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Spectacular Science, Technology and Superstition in the Age of Shakespeare$
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Sophie Chiari and Mickaël Popelard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474427814

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474427814.001.0001

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The ‘Science’ of Astrology in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear

The ‘Science’ of Astrology in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear

Chapter:
(p.29) Chapter 1 The ‘Science’ of Astrology in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear
Source:
Spectacular Science, Technology and Superstition in the Age of Shakespeare
Author(s):

François Laroque

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474427814.003.0002

In chapter 1, François Laroque explores the paradoxical purposes of the science of astrology in two plays, namely Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, and in his sonnets. The craze for astrology clearly found its way into Shakespeare’s poetry. Take Sonnet 14, for example, where the speaker deliberately poses as a mock-astrologer, or Sonnet 107, where he playfully redefines what ‘poetic’ astrology should be, as his own astrological skills enable him to read the eyes of the young man as if they were two fixed stars. Astrology is therefore taken seriously, even though Shakespeare seeks to enlarge its meaning. In the plays, it can even be a structural device. Laroque argues that, in Romeo and Juliet, the “ancient grudge” of the Montagues and the Capulets is marked right from the beginning by its astrological connotations. Interestingly, Shakespeare kept thinking of the influence of the planets throughout his career, for a much later play like King Lear is similarly concerned with stars and disasters. The vivid opposition between Gloucester and Edmond allows Laroque to demonstrate that the playwright was particularly interested in the controversies that then emerged over the validity of the old science of astrology, even though Shakespeare refuses to take sides.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Astrology, Zodiac, Influence, Calendar, Nativity

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