Englishing the Globe: Navigational Technology on and Around Shakespeare’s Stages

  • Adam Max Cohen


In 1598 a printer named Peter Short produced an edition of one of Shakespeare’s most popular stage plays, 1 Henry IV, and one of his two long narrative poems, The Rape of Lucrece. Two years later Short printed a revolutionary treatise on magnetism by Dr. William Gilbert entitled, On the Magnet, Magnetic Bodies also, and on the Great Magnet the Earth. Gilbert’s treatise explained such phenomena as the earth’s magnetic field and the nature and behavior of various types of magnets. In it Gilbert waxed lyrical in his praise of the compass needle, calling it the “finger of God” and “the soul of the mariner’s compass” that “indicates the course, and has pointed out the whole way around the earth.”1 Gilbert placed the compass in a class by itself, asserting that “no invention of man’s device has ever done more for mankind than the compass.”2 He believed that the apparent simplicity of the compass made the tool all the more remarkable:

An oblong piece of iron of three or four digits’ length, when skillfully rubbed with a lodestone, quickly turns north and south. Wherefore mechanicians, taking a piece of iron prepared in this way, balance it on a pin in a box, and fit it up with the requisites of a sun-dial.3


Dead Reckoning Early Modern Period Heavenly Body Line Technique Small Globe 
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  1. 5.
    See Thomas Blundeville, The Making, Description and Use of two most Ingenious and Necessary Instruments for Sea-men to find out the latitudechrw(133) in the darkest nightchrw(133) first invented by my good friend Master Dr. Gilbert (1602).Google Scholar
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© Adam Max Cohen 2006

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  • Adam Max Cohen

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