This 12000-word essay explores the meanings and implications of a single line from the 1623 Folio text of Shakespeare's King Lear: 'Fathom, and halfe, Fathom and halfe; poore Tom'. Its opening sections provide context for interpreting the line, outlining, first, the purpose of fathoming in the early modern period, and second, Shakespeare's concern, across several plays, with the measurement of deep water. Then turning to _King Lear_, the essay argues that the line sits at the heart of the play, both registering and contributing towards the peculiar challenges to comprehension and the sense of disorientation the tragedy elicits.
- Centre for Environmental Humanities
- Cabot Institute