Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shakespeare and Italy - 19 - Tempest Volcano Venture

12A. Chapter 12 in Roe's book focused on Italian clues in The Tempest. He argues that Prospero's island most clearly identifies with the island of Volcano just off Sicily's Northeastern corner. And that unlike other of Shakespeare's many accurate references to Italian geography, in this case it didn't make sense for Prospero to have come from Milan by boat. The water route that would need to be taken, though possible, was quite implausible. More likely, Roe hypothesizes, Shakespeare had originally meant for him to have been a Duke of Tuscany, living in Florence. This would make an easy trip to the Mediterranean and thence South to Volcano.

Roe reasons, however, that alluding to the Duke of Florence in a negative way would have been insulting to him and so against England's interests. Changing Prospero's home from Florence to Milan solved the problem because the Milan Habsburg Duke was not a friend of England, and therefore could carry a negative allusion. So Roe imagines a censored change in the script from Tuscany/Florence to Milan. Critics of this explanation think this is just too farfetched. However, in this case, a self-censorship would have been even easier to accomplish. As mentioned earlier, Francis Bacon had direct friendly connections to the Duke of Florence through his best friend Tobie Matthew. So Baconian Authorship Theory can account for this presumed place name switch.

12B. Roe then shows parallels between The Tempest and Virgil's The Aeneid. The route taken by Naple's King Alonso from Tunis to Naples would have been the same as that by Aeneas from Carthage to Cumae. Both would pass by the Aeolian Islands where there were great tempests as well as the island of Volcano. Roe sees the roles of the gods Juno and Aeolus in The Aeneid replaced with the roles of Prospero and Ariel in The Tempest. Further, he sees Prospero modeled, at least partially, on the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco I de' Medici (1541-1587). This Francesco, son of Cosimo I de' Medici, Roe says "was frequently reprimanded by his father for the amount of time he spent in his laboratory, obsessively studying alchemy and magic, etc. Again, both Anthony Bacon in his intelligence gathering, and Tobie Matthews, would be easy conduits for this knowledge to pass on to Francis Bacon.

These parallels make available further allusions to the Author's contemporaries. Francesco later made as his mistress one Bianca Capello from Venice. Apparently she was so captivating and irresistible to Francesco that some considered her to be witchlike. Francesco had a brother named Ferdinand who had been made a Cardinal by their father. This Ferdinand was quite concerned about his inheritance after Francesco married Bianca. This couple soon died in 1587 supposedly by malaria, but also rumored to have been by poison, likely by Ferdinand. In 2007 research confirmed their deaths by arsenic. So the intrigue has some parallel to that of the aristocrats in the play. And an English author with such political connections to these Italian court affairs would have a great advantage in alluding to them.

12C. Roe next takes many of the references to Prospero's island and connects them to the island of Volcano. There are so many and they are often so peculiar that it does seem like a very fit match. However, this does not mean that the Author hadn't also included many elements from other known locations, as taken from the research on the connection of the play to the voyage of The Sea Venture to Virginia and its stay in the Bermuda islands, which I also find compelling. Roe's description of the London Bermudas/Bermoothes as the poet's specific comical allusion I take as an additional possible conflation that enriches the story.

12D. Roe also mentioned language parallels in the play to the Catalian language, further showing the Author's in depth research of all things Italy. However, much of this, interesting as it is, is still too ambiguous for me to have found attractive clues and I haven’t had time to examine it further.

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