Here is how Harold Bloom describes what he calls “that Shakespearean procedure”:
". . . it is as though the creator of scores of major characters and hundreds of frequently vivid minor figures wasted no imaginative energy in inventing a persona for himself. (…) At the very center of the Canon is the least self-conscious and least aggressive of all the major writers we have known."
Forced and unnatural argument of this kind verges on the surreal, or the comic. No, Mr. Bloom, this man existed, and was a person as formidable as Dante, Milton, and Tolstoy—was indeed “the Resolute” John Florio!
The place for polemics: where academic themes are addressed and books by selected mainstream scholars are located and reviewed.
To the advantage-and detriment-of whom has this saga been conducted in the last one-hundred and fifty years? Who was the author, or who might he be, whose authorship of the oeuvre has been denied with such insistence? Why does the Institution-in the full Orwellian and Foucauldian sense of a system of surveillance and punishment, with policemen and professors reinforcing one another-defend this academic dogma so stubbornly? What problems, I asked myself, would arise if the name of the traditional English author were replaced with the name of another Englishman, noble or commoner, as long as there existed unassailable proof of his identity? None, clearly. If the name of any other candidate native to England were to be substituted for the name Shakespeare, as the anti-Stratfordians have been demanding since the 1850's, England's national reputation would suffer no harm. How could it be other than benefiicial to correct a misidentification and definitively establish an important identity? We would finally learn something about the author: his life, his works, his travels and loves. The Great Author would acquire a visage, a reliable portrait at last. But no: orthodox scholarship refuses to let go of the man from Stratford. Let us be clear: it is not a question of snobbery, which is the accusation that certain Stratfordians foolishly (or perhaps astutely, so as to embarrass their adversaries) direct at those who refuse to believe that the Bard could have sprung from a family of illiterates. It is not that the children of artisans and peasants were then incapable of creating poetry. They certainly were, as shown in the case of other Elizabethan authors such as Robert Greene, Marlowe, and indeed Jonson himself. But not like that, not like him, without the faintest trace of an academic curriculum, with the empty and routine life that official biographies relay.
James Shapiro, Stephen Greenblatt, Jonathan Bate and Scott McCrea like the great majority of faculty members of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries have continued to take Shakespeare's case, the inventory of this remarkable heap of contradictions, incongruities, and mysteries, without batting an eyelid. Assuming with religious solemnity the mission to study the works, they are constrained to accept the author as well, however unsatisfying and false he may appear to them. Thus Shakespeare has been seen as pure Writing, the Oeuvre without the man: a treat for the critical imagination! Shakespeare is the result of an invention carried out in the interest of the institution and its subjects, a myth imposed on the world of lettered folk spellbound by this idol, the disembodied Great Writer. The critic's mind surrenders with delicious contentment to the mystery of this Author who disappears into his own work and succeeds in erasing, in his writing, every trace of his own identity.
Be circumspect how you offend schollers, for knowe,
James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Simon & Schuster, 2010, 340 pages.
A serpents tooth bites not so ill,
As dooth a schollers angrie quill
(John Florio, Second Frutes, VI, 1591)
Shakspeare, the presumed playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote no letters, not even a single little personal note or commentary on contemporary events and certainly never replied to critics who attacked Shakespeare and his works. Indeed how could an illiterate actor possibly defend a literary creation he hadn't authored! But John Florio, the real Shakespeare, did attack the critics.
I will begin by quoting Florio's powerful diatribe against the metahistorical figure of the critic. This powerful rhetoric is not uttered by a dramatis persona of the Shakespeare's plays, whether by Julius Caesar, Antony or Hamlet, but by the dramatist himself. You will unequivocally recognize Shakespeare's voice and choice of peculiar words.
