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Shakespeare and Ecology$
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Randall Martin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567027

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199567027.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 May 2021

Ecological Modernity in Shakespeare: an overview

Ecological Modernity in Shakespeare: an overview

Chapter:
Ecological Modernity in Shakespeare: an overview
Source:
Title Pages
Author(s):

Randall Martin

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199567027.003.0005

The story of how The Globe (1599) was rebuilt from the reused oak timbers of The Theatre (1576) is well known. Less familiar is the environmental crisis that prompted this thrifty recycling. Shakespeare’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men, were in danger of losing The Theatre because the lease had expired. The landlord, Giles Allen, was threatening to pull down the playhouse and put its wood and timber to other uses. The leaseholders, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, got there before him because a clause in the original agreement made them owners of the building on Allen’s land. In the lead-up to their stealthy dismantling of The Theatre on the icy morning of 28 December 1598, when Allen was away celebrating Christmas in the country, each side had been eyeing the valuable timber and wood. Its reuse was the lynchpin of a deal between the Burbages and five actor-sharers of the Chamberlain’s Men, including Shakespeare, for building The Globe: the brothers offered to supply the main materials if the sharers contributed to the lesser expenses of construction and maintenance. The Burbages had spent their savings on building an indoor theatre at Blackfriars two years before. Although it had begun to pay them rent, they could not afford to buy new materials because the price of wood and timber had risen 96 per cent over the quarter century since The Theatre had been built. This inflation was the result of southern English woodlands being deforested. Ancient English woodland and forests had been shrinking throughout the middle ages. By Henry VIII’s time the pace began to accelerate. Worried about timber supplies for shipbuilding, the government took the first steps—largely ineffective—to manage depletions. Climactic and demographic pressures aggravated overexploitation, and by the 1590s caused a fuel crisis in south-east England and the country’s first major environmental controversy. Similar to the threat of warming global temperatures today, the stresses on southern English woodland—at that time the country’s most essential but finite natural resource—reached an ecological turning point. A solution was in the offing, but it was a highly ambivalent one.

Keywords:   Aelian, Climate change, Deep ecology, Ecofeminism, Foodwebs, Grafting, Hamlet, Hybridization, King John, Localism

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