Wracke and Redemption

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.

Dating The Tempest

by David Kathman


Though Oxfordians consistently try to deny it, one of the biggest problems for their theory is The Tempest, which can be dated with virtual certainty as having been written between late 1610 and mid-to-late 1611, six to seven years after the death of the Earl of Oxford in 1604. J. Thomas Looney, the originator of the Oxford theory, accepted this dating (one of the few times sense overcame him in the writing of Shakespeare Identified) and thus denigrated the play mercilessly in an attempt to show that it was not written by "Shakespeare" (i.e. Oxford). Later Oxfordians have looked coolly upon this subtraction from the canon, and have tried to show that the play could have been written earlier than 1604; they have done this to their own satisfaction, and so consider the issue more or less closed. However, the issue is anything but closed; all Oxfordian attempts I am aware of to date the play before 1604 (and I think I've looked at the most elaborate, including those of Charlton Ogburn and Ruth Loyd Miller) are in fact astonishingly flimsy, and fail completely to confront the overwhelming evidence that in writing The Tempest, Shakespeare made extensive use of narratives describing the wreck and redemption of the ship the "Sea-Venture" in Bermuda in 1609, and the events which ensued when the crew made it safely ashore. Oxfordian writings tend to misrepresent the facts on this issue rather blatantly; I aim here to set the record straight, and (I hope) convince the reader that the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford could not have written The Tempest.