Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shakespeare's Italian and Hebrew

Shakespeare's Italian and Hebrew

As many of you have probably heard, there have been 77 alternative candidates mentioned as possibly the Real author of the Shakespeare works. That’s right – 77! Why not make it an even 78? Let’s also nominate Dudley Do-Right!  There you go, now there are 78 alternative candidates!  We could probably go even higher but 78 is a nice round number and besides, pretty soon people may eventually want to start seeing the evidence for all these candidates, and there’s the rub, as they say.

In any case, one of the newer candidates is for Amelia Bassano Lanier

I have not read much of the evidence for her as the ‘Real’ Shakespeare. But I’ve just come across a nice article on some of this evidence from John Hudson. This evidence is quite relevant to the authorship question. I’ll provide a link to his article at the end of this post. In his article SHAKESPEARES ITALIAN AND HEBREW: EVIDENCE THE PLAYS WERE WRITTEN BY AMELIA BASSANO LANIER, John Hudson gives evidence of some of the Italian sources and language as well as of Hebrew that has been found in Shakespeare.
Here are a few excerpts. He writes that:

Established literary research shows that the author of the Shakespearean plays read the following sources in Italian; Dante, Tassoʼs Aminta & Jerusalem Liberated, Bandelloʼs Novella, Cinthioʼs Epitia & Hecatommithi, also Il Pecorone, Il Filostrato, Aretinoʼs Il Marescalo and Filosofo, GlʼIngannati, Il Novellino, Il Cesare, an Italian 1530 translation of Plautus’ Mostellaria and possibly both Di Sommi’s Quattro Dialoghi and the manuscript of Scala’s Flavio Tradito.

[See also: Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Aretino’s Plays in which the it is shown that “Shakespeare knew Italian”]:

[note: I’ve previously posted on Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italian, Italian plays, and Italy, but further confirmation is always welcome.]

(Back to Hudson, he writes:)

For example one of the Sonnets echoes Boccaccioʼs famous prayer to his Muse. In Il Filistrato the master poet promises his Muse that if he is successful “thine shall be the honour and mine shall be the labour, if these words shall any praise acquire”;

“Tuo sia lʼonore e mio si sia affano
se i detti alcuna laude acquisteranno”.

Sonnet 38 ends with the very same sentiments, as if the author had paraphrased a direct translation from the Italian “If my slight Muse doe please these curious daies the paine be mine, but thine shall be the praise”

The Use of Hebrew (Hudson continues):

Concerning the playwrightʼs ability to read Hebrew, in an article in Shakespeare Survey, Schelomo Jehuda Schöenfeld observed that in The Merchant of Venice Portia says “I am lockʼd” (3,2,40) and “I am containʼd” (2,8,5) in one of the caskets. These are intriguing statements because it is her portrait that is inside the casket and not Portia herself. But a Hebrew speaker would know that PoRTiaʼs name in Hebrew is spelt PRT. They would see the lead casket, know that the word ʻleadʼ in Hebrew is YPRT (opheret--the first letter is a soundless ʼayin), and realize that the Hebrew pun shows that Portia (PRT) is contained inside the lead. Schöenfeldʼs article gives many more examples.

In addition, Florence Amit has found spoken Hebrew hidden in the nonsense language used in Allʼs Well That Ends Well. The interpreter says to Parolles, "Boskos vauvado. I understand thee, and can speak thy tongue. Kerely-bonto, sir, betake thee to thy faith..." (4,1,75-77). In the allegory in the play Parolles is a Jew. Not surprisingly, then, the nonsense language the interpreter is speaking is actually Hebrew. If translated, the interpreter is saying something that makes sense in the context of the play. B'oz K'oz means “In bravery like boldness” and Vah vado means “And in his surety” (vah = and; vado = vad, meaning ʻsure,ʼ plus an ʻoʼ ending for ʻhisʼ). And so we get: "In bravery like boldness, and in surety, I understand thee, and can speak thy tongue.” Similarly, Kʼerli, “I am aware” (ki =since, erli = er, aware, li = grammatical suffix meaning “to me”) and bʼon to; his deception (b'on(na) = deception, with the grammatical ending ʻoʼ meaning his. Thus, “I am aware of his deception sir, betake thee to thy faith..."

The playwright’s use of the Mishnah is identified in a study by Alan Altimont, and published in Notes and Queries. [Examples follow in the article online].

Finally, in his book Shakespeare’s Judaica and Devices David Baschhias identified around a dozen allusions in the plays to the Talmud. However this work did not go through the scholarly peer-review process of a university press. Similarly Florence Amit has identified dozens of Hebrew transliterations in the plays, in her article ‘Apples of gold Enclosed in Silver’ published in Mentalities=Mentalities (2002) volume 17, the Journal of the Institute for the Histories of the Mentalities in New Zealand. This publication is not a Shakespearean journal so the article has not been peer reviewed by Shakespeare scholars. Although this additional evidence is suggestive, I base my case on the two published examples which have appeared in the recognized critical journals, and the example from All’s Well That Ends Well.

Here’s the link to the whole article:

It helps to remember also that, according to James Shapiro “There’s no way that Shakespeare could have bought or borrowed even a fraction of the books that went into the making of his plays.” (1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare). So Shapiro thinks that William Shakspere prowled the bookshops and took notes (or just remembered everything in all the books he browsed through), and in that way he learned to read Italian, Hebrew, Greek and Spanish, and then read all his poem and play sources in these shops. (And maybe that’s where he studied Law and enjoyed reading dense legal treatises in old French!).

In contrast, we know that Bacon was tutored in several languages beginning in his youth and studied languages at Trinity College, and that Hebrew was one of these languages. His mother was fluent in many languages, and at least owned a Hebrew bible, so likely she also knew that language as well. Something more to think about.

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