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Shakespeare Unlimited podcast

Shakespeare and the Ocean, with Steve Mentz

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 217

Today, we sail the seven seas with Shakespeare. In addition to being a dedicated swimmer, Steve Mentz is a professor at St. John’s University. His books, including 2009’s At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean, connect literary criticism with marine ecology. Mentz talks with Barbara Bogaev about Shakespeare’s oceanic metaphors, how much Shakespeare really knew about the ocean, and what plays like The Tempest, King Lear, and Twelfth Night can teach us as we face rising sea levels and more destructive storms.

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Steve Mentz is a Professor of English at St. John’s University. His new book, An Introduction to the Blue Humanities, is out now from Routledge. He is a former Folger fellow and a frequent participant in the Folger Institute’s scholarly programs.

From the Folger’s Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published August 29, 2023. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This episode was produced by Matt Frassica. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. Leo Fernandez edits our transcripts. We had technical help from Robert Scaramuccia in New Haven and Jenna McClelland at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

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How to Swim, Shakespeare-style

From the Folger’s collection: a woodcut image from Sir Everard Digby’s swimming manual, De arte natandi libri du, 1587.


MICHAEL WITMORE: On this week’s episode, we’ll take a deep dive into Shakespeare’s oceanic metaphors. From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger Director.

Summer is coming to a close here in the northern hemisphere, and that means the start of another academic year awaits us. But, before we have to leave the beach behind, we thought we’d bring you a dispatch from the seaside. Specifically, the part of Long Island Sound where Professor Steve Mentz of St. John’s University swims each day at high tide.

Mentz’s work draws our attention from the green world of the land to the blue of the ocean. He’s the author of several books of criticism that connect literature with marine ecology. He wrote the volume Ocean for Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, as well as a critical study of shipwrecks. His most recent book is called An Introduction to the Blue Humanities.

For Mentz, the ocean represents an unforgiving, inhospitable environment. We can visit it as swimmers, but we can’t live there. And as the sea level rises, it forces us to adapt… or get out of the way.

Mentz devoted his first book on this watery theme to Shakespeare. Published in 2009, At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean picks up on oceanic themes at work in his plays. As a new maritime power, England in the 16th and 17th centuries was gripped by “sea fever.” In plays such as The Tempest, Othello, and King Lear, Mentz finds traces of this oceanic obsession.

Mentz has collaborated with the Folger on several projects. In 2010, he curated an exhibit at the Folger called “Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550–1750.” And in 2019, he co-organized a conference for the Folger Institute called “Creating Nature: Premodern Climate and the Environmental Humanities.”

Here’s Steve Mentz, in conversation with Barbara Bogaev.

I know you’re a big swimmer. Did you come up with the idea to write this book while you were swimming in an ocean?

STEVE MENTZ: You know, that’s a good question. I’m not sure if I had the idea to write this book while I was swimming, but I certainly sort of worked over and refined many of the sentences in that book and in subsequent books while I was swimming.

My favorite practice, if I’m working on a moment in a book or a naughty question of theory or interpretation, is to sort of take a swim with a sentence or two and I just run it through my mind as I go out in the water.

You know, I can’t obviously write anything down because I’m swimming, but I do try out a certain rhythm and then try out a slightly different rhythm. And usually by the time I get back, you know, 45 minutes or so later, I’ve got at least a line or two shaped the way I want them to be shaped. Then I can go from there.

BOGAEV: Oh, this is great. I feel like you’ve given us a mindset to start talking about this, like a preface to your preface. Which is what I’m going to quote right now. Which is, you write that, “We need a poetic history of the ocean, and Shakespeare, somewhat surprisingly, can help us tell one.”

This is the preface to your earlier book, At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean. First, why do we need a poetic history of the sea?

MENTZ: Well, I think, we need to take account of the ocean more intensely today because the ocean is coming to find us, right? In an age of rising sea levels and increasing frequency of destructive storms, water is getting into places where we don’t want it to be: into our neighborhoods, into our basements, into our streets and infrastructure.

I think that a poetic history of the oceans told through Shakespeare and other, you know, figures from cultural history is going to enable us to understand what it means to live intimately with saltwater and also with other forms of water.

BOGAEV: Now to the second part of that. Why is it somewhat surprising that Shakespeare would help us tell a poetic history of the sea?

