At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean

Front Cover
A&C Black, Dec 10, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 118 pages
We need a poetic history of the ocean, and Shakespeare can help us find one. There's more real salt in the plays than we might expect. Shakespeare's dramatic ocean spans the God-sea of the ancient world and the immense blue vistas that early modern mariners navigated. Throughout his career, from the opening shipwrecks of The Comedy of Errors through The Tempest, Shakespeare's plays figure the ocean as shocking physical reality and mind-twisting symbol of change and instability. To fathom Shakespeare's ocean - to go down to its bottom - this book's chapters focus on different things that humans do with and in and near the sea: fathoming, keeping watch, swimming, beachcombing, fishing, and drowning. Mentz also sets Shakespeare's sea-poetry against modern literary sea-scapes, including the vast Pacific of Moby-Dick, the rocky coast of Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, and the lyrical waters of the postcolonial Caribbean. Uncovering the depths of Shakespeare's maritime world, this book draws out the centrality of the sea in our literary culture.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Tempest and King Lear
The Comedy of Errors
Twelfth Night
Timon of Athens
Warm Water Epilogue
Reading the New Thalassology

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Steve Mentz is Associate Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City, USA, where he teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance literature. He is author of Romance for Sale in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2006) and co-editor of Rogues and Early Modern English Culture (Michigan, 2004). His maritime research has been supported by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the John Carter Brown Library, Mystic Seaport, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Maritime Museum in London.

Bibliographic information