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?

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