PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me

TOPIC: Shakespeare and Italy

Shakespeare and Italy 3 months 4 days ago #7203

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
Shakespeare and Italy

There is much evidence of Shakespeare’s impressive knowledge of Italy. And some even argue that much of this knowledge must have come from first-hand experience. At the least it seems to have required close acquaintance with those with deep first-hand experience.

And there was a time, not too long ago, when mainstream Shakespeare scholars could openly share their belief that the great author had seen much of Italy himself. This was pointed out by Alexander Waugh in chapter 7 "Keeping Shakespeare Out of Italy" that can be found in the book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?

Waugh writes that Charles Knight considered this first-hand knowledge "the most natural supposition". And C. A. Brown wrote that "nothing can uproot my belief of his having been there." A then leading Stratfordian, Professor Arthur Cooper-Pritchard observed that "the milieu of the time and place with regard to Italy is so intimate that it is difficult to avoid the belief that Shakespeare himself actually visited and lived for some time in that country." Finally, there was Edmund K. Chambers who admitted that in certain scenes Shakespeare was "remarkably successful in giving a local colouring and atmosphere" which at the very least appeared to demonstrate a "familiarity with some minute points of local topography." We shouldn't be surprised then that some native Italian scholars are convinced of Shakespeare having traveled in Italy.

If he didn't, though, then he needed some other ways to acquire this deep knowledge of the country along with its milieu or atmosphere that is easiest to acquire directly. Possibly some of this intimate Italian knowledge could come from deep reading of Italian literature that touched on city layouts, some Italian history, as well as native customs and social interactions. And some of it could potentially come from having known some Italians or a variety of travelers to Italy. Unfortunately for Stratfordians, the Stratford Shakspere is not known to have had any such connections. Thus the current push to keep the great Author out of Italy all together and downplay the accuracy of his Italian references and allusions.

Here I will be briefly summarizing what seems to me to be the best evidence for Shakespeare's unusual knowledge of Italy. My sources for this are primarily the recent books-- Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe and also Some Fruits Out of Italy by Italian Professor Noemi Magri. In no way does this summary do justice to these two books. These are just brief summaries of what to me were the highlights of their arguments. I also spent some time slogging through many of the counter arguments, though I may have missed some that have some merit.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 3 months 3 days ago #7204

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
From Roe’s introduction:

Italian Shakespeare scholar Ernesto Grillo: “Frequently, [in Shakespeare’s plays] we find whole lines translated literally from Italian without the slightest alteration . . . .[O]ur poet,” he concludes, “most undoubtedly have had recourse to MSS In Italian.” Other scholars concur. Again Grillo: “ . . . [he] must have visited Milan, Verona Venice, Padua and Mantua.”

So from the start we have evidence that Shakespeare had access to Italian manuscripts, that he most likely read himself. It's far less likely that someone else who could read Italian would translate, verbally, into English an Italian work for someone else. If someone were to translate a work for an Englishman it would be more likely be a loose translation or a casual explanation, rather than "whole lines translated literally".

I will move through Roe's book one chapter at a time.

Highlights from Chapter 1 [pg 8]: (this first point now seems to me to have some doubt as a point of evidence but I'm including it because of its popularity).

1A. A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad,
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city’s side,

So early walking did I see your son.
R&J

Was there a grove of sycamore trees at the western end of Verona?
Roe says yes, at the Porta Palio, one of Verona’s three western gates. He said that there were also remnant of sycamore groves elsewhere. Neither in Shakespeare’s main source of Brooke’s poem, or in any other version, is there mention of these sycamores. It’s original with Shakespeare.

Argument against: The sycamore trees are actually toward the South of the city, not the West.

Response: Roe shows a map indicating ‘Remnant Sycamores’ outside of the Northern end of the Western Wall as well as toward its Southern portion. The wall extends a long distance north to south and then turns East to produce what could be considered the ‘Southern’ wall. It would still primarily be considered the ‘Western’ wall even as the Southern end of it turns eastward. On the map that Roe provides the Porta Palio is on the Southwestern angle of the wall, with the wall angle well above 45 degrees, so that this section of the wall does look to be facing more West than South.

