Recommend to your Librarian

Request a Review Copy

Spectacular Science, Technology and Superstition in the Age of Shakespeare

Edited by Sophie Chiari, Mickaël Popelard

Paperback (Pre-order)
eBook (ePub) i
eBook (PDF) i

Explores the interaction between science, literature and spectacle in Shakespeare’s era

To the readers who ask themselves: ‘What is science?’, this volume provides an answer from an early modern perspective, whereby science included such various intellectual pursuits as history, poetry, occultism and philosophy. By exploring particular aspects of Shakespearean drama, this collection illustrates how literature and science were inextricably linked in the early modern period. In order to bridge the gap between Renaissance literature and early modern science, the essays collected here focus on a complex intellectual territory situated at the point of juncture between humanism, natural magic and craftsmanship. It is argued that science and literature constantly interacted, thus revealing that what we now call ‘literature’ and what we choose to describe as ‘science’ were not clear-cut categories in Shakespeare’s days but rather a part of common intellectual territory.

Show more


Note on Contributors
Textual Note
General Introduction
I. Popular Beliefs
1. The ‘Science’ of Astrology in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear, François Laroque
2. Staging Devils and Witches: Did Shakespeare Read Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft?, Pierre Kapitaniak
II. Healing and Improving
3. “Remedies For Life”: Curing Hysterica Passio in Shakespeare’s Othello, Macbeth and The Winter’s Tale, Sélima Lejri
4. “More, I prithee, more”: Melancholy, Musical Appetite and Medical Discourse in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Pierre Iselin
5. Saving Perfection from the Alchemists: Shakespeare’s Use of Alchemy, Margaret Jones-Davies
III. Knowledge and (Re)Discoveries
6. Of Mites and Motes: Shakespearean Readings of Epicurean Science, Jonathan Pollock
7. Shakespeare’s Alhazen: Love’s Labour’s Lost and the History of Optics, Anne-Valérie Dulac
8. Shakespeare’s Montaigne: Maps and Books in The Tempest., Frank Lestringant
9. Unlimited Science: the Endless Transformation of Nature in Bacon and Shakespeare, Mickaël Popelard
IV. Mechanical Tropes
10. “Vat is de clock, Jack?”: Shakespeare and the ‘Science’ of Time, Sophie Chiari
11. “Wheels have been set in motion”: Geocentrism and Relativity in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Liliane Campos
Scepticism and the Spectacular: On Shakespeare in an Age of Science, Carla Mazzio
General Bibliography

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).

Mickaël Popelard is Senior Lecturer in English studies at the University of Caen- Normandie, France. He has written several articles on Shakespeare and Bacon, as well as a monograph on Francis Bacon (Francis Bacon: l’humaniste, le magicien, l’ingénieur, 2010) and a book on the figure of the scientist in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (Rêves de puissance et ruine de l'âme: la figure du savant chez Shakespeare et Marlowe, 2010).


This well-conceived and richly informative collection situates Shakespearean drama at the intersection of the arts and sciences in early modern culture. The continuities of knowledge were epitomized in the imaginative possibilities of theater; and Shakespeare here is seen as both a representative and the supreme examplar of an age in which humanism, technology, craftsmanship, philosophy, alchemy, magic and poetry were inextricably interrelated. Historians of both the arts and sciences will find this a valuable and provocative volume.

- Stephen Orgel, Stanford University

You might also like ...