Film Explores Shakespeare’s Inspiration to Write "The Tempest"Sep 30, 2021 06:00AM ● By Charles De Flaminio
The inspiration for film director Giles Buckley’s project was his ancestor Stephen Hopkins. Buckley is pictured above at Bellingham Public Library.
story & photo by Charles DeFlaminio, Contributing Writer
On the night of September 20th, director Andrew Giles Buckley was invited to the Bellingham Public Library to show a screening of his historical documentary Stephano: The True Story of Shakespeare’s Shipwreck, followed by a question-and-answer session. The feature was filmed by Buckley and the Hit-and-Run film crew as part of a public media series founded by Buckley in 2009; it took over two years of filming and editing to complete.
The film follows the life of Stephen Hopkins and his connection to the events that inspired one of Shakespeare’s final plays, The Tempest. The event in question is the shipwreck of a vessel from the third supply mission to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, from England; this ship, named the Sea Venture, famously encountered a terrible storm before reaching the colony and was lost at sea for days, only to later wash up on the shores of Bermuda. After some time in Bermuda, the crew of the Sea Venture were able to complete their voyage and make it to Jamestown.
The story of the Sea Venture’s shipwreck made it back to England via an account by William Strachey, a passenger aboard the vessel during the shipwreck. This account is theorized to be the direct inspiration for The Tempest. Buckley suggests in the film that Stephen Hopkins was the person who inspired the character Stephano in the play. The Tempest tells a tale of a ship being caught in a storm and washing up on a mysterious island. Shakespeare tells the tale through a lens of magic and fantasy, but the core story is the same.
Buckley and his crew follow the life of Hopkins, his first journey to the new world, the shipwreck in Bermuda, his time in Jamestown, his return to England, and his eventual journey back again as a passenger on the Mayflower. The inspiration for this project comes from a familial connection between Buckley and Hopkins, Hopkins being Buckley’s ninth great-grandfather.
“When we were contacted by the producer, we saw that it had premiered on Rhode Island PBS in January of 2021, and it had local ties to Massachusetts. We decided to support the producer’s Cultural Council grant application,” explained Bellingham Public Library Director Bernadette Rivard. “After more than a year of no in-person programming at the library, we were hopeful that we would be able to offer it as an in-person program in September. And we are delighted that we could.”
The documentary will air on Rhode Island PBS in October. You can also find Hit-and-Run on Facebook to follow more of their ongoing projects.
This event was funded via a grant from the Bellingham Cultural Council.