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Shakespeare’s Representation of Weather, Climate and Environment

The Early Modern ‘Fated Sky’

Sophie Chiari

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The first in-depth exploration of Shakespeare’s representations of climate and the sky

While ecocritical approaches to literary texts receive more and more attention, climate-related issues remain fairly neglected, particularly in the field of Shakespeare studies. This monograph explores the importance of weather and changing skies in early modern England while acknowledging the fact that traditional representations and religious beliefs still fashioned people’s relations to meteorological phenomena. At the same time, a growing number of literati stood against determinism and defended free will, thereby insisting on the ability to act upon celestial forces. Sophie Chiari argues that Shakespeare reconciles the scholarly approaches of his time with popular views rooted in superstition and promotes a sensitive, pragmatic understanding of climatic events. Taking into account the influence of classical thought, each of the book’s seven chapters addresses a different play where sky-related topics are crucial and considers the way climatic phenomena were presented on stage and how they came to shape the production and reception of Shakespeare’s drama.

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Textual Note
1. ‘We see / The seasons alter’: Climate Change in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2. ‘[T]he fire is grown too hot!’: Romeo and Juliet and the dog days
3. ‘Winter and rough weather’: Arden’s sterile climate
4. Othello: Shakespeare’s À bout de souffle
5. ‘The pelting of [a] pitiless storm’: Thunder and lightning in King Lear
6. Clime and Slime in Anthony and Cleopatra
7. The I/Eye of the Storm: Prospero’s Tempest
Conclusion: ‘Under heaven’s eye’

About the Author

Sophie Chiari is Professor of Early Modern English Literature at Clermont Auvergne University, France. She has written several books and articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her recent publications include Shakespeare’s Anatomy of Wit: Love’s Labour’s Lost (2014) and As You Like It: Shakespeare’s Comedy of Liberty (2016). She also recently edited The Circulation of Knowledge in Early Modern English Literature (2015).


A brilliant and bold contribution to both Shakespeare studies and to the emerging field of eco-criticism. Eloquently written, this is a thorough literary analysis of the status of the elements and environment as symbols, metaphors and crucially, as material phenomena.

- Dympna C. Callaghan, Syracuse University

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