As for critiks I accompt of them as crickets; no goodly bird if a man marke them, no sweete note if a man heare them, no good luck if a man have them: they lurke in corners but catch cold if they looke out; they lie in sight of the furnace that tryes others but will not come neare the flame that should purifie themselves: they are bred of filth & fed with filth, what vermine to call them I know not, or wormes or flies or what worse? They are like cupping glasses, that draw nothing but corrupt blood; like swine that leave the cleare springs to wallow in a puddle: they doo not, as Plutarke and Aristarcus, derive philosophie, and set flowres out of Homer; but with Zoylus deride his halting and pull asunder his falampes perhaps, but sure they add no oyle; they will heale us of the toothache but are themselves sick of the fever-lourdane. Demonstrative rethorique is their studie, and the doggs letter they can snarle alreadie. As for me, for it is I, and I am an Englishman in italiane; I know they have a knife at command to cut my throate Un Inglese Italianato, è un Diavolo incarnato.(John Florio, Second Frutes, To the Reader; 1591)ire joynted verses: they doe not seeke honie with the bee, but suck poyson with the spider.They will doe nought, yet all is naught but what they doo. They snuff our lampes perhaps, but sure they add no oyle; they will heale us of the toothache but are themselves sick of the fever-lourdane. Demonstrative rethorique is their studie, and the doggs letter they can snarle alreadie. As for me, for it is I, and I am an Englishman in italiane; I know they have a knife at command to cut my throate Un Inglese Italianato, è un Diavolo incarnato.(John Florio, Second Frutes, To the Reader; 1591)
Let's be clear from the start, without Florio's epiphany I would probably be stuck with the man from Stratford, like Shapiro and the majority of you, with no other choice than to accept the traditional Shakespeare and live with that. This is exactly what I did until 2002 when John Florio popped out. I would have been as skeptical as Shapiro about the other historical candidates, all improbable and unconvincing in Shakespeare's shoes. The likes of Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Roger Manners Earl of Rutland or Henry Stanley Earl of Derby to name the more popular ones, are flawed candidates. They are the wishful thinking alternatives for Shakespeare's lovers who cannot digest the official story and are desperately looking for an alternative among Englishmen of high rank. This is not the only point on which I agree with James Shapiro. Another is that we both are convinced that Shakespeare was not an English aristocrat, that he was a commoner, only very close to the noble, the powerful, and the court. The Oxfordian argument that Shakespeare had an "aristocratic mindset" and therefore had to be a nobleman, doesn't stand. In fact, the values and ideology expressed in the canon do not fully match those of the Earls and Sirs of pure English ancestry. In the plays and sonnets, behind the aristocratic and the snob there is the foreigner, the exile, the Jew.
The third point of agreement is that both Shapiro and I believe in the "renaissance" of the author. The notion of the author, which was diminished if not completely eliminated by French and then American critics in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively, is now emerging again. The persona responsible for an oeuvre -impure and postmodernist as it may be - is back on the scholar's desk. Academics now increasingly recognize that the life of an author is important, even essential, in understanding a work of art. Shapiro states at the end of his book:
When I first explored the idea of writing this book some years ago, a friend unnerved me by asking, "What difference does it make who wrote the plays?" The reflexive answer I offered in response is now much clearer to me: "A lot". It makes a difference as to how we imagine the world in which Shakespeare lived and wrote. (279, my emphasis)
Bravo Shapiro! We fully agree on that. And if you could understand how much more logical and natural and meaningful and true is a Shakespeare whose father was an exiled Italian preacher instead of a glover from the countryside, our accord would be perfect. But here it ends, and my critique begins.
In many sections of his book it is not only the scholar, the historian at work, but the rhetorician. Shapiro the sophist goes as far as to quote from the most infamous passage of the Stratford's man last will in which the Poet bequeathed his wife his "second best bed." Shapiro knows that he can't hide in Stratford's dismantled fortress, so he bluntly decides to attempt a sortie and attack. His book, from its very title, plays ambiguously on the admission that the traditional Shakespeare is contested, but after analyzing the claims in favor of the two main candidates, the Earl of Oxford and Sir Francis Bacon, he concludes that, however mysterious the Stratford story may be, it is still Shakespeare who wrote Shakespeare!
