n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Stellifying Shakespeare : celestial imperialism and the advent of universal genius

Volume 26, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



As astounding as it may sound, the classic 1956 sci-fi film , which teleports to outer space, did not mark the first time Shakespeare left Earth's orbit. In 1852, four years after the publication of - a high-water mark of Victorian Bardolatry - Frank Feather Dally's grandiose vision of Shakespeare's ascension to the heavens would come true. As if cued by Dally's poem, John Herschel - the son of William Herschel, the famed discoverer of Uranus - proposed naming the four Uranian satellites then known after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope: Titania, Oberon, Ariel and Umbriel. Since Pope, however, lifted the name Ariel from the ethereal fairy-servant in Shakespeare's , arguably three of the four are Shakespearean. The tradition would be formally ratified by the International Astronomical Union in 1948, when the Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper discovered a fifth moon and elected to name it Miranda after the heroine of . Over the past few decades, thanks to the 1986 Voyager 2 mission and the celestial vistas unveiled by the Hubble Telescope, Shakespeare's Uranian progeny have continued to grow. To date, 22 additional Uranian satellites have been discovered; of these, only one (Belinda) has been dubbed after a character in Pope's , while the remaining 21 have been christened after the dramatis personae of Shakespeare. And thereby hangs a tale.

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