Other arguments against:

1) drawings from the 16th century don't show a grove of any sort next to the Western wall and that it would counterproductive to have such a grove since it could provide protective cover for invaders. 2) it appears that the trees currently in the area are not actually sycamores, but another species which have a resemblance to the sycamores. 3) Finally, an alternative reference to sycamores, and in a similar psychological context to that of Romeo's, existed in another literary work from which Shakespeare could have borrowed.

Responses could be: 1) the drawings may not be entirely accurate to all details such as a small grove of trees here or there. And it's speculative that such a grove couldn't exist because supposedly it would then interfere with the defense of the city.

2) I don't think it really matters whether or not they are truly sycamores. If they resemble sycamores and the author saw them and thought that's what they were, or if some traveler saw them and told the author about them, still there would be an accurate correspondence to explain. Unfortunately, Roe seems to only have been guided to them by his taxi driver, who may or may not have had accurate knowledge of the city’s arbours. On the other hand some taxi drivers are quite familiar with their cities. However, I remember being with one taxi driver who clearly did not know something quite well-known about his city, yet he was sure in his mind. So we can’t give much, if any weight, to the taxi drivers’ assertion. Now, Roe did try to verify they were indeed sycamores and from his knowledge they did seem to be so. So it seems they at least resembled sycamores and could be thought of such by the average visitor there. I think that’s sufficient.

3) this third argument, however, might be enough to doubt this particular piece of Italian knowledge. Romeo’s psychological context here with the sycamores resembles the other two times that Shakespeare spoke of sycamores, so that itself could account for him choosing that kind of tree. I think the strength of the argument would depend on if the trees that are sycamores or that resemble sycamores could be shown to have been there for several centuries. If so, then the coincidence of this connection would seem unlikely, especially given the many other accurate facts the author had of the cities there. But if such trees could also be found along other walls of Verona or If other Italian cities has sycamore trees or trees similar to them on their Western side then perhaps the observation was more commonly known and that would weaken Roe’s argument. So I think it could be a good argument for Roe but I’d just like to see some more investigation to it.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 3 months 2 days ago #7205

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
First, an aside. I noticed when reviewing the new evidence on the doubtaboutwill website that they were renewing their challenge of having a mock trial to prove that the Stratford William was the great author Shakespeare “beyond reasonable doubt” and that if they succeeded then the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) would donate £40,000 to the Birthplace Trust. But more interesting, they are now saying that if the challenge is not accepted, that the SAC and the public then “have every right to conclude that they concede the issue by default”. That would be quite an interesting event. And I imagine that they don’t even know how it would turn out. But I suppose something has to be done.
Shakespeare and Italy continued:

1B. Villafranca -- ‘free town’ in English. This place is mentioned by the previous authors of the R&J story. But Shakespeare adds something unique to him. Roe says that anyone that knew this area more thoroughly would have known it was silly to think there was a Capulet castle at Villafranca outside of Verona. Only in Shakespeare (in the first scene) we have the enraged Escalus, the great prince of Verona stopping the brawl between the Montagues and Capulets and saying:

You, Capulet, shall go along with me;
And, Montague, come you this afternoon,
To know our farther pleasure in this case,
To old Free-towne, our common judgment place.

Only to Shakespeare is this the old place where Prince Escalus pronounces his common (public) judgments. No other teller of this story had called it old or mentioned anything about public judgments. Villafranca, south of Verona, turns out to be a formidable medieval castle with tall towers, gates, forbidding walls and ramparts, etc. It shows itself to have been the unmistakable seat of the della Scala power. The original R&J story were told from a man that was called Peregrino who mentioned the original event occurred during the time of Prince Bartolomeo della Scala. Escalus is a sort of Latin form for della Scala. A more modern form of the name is Scaligero, or in English as Scaliger. Modern Veronese say the R&J event occurred in 1302.

