve Mentz

By Steve Mentz

We'd like a poetic historical past of the sea, and Shakespeare may also help us locate one. There’s extra actual salt within the performs than we would anticipate. Shakespeare’s dramatic ocean spans the God-sea of the traditional international and the vast blue vistas that early smooth mariners navigated. all through his occupation, from the hole shipwrecks of The Comedy of mistakes during the Tempest, Shakespeare’s performs determine the sea as surprising actual truth and mind-twisting image of switch and instability. To fathom Shakespeare’s ocean – to head all the way down to its backside - this book’s chapters specialize in various things that people do with and in and close to the ocean: fathoming, holding watch, swimming, beachcombing, fishing, and drowning. Mentz additionally units Shakespeare’s sea-poetry opposed to sleek literary sea-scapes, together with the huge Pacific of Moby-Dick, the rocky coast of Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems, and the lyrical waters of the postcolonial Caribbean. Uncovering the depths of Shakespeare’s maritime global, this ebook attracts out the centrality of the ocean in our literary culture.>

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Extra resources for At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean (Shakespeare Now)

Sample text

From this point of view, Egeon’s fatalistic detachment, his resignation to the embrace of the sea that names him, represents the relaxation into a foreign element that makes swimming possible. Egeon’s narrative shows Shakespeare groping toward what Melville would explore in Moby-Dick, the utopian fantasy of a fully maritime human. In Shakespeare’s plays, however, Egeon’s partial accommodation with the sea remains a minority position. The clearest example of the opposite attitude, in which water must always be fought, comes in the description of Ferdinand swimming to shore in The Tempest.

At this moment, Iago resembles the sea. He no longer speaks the language of mariners who work on the waves, but instead represents the ocean as such: wordless, malign, opaque, amoral. His final lines vary the biblical cadences of his opening self-definition. Now that “I am not that I am” has modulated into “What you know, you know,” the evacuation of Iago’s humanity 32 At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean has become complete. He stretches out before us, at our mercy but finally untouchable. Iago’s manipulative power lies miniaturized in these two resonant lines.

The sea-storm in Othello creates a crisis of meaning that hastens the play’s insistent drive toward violence. The immediate narrative resolution of the storm, however, mirrors neither Maximus’s acceptance of the sea’s destabilizing intimacy with the land nor Lucretius’s Stoic ju-jitsu, in which the ocean’s violence stimulates reason’s victory over the fear of death. Instead, the Venetian survivors transform the near-disaster into a familiar early modern maritime story, the arrival of a treasure galleon.

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