Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations: A Comparative, Stylistic and Thematic Analysis
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Of the many scholars who have undertaken an interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, there are a few who have briefly speculated that Shakespeare might have drawn inspiration for this play from his contemporary Richard Hakluyt. However, none of them has offered sufficient evidence to support this claim. The present thesis provides a gateway to the historical possibility that Shakespeare did borrow from some of Hakluyt’s works--a topic that has previously been scantily studied, if not entirely neglected by scholars in the field. To this purpose, the thesis adopts a comparative and interdisciplinary approach in studying The Tempest and several travel narratives from Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, combining stylistic analysis, including the fundamentals of Transitivity and Social Actors Theory, with principles from postcolonial theory and book historical statistics. It begins by exploring the intellectual space within which modern scholars have situated Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the historical background and sources of Shakespeare’s text, as well as the background of Hakluyt’s life and writings. The thesis then proceeds to a stylistic and thematic comparison of several passages from The Tempest with various excerpts from Hakluyt’s compiled travelogues, revealing an interplay of similarities and appropriations at the level of economics, politics and social theory. Finally, it offers a brief, overall interpretation of The Tempest, based on the findings of the previous thematic and stylistic analyses and on a close reading of the play’s Epilogue.