It is probable that Shakespeare observed, or at least heard about, many natural phenomena that occurred during his time, which may have influenced the many references to nature and science that he makes in his work. Although he was very young at the time, he may have witnessed the blazing Stella Nova in 1572, which could explain his reference to the “westward star” in Hamlet. In 1580 there was the Dover Straits earthquake, which was one of the largest in recorded English history and inspired several pamphlets, reports, and even poems about its effect. Additionally, the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 partially due to a freak windstorm, later referred to as a “Protestant wind.” Although these occurrences may seem commonplace today, in Shakespeare’s time they were surprising and intriguing. Even if they did not influence Shakespeare’s work directly, it is clear that he maintained some understanding of the natural and, what we would identify as, the scientific world.
Featured Image: “Miranda – The Tempest” by John William Waterhouse. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.