Utopian Thought in William Shakespeare

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Although Columbus had discovered the "New World" in 1492, it is interesting to note how relatively uninterested Shakespeare was in the Americas or the western travel that was sweeping Europe. While some Englanders focused their attention and dreams on the uncivilized land in the west, Shakespeare "dreamed and wrote of the old world, of battles long ago, of an ancient story-land already splendid in its braveries and devotions" (Thorndike 110). He has left no evidence that might suggest any interest in the voyagers or the dangers faced on the uncharted oceans of the west, but he knew of the colonization endeavors through leaders such as Southampton, his early patron (110). The disinterest changed, though, when he read of the Sea Adventure shipwreck. In the year 1609, a year before the estimated writing of The Tempest, nine ships set out from England to strengthen John Smith's Virginian colonies. En route, though, one of the ships was carried away from the other during a storm. The lost ship, the Sea-Adventure, had on board the operation commanders, and all of the passengers were presumed to be lost at sea. However, a year later, news reached England that the crew and passengers of the Sea-Adventure had been blown to the coast of a Bermudan island, but they survived and rejoined the party the following year. Stunned English journalists reported many accounts of the shipwreck, and it is from these stories that some historians attribute Shakespeare's initial inspiration for the setting and foundation of The Tempest (Wain 202-203). After the shipwreck and news of the amazing survival, there were numerous
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