Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 18 - Sicily Bohemia Romano

Shakespeare and Italy continued.

11A. Roe's chapter 11 examines the author's clues of unusual Sicilian knowledge in The Winter's Tale.  Most all of the scenes in this play take place in the royal palace, which would be in Palermo, where it has been since 1140. Roe says that "Sicily's medieval kings were the wealthiest of Europe's rulers, and Palermo was one of the largest and most important cities of the known world." As such, its royal palace would have well-deserved the adulation of Archidamus:  "... with such magnificence--in so rare--I know not what to say." The magnificence of this royal palace may not have been common knowledge to the typical Londoner. But it would likely be known by England's royalty and those that had a need to know the seats of power around the continent, along with their trade routes and fortresses.

11B. Roe then takes time to explain again how the historical Bohemia actually did have a coastline, that lasted about 9 years. The extension of the landlocked Bohemia gradually kept expanding under Ottakar II until he had inherited Carinthia and Carniola, the last of these connected to the Adriatic Sea. Obviously, there weren't many in England back then, nor even recently among critics, that were aware of this history. But it seems that the Author knew of it and that allowed him to sensibly make use of a Bohemian King and his fleet to make a plausible trip to Sicily and back and forth again.

11C. Roe later cites a passage made by Cleomenes and Dion as they are returning from the Apollo Oracle at Delphos. The passage is:

"The climate's delicate, the air most sweet,
Fertile the isle, the temple much surpassing
The common praise it bears."

He then argues that this enables us to locate their exact position on the way from their disembarked location at Trapani back to the palace at Palermo. The route was well known, at least to those familiar with Sicily. The Temple of Segesta was mentioned in Virgil's The Aeneid. King Edward the first of England had himself landed at Trapani. Roe takes this further in arguing that when Cleomenes mentions "the temple", that it identifies the spot on the known route where it could be seen, and therefore it would be an argument for the Author's first-hand knowledge of it. This was not persuasive to me because it was also about this time that the riders took on "fresh horses", which would be more likely to occur after they finished the first leg of their travel and which would be around the site of the temple itself. Still, all that was said in the passage seems to fit perfectly the island. Apparently it was the most fertile in the entire Mediterranean, and this fertility of a wide variety of fruits would make "the air most sweet".

A report, the first of its kind on the great temple there, had been recently published and this did bring it "common praise" of its surpassing beauty. So, though an uninformed playwright perhaps could have imagined much of this, its accuracy and topicality among the well-informed make it more likely that someone associated with the circles of international trade and court interests around continental Europe would know of the island's distinctive attributes. This is especially true considering the previously demonstrated knowledge of Sicily from Chapter 10 and Much Ado.

11D. Finally, there is the additional argument that the Author's knowledge of Julio Romano's skill in sculpture (and not just in painting) was unusual. Nor, as has been suggested, was such skill something that could have been said of any other artist of the period and just attached to the name of an Italian artist that Shakespeare just happened to have heard in a conversation. Roe doesn't discuss this particular evidence but Naomi Magri does in her book Such Fruits Out of Italy. She goes into much detail about Julio Romano's works and talent and says: "The passage shows that the dramatist was familiar with Giulio Romano's works and was well aware of the basic principle of Giulio's art -- painting had to be true to reality, so verisimilar as to deceive the eye." Such knowledge is not easy to be acquired casually. And no other artist at the time had such a reputation for lifelike art other than Michelangelo. One would at least need to be part of an extended conversation about Italian art and at the point when Giulio's art itself was being discussed. Those that had actually travelled through Northern Italy, especially with a keen interest in art, would be far more likely to reference it, and to do so most appropriately, especially considering all the other points of Italian knowledge known by the author.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 17 - Messina, Temple, Monument

Shakespeare and Italy cont. with Roe’s Chapter 10

10C. This next point will again sound like some previous ones. In Act III, Scene 3, Borachio mentions that Hero’s wedding will take place “next morning at the temple.” At least that’s what modern editions say. And again, here, Roe says that the author’s use of “temple” is not being used as a synonym for “church” or “chapel” but is a proper noun referring specifically to what was then a world renowned temple in Messina, known to the locals as “the Temple” and that no other church there had that designation.

This ancient temple was built by 89 B.C., and was known as the “Temple of Hercules Manticles” and centuries later likened to the Pantheon of Rome, drawing visitors from all over the civilized world to see it. Further, it had been renamed to honor the Florentine saint, John the Baptist, to appeal to wealthy Florentine bankers that had come to Messina. Thus, it also was most appropriate place for the marriage of the Florentine Count Claudio. That the author would casually reference this prominent building suggests again his familiarity with the city.

10D. Similar to the above casual reference to the Temple, as well as an earlier reference to the great cemetery in Pisa, in Act IV, Scene I, the author has the friar say:

“And on your family’s old monument
Hang mournful epitaphs, and do all rites”

Roe points out that in England and some regions of Italy, someone might have a special monument or tomb, though it would mostly likely be in a churchyard or inside of a church. Most persons, though, would be buried in a single grave. In Italy, such as in Romeo & Juliet, members of the more notable families, at least, had tombs and monuments for families. And Messina, like Pisa, had an especially notable “Monumental (or Great) Cemetery” that is a major tourist attraction still today. So, like the arbours and the Temple, and the unusual forward behaviors of domestic help in Messina, the mention of the allusion to the Cemetary adds to the authentic atmosphere of the play’s locale, and again supports the playwright’s seeming unusual knowledge of so many aspects of Italy and Italian life.

