#Shakespeare400: (America is) Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On…

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
      The Tempest Act IV.iv. 155–158

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s last plays, generally dated around 1611, about the time of the establishment of the American colonies in Virginia (1607). Shakespeare was well aware of the nascent colonies in this “brave new world”, and the play often focuses on the dramatic tension of native vs. foreigner through the characters of Ariel and Caliban as contrasted with Prospero.

The relationship between native vs. foreigner was a topic in Shakespeare’s time. Colonization offered opportunities to develop commercial enterprises, and to expand the breadth of the British kingdom (not quite an empire….yet!)

In England,  ship records (290) from the early 1600s indicate multiple regular trips across the Atlantic; an estimated 7100 families were relocated.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 21.10.22

A selection from a larger database  recording ship travel across the Atlantic the year The Tempest was offered in London; credit to Anne Stevens did the work.

AmericaWhile The Tempest references the “stuff that dreams are made on” there could be an argument made that Shakespeare presupposed that “stuff” of imagination would be the force that would drive independent minded pilgrims to our American shores.

What better way to end the month of this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare-Britain best commodity- than by celebrating his ability to anticipate our American Dream?

 

 

 

 

 

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