Michael Olmert Published in the Magazine "Colonial Williamsburg"

January 28, 2014

Professor Michael Olmert has recently had two articles in the magazine "Colonial Williamsburg," a quarterly journal published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. This historic city is often said to be "the most studied 18th-century town in the world" and its magazine is meant to reflect the range of its research. Olmert has contributed some thirty articles to the magazine over the past 25 years. He also wrote the historic township's "Official Guidebook to CW," which has been in print since 1985.

In their Summer 2013 issue, Olmert wrote about "Follies," a category of small buildings meant to be eye-catchers as much as anything practical. At their apex of popularity in the eighteenth century, garden follies seem to be cast like bread crumbs throughout the vast country-house landscapes of Britain and to a lesser extent on the posh plantations and estates of British North America. In time, almost no style of architecture was not pirated for follies. There are Chinese pagodas and medieval castles, towers and triumphal gates, pyramids and obelisks, deer shelters and stray columns on hilltops, carefully situated so they could be seen and admired from afar.

In the Winter 2014 issue, Olmert wrote on Shakespeare's "The Tempest," a play first performed in late 1611, and its relationship to the famous shipwreck of the "Sea Venture" off the coast of the Bermudas in 1610. One account of the near-disaster that Shakespeare may have had access to was written by William Strachey, a Sea Venture passenger bound for Jamestown. Strachey's manuscript "A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight; upon, and from the Ilands of the Bermudas" is dated June 10, 1610. Almost certainly, Shakespeare saw this document in some form because he borrows loads from it, although he moves the scene from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. In the end, it's always dodgy, linking real-life experiences to the way they're portrayed in fiction. Plays don’t work like that—merely transcribing reality onto a page. It’s the creative reworking and disguising of life that does the trick. That’s right, it’s the lying.

In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, his friends and theatrical associates published the so-called First Folio, the collected edition of his plays. It is considered by many to be the most influential book of the seventeenth century. In it, The Tempest is printed first.