A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare's the Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology

A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare's the Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology

A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare's the Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology

A Brave New World of Knowledge: Shakespeare's the Tempest and Early Modern Epistemology


"A Brave New World of Knowledge studies Shakespeare's The Tempest using materials relating to the history of early seventeenth-century proto-science. These materials are either newly investigated, or are derived from sophisticated recent work that has been little consulted before by Shakespeare scholars. This book is centrally concerned with a classic of dramatic literature which is extraordinary in terms of its genre, structure, style, language, mythos, characterization, and long-term influence. All of these elements are addressed. Yet, to do so, the book finds it valuable to confront quite large questions about the nature and dissemination of the early seventeenth-century so-called "scientific revolution."" "The study also considers, somewhat generally at its outset and then in varied specific ways throughout, what the best interdisciplinary approach to a Shakespeare play might be. It argues for the futility, or possible deceptiveness, of any search for a "master discourse" which could provide a single main correlative for understanding The Tempest. Instead it illustrates, and argues for the superiority of, interdisciplinary approaches to the complex play which are empirically led and so never irrefutable, and which consciously intend to build on a body of earlier work so as to achieve accumulative increments of understanding. These would therefore be approaches that observe both the established findings and the disciplinary norms of all of the interdisciplinary areas in question. The main part of this book is concerned with the location of a surprising range of examples of reflections in The Tempest of specific new breakthroughs of knowledge, or new challenges to knowledge, in fields as diverse as natural history, meteorology, ethnology, scientific instrumentation, and time measurement. Explorations of the historical and intellectual contexts of such instances of knowledge acquisition, and explorations of how these instances and contexts vitally connect with the play, must count as the most valuable contributions of this book." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The older conception of science would not fit the sort of knowl
edge the new inquiries into nature would produce …

—Ernan McMullan on the
“Scientific Revolution”

Different methods are used in the exploration and resolution of
different problems … The pluralism of methods has contrib
uted to the progress of knowledge

—Richard McKeon on
“Scientific Methods”

THIS BOOK WILL TREAT SHAKESPEARIAN LITERATURE IN RELATION TO early modern science and epistemology by exploring a range of historical and intellectual matters that are reflected in The Tempest. As an extended treatment of this topic is not usual, I will begin by discussing some general issues that arise from it, and some questions of approach.

Although few would deny that the early modern period in Western Europe saw a considerable increase on several fronts in what would now be called scientific activity, some of the assumptions which have accumulated behind the phrase “the scientific revolution” are now disputed. I will not need that phrase, and will not use it except when it appears in useful quotations. For the sake of brevity I will, however, use the anachronistic terms “science,” “scientist,” and “scientific” (although I will remark on the unformed state of a scientific profession). I will sometimes also use the term “Renaissance” to indicate a period from the Italian Renaissance and leading up to Shakespeare's time, and “early modern” to indicate a more inclusive period reaching to the time of Newton and his followers.

Terminology aside, I will be indicating that Shakespeare was surrounded by a culture developing new types, or new extensions, of . . .

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