Shakespeare In Love — In Bermuda

December 28, 2010

1GentjpgHer Bermuda honeymoon inspired American romance novelist Kathryn Johnson’s latest book  “Gentleman Poet”, a historical “What If?” novel based on the premise William Shakespeare was inspired to write “The Tempest” because he was aboard the “Sea Venture” when the ship foundered on the island’s reefs.

Set in Bermuda following the 1609 wreck of Admiral Sir George Somers’ ship, the book — published in the US last month – tells the imaginary story of Shakespeare’s relationship with a younger “Sea Venture” passenger on an island then still reputed among mariners to be the haunt of demons.

“When people ask what inspired me to write ‘The Gentleman Poet’, I say, ‘My husband’,” said Ms Johnson, the author of more than 40 books. “In a way, it’s true, because the gem of the plot occurred to me on our honeymoon in Bermuda …

“We found a cruise line that would plan a very private wedding for us (just eight guests allowed) and include our honeymoon cruise to Bermuda. So we were married in the ship’s library (perfect for a writer) and the cruise line supplied a gorgeous cake, champagne, and a lot of little extras that made the trip special.

While we were in Bermuda we toured the Maritime Museum and learned about a legend that connected a real ship wreck off the Bermuda coast in 1609 with Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. It was said that he read an account of the wreck and of the following nine months when the survivors lived on the deserted island while they built a new ship to sail the rest of the way to Jamestown, Virginia.

“What a cool story! I thought. So I got to work imagining, with the help of that account written by William Strachey, what it must have been like for them during those terrifying months so far from England.”

After her honeymoon, Miss Johnson returned to Bermuda to conduct additional research spending two weeks at the Granaway guest house in Warwick.

“I stayed there for two weeks, soaking up the atmosphere,” she said. “It was off-season, so it was chilly and rainy, just as it would have been for Elizabeth, my heroine, and the 149 others marooned there. I chose to blend fact and fiction, rather than write a historical novel so heavily embedded in fact that I had no freedom to fantasise …

1ShakespeareWiki“The one big mental leap I asked my readers to make was to imagine the possibility that Shakespeare (pictured at left) might have not simply read the account by Strachey; he might have actually been on the ship, eager for one last, great adventure as he moved toward the end of his life.

“Gentleman Poet” tells the story Elizabeth Persons, a young servant girl prone to debilitating headaches she knows to be omens of imminent danger. She is one of 150 passengers aboard “Sea Venture” who survive a terrifying hurricane while en route to Virginia and then struggle ashore in Bermuda.

Despairing of rescue, Elizabeth and the others make their home on the uninhabited island for nine long months while they build a new ship to complete their voyage to Jamestown. While there, love blossoms between Elizabeth and the young ship’s cook, and she befriends a mysterious old man — William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s last great play, “The Tempest” was written after published accounts of the hurricane, the ”Sea Venture’s”  subsequent wreck and the true tale of the castaways’ survival in remote Bermuda captured the imagination of 17th-century London. First staged in London in 1611, the play includes language taken almost verbatim from ”Sea Venture” survivor William Strachey’s narrative of the wreck and includes a reference to “the still-vex’d Bermoothes.”

The play has been filmed at least a dozen times with acclaimed director Julie Taymor’s feminist take on the mystical tale of an enchanted island released earlier this month.

Last month a retired American Army chaplain descended from a “Sea Venture” survivor published a Christian historical novel based on the Bermuda wreck.

Read More About

Category: All, Entertainment

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Articles that link to this one:

  1. Bermuda Debunks Film’s Conspiracy Theory : | October 28, 2011