Tempests again

“I freeze and burn, love is bitter and sweet,
my sighs are tempests and my tears are floods,
I am in ecstasy and agony,
I am possessed by memories of her and
I am in exile from myself.” 

Francesco Petrarca*

Tempest metaphors are a favourite amongst poets and always have been. It's so easy to associate Olympian raging storms with chthonic emotional turmoil. Shakespeare's storm on the heath in King Lear is possibly the closest confrontation between elemental nature and primordial humanity. Storms on heaths, however barren, are different from storms at sea.

Wracke and Redemption

Dating William STRACHEY’S ‘A TRUE REPORTORY OF THE WRACKE AND REDEMPTION OF SIR THOMAS GATES’:
A comparative textual study

In their article published in the September 2007, Review of English Studies, Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky claim that a letter written by William Strachey drew on several sources published after its putative composition date of 15 July 1610, and was completed at least 2 years later, too late to be used by Shakespeare as a source for The Tempest. But a close textual comparison between the letter, the published sources and other contemporary documents, including a relatively newly discovered draft of the Strachey letter, demonstrates the primacy of Strachey’s letter and confirms its use as a source in the Virginia Company tract published in November 1610, therefore preserving its accessibility as a source for Shakespeare.


For their kind suggestions during the writing of this article, I thank Jacqueline Foertsch, David Kathman, Lynne Kositsky, Irvin Matus, Tom Veal and especially Alden T. Vaughan.

The Review of English Studies, New Series © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press 2009; all rights reserved doi:10.1093/res/hgp107


In the summer of 1609, the Virginia Company of London sent nine ships to re-supply its fledging hard-luck Jamestown colony in Virginia. The fleet ran into a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic and the flagship Sea Venture, carrying the colony's new governor, Sir Thomas Gates, became separated from the fleet and was presumed lost by those who weathered the storm and made it to Virginia. But Gates and all 150 passengers and crew members had actually been shipwrecked on the uninhabited island of Bermuda.

During the next ten months they managed not only to survive, but also to build two new vessels and complete the journey to Virginia. When they finally arrived at Jamestown in May 1610, they found the colony in total collapse, suffering from famine and Indian attacks that had reduced the 600 colonists to fewer than 70. Gates ordered the surviving colonists into the ships to sail home. However, they met with a new supply fleet before clearing the Chesapeake Bay, and so they turned back to renew the ultimately successful colony. The survival and escape to safety of Gates' colonists and the deliverance of the Jamestown colony galvanised London when the news reached England in September 1610.

Exit, pursued by a bear

In the English theatre, 1610-1611 was the Year of the Bear.

As this tale is a late romance, it begins with an earlier tragedy. In Purchas his Pilgrimes, a mariner called Jonas Poole recounts his seventh voyage to the Arctic.  On 30 May 1609, he writes:

“We slue 26 Seales, and espied three white 
Bears; wee went aboord for Shot and Powder,
and coming to the Ice againe, we found 
a shee-Beare and two young ones: Master 
Thomas Welden shot and killed her; after 
shee was slayne, wee got the young ones, and 
brought them home into England, where 
they are alive in Paris Garden.” 

Poor babies.  Orphaned, ill-used, bewildered, stifled with the torrid heat of London, “cabined, cribbed, confined.”

Redating the Tempest 2.

An Anti-Stratfordian Tour de Farce

Although an intensely irritating waste of paper, despite appearances, there is a purpose in this type of publication.

Books like these are published to be reviewed here. To be cited in internet discussion. When they find themselves unable to explain why The Tempest is associated with Hallowmas rather than Shrovetide, these books provide Oxfordians with an out. "Have you read my book on The Tempest" they will say. Or "Have you read Stritmatter and Kositsky's book on The Tempest?" It's usually said with a patronising snort, implying both that the matter has been dealt with definitively and whoever they are arguing with is poorly read on the subject.

In other words, the book is intended to be cited for what it set out to achieve, rather than what it actually says.

It actually says very little.

Redating The Tempest 1.

I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll b-b-b-blow your house in!

On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare's The Tempest

Roger A. Stritmatter & Lynne Kositsky

 

This book is not about The Tempest.  Not a word of it.  It’s all about Stritmatter and Kositsky’s desperate need to claim the great prize of its authorship for the god of their idolatry:   a tragic, unacknowledged genius whose apotheosis their book will bring about.  His name?  Roger Stritmatter, Lord of Coppin.  

Oops!   Sorry.  Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

Whose name is demurely absent from their text, save once.  Not in their own words but in Gail Kern Paster’s:  which are by far the best thing in the book:

For well-schooled professionals ... the authorship question ranks as bardolatry inverted, bardolatry for paranoids, with one object of false worship (Shakespeare) replaced by another (Marlowe, Bacon, Edward de Vere). To ask me about the authorship question, as I’ve remarked on more than one occasion, is like asking a paleontologist to debate a creationist’s account of the fossil record.... For much worse than professional disclaimers of interest in Shakespeare’s life is the ugly social denial at the heart of the Oxfordian pursuit ... a ferociously snobbish and ultimately anachronistic celebration of birthright privilege.

Collaborateur

fletcherJohn Fletcher is a black hole for Oxfordian theorists. Too close and the whole Oxfordian shebang disappears in a wail of deplorable sucking noises. It's a good job his early life isn't as well documented as Shakespeare's or there wouldn't be any Oxfordian case at all.

He's a bit of a man of mystery until his 27th birthday in 1607 which was shortly followed by the appearance of The Woman Hater, co-written with Francis Beaumont. The two dramatists became a team and wrote many of the most successful plays of the decade following Shakespeare's retirement. The fact that Oxford was dead and gone before Fletcher appears on the scene is a fatal embarrassment to the idea that the plays were complete before 1604.

Hardly ever sick at sea

What never? Hardly Ever?

On such a full sea are we now afloat; 
And we must take the current when it serves, 
Or lose our ventures

Shakespeare's seamanship provides a classic example of Oxfordians both having their cake and eating it. There are plenty of shipwrecks. Dozens offstage, two in Pericles, one in Twelfth Night but those are not portrayed with the intensity of detail in which Shakespeare revels in the opening scenes of The Tempest.

Oxford went to sea. There's no evidence that Will did.