Brave Vessel: The Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest

Hobson Woodward, Author . Viking $25.95 (268p) ISBN 978-0-670-02096-6

In this well-written and expertly paced work of popular scholarship, Woodward, an associate editor of the Adams papers, tells the story of William Strachey, an aspiring poet whose chronicle of a disastrous sea voyage and its aftermath had a profound influence on Shakespeare's The Tempest . Strachey is a fine figure for historical resurrection—he was good friends with John Donne and a passenger on pioneering journeys to the New World, which eventually brought him, aboard the Sea Venture , to Bermuda and the infant Jamestown colony in Virginia. Woodward draws heavily on Strachey's written narrative, often to marvelous effect. This is particularly true of the dramatic storm scenes, in which the entire crew of the Sea Venture nearly perished. Through Strachey, Woodward tells of the conflicts that divided the crew after making landfall in Bermuda and the hardships of replenishing a starving Jamestown's supplies. The heart of the book is Woodward's recreation of Strachey's viewing of The Tempest , which affords the author the opportunity to catalogue the narrative and linguistic parallels between the Sea Venture' s travails and the play—fascinating fodder for the committed Shakespearean source hunter. Maps. (July 13)

Reviewed on: 05/25/2009
Release date: 07/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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