Referring to Shakspere's so called "lost years" from the early 1580s to the early 1590s, he writes:
Was he a lawyer, a butcher, a soldier, or teaching in a Catholic household in Lancashire during those years, as some have surmised? We simply don't know. (.) We don't know and probably never shall, though such unanswerable questions continue to fuel the mystery surrounding his life and work" (9, my emphasis).
There is a mystery, but despite that, our critic believes the Stratford man wrote the plays and poems attributed to him. A corollary of the "early modern writer versus the modern one" argument is that the close biographical reading of Shakespeare's works, practiced by orthodox as well as unorthodox interpreters is wrong. Early modern writers didn't reveal themselves as moderns do, believes Shapiro so, stop looking for clues in the Bard's plays and sonnets. Here the rhetorician plays ambiguously on the notion of biography. If by biographical interpretation we refer to a reading which identifies every character and place in Shakespeare's fictional work with people, facts and places within the historical and geographical context of the time, then I completely agree with Shapiro. I think he's right in criticizing orthodox interpreters like Malone in the 17th century as well as Stephen Greenblatt today and some Oxfordians or Baconians who pretend to capture Shakespeare's inner life in the events of his oeuvre. Shapiro sees the danger of anti-Stratfordian subversion when he writes:
The more that Shakespeare scholars encourage autobiographical readings of the plays and poems, the more they legitimate assumptions that underlie the claims of all who dismiss the idea that Shakespeare wrote the plays.
If the orthodox scholars dare to invent, the heretics will imitate them and do worse, warns Shapiro. Referring to two biographers (Sisson and Schoenbaum) who condemned the excess of autobiographical interpretation of Shakespeare's work, he writes:
But this reluctance to speculate about autobiography embedded within the works failed to satisfy modern readers hungry for a different sort of life of Shakespeare, one more suited to popular notions of literary self-revelation (264)
Reluctance! Theirs and his is rather an obligation. Shapiro indeed pretends not to know that the life of the man from Stratford has no use within the analysis of the oeuvre, except perhaps to explain the recurrence of the word "leather" in the canon referring to Shakspere's father's trade! Or the mingling of Hamlet with the death of Hamnet, the actor son.
Shapiro tries to demonstrate that the early-modern Shakespeare unlike us couldn't rely on his life as a reservoir of material for his art. But, I repeat, his interpretation is simply caused by Shakspere's life which is too empty and too distant from the content of the plays as Shapiro himself admits at some point we know almost nothing about his personal experiences (269).
It's true that a playwright doesn't have to be a king to make a king talk but Shakspere's life is fundamentally at odds with the Bard's craft and art. Shapiro's interpretation is forced, unconvincing. We cannot expect a Proustian approach to autobiography in Shakespeare, of course, but it does appear evident that Shakespeare, just like Marcel in À la recherche du temps perdu, needed a life lived to give his stories authenticity and depth, a life, not only books (actually, there is no hint he ever possessed a library or even a single book), in which to find plots, characters, anecdotes. His imagination needed real flesh and blood. Moreover, Shapiro's theory contradicts the universal understanding of Shakespeare as the modern interpreter of our Self, the Author "par excellence" of modernity the one who, in the company of Cervantes, poetically ended divinely the early modern way, thinking, feeling and expressing ideas and sentiments as we do! The one whom Harold Bloom called "the inventor of the Human." Now, how can you, Shapiro, prove that Shakespeare didn't treat his autobiographical resources in a way similar to ours? It is unthinkable that a Shakespeare who wrote what he wrote and was also so very close to two authors powerfully autobiographical as Giordano Bruno and Montaigne, lacked the mental introspection, the inner skills, the modernity they had.
My Shakespeare, that is John Florio, lived the life of an omnipresent erudite courtier (with a documented personal library of about six hundred books), a political animal, during the long years he spent at the French embassy from 1583 probably until the end of the century, as well as assisting his patron and friend, the Earl of Southampton and many others; then later, at court from 1603 to 1619 as personal secretary to Queen Anne and groom of the Privy Chamber. This Shakespeare saw scenes and heard speeches, confessions, stories, plots, conspiracies. He interacted with the greatest historical protagonists of his time on the London stage he inhabited. Your Shakespeare, the actor, saw just a fraction, perhaps, of all this, and was incapable of imagining it.