10E. Adding to this particular argument is the next piece of evidence. Near the end of this same scene we read this exchange:

Benedict: Come, bid me do any thing for thee.’
Beatrice: Kill Claudio.

Roe explains the Sicilian “tradition” of blood vengeance, and that some editors may put an exclamation point after Claudio’s name thinking, wrongly, that Beatrice would ask for Claudio’s killing with strong emotion. The Sicilian tradition however is that such a request would be made in a business-like manner. This awareness on the part of the playwright hardly seems like the type of touristy fact one would learn from an average traveler that had been there. More likely is it that the customs of this and all the major parts of Italy were of special interest to the author.

To expand on the author's intimate cultural knowledge here we have Beatrice soon showing strong emotion when Benedict at first refuses her request. She cries:

"... O that I were a man!
O God, that I were a man!
I would eat his heart in the market place!"

Roe had shared these lines with a native Messinan who then explained that "It wouldn't need to be done 'in the market-place,' but it would not be done in secret, either. This is how it is said in our dialect: 'Ti manciu 'u cori: I will eat your heart.' " It's almost as if the author knew a native Sicilian.

What evidence is there that the traditional author had access to this information?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 16 - Messina, Arbours, Margaret

If you love all things Shakespeare, and honestly, who doesn’t?!, and if you can fit it into your busy schedule, you can try to keep up on Ros Barber’s ever expanding Shakespeare: The Evidence, now in about its 13th e-book edition: 

You don’t need to read it like us serious authorship nerds. You can just keep it for reference. It’s very easy to do keyword searches and find the best impartial review of the evidence on maybe hundreds of questions related to the creation of the Shakespeare works.
She also has a new online companion web-book being published in stages, called

BARDLY TRUE: the Lies We Believe About Shakespeare

You can subscribe to it here:     http://shakespeare-evidence.com/contents/

So far it includes some excellent detective work, following the trail started by others, on the Shakspere (or Shakespeare if you insist) as Broker theory.

Shakespeare and Italy continued:

10A. In chapter 10 Roe looked for clues in Much Ado About Nothing, set in Messina, Italy. In this case almost no building from the 16th century remains. But at least their locations have been verified. This play was at least partly inspired by the stories of Matteo Bandello (1480-1562) in La Prima Parte de le Novelle del Bandello, first published in 1554. The background of the story, which most adult Elizabethans would understand with just the mention of Messina, is now known as the “Sicilian Vespers”. This occurred in March of 1282 when the population of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, all at once slaughtered their hated French oppressors. This eventually led to their rule by Peter (Pedro) III, King of Aragon and Catalonia.

He makes the argument for the author’s ”firsthand knowledge of places, things and comportment unique to Italy”. The first piece of evidence are the repeated references to a “thick-pleached alley” or “the pleached bower Where honeysuckles, ripen’d by the sun”, or “this alley” or “the woodbine coverture” and “the arbour”. Though it is common for gardens to have arbors with roses or honeysuckle, Roe explains that “in Messina, where the summer sun can be brutal, such arbors are a dark and cool refuge. In Messina, vines were “pleached,” that is, woven together in such a dense manner to “forbid the sun to enter,” as Hero says. Such sun protection was so valued there that even rows of trees, having a walkway between them, had their branches intertwined to create a tunnel-like effect.

Roe was told by the central library director there “I love them, the coolest possible places in the summer, but there are not too many of them left in Messina anymore.” So it clearly seems they were a valued characteristic of the city, and valued more so than at other places on the continent or in England.

10B. Roe then describes how “the author simulates a singularly Italian style of master-servant interaction.” He says that “The easy relation between classes observed in Italy was comportment unusual for travelers from the north [and for England], where class relations were far more formal. And these observations aren’t just the views of Roe or other non-Stratfordians. The prominent Shakespeare scholar Charles Cowden Clarke had made similar comments in his Shakespeare’s Contrasted Characters, Chiefly Those Subordinate: “Margaret has, perhaps, too accomplished a tongue for one of her class; she, however evidently apes the manner of Beatrice, and like all imitators of inferior mind, with a coarse and exaggerated character. She forms an excellent foil to her mistress from this very circumstance; and both domestics [she and Ursula] are samples of that menial equality that exists between mistress and dependent still common in Italy.

Roe adds the sensible thought that “Incorporating such singular Italian behavior in his story would lend yet more credence to a play set in Italy.” In fact, all of the “singular Italian” places and behaviors in the Italian plays add this “credence” but who would appreciate it most than those who have been there? And especially those with the greatest familiarity of the country of that era. 

Ponder, if you will, why an English playwright, writing plays primarily for theater attendees that have never left the country, would bother to subtly mention many accurate characteristics of far-away Italy.