“Shakespeare is - let us put it this way - the least English of English writers. The typical quality of the English is understatement, saying a little less than what you see. In contrast, Shakespeare tended toward the hyperbolic metaphor, and it would come to us as no surprise to learn that Shakespeare had been Italian, or Jewish, for instance.” Jorge Luis Borges, Borges oral, 1979
John Florio, The Man who was Shakespeare Published by Giano Books in 2009.
A second edition of the book will be published soon. Check site regularly for updates.
THE NEW, REAL SHAKESPEARE
John Florio, an Elizabethan writer and courtier unknown to Shakespeare’s readers, forgotten or ignored by scholars, a gifted translator, linguist and propagator of Italian, French and Spanish languages and cultures in the England of the Tudors and Stuarts assumes his true identity as the author of the plays and poems attributed to a Stratford actor, William Shackespeare or Shakespere. In 1623, the thirty-six plays written by John Florio were collected under his pen name Shakespeare and attributed to the actor. Since then, the greatest dramatic work of modernity has been associated to the insignificant life of an illiterate man. So goes history at times.
Why has this great Elizabethan, John Florio, been forgotten by scholars? There must be something rotten within the kingdom of Shakespearean Studies… John Florio, the son of an Italian protestant preacher with Jewish forebears exiled to London in 1550, opens a fascinating perspective : a fully European Shakespeare, a powerful transcultural writer, a unique linguist, an omnipresent courtier. Florio was the first translator in English of Montaigne’ Essays and Boccaccio’s Decameron, the author of the first, “grand” Italian-English dictionary in 1598, the personal secretary of Queen Anne from 1603 to her death in 1619, the tutor, friend and protégé of the Earl of Southampton and of William Herbert 3d Earl of Pembroke, the friend of Giordano Bruno and more…
Shakespeare is about to assume his true identity, that of John Florio, who defined himself Italian in speech, English at heart. The book reconstructs with rigour and passion the marvelous metamorphosis through which John Florio became the Bard on the banks of the Thames. A Shakespeare “made in Europe” shows us that the birth of the modern world possesses a richness and a complexity that fills one with awe.
The site offers: The Introduction, excerpts and links to John Florio’s major works and his will which is compared to the meager one of the man from Stratford.
Fifteen Reasons for John Florio, The Man Who Was Shakespeare
John Florio added more than a thousand new words to the English language, showing a linguistic creativity identical to the one attributed to William Shakespeare. Furthermore, Florio compiled the first Italian/English dictionary, its 1611 edition contained 74,000 Italian words and 150,000 English words, one third more Italian words than the prestigious Accademi a della Crusca’s dictionary published in 1612 in Florence. Frances Yates, author of Florio’s biography (1934), defines Florio’s dictionary as the epitome of the era’s culture. (…)
John Florio and his father Michel Angelo, the son of converted Jews, a former Franciscan monk who then became Protestant are Italians; two erudite scholars like few at that time in England. They possessed a vast knowledge of the arts, science and literature, ranging from theology to botany, medicine to falconry and law to seamanship. An encyclopedic knowledge which Shakespeare clearly commanded. Few knew European literature like John Florio, who having read them in the original languages (Italian, French and Spanish) also taught them.
On the cusp between the Jewish traditions of his ancestors, the Catholic religion of his father Michel Angelo, and finally, his conversion to Protestantism. It is this vast “confusion” of John Florio’s faiths and sacred scriptures which coincides with Shakespeare’s beliefs.