The Scaligeros had many castles. But only this one was the site of their princely court, the seat of Scaliger authority, and the venue for their public judgments. At the time of the R&J event this castle was already ‘old’ as it was built in 1202. Roe called it ‘old in tradition old in family, old in power, and old in medieval protocol’. So Montague would have had no doubt where to present himself on that designated afternoon. This seems pretty clearly to be unusual knowledge, especially for someone thought to be a moderately learned playwright. If someone can show that the average Elizabethan theater-goer knew about it then it could be dropped as evidence.

1C. Saint Peter’s Church [Act III, Sc. 5]. Though no scene is set there it is mentioned in connection with Juliet. No other version of the story mentions it, so why would Shakespeare? And why this church name of all others. Roe reasoned it had to be the Capulet parish church. Even the modern local guides don’t seem aware of it as the author did, suggesting he had a ‘keen knowledge of the layout of Verona’. For instance, though unaware of the Capulet church, the modern locals realize that the early fight scene would have been fought at the end of Via Cappello, at Stradone San Fermo, when the Stradone was called ‘il Corso.’“ So if Shakespeare knew something that even the modern locals don’t know that would be an indication of his intimate knowledge of the town. Roe found four Saint Peter’s churches that had been there around Shakespeare’s time. He found one perfectly located. The San Pietro Incarnario is the local parish church on the direct path from the Capulet home to the cell of Friar Francis.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 3 months 1 day ago #7206

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
Chapter 2

2A. The river/canal system. In the second chapter Roe discusses Verona again from what’s found in The Two Gentleman of Verona. He points out how Shakespeare editors of various editions of the play had faulted Shakespeare’s knowledge of the geography, such as claiming that “Shakespeare seems to have supposed that Verona was a seaport”, etc. Alexander Waugh, in his article previously mentioned, summarizes the history of scholarly confusion about the supposed seaports and the canal system. The first challenge for Roe was to find if it actually had been possible to travel by boat on rivers and canals from Verona to Milan. No scholar, it seemed, could be bothered to do this research. Roe spent some time consulting experts on northern Italy’s canal system and eventually proved his argument that such a water network did exist in Shakespeare’s time. A map in Verona’s state archives shows the canal/river connections. The Adige, the Tartaro, and the Po were all connected by a system of canals. Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italian geography was accurate.

Not only could one travel by boat from Verona to Milan, but there were actual ‘roads’ (meaning ‘landings’) for boats as well as river ‘tides’ or ‘floods’-- meaning artificial ones produced from the canal gates, that the boat travelers needed to time for advantage. I haven’t seen any serious argument against this proposed water route. A map is pretty strong evidence by itself. To argue with some kind of logic that the canals wouldn’t be used for travel is countered with the evidence of the boats shown on the canals. There’s a reproduction of a 16th century engraving on page 57 showing a rather fancy designed travel vessel on the Brenta canal. I think it would be preposterous that this was the only one of its kind. More likely there were hundreds of them and they would often seek to use them for long distance travel. Roe also says that even the Roman historian Pliny wrote about boats traveling from the Adriatic Sea inland all the way to Turin, which is beyond Milan.

One other argument against such a route actually being used is that Milan’s higher elevation would make it impossible for a boat to travel against the river or canal current from Verona to Milan. It is true that Milan is at a higher elevation than Verona, by about 115 feet. Driving today you would need to cross 160 KM or 99.4 miles. But looking at Roe’s map it’s clear the water route would be considerably longer. But if the distance were only 99.4 miles then the water level would on average drop about 1.15 feet per mile. Not having any expertise in this I still doubt that even that would create such a current that couldn’t be overcome by the practical means of that day. But really, if there was a water route, and there was, it would no doubt be used. And it would be ludicrous if boats could ONLY travel from Milan to Verona and not back. I mean, would these boats be built in Milan for a sustained journey, and after having arrived in Verona, be dismantled for firewood?

