Journal of Drama Studies article Contests Strachey’s Influence


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A July 2011 article by Barry R. Clarke, published in the Journal of Drama Studies, contests the idea that the Tempest author had access to Strachey’s “True Reportory” manuscript account of the Sea Venture wreck, but goes on to argue that the 1609 wreck “was [itself] a source event for the Tempest.”

Believing that “Vaughan and Reedy have organised substantial evidence” against the objection of our 2007 RES article that “TR” was not completed until 1612, Clarke develops another criticism of the theory of “TR”‘s influence — one that we also explore in our unpublished manuscript — that the canons of secrecy imposed by the Virginia company make it unlikely that documents such as Strachey’s manuscript would ever have made their way into the dramatist’s hands.

Most of Clarke’s article is devoted to a valuable exploration of why the theory, first proposed by Morton Luce and  Charles C. Gayley, of Shakespeare’s access to a secret Bermuda Company pamphlet, is improbable on its face, given the degree of secrecy imposed on information about Bermuda, which was considered a vital asset in England’s “cold war” against Spain for control of the new world.

Instead,  Clarke argues for a more diffuse and circumstantial  influence of the Bermuda literature and other Jacobean  gossip on Shakespeare’s play.  For example, he devotes a number of paragraphs to discussing the possibility that the names “Stephano” and “Trinculo” are derived from the name of the Prince of Moldavia, Stephano Janiculo, who visited the Jacobean court in 1607. He notes that Ben Jonson parodied Janiculo’s courtship of Lay Arabella Stuart in in Epiocene (produced 1609, published 1616), and that the same play mentions (in the same lines) “Nomentack,”described by Clarke as “an Indian chief from Virginia.” (more…)