Repository | Book | Chapter


(2010) Knowing Shakespeare, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

"Repeat to me the words of the echo"

listening to the Tempest

Allison Kay Deutermann

pp. 172-191

In 1668, Samuel Pepys attended his seventh performance of The Tempest, or The Enchanted Island, a revision of Shakespeare's play by John Dryden and William Davenant.1 His diary notes that he slipped backstage between acts to ask the actor Henry Harris "to repeat to me the words of the Echo, while I writ them down." Though Pepys had tried to record the part as it was being performed, "having done it without looking upon my paper, I [found] I could not read the blacklead," or pencil. "But now," he triumphantly concludes, "I have got the words clear" (1976: 195).2 Why did Pepys go to such trouble to "get the words clear"? This chapter offers an answer to this question by examining Pepys's reception in light of seventeenth-century anatomical theory; contests over theatrical audition in Shakespeare's The Tempest; and, finally, David Hume's descriptions of sensory perception, which Lowell Gallagher and Shankar Raman propose as a "logical endpoint" to early modern thinking about cognition and the senses in their introduction to this volume (p. 2). I argue that Pepys's audition is key to the production of his bodily hexis or disposition, a process through which he creates a coherent sense of himself as a social and embodied subject.3 Aided by writing as well as by reading, Pepys's listening involves his entire body. It occurs not just in the moment of the lines' delivery, but in the hours and even in the days preceding and following Harris's performance. It requires repetition, accruing through multiple trips to the playhouse. And, like the part of the Echo itself, it is a kind of performance, one staged before a theatergoing audience and then restaged in the pages of Pepys's diary, as well as (most likely) in the company of his friends and fellow amateur musicians.4

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230299092_10

Full citation:

Kay Deutermann, A. (2010)., "Repeat to me the words of the echo": listening to the Tempest, in L. Gallagher & S. Raman (eds.), Knowing Shakespeare, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 172-191.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.