I think it’s clear that the author wasn’t wrong about the suggested mode of travel and didn’t just make it up and be discovered correct by chance centuries later.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 3 months 19 hours ago #7207

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
Another aside--

Thinking again a little about the unwillingness of the Stratfordian side to participate in a mock trial, we have to remember that there has been a pretty substantial informal debate already and very recently. Now the interesting thing is that the current reason for them NOT wanting to participate in a mock trial is because it would be beneath their dignity or honor to do so. However, prior to this, there was 60 minutes with Shakespeare and then Shakespeare Bites Back, and then Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, all it seems in late 2011, in anticipation of the movie Anonymous (released in late October 2011). At that time, their dignity and honor REQUIRED them to defend their Authorship assertions. So what’s changed? Well, maybe they think that they have fulfilled their goals with these earlier efforts---even though the doubters responded to every point asserted by the opposition, which should have led to continued scholarly-like exchanges.
-
Chapter 3 Shakespeare and Italy continued

3A. Roe’s third chapter continues with The Two Gentleman of Verona. The route from Milan to the outlaw’s wilderness. Roe shows again how modern interpretations of this play contain an unwarranted error and how the author knew this area quite well. He mentions how some commentators have assumed that exiting from a ‘North gate’ to go east didn’t make sense as well as the assumption of a forest being between Milan and Verona or Mantua. From Roe’s research though, it was clear that the author knew that to go East, one did leave out the North gate and went Northward a ways, where there were actual outlaws, and that ‘Upon the rising of the mountain foot’ one then took the road East. And that the area North of Milan was best described as a ‘wilderness’. The forest was about 9 miles or ‘three leagues’ travel (not in a straight course) in this Northern and Northeastern direction. Somewhat through a part of it did one then turn east for Verona and Mantua. This last scene being located in a ‘forest’ may be because the author had previously described the outlaws as akin to those of Robin Hood fame that the English audience could relate to. Though also there was some forested land near Monza which is a short distance a way to the Northeast.

Sylvia, who didn’t want be caught leaving the city, had Eglamour meet her at a ‘postern’ by the abbey wall. Though its existence couldn’t be confirmed by Roe, it was logical to have been there once for the practical coming and going of the abbey priests that managed the Lazzaretto. Modern librarians told Roe that such a private gate would not be listed on any public map of the time since it would only have been for the local friars’ use.

3B. After a long wait, Roe finally received an answer from a specialist in Milan history regarding ‘St Gregory’s Well’. It had not any relation to water, but was a large pit used as a mass grave for the many thousands that had died of the plague in the 16th century. And this further explained why Proteus cunningly sent his rival Thurio there, rather than to an ordinary and innocuous water well.

A counter argument had been brought up by one mainstream scholar saying that “Milan’s St Gregory’s Well was regularly mentioned by other Elizabethan writers”. However, no such references have been provided and the claim has no substance to it. Even if it had been mentioned such a reference would also need to explain what kind of 'well' it actually had been. Alexander Waugh mentioned that some earlier scholars were either “puzzled”, “surprised”, or “astonished” that Shakespeare could have had any knowledge of it, even if it had been a normal water well. But no one had an inkling of its true purpose, and which makes perfect sense in the play, until Roe dug it up.

All of the above demonstrated Shakespeare’s keen knowledge of the area and not things likely to be learned from casual conversations with strangers, nor even necessary for the story, since inaccurate imaginings would have served the ordinary untraveled in his audience as well.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 2 months 4 weeks ago #7208

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
4A. Roe’s 4th chapter is on the evidence found in The Taming of the Shrew. One of the first interesting points he brings up and resolves is the confusion over Lucentio’s route. At the beginning of Act 1, Scene 1 Lucentio says:

Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,
I am arriv’d for fruitful Lombardy,
The pleasant garden of great Italy.

The problem is that Padua is east of Lombardy and within the Veneto territory of Venice. Attempts to emend ‘for’ have included changing it to ‘in’ which again didn’t make sense since that kept him in Lombardy but not in Padua where he had arrived. Another attempt at revision had “am arriv’d for” interpreted as “am on my way to”. But that wasn’t accurate either.

Since Lucentio later said in the same speech that “I have Pisa left and am to Padua come”, Roe examined if there was an actual route that one could take from Pisa and then travel through Lombardy on one’s way to Padua. And he found such a route. So he suggested the emendation of ‘from’ to replace ‘for’. Knowing that there have been found around 350 typographical errors in this play (this is taken from Waugh’s article) this suggested emendation is totally rational. This then made sense for actual travel from Pisa to Padua and so again showed the author’s deeper knowledge of Italy’s geography and its various travel routes.

