Plinny, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Ancient Greek and Latin
Shakespeare utilized his knowledge of Greek and Roman classics when writing his plays. Before the renaissance, these texts had been suppressed by the Catholic Church.
3.1.1 Question Classical
knowledge about how
the world works
The influence of Ovid's Metamorphoses is particularly evident in Prospero's description of his magical accomplishments at the beginning of Act 5. Arthur Golding had published his English translation of the Metamorphoses in 1567 and there are many close verbal parallels between his translation of the witch Medea's celebration of her magic powers and that of Prospero. However, it is significant that this speech marks Prospero's renunciation of his magic while the murderous Medea is very definitely holding on to hers. Ovid's dangerous witch can also be seen as an inspiration hovering behind Sycorax, Prospero's predecessor on the island. Shakespeare takes his disguise for Ariel as a Harpy from Virgil's Aeneid, in which a flock of the ravening, monstrous creatures descend on a group of men in order to plunder their feast.
Montaigne's Of Cannibals, translated from the French by John Florio in 1603, is another clear influence on Shakespeare. Montaigne examines the contrast between so-called primitive societies and those that pride themselves on their civilization. Montaigne argues that the 'civilized' man condemns as barbaric that which he neither knows nor understands, while he is blind to the barbarities of his own society's customs of torture and cruel execution.
Broadly speaking, the renaissance movement is used to describe how Europeans moved away from the restrictive ideas of the Middle Ages. The ideology that dominated the Middle Ages was heavily focused on the absolute power of God and was enforced by the formidable Catholic Church.
From the Fourteenth Century onwards, people started to break away from this idea. The renaissance movement did not necessarily reject the idea of God, but rather questioned humankind’s relationship to God – an idea that caused an unprecedented upheaval in the accepted social hierarchy. In fact, Shakespeare himself may have been Catholic.
3.3 Printing Press
3.4 Expanding Horizons
A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colony in Virginia, published in 1610, was a report by the Virginia Company about its affairs, claiming land in America on behalf of the English Crown. While none of these three is a direct source of the plot of Shakespeare's play, there is no doubt that they were part of the cultural and intellectual climate which stimulated and influenced the dramatist's imagination.
3.4.1 Sir Francis Drake
3.4.2 Sea voyages and shipwreck
Shakespeare's imagination was inspired by the shipwreck described in William Strachey's letter of 1610. In the same year, Sylvester Jourdain published A Discovery of the Bermudas. Jourdain had been with Strachey on the ship as it was driven off-course and shipwrecked in Bermuda, and his account exerted its influence on Shakespeare too.