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Shakespeare's Ocean

An Ecocritical Exploration

Dan Brayton

Under the Sign of Nature
Cloth · 280 pp. · 6 x 9 · ISBN 9780813932262 · $45.00 · Apr 2012
Ebook · 280 pp. · ISBN 9780813932279 · $45.00 · Apr 2012

Study of the sea--both in terms of human interaction with it and its literary representation--has been largely ignored by ecocritics. In Shakespeare’s Ocean, Dan Brayton foregrounds the maritime dimension of a writer whose plays and poems have had an enormous impact on literary notions of nature and, in so doing, plots a new course for ecocritical scholarship.

Shakespeare lived during a time of great expansion of geographical knowledge. The world in which he imagined his plays was newly understood to be a sphere covered with water. In vital readings of works ranging from The Comedy of Errors to the valedictory The Tempest, Brayton demonstrates Shakespeare’s remarkable conceptual mastery of the early modern maritime world and reveals a powerful benthic imagination at work.


To sail the ocean with Shakespeare you need a pilot’s local knowledge, a navigator’s perspective, and an ear for the poetics of salt. Dan Brayton brings these maritime tools to bear on early modern literature and contemporary oceanic dilemmas, and he adds his own ecocritical vision and wide experience of the watery world. This book helps reimagine Shakespeare through the ‘strange kinship’ between humans and the sea.

— Steve Mentz, St. John’s University, author of At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean

The book opens with as clear a statement on ecocriticism as I have yet seen. Then Brayton’s abilities as Shakespearean take over, and the result is a steady stream of insights.

— Robert N. Watson, UCLA, author of Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance
About the author

Dan Brayton is Assistant Professor of English and American Literatures at Middlebury College and the coeditor of Ecocritical Shakespeare.


NeMLA Book Prize from Northeast Modern Language Association