Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Monday, June 30, 2014

Did Shakespeare know about penguins?

Live Science
I was reading an article from the Live Science blog about how global warming is threatening the Emperor Penguin. The story is illustrated with a photo of researcher holding an Emperor penguin chick of remarkable cuteness. (As you can see, they're substantial little birds, even as babies, about the size of a human toddler.) But I got to thinking...
Did people of Shakespeare's time know about Antarctica? Did they know about penguins? So I Googled "Shakespeare and penguin" and of course, got four bazillion hits directing me to Penguin Publishing's excellent Shakespeare editions that we all used in high school and college.
As far back as the 2nd century, people spoke of a vast land at the southern pole of the earth known as Terra Australis, but Antarctica was not discovered until the late 18th/early 19th century. (James Cook apparently passed close to it on one of his voyages.)
There is a reference to penguins in a letter dated 1578 (cited in a book on animal folklore in Shakespeare's time), which was some thirty years before the playwright died, so he would have known about them. 
How much do we love the Internet? And Wikipedia in particular?

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