(Randall Martin’s article appeared on Folger’s Shakespeare & Beyond, 4/18; via Pam Green.)
What does Shakespeare say about ecology and its politically engaged cousin environmentalism? Neither term appears in his work—unsurprising since they hadn’t been coined yet. Nevertheless, we see Shakespeare thinking ecologically in ways that resonate with our own perceptions of the environmental challenges we face today.
He was writing when early capitalism, globalized trade, and colonialism were beginning to extend Western and masculine ideals of conquering nature around the world. Responding imaginatively to these developments, Shakespeare recognizes the limits nature imposes on human exploitation, the necessity of conserving the bio-integrity of ecosystems for human and non-human benefit, and the earth’s absolute power to overrule human attempts at domination.
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