Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy 7 - Taming Shrew Mercantant galliases Pisa Bergamo

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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy 6 - Taming Shrew Padua Lombardy Baptista

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 Matthew seems to have stayed at them. Matthews writes to Bacon in one letter from “L’Hostell de Venice”. On his way there Matthew would also likely have stayed at another hostell in Padua.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy 5 - Milan St Gregory's Well

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.