Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy 14 - Florence Rossillion Tuckets

9A. Chapter 9 in Roe’s book looks at the clues in All’s Well That Ends Well. Eight of the scenes of this play supposedly take place in Florence. The other scenes took place in Paris and “Rossillion” of which there have been guesses of what location the playwright had in mind, if any. Though Spain had been suggested for the country of Rossillion, Roe found that in the source for the play, The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, it is stated that it’s in the “kingdom of France”. There were two towns of that name in France and Roe found enough converging evidence to conclude that the one between Marseilles (“Marcellus” in the play) and Paris was a perfect fit.
Bertram says he will go to the Tuscan wars, referring to the battles between Florence and Siena and in which Florence prevailed. Roe speculates that the reference is most likely to the war that ended in 1555 and would be remembered by the Elizabethan audience. Though the play was not published until 1623 it may have had a private performance earlier for Queen Elizabeth and her court, which would make any personal allusions, as there appear to be in the play, more relevant. 
9B. The most important Italian clues for Roe were found in Act III, Scene 5. He starts off with pointing out a clear error in modern editions of the play. In this scene at line 7 has been added “[Tucket]”. At the beginning of the scene there was a stage direction for “A tucket afar off” per the FF. But this second “tucket” was added by Edward Capell 145 years later. Roe explains that a “tucket” “was a musical declaration sounded by a harbinger to announce a personage of high rank at a city gate or castle or palace. Each personage had his or her own distinctive, personalized tucket.” So the first tucket stage direction makes perfect sense in announcing Bertram’s arrival at an outer gate of Florence. However, the second tucket at line 7 makes no sense and shouldn’t have been added since it would be redundant. Apparently, Capell thought that a tucket was just another marching signal. And this is how the OED describes it and Roe explains why this is a mistake also. The OED describes a tucket as “a flourish on a trumpet” and as “a signal for marching used by cavalry troops.” But then it describes a “flourish” as “unmeaning ornamentation” and a “signal” as “an identifiable series of notes or tune that broadcasts a specific command”. But a flourish can’t be simultaneously unmeaningful as well as meaningful.

9C. Further, the stage location for the scene added to modern editions is “Outside Florence”. This arose from the bigger misunderstanding of the widow’s line “Nay, come; for if they do approach the City, we shall lose all the sight.” It may sound like she is saying that the troops, as well as the Widow, her daughter Diana, and Mariana are all outside of the city of Florence. But that makes no sense since the opening tucket announced that Bertram was already at one of the gates. The confusion arose because the editors didn’t understand that in Florence there was an older Roman walled district that was called “The City”, and that’s why the author use a capital “C” for City. The editors were wrong to change this proper name to an ordinary noun. An untraveled poorly educated Englishman would be unlikely to have known the difference but a well-traveled, well-educated Englishman who had been to Florence and/or studied closely its history through well-connected sources, could know the difference, and this author obviously did.

The first two points above may merely support that the author knew what was sensible as far as French geography and military custom were concerned. So I included them primarily because this information wasn’t known by modern editors, even though educated play attendees in Shakespeare’s time might have understood them.  The third point (9C) is more important that these two in that it adds support to the evidence that the author was also unusually acquainted with the city of Florence and its history, and may have travelled there. It would be unlikely that he was an untraveled commoner.

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