Tag Archives: Aniversary

Shakespeare’s Climate Crisis



Read the passage; summarize its meaning in a sentence or two; and briefly explain how a passage like this one might help modern people think about the environment:


The speech that follows is an interjection. During the wedding masque he conducts to celebrate the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero remembers he is urgently needed elsewhere. He offers the following as an explanation:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

The Globe Theater(s) (1500-1613 & 1614-1632) housed Shakespeare and his acting companies: the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and later the King’s Men. The word globe can, of course, be put to more use than just the proper one. That the term globe could also signify a heavenly body, an eyeball, an emblem of sovereignty, the new world, and women’s breasts, was certainly not lost to on early modern author, least of all Shakespeare. As enthusiasts from around the world prepare to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we do so in dire circumstances: inescapable climate shifts, constant species extinction, relentless resource depletion, and the final adulteration of air, water, and land. In the years since Ben Jonson declared the “drooping stage” mourned Shakespeare’s loss “like Night,” his audience is haunted by more than just his ghost. Here at the end of the world, we take up Shakespeare, his ghosts, and his sphere of influence to mourn, produce, and eventually prosper. The globe on which we live and the one for which Shakespeare write his plays have a lot to say to one another. For instance now and then we engage with the plays at a time of fabulous technological possibilities. The apocalyptic landscapes through which Shakespeare and his friends forced their characters to range shows they knew they were writing after the end of the world. Over the course of the semester, we will read Shakespeare’s plays and poems in order to predict the shape of the world to come.