4B. Next of importance is where exactly Lucentio has landed in Padua. He says:

If, Biondello, thou wert come ashore,
We could at once put us in readiness,
And take a lodging fit to entertain
Such friends as time in Padua shall beget.

Some editors have concluded that this meant that Shakespeare was imagining that Padua had a harbor. Actually, Shakespeare seems to have had an exact understanding of a realistic location for a traveler such as Lucentio to come ashore. Roe found the most logical water route to a landing (called a ‘road’) close by a sensible location for the home of the Baptistas who were about to enter the scene. The ‘road’ landing is still there today. It is near a parish church called ‘Saint Luke’s’, such as mentioned in the play.

There is also a cluster of buildings by the landing, in front of which, as mentioned, Baptista and his daughters Bianca and Kate could converse. Then a bridge from there over the water to where the St. Luke’s was located. And most importantly, Roe found an old drawing from 1718, showing that right next to this landing was also an hostel, though there called an “Osteria” for “hostelry” or “inn”. Remember that Lucentio says that as soon as Biondello has come ashore at the road they could ‘at once’ take their lodging, as at the Hostell next to it that Roe found on the map. This is hardly something that a non-travelled Englishman would just be able to invent in the imagination and have it accurately match a real location in the very city he chose to set the play!

And as it so happens, Francis Bacon would be well aware of these hostels there as his closest friend Tobie Matthews seems to have stayed at them. Matthews writes to Bacon in one letter from “L’Hostell de Venice”. On his way there Matthews would also likely have stayed at another hostell in Padua.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 2 months 3 weeks ago #7209

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
Another aside: It would seem, then, that to protect their honor and dignity from the results of a comparison of evidence, the leaders of the establishment has decided to try to ignore the Authorship issue. This is quite normal behavior even for academics who are not immune to basic human psychology. And of course Shakespeare makes a point of it quite often. Shakespeare scholar A. D. Nuttall admits as much in his book Shakespeare The Thinker. On pages 31-33 he discussed the Temple Garden scene in I Henry VI where reason gives way to honour merely by the picking of either a red or white rose, without any strong analysis of the question at issue. The roses then act like “badges of allegiance” which engage the wearer’s honour. And then this is a more potent motivator than any argument that could be involved, affecting the person’s “belief, commitment, allegiance, and confidence”.

He further adds the same thing essentially has happened to him in his academic committee meetings. A view would be presented and then a show of hands in favor was asked for. If he declared for that view then he found himself setting aside counter-arguments that used to engage his attention. Similar effects happen all the time in sports and other social life and in many kinds of public disputes. To guard against such an instinctive influence so as to be fair to the dispute, one needs to take some time and read more and more of the evidence presented by different sides along with their reasoning. I’ve changed my own opinion on a number of disputes but it took years and after reading much from the opposition. And of course, there are issues I still haven’t changed my mind on.
Shakespeare and Italy
Chapter 4 continued:


4C. Roe also remarks how, according to travelers to the area, the author in this play shows his familiarity with the interior of a Venetian villa in the Veneto. See the accurate description of one late in Act II, Scene I, beginning with:

First, as you know, my house within the city
Is richly furnished with plate and gold ,
Basins and ewers to lave her dainty hands;
My hangings all of Tyrian tapestry.
In ivory coffers I have stuff’d my crowns,
In cypress chests my arras counterpoints,
Costly apparel, tents, and canopies,
Fine linen, Turkey cushions boss’d with pearl,
Valance of Venice gold in needlework,
Pewter and brass, and all things that belongs
To house or housekeeping …

4D. Later, in this same scene Tranio, pretending to be Lucentio, says “… ‘tis known my father hath no less than three great Argosies besides two galliases / And twelve tight [sic] galleys,”. Roe points out that, every edition of this play uses the adjective “tight” here. But they were actually known as “light galleys” as the author would have known. Calling them “tight” to suggest they were all “watertight”, that they didn’t all regularly sink, I think would be very meaningful to say.

