Shakespeare and Ecology

Shakespeare and Ecology

Shakespeare and Ecology

Shakespeare and Ecology

Synopsis

Shakespeare and Ecology shows how environmental problems typically associated with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including pollution, deforestation, and climate change, actually began in Shakespeare's time and are reflected in many of his plays. It illuminates the historical antecedents of modern ecological knowledge and activism, and explores Shakespeare's capacity for generating imaginative and performative responses to today's environmental challenges.

Excerpt

The story of how The Globe (1599) was rebuilt from the reused oak timbers of The Theatre (1576) is well known. Less familiar is the environmental crisis that prompted this thrifty recycling. Shakespeare’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men, were in danger of losing The Theatre because the lease had expired. The landlord, Giles Allen, was threatening to pull down the playhouse and put its wood and timber to other uses. The leaseholders, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, got there before him because a clause in the original agreement made them owners of the building on Allen’s land. In the lead-up to their stealthy dismantling of The Theatre on the icy morning of 28 December 1598, when Allen was away celebrating Christmas in the country, each side had been eyeing the valuable timber and wood.

Its reuse was the lynchpin of a deal between the Burbages and five actor-sharers of the Chamberlain’s Men, including Shakespeare, for building The Globe: the brothers offered to supply the main materials if the sharers contributed to the lesser expenses of construction and maintenance. The Burbages had spent their savings on building an indoor theatre at Blackfriars two years before. Although it had begun to pay them rent, they could not afford to buy new materials because the price of wood and timber had risen 96 per cent over the quarter century since The Theatre had been built. This inflation was the result of southern English woodlands being deforested.

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