MENTZ: Well, I think that Shakespeare is… it shouldn’t be surprising that almost anything is in Shakespeare. Because he’s such an encyclopedic and voracious writer that he finds everything in the world and tries to grapple with it in his writing.

But, I think that if you compare Shakespeare to a writer like Herman Melville, who was himself a sailor and a mariner and a whaleman—You know, as far as we know, Shakespeare did not spend significant time at sea. He grew up near the Avon River in the Midlands in England. And, he clearly knows something—he also lived in London—so he clearly knows something about waterborne labor and waterborne culture.

I mean, he does have an awareness of global maritime trade, which is starting to affect England in the late 16th, early 17th century during his lifetime. I think that he is able to respond to the increasing centrality of waterborne transport in European and especially English national culture.

BOGAEV: I want to pick up on that, but first I want to go back a little and talk about what meanings the oceans held for writers before Shakespeare, so that we can understand how he departs from them. What history were they telling?

MENTZ: Sure. I mean, Shakespeare, of course, is thinking a lot about the history of classical literature and classical representations of mariners such as Odysseus and Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid.

The position of the shipwrecked sailor is a kind of iconic position of suffering in an uncomfortable and dangerous environment. The traditional understanding of that is that the reason the sailor suffers shipwreck is because the gods are angry, in the case of Odysseus or Aeneas. Or, God is angry, in the Christian tradition: In the case of someone like Jonah, whose ship is wrecked because Jonah is disobeying God in the in the Hebrew scriptures.

In Shakespeare’s time, that traditional kind of theological understanding comes into contact with an increasing understanding of empirical and scientific ways of making sense of the sea. You have an increasing sense of scientific and oceanographic understandings of how sea travel works. Meteorology is still in its infancy, at least as a predictive science, but the increasingly accurate mapping and understandings of things like prevailing winds and currents is making it possible to come up with other empirical explanations of why certain ships don’t get to the places that they’re going.

BOGAEV: Then, on top of that, you have the Elizabethans and the Tudors encountering all these new realities of trade and European expansion. As you write, it was a time of 16th-century writers “sea fever.”

MENTZ: Yes. Oh, absolutely. I mean, you have the arrival into the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th century. And then, the bringing back to Europe, all these stories about the people who lived in Patagonia and in the Caribbean and in Mexico and in Peru, which are really setting on fire the imaginations of European writers in the late 16th and early 17th century, when Shakespeare’s writing.

BOGAEV: Well, great. Okay, let’s get into the texts. Why don’t we start with the wateriest, as you do in At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean. You start with The Tempest and Ariel’s song. So, “Full fathom five, thy father lies.” Why don’t you remind us of the song and the context and the narrative it tells.

MENTZ: Yeah, Ariel’s song, which is, right—it’s the place I start in the book. It is, you know, in some ways, the kind of center of Shakespeare’s sea poetics.

It’s a song that describes the drowned body of the king. The king who—I’ll come back to this in a minute—who is actually not drowned. He’s safely on shore and has even had his clothes dry-cleaned by the magician Prospero. But, the song is about the consequences—aesthetic, philosophical, and physical—of being in the sea. “Those are pearls that were his eyes,” “Nothing of him but… doth suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange.”

It’s about transformation. And I think it’s traditional to read this as a kind of symbol of Shakespeare’s art. I think that’s the way T. S. Eliot reads it when he quotes it in The Wasteland. It’s the way, you know, generations of Shakespeare critics and interpreters have understood the sea change as a representation of what art does. Turns an ordinary thing into a beautiful and valuable thing.

One of the things that I wanted to add to that long history of interpreting Ariel’s song is that it’s also a description of the corrosive effects of salt water on human bodies. That it is true that the presence of saltwater changes human bodies and also human cultures. But, the idea that the corrosive effect of salt water is both deadly and also transforming and transfiguring. That’s what I wanted to, sort of, draw out of that.

It also seems really important to me that it’s completely false, that the king isn’t dead. He’s not at the bottom of the sea. Five fathoms is not actually all that deep. It’s probably—I mean, in the clear waters of the Mediterranean or possibly Bermuda, which is one of the other possible locations for this this island, you know, you can see five fathoms down. You can probably swim to it if you if you’re, like, really determined to.