4E. Next, in Act IV Scene 2, there is a description of the stranger that is being recruited to stand in for the father of Lucentio. Tranio describes him as “a marcantant, or a pedant” who has travelled quite a bit. When Tranio explains to him that “Tis death for anyone in Mantua to come to Padua" the man expresses his distress and explains “For I have bills for money by exchange From Florence, and must here deliver them.”

Roe faults editors for continuing to list this character as a “Pedant” when he should be listed as a “mercantant”, that is “a traveling commercial agent”. Roe details what this kind of mercantant did, the places (like Tripoli) where they would travel and the reasons for it, and how the playwright obviously understood Italy’s banking practices involving merchants. The play’s Mercantant, Roe says “… is the collection agent for a bill discounter, or an issuer of bills, who lives in Mantua”.

4F. Roe’s other insight from the mercantant/pedant dialogue is that the author, unlike editors who would criticize this, knew that the play’s “Duke of Mantua”, who would have been a Gonzaga, maintained a substantial fleet of both merchant ships, and ships of war, fully capable of plying the Po, the Adige, the Adriatic, and far beyond”. Incidentally, Francis Bacon, likely through his master intelligencer brother Anthony, was well informed of the Gonzaga since they were mentioned in “Notes on the state of Christendom" (1582) ascribed to Francis Bacon.

4G. Twice in the play is there a line saying “Pisa, renowned for grave citizens” (1,1 and 4,2). Yet in my edition of the play there is no note offering any explanation for the citizens being renowned for their being grave. Roe explains it, which the author obviously knew as well since he uses the pun several times. Pisa had developed an enormous cemetery on sacred ground (from soil, supposedly containing the blood of Christ, brought from Palestine during the Crusades). Here, at the Campo Santo, were entombed in stately marble structures, often quite large, the elite or honored citizens of Pisa. It was a place of quite renown and still is a major tourist site today.

4H. Finally, the author also knew, unlike editors who find it hard to believe for a city far from the sea, that “Bergamo was the principal source of sails for the Mediterranean world”. Would this likely be another casual comment a traveler would make, if they would even be likely to know it, and that the Stratford William would just happen to hear? And even if possible, would it be as likely as that learned by a genuine English traveler through Northern Italy?

All of the above points from Chapter 4, as a set, are to me strong evidence of the authors unusual knowledge Italian life, business, and localities.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 2 months 3 weeks ago #7210

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
One more aside:

You probably heard of the ‘big’ announcement about the discovery of Shakspere’s coat of arms petition, apparently the original one. Now the fascinating thing, that you can see for yourselves, is the kind of sleight of hand dealing with documentary evidence that the non-Stratfordians have often mentioned. We’ve had a copy of the application for the coat of arms for a long time. And the original does not appear to be significantly different. At least, neither the Folger librarian discoverer, nor Prof. Shapiro, have pointed out anything ‘new’ or different from the much later copy. But then take out your mental magnifying glass and look at what Shapiro then says. “It’s always been clear that Shakespeare of Stratford and ‘Shakespeare the player’ were one and the same,” Mr. Shapiro said. “But if you hold the documents Heather has discovered together, that is the smoking gun.” Keep in mind that, as he says, there was no dispute that the Stratford Shakspere was thought of as a player. Even those connected with the company through Richard Burbage, that is, his brother Cuthbert and his widow, also named Shakspere as a ‘player’, and described as such to one of the dedicatees of the First (and Second) Shakespeare Folios.

So there was no new discovery. Further, see if you can find the “smoking gun” anywhere. Supposedly, it shows that Shakspere the player was also Shakespeare the poet-playwright. Take your time and see if you can see Shapiro’s smoking gun that refutes the non-Stratfordian’s contention that there is no such evidence. Note also that Shapiro implicitly acknowledges that there hasn’t been any other ‘smoking gun’ before this non-existent one showed up. You can find the NY Times article here: www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/theater/shake...at-of-arms.html?_r=0
Shakespeare and Italy cont.

