Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - Early Favorable Perspectives

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 books The 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 the arguments.

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