BOGAEV: Well, I should have known this, but I didn’t realize a fathom is just, what?

MENTZ: Yeah, it’s just six feet.

BOGAEV: Yea, six feet. So, that’s only 30 feet.

MENTZ: Yeah, so it’s like—it’s far, but if you really want to get there you can probably get there and you can probably see it, at least if the weather’s good. So it’s not like the inaccessible bottom which Shakespeare writes about in other places and at other moments. But it’s this—it’s exactly the border between the sea that we have access to, which is mostly the top of the sea, and the sea that we don’t have access. Five fathoms is the transitional moment… the sea is accessible up to that point and then becomes inaccessible after that.

BOGAEV: Why is that significant? What does that mean to you?

MENTZ: Because I think that Shakespeare is using that place, that borderline of the accessible and inaccessible to—as a representation of how humans interact with the ocean. That we can go into it. That we love to go into the ocean to a certain depth and we can’t go any farther, right? It is this border space. It is both a place that we can arrive to and enter, partly, but with difficulty, only up to a point. Then, we have to get out as soon as we can in order to survive. That’s as far as we can go.

And I think Shakespeare is really fascinated with that place. Like, where’s the farthest that we can get to? What happens if we imagine that place as a source of value, and also a source of beauty, and also a source of threat?

BOGAEV: Well you also, in this chapter, land on the idea that the ocean symbolizes a resistance to monarchism in The Tempest. So unpack that for us, please.

MENTZ: Sure, I mean, it is an image of the dead king, right? It is—I think this connects also to the anti-authoritarian rhetoric of the boatswain in the first scene, just before Ariel’s song. The boatswain is saying, you know, “What cares these roarers for the name of king?”

The idea that the storm—and in particular, the skilled labor of the sailor in the storm—That when that sailor is using his skilled labor to preserve the ship, the king just gets in the way.

Shakespeare wonderfully stages this for us, right? He has a whole bunch of Italian aristocrats come on board and get in the way of the sailor. And the sailor says, “Get out of my way. I have work to do,” you know? He’s trying to survive this through technical labor—and Shakespeare throws in a little bit of maritime vocabulary that he almost certainly got from reading books not from sailing on ships—But he stages this conflict between the hands-on knowledge of the practical sailor and the theoretical authority. You know, “Use your authority,” says the boatswain. “And if you can, I will not hand a rope more.” In other words, “If it’s true that kings have this magical ability to create order, then try it out and see how it works if you’re on a ship in storm.”

BOGAEV: Yeah, “Good luck. See how it works.”

I just went to an immersive Tempest and they had us all kind of in, hanging out with a bar and drinks in a ship. They had built the lobby into a ship. Then the storm started with all the bells and whistles and the actors were pushing us out of the way. I mean, the one percent was so useless in this storm.

MENTZ: Yes, exactly. Yeah, I love that. I’m always fascinated to see how different productions handle the storm scene, which I think is really hard to do. Because it’s precisely about the limits of theatrical representation. Like, what you can do with actors on stage? I’ve been to some wet ones.

BOGAEV: Splash zone.

MENTZ: I’ve been in a splash zone. The more disruptive the better, from my point of view. Like, that scene, it seems to me is designed to be really disruptive and difficult.

BOGAEV: Right, you want to feel it.

MENTZ: “The tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard.” That’s the stage direction.

BOGAEV: All right, so you key in on “fathom” in Ariel’s song. But, you also focus on another word, “yare,” or, “yarely.” What does it mean and why is it significant? And, is it related to that wonderful line in the Philadelphia Story movie?

MENTZ: Yes, it

BOGAEV: “My, she was yar.”

MENTZ: “My, she was yar.” Yes, it’s the same word. It’s an old—it’s actually an old English word meaning “craft” or “skill.”

And, it is a word—and again, in the Philadelphia Story, it’s obviously used to describe a ship, and indirectly, the Catherine Hepburn character. But the idea is that it is a technical representation of seaworthiness and ability to survive in the hostile oceanic or watery environment.

When the boatswain uses it, it strikes me as this wonderful, technical, linguistic representation of his kind of labor. You know, if the king represents authority or monarchy the boatswain is skilled, that kind of practical hands-on technical skill, as opposed to theoretical or philosophical authority strikes me as the thing that the boatswain represents.

