Sederi Yearbook 20

Sederi 20
Sederi 20 — 2010
Berta Cano Echevarría & Ana Sáez-Hidalgo
Francisco José Borge López
ISSN 1135-7789


Andrew Gurr, “Baubles on the water: sea travel in Shakespeare’s time.” SEDERI 20 (2010): 57-70.


DOI:                                                      Download PDF



The technical features of travel by water, on sea and up rivers, are not registered as strongly as it should be in studies of the Shakespearean period. In his great edition of The Spanish Tragedy Philip Edwards mocked the author’s assumption that the Portuguese Viceroy would have travelled to Spain by sea rather than overland, since the play also notes that the two countries have contiguous boundaries. He did not know how tortuous travel overland from Badajoz to Lisbon could be. A similar ignorance of the routine use of travel by boat around the coast of England and up its main rivers is evident in the studies of playing company travels in the many Records of Early English Drama. Its editors take too little notice of the likelihood that the professional playing companies used London’s shipping to carry their personnel and properties on their journeys round the country. The official records of the Privy Council and other state papers show how important access by river was for all bulk transport through England’s rivers. Shakespeare could well have travelled from London home to Stratford upon Avon by water. John Taylor the Water Poet wrote several verses about his own travels from London by water that amply demonstrate the ease and the familiarity to travellers of going anywhere by sea and river. But it was never an easy business. Shakespeare himself twice used the word “bauble” or “bubble” in different plays to describe the fragile nature of the vessels used for sea travel.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Kyd; water; sea; REED; Taylor.




Primary sources

Green, Everett ed. 1867. Calendar of State Papers Domestic 1591-1594. London: Longman.

Hakluyt, Richard 1589. The Principall Navigations, voiages, and discoveries of the English nation. London: George Bishop and Ralph Newberie.

Lodge, Thomas 1590. Rosalynde. London: Imprinted by Thomas Orwin for T.G. and John Busbie.

Port Books. UK National Archive E190.

Taylor, John 1622. A Verry Merry Wherry-Ferry-Voyage: or Yorke for my money: sometimes perilous, sometimes quarrellous, performed with a paire of oares, by sea from London, by John Taylor and Job Pennell, and written by J. T. London: Imprinted by Edw: All-de.


Secondary sources

Chandler, John ed. 1999. Travels through Stuart Britain: the adventures of John Taylor, the water poet. London: Sutton.

Edwards, Philip 1988. Last Voyages. Cavendish, Hudson, Raleigh. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Edwards, Philip 1997. Sea-Mark. The Metaphorical Voyage, Spenser to Milton. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Gillies, John 1994. Shakespeare and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gurr, Andrew 2004. The Shakespeare Company 1594-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gurr, Andrew 2009. Shakespeare’s Opposites. The Admiral’s Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnston, Alexandra F. et al. eds. 1979-. Records of Early English Drama, Toronto University Press, Toronto.

Kyd, Thomas 1959 (1587?). The Spanish Tragedy. Ed. Philip Edwards. London: Revels Plays, Methuen.

Laureano Domínguez, Lorena 2009. “Pericles’ ‘unknown travels’: the dimensions of geography in Shakespeare’s Pericles.SEDERI 19: 71-97.

Maltby, William S. 1983. Alba: A biography of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo Third Duke of Alba 1507-1582. Berkeley: University of California Press.