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.

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