BOGAEV: You’ve already made it clear Shakespeare really didn’t know much about ships or sailing or maritime language, but except what he learned in books.

MENTZ: Well, he learned about it from books.

BOGAEV: Did he even swim in the ocean or even a river, the river he lived near? A lot of people didn’t know how to swim, right?

MENTZ: Swimming, in this era, is a relatively unusual skill. There is—one of the first English-language, or translated out of the Latin, “How to Swim” manuals gets produced in the 1590s, I believe—so, during Shakespeare’s adult lifetime—by Everard Digby, who was a professor at Cambridge, so he’s clearly swimming in the rivers outside Cambridge. It’s a little bit controversial. It actually was banned for undergraduates at Cambridge for a period of time in the ‘90s, maybe because they were not being safe.

But, it is both a… you know, it’s a thing that people are obviously somewhat interested in. We see swimming characters in Shakespeare and in Spencer and in other 16th-century English poets. But, it’s not a common skill, and there would have been relatively few people who could teach you.

BOGAEV: Well, so it’s interesting that you pair The Tempest with King Lear. I kind of get it, because the whole of the play, Lear, is out in a storm, so there are a lot of watery images and raging at the gods. Getting back to the idea of, you know, why the sea is so inhospitable.

But you argue that that means Lear becomes a maritime play in these storm scenes. So why? What does it mean to you to put it in that context or to phrase it that way?

MENTZ: For me, the second half of Lear becomes a maritime play in the sense that it’s a play about living or trying to live in an inhospitable environment. That the ocean is our, you know… like, it’s the part of the world which is least hospitable to human thriving or abiding. That we can go there, but not to stay.

That moment, in the second half of Lear, when he is exposed to the storm, When he goes into the hovel with poor Tom, and poor Tom is saying,
“Fathom and half, fathom and half”—You know, measuring the water that’s starting to fill up the hovel where he is taking shelter. Obviously, I’m thinking about the echo of that word. “Fathom” is the word in Ariel’s song. “Fathom” is the word in poor Tom’s hovel.

BOGAEV: And now we know it’s only nine feet he’s talking about… which is a lot, though, when you’re in a cave.

MENTZ: It’s a lot if you’re inside. But, yes, I think about the kind of way in which water sweeps into England in the second half of King Lear as a moment in which the landscape becomes the inhospitable seascape.

Reading King Lear as an environmental play—which is one of the things that, you know, a lot of my own work is really trying to think about, Shakespeare and literary works more generally as equipment for living in a time of ecological crisis—one of the things that Lear does and The Tempest, in a slightly different way, is [it] shows us what happens if we get immersed. We have to figure out strategies for living in a world that is wetter and saltier and less hospitable than the world that we thought we were growing up in.

BOGAEV: What strategies suggest themselves when you look at the play that way?

MENTZ: In Lear, you know. I mean, Lear is a tough one because the only strategy is to hang on until you can’t hang on anymore, right? Like, it is purely a kind of…

BOGAEV: Until almost everyone you love dies and then you die.

MENTZ: It’s a question of endurance. And, you know, endurance is ultimately unendurable, right? “Break, heart, I prithee, break,” is the kind of emotional core of the second half of King Lear.

I think that there are other plays, including The Tempest, including Twelfth Night, that suggest that there are strategies, social and human and political strategies, which might have to do with the way we treat refugees, for example, that enable us to survive in a flooded and flooding world.

I also think a lot about swimming as both a metaphorical and a practical practice. Not just because I swim every day in the summertime, but also because the idea of training one’s body to survive at least for periods of time in an inhospitable environment strikes me as a way of making sense of what it is like to be living in an inhospitable world.

BOGAEV: Okay, Lear is a hard one. Let’s move on to Othello, which is a play that I don’t think is having much to do with the sea. You can see that we don’t see the sea, the ocean that much, but that it surrounds the play. So remind us where it pops up. There is a sea storm—

MENTZ: Yep, there is a sea storm, which, you know… like, Othello, starts out as if it’s going to be a play about war. In which the political elite in Venice say, “Othello, okay, you may have run off with a fancy Venetian heiress, but what we really need you to do is to fight against the Turkish navy, because the Turkish navy is about to invade Venetian territory.”

