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Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  30 Apr 2020

30 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

Using geosciences and mythology to locate Prospero’s Island

Tiziana Lanza Tiziana Lanza
  • Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) Rome, Italy

Abstract. The Tempest, the last work entirely attributed to William Shakespeare, has been subject to many studies and interpretations, ranging from adventure, Shakespeare’s biography to colonialism and cultural revolution and is studied in this paper in the context of natural hazard. The play tells about a magician, Prospero, and his daughter who are shipwrecked on an unknown island where they encounter strange creatures and beings. It is the same island where King Alonso and his crew shipwreck twelve years later. But is it a fantastic island or was the author inspired by a real place? Literary scholars have done several hypotheses through the years based on historical sources. Indeed, analysing the verses describing the tempest in the light of geosciences and mythology supports the hypothesis that Shakespeare was inspired by the Mediterranean. We don’t intend to identify the island, we believe the island is a polyhedral place both from a philosophical-political and from a geographical-environmental point of view. Nevertheless, some verses of the play suggest volcanism placing the island in the Sicilian sea. This underlines once again how deep the knowledge of the playwright about Italy was. It also suggests that this part of the Mediterranean was known, at the time of Shakespeare, as the theatre of phenomena originated by the volcanism of the area. One implication would be that the Shakespeare could have used sources precious to reconstruct geological events occurred out off the Sicilian coast.

Tiziana Lanza

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Tiziana Lanza

Tiziana Lanza


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Short summary
The paper brings in a scientific context a classical debate within the literary scholars' community: the sources that William Shakespeare used for the Tempest. The play is studied in the context of natural hazard, suggesting that geosciences can help to move the debate forward adding new elements. The paper collects then all the hints that can help placing the island in a Mediterranean context, indicating the playwright as a witness of volcanism in the Sicilian sea.
The paper brings in a scientific context a classical debate within the literary scholars'...