Shakespeare’s storms

Author: Gwilym Jones

Whether the apocalyptic storm of King Lear or the fleeting thunder imagery of Hamlet, the shipwrecks of the comedies or the thunderbolt of Pericles, there is an instance of storm in every one of William Shakespeare's plays. This is the first comprehensive study of Shakespeare's storms. Shakespeare was remarkably fond of storms, not only in the stage effects he so often calls for, but in the metaphors and similes he gives to his characters. Shakespeare's storms can be read alongside a wide range of storms written by his contemporaries. Several of these other playwrights engage with audience expectations just as Shakespeare does, and utilise them for aesthetic effect. This book argues that Shakespeare's investment in storm in Julius Caesar is a canny, financial one, for Shakespeare seriously considered the impact of the special effects of thunder and lightning when writing staged storms. King Lear speaks to ecocritical ideas about wilderness and shows that the play's representation of nature has been misunderstood. Macbeth details the way in which early modern anxieties about the supernatural allow for, or prompt, a play with discrete weather systems. The book shows that its 'lasting storm' is a performance aesthetic that bridges the divisions and allows us to think more carefully about them. The Tempest highlights the dramatic quality of its presentation of nature. Storms are an important metaphorical figure throughout Shakespeare's plays. They also show Shakespeare testing the limits of theatre and audience before those limits are established.

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Winner of the Shakespeare's Globe Book Award, 2016


‘Gwilym Jones's Shakespeare's Storms offers an engaging and informative discussion of storms — and all of their constituent parts — and the theatrical presentations of those storms.'
Darlene Farabee, University of South Dakota
Renaissance Quarterly Vol LXIX, No. 3
September 2016

‘Jones is evocative in his attempts to imagine the volume and spectacle of these events in a quieter world, one “without traffic and aircraft noises or cinema or volume controls” in which a natural storm might have been “a touchstone of loudness.”'
Elizabeth Scott-Baumann
March 2016

‘'Shakespeare's Storms' overall achievement is to prove the relevance of chasing something as seemingly ephemeral as the weather in order to reveal how such meteorological phenomena shape our relationship to the world around us. It is an original and fascinating study that will be of interest to scholars researching ecocriticism, performance history, and early modern drama from a range of thematic and practical approaches.'
Miranda Fay Thomas, Shakespeare's Globe, London

‘Shakespeare's Storms is a remarkably well-plotted book.'
Edward J. Geisweidt, University of New Haven
Early Theatre 20.1

‘The book is masterfully organised into nine chapters that cover just about every aspect of storms in Shakespeare. Beginning with 'thunder' (a fine way to begin a book).'
Simon C. Estok, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul
Studies in Ecocriticism
February 2017

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