It seems like it’s going to be a war play—you know, one of the history plays or something. But then the storm comes. The storm completely annihilates the Turkish fleet and it ends up being a play about domestic life.

One of the things we know about Othello is he’s much more prepared to fight Turkish fleets and armies, and much less prepared to deal with the uncertainties and the mysteries of married life and domestic life on shore.

BOGAEV: Which is interesting, given this whole conversation. He’s much more creature of the ocean in that sense.

MENTZ: Although, I mean, the sailor in Othello is Iago. Iago’s vocabulary is full of little nods to knots and other elements of sailor’s technical language.

There is this way in which Iago—although we don’t know that he is a mariner per se—his particular skill, a manipulative skill, has some kind of connection to the ways in which sailors manipulate their environment.

BOGAEV: Yeah, and you key in here in the word “compass.”

MENTZ: Yeah. He is attuned to the fragility of a compass, right? The compass is a tool for order on a space of disorder and disorientation in the space of the sea. Iago is particularly good at breaking all the things that Othello uses to keep himself compassed, to keep himself enclosed and whole and stable.

And, you know, he will over the course of the play, remove all of those from Othello. He will strip away the various kinds of order and authority that Othello believes that he has. All of which are, you know, unraveled, if you will, by his sergeant, his ancient.

BOGAEV: That’s an interesting dichotomy or contrast you set up. That Iago’s constantly changing. He’s this agent of chaos and there is something really rigid, it seems unhealthily rigid, about Othello. And he’s often played that way on stage. I feel like I’m pushed to see him that way.

MENTZ: I mean, I think Othello’s rigidity, his lack of flexibility, is associated in the play with his kind of fear of the ocean or fear of water. Fear of dissolution.

He has that long speech about the Pontic sea in which he says that that he understands himself in opposition to the movement and violence of the sea. He is going to be the stubborn, the stable, element of meaning, in opposition to the changeable sea. He is going to be perfectly still and reliable.

I think that that is… like, there’s obviously something admirable about it. But it is ultimately—and I think this is the thing that Shakespeare is really getting at in this play—that to set yourself up as the icon of stability is also setting yourself up to fracture. To break. To be unable to respond to change as change inflicts itself in your world.

BOGAEV: Okay, switching gears completely, why do we need Moby Dick to look at Comedy of Errors? I should say, throughout your work you do discuss many writers of seas and oceans from Derek Walcott to Melville. And you already referenced Moby Dick earlier. But why is Moby Dick such a touch point?

MENTZ: Yeah. I mean, Moby Dick is—in addition to Shakespeare—Moby Dick is the sea story that I come back to the most in my work and my thinking. It is the, you know, the great 19th-century American novel of oceanic globalization.

BOGAEV: It’s like the Britannica, the Encyclopedia Britannica, of the ocean.

MENTZ: It has everything in it. Especially all the whale facts you could possibly want.

So, I think, about Comedy of Errors—I mean, the moment in Moby Dick that I link explicitly to Comedy of Errors is the moment in which Pip is drowning, or he’s been left to drown—he’ll be picked up eventually—and he has this vision of divinity.

That’s the opening scene or the backstory opening scene of Comedy of Errors, right? In which the two Antipholuses and their two servants are shipwrecked and separated and they have this experience of the rupture of shipwreck as a moment of, you know, a glimpse behind the veil into the supernatural order of the world. For Melville—

BOGAEV: And they’re transformed. Transcribed.

MENTZ: Yeah, and they’re transformed geographically, physically. I mean, they still look alike, which is why it’s the comedy, but they are radically transformed. And the project of the play is to reunite them.

You know, again, the story of Pip in Moby Dick, who gets a glimpse into the radical divine structures that sit behind shipwreck and immersion, and it drives him mad. So, again, Melville, in the story of Pip, tells a tragedy about shipwreck and immersion that Shakespeare will transform, at least in that play, into a comedy.

I think that the insight [of] being subject to the power of the sea is the shared starting point, both for Comedy of Errors and for Moby Dick.

BOGAEV: Comedy of Errors, first of all, no one can keep it straight, and we’re just going to leave it at that. That’s okay. You explained what you were talking about very well.

But Comedy of Errors, and you point out Twelfth Night also, they both explore a society saturated with ocean. So, there’s a beach culture there?

