National Geographic : 1964 May
New-old A4p Re-creates The BRITAIN of the Bard "N IMBLE THOUGHT can jump both | sea and land," says a Shakespeare S" sonnet. John Speed, a contemporary of the poet, could have adopted the line as his personal motto, for he gave much nimble thought to mapping the land and seas that made up the realm of England. Speed was preparing his maps, now classics of their time, during the same years that Shakespeare was immortalizing his island homeland in words. The coincidence proved a happy one for your Society when it began to plan a map of the Britain Shakespeare wrote about. For who better than John Speed could chart the playwright's principal stage? Hence, one of Speed's plates published in 1611 became the basis for the special map supplement, Shakespeare's Britain, distrib uted to members with this issue.* This latest map is an informative, decora tive companion to "The Britain That Shake speare Knew" (beginning on page 613). It locates the action of Shakespeare's plays in the land he loved best-"that England, hedg'd in with the main, That water-filled bulwark, still secure And confident from foreign pur poses." Play settings are lettered in brown; adjoining tabs name the plays in which the scenes take place. Symbols in brown repre sent towns, abbeys and churches, castles, bat tlefields, and forests and heaths. Forty-five sites are marked, among them the field at Bosworth where Shakespeare's Richard III cries °his last words, "My king dom for a horse!"; Dunsinane in Scotland; 666 and nearby Birnam Wood, whose approach doomed Macbeth. The Forest of Arden, a background for As You Like It, appears near the town Speed calls "Stretford upon Auen." Thus the map is designed to fill a need for relating action to setting. Researchers, in quest of accuracy, leaned heavily upon the scholarship of the famed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D. C. Many people prize Speed's plates for their beauty, although of course they lack the ac curacy of present-day cartography. In Speed's day, Scotland, for example, was considered much larger than it is. On this map it almost touches Ireland, and the channel between the two practically disappears. The longitudes, too, copy Speed, whose prime meridian lay nearly 21 degrees west of Greenwich. Shakespeare's Britain also retains Speed's principal map decorations. GEOGRAPHIC art ist Lisa Biganzoli matches stroke for stroke the Speed rendering of James I's coat of arms, and the lion and unicorn that spring from Shakespeare's queen, Elizabeth I fulfilled his promise, showering "Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings, Which time shall bring to ripe ness." He wrote most of his plays during her reign. Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII (right, upper) won this politic tribute in the Bard's play about the monarch: "I know his noble nature."