5A. Roe’s chapter 5 begins a look at unusual Italian knowledge in The Merchant of Venice. His first important point is that the script shows Antonio, a Venetian, using non-Venetian ships for his trading, which the average English citizen would not likely know since it had long been a rule that Venetian’s would only use Venetian trading vessels. Antonio used Argosies which were built, owned and operated by Ragusan merchants. He also used ships called ‘Andrews’ which originated in Genoa. Roe further explains why this change came about beginning around 1573. The author did not get this information about trading vessels from any of his sources for the story, so they are brought in casually from his own store of knowledge, however acquired, of Italian trading practices and how they were changing. Likely the easiest way to acquire this knowledge was through connections to government-collected trading knowledge or with discussions with practicing English and foreign traders.

5B. Further detailed knowledge of these practices shown by the author are revealed in the destinations that Antonio’s ships are visiting: Tripoli, Mexico, England, Lisbon, Barbary, and India. Roe mentions how Shakespeare has been criticized for having an one of Antonio’s vessels trading with Mexico where Venetian ships were not allowed to go. However, the non-Venetian Argosies “were always welcome in Mexico”. In fact, all the destinations mentioned could be sailed to by the ships of Ragusa. Venetian traders would know this as could an Englishman intent on seeking this information out to benefit either his own trading or for the sake of his country. But what motivation would drive a lowly English playwright to seek out all this detailed intelligence?

This demonstrates accurate knowledge of 16th century maritime trading in connection with Italy that had been thought in error and just ‘made up’.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 2 months 2 weeks ago #7211

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
Shakespeare and Italy cont.

5C. Knowledge of Jewish customs. In Act 1, Scene 3 begins the encounters between Bassanio, Antonio and Shylock. Bassanio says to Shylock, who had asked to speak with Antonio about the loan, “If it please you to dine with us.” The author obviously knew that this was a touchy issue and most likely there would be food that was not kosher. Later, Shylock mentions Tubal and describes him as “a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe”. This demonstrates the author’s appreciation for the variances among Jews in Venice, their different “nations” and which were distinguishable by their origins, dress, and everyday language. Also is mentioned the Jewish “gabardine” suggesting that the author knew that the Jews in Venice wore distinctive clothing.

Again, when the elder Gobbo visits Shylock he brings a gift of “a dish of doves” which was “not an uncommon gift in Italy”. Further, when Gobbo unknowingly asked his son Launcelot how to get to Shylock’s house he receives a comical yet typically confusing answer for directing someone around Venice:

“Turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand; but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house.”
In an Arden edition of the play this directional dialogue was considered “ludicrous” since there could be 5000 Jews living in the Venice Ghetto. Roe found though that, for various reasons, by 1585 “there were only 1,424 Jews in Venice” and enough questions here and there should be enough to locate someone in such a small tight-knit community.

Shakespeare has even been criticized for providing Gobbo with a horse in Venice where travel is primarily by water. But not all travel is by water and there were horses in Venice. Roe even states there are bridges there today that a horse could traverse and that some even have “two parallel tracks made of ramped stone to accommodate the two wheels of a standard cart or dray” that a horse would pull. The author was even aware that some Jewish business or related non-religious matters were conducted at one of their synagogues. He has Shylock say “Go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue”.

There were few Jews in England at this time so a common understanding of many particular Jewish customs would not be easy to come by. Francis Bacon, however, even if he had not been to Italy could easily learn of these customs since he, like Antonio, had borrowed from a Jewish money lender in England, and for failing to repay him in time, and as in the play, had Francis arrested and confined, until his brother Anthony could pay for his release.