Barbie’s Ken could have just ruled Illyria?

MENTZ: Yeah, I was wondering about that. Whose job is “beach?” I think it might be Viola’s job, although she’s more eloquent perhaps. And, you know, like, the whole question of whether Viola is a Barbie or a Ken is of course one of the great mysteries of the play—

BOGAEV: Oh, that’s one for the ages.

MENTZ: You know, I’ve seen productions of it that make it a kind of beach culture, a Caribbean culture. I kind of like them. But, the idea of the play as, you know, [being set] in a place of festivities seems really central.

Even though Olivia is in mourning and Orsina is in love melancholy at the beginning. Like, there’s something about—particularly the energy of Sir Toby. That, you know, like Sir Toby is definitely the kind of person you’d like to run into on your beach occasion.

BOGAEV: Oh, hell yes. [LAUGHTER]

MENTZ: The guy who would be at the next table, but you’d soon know all there is to know about him.

But, the idea, the kind of surge of festivity in the play is… seems to me associated… It doesn’t necessarily come from beach culture in Shakespeare’s time. But it seems to connect to beach culture in the present and in the long history of beach recreation since the 18th century.

BOGAEV: Okay, now we’re going to bring it full circle because humans survived the sea in Twelfth Night. But in Timon of Athens, the seashore is Timon’s final resting place. What does this and Timon’s words in this play say about the evolution of Shakespeare’s thinking about the seas?

MENTZ: Yeah. I mean, I would not want to suggest that there’s a kind of progression in Shakespeare from happier seas to catastrophic or destructive seas.

BOGAEV: Well, we’re not really sure when he wrote what.

MENTZ: Well, that, exactly. It’s clearly… I mean, we do think that The Tempest is later than Timon. But the chronologies, I think, are still somewhat uncertain.

I do think that Timon is really committed to the deadliness of the environment, you know? To being an environment which is ultimately unsurvivable. I think that’s also true of the second half of Lear. Obviously, those are plays that are connected to each other, probably in time and in poetics or in, kind of, nihilistic grandeur, I guess.

But, the way in which Timon of Athens understands the sea, the kind of restless, always moving, unstable sea as the ideal resting place for its misanthropic hero, it’s because there is nothing permanent about the sea. That there can be no monument that will stay. That is the appropriate place to erase Timon, this character who rejects everything that society had to offer or to take from him. So, he goes into this—I mean, in some ways it’s a dissolution. It’s a moment in which the corrosive force of the sea will dissolve Timon. It’s not, in some ways, unlike what happens, at least in the imagination, to the king in Ariel’s song, to bring it back full circle in our conversation.

BOGAEV: Or Ahab.

MENTZ: Yes, or Ahab, who also goes down with the whale. In the book I do think about Timon and Ahab as parallel tragic figures. That the moment in which, you know—there’s an aesthetic version of this in Ariel’s song—in which the thing that comes back from the loss of the king into the waters is coral and pearls and beauty.

Then, there’s a kind of deeply human and tragic one, which comes in Timon, and in Lear, and in Moby Dick as well, right? That there’s just like the ultimate evacuation of this massive, titanic human presence.

BOGAEV: We had Billy Collins on the program not too long ago, and he has that poem where he imagines Shakespeare sitting next to him on an airplane. It made me wonder if you take Shakespeare with you into the water?

MENTZ: Certainly I take lines of Shakespeare with me into the water all the time, right? I mean I spent—and especially, like, if I’m in the middle of the semester. If I’m getting ready to teach King Lear or Hamlet or The Tempest or something. I will often, sort of like, revisit some of the central passages that I know I’m going to try to make available, make fully available to the students the next day.

So, yeah, I definitely think of Shakespeare as a swimming companion.

BOGAEV: Oh, it has been such a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you. Really.

MENTZ: Thank you.

BOGAEV: Bye-bye.

MENTZ: Take care, Barbara.

BOGAEV: Thanks.

WITMORE: That was Steve Mentz, interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. Mentz’s new book, An Introduction to the Blue Humanities, is out now from Routledge.

This episode was produced by Matt Frassica. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer, with help from Leonor Fernandez. We had technical help from Robert Scaramuccia in New Haven and Jenna McClelland at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California. Final mixing services provided by Clean Cuts at Three Seas, Inc.

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