5D. In Act II, Scene 5 we have the scene where Gratiano, Salarino and Lorenzo arrive in the Venetian Ghetto to make off with Jessica and her father’s jewels money. They perform this escapade under the cover of the masks (varnish’d faces) at a time of some public revelry where masked revelers pass through the streets. The author seems to be familiar with this custom and that it could happen at many times throughout the year and not just at Carnival time. In addition, Roe examines Shakespeare’s use of a “penthouse” for Shylock’s home. Surprisingly, Roe found only one structure in the Ghetto that fit that description “a small structure attached to, or dependent on, another building, from appendere, to hang onto.” And the penthouse is right next to a building whose ground floor was a loan bank that Shylock would most likely have used. So again, the author seems to show detailed knowledge of some Venetian places and customs, not easily obtainable from casual conversations with travelers in an English inn.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespeare and Italy 2 months 2 weeks ago #7212

  • Unfoldyourself
  • Unfoldyourself's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Scholar
  • Posts: 406
  • Thank you received: 5
One more aside, it came to me recently while thinking of the recent article in the Journal of Early Modern Studies by Ros Barber, Shakespeare and Warwickshire Dialect, demonstrating the lack of any good evidence for such a connection,
www.fupress.net/index.php/bsfm-jems/article/view/18084
… that a similar observation had been made by an early Shakespeare scholar in the Quarterly Review of April, 1894 regarding the author’s seeming lack of knowledge of fauna around his hometown. The scholar wrote “Shakespeare was curiously unobservant of animated Nature. . . . He seems to have seen very little. . . . Stratford-on-Avon was, in his day, enmeshed in streams, yet he has not a single kingfisher. Not on all his streams or pools is there an otter, a water-rat, a fish rising, a dragon-fly, a moor-hen, or a heron. . . . To the living objects about him he seems to have been obstinately purblind and half-deaf. His boyhood was passed among the woods, and yet in all the woods in his plays there is neither woodpecker nor wood-pigeon; we never hear or see a squirrel in the trees, nor a night-jar hawking over the bracken.” It seems, that apart from aristocratic gardens and what might be found within London, his primary source for learning about Nature seems to have been books from large, private libraries.

Shakespeare and Italy cont.

6A. In chapter 6 Roe investigates evidence related to “Unto the Tranect, to the common ferry Which trades to Venice”. My Folger edition of the play changes “Tranect” to “traject” and explains it as meaning “traghetto”, which is Italian for “ferry”. But doesn’t this strike one as odd since it would then have Portia saying “. . . to the ferry, to the common ferry . . .”? Assuming the word instead meant a “ferry landing” that would help but still sound redundant. In contrast, Roe reasons that Shakespeare’s “Tranect” is referring to a distinct place where Portia and Nerissa would catch the common ferry to Venice. It turns out that there is such a distinct place and it’s called “Fusina” or “Lizza Fusina”. Roe found that a scholar named Violet M. Jeffery, back in 1932, explained that this “Lizza Fusina” had “the ingenious contrivance for transferring boats from the canal to lagoon.” Other historical records confirm this device. This device is also mentioned by Michel de Montaigne which is now found in “Montaigne’s Travel Journal”. Montaigne mentions there is a hostelry there and that from there one embarks (the common ferry) for Venice. Other writers also describe it. So, Roe says, the Latin word “Tranect” would mean “join across” and this fits perfectly the use of the device at Lizza Fusina.

Another interesting tidbit of evidence here is that Francis Bacon’s brother Anthony became friends with the writer Michel de Montaigne somewhere around 1590-92, lived with him for a time and they stayed lifelong friends. In fact, the last letter that Montaigne received was from Anthony Bacon. So Anthony may easily have either read Montaigne’s travel journal or have described to him personally by Montaigne his journey through parts of Italy, including the canal-Fusina-Ferry trip to Venice. And then retold it later to Francis. Of course, his friend Tobie Matthews could also have described it to him. And, also, other Elizabethan travelers to Venice would likely take this common route and remember it when they returned home. So it’s not impossible that the Stratford Shakspere could have heard of it also. It’s just that it’s much less likely from what we do know.

Anyway, the ‘tranect’ was not needed long after this time and eventually was lost to history. So most modern scholars had no idea what ‘Tranect’ actually most likely meant. And so it’s good evidence that the author again had correct and somewhat intimate knowledge of unusual obscure places in Italy.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
Moderators: William Shakespeare
 

Log in or Register

Register
Forgot username  Forgot password
Get the Shakespeare Pro app