Shapiro writes in the epilogue of his book:
What I find most disheartening about the claim that Shakespeare of Stratford lacked the life experience to have written the plays is that it diminishes the very thing that makes him so exceptional: his imagination! (277)
But imagination needs fuel, i.e., education, experiences and words. In the end, Professor Shapiro, Shakespeare's writings are life reworked, digested by the imagination, like any other true work of art, now and then.
FOR STRATFORD'S SAKE
Shapiro seems particularly engaged in avoiding any possible connection between his Shakespeare and Italy and Italians. Such an exclusion is totally absurd, as it is evident that Shakespeare knew Italy and the Italian language well. Italy is everywhere in Shakespeare, at every level - stylistic, linguistic, historical, artistic, geographic, topographic, emotive. Certain emotions can't be feigned or learned from books. In no other Elizabethan writer do Italy and Italian culture, which have a recurring presence in that literature, play so large a part as in Shakespeare. The author was not improvising, he simply possessed the whole life experience and baggage of knowledge accumulated by John Florio and his father Michel Angelo. Merry Wives and The Merchant of Venice derive from one of the novellas in Il Pecorone by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino available exclusively in Italian. This play was seen by critics as originating within the tradition of Italian commedia erudita, a genre influenced by Pietro Aretino, Cardinal Bibbiena, Ariosto, the Accademia degli Intronati of Siena, and Machiavelli: authors whose books were owned and read by John Florio. Merry Wives conforms to the Italian model of the beffa, "such a distinctive Italian attribute that there is no exact English equivalent" as someone wrote. Falstaff is a character with undeniable Italian roots in the stock figure of the Pedant (an Italian word defining a human typology found in Aretino's and Bruno's theatrical models) , just as the whole intrigue is Italian despite the recurrent use of English localities, which reveal as well as conceal. Including Measure and Merry Wives, there are sixteen "Italian plays" by Shakespeare as well as countless allusions to Italy and Italian characters in the rest of the canon. It is an impressive figure, however one interprets it. Harry Levin, an orthodox scholar, writes: "Yet in so far as Shakespeare's creative world had a centre, Italy and the Italians were very near it" (my emphasis). Shapiro completely ignores Shakespeare's poetic centre! In the 340 pages of his book, he briefly mentions John Florio three times and never mentions Giordano Bruno, Pietro Aretino, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, Gianbattista Giraldi Cinzio, Machiavelli, Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, or Matteo Bandello. These are all authors deeply present in Shakespeare's works. Orthodox critics, and heretics as well, avoid this argument, pretending not to see the evidence accumulated over the years by prominent scholars. At least two orthodox Shakespearians, Roger Prior ("Tasso's Aminta in Two Shakespearian Comedies," Notes and Queries 51.3, Sept. 2004, pp. 269-276; "Shakespeare's Debt to Ariosto," N&Q 246 #3, 2001, 289-92; and "Shakespeare Debt to Berni" Journal of Anglo-Italian Studies, vii, 2002, 1-8.; "Shakespeare's visit to Italy" Journal of Anglo-Italian Studies, vol.9, 2008) and Naseeb Shaheen ("Shakespeare's Knowledge of Italian," Shakespeare Survey, 47, 1994, pp. 161-169) have demonstrated that Shakespeare's knowledge of Italian language and literature was very impressive, that he could read the most difficult Italian prose and actually did. Roger Prior collected the evidence that Shakespeare amply borrowed from the pastoral poem Aminta (1573) by Torquato Tasso, literally translating from it. As he did from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1516), Aretino's five plays (1525-1549) and from many other Italian Renaissance writers like Giordano Bruno (from his play Il Candelaio, 1582, among other works). Alongside the Italians, there is the French moralist and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, the subject of a rigorous and penetrating work carried out by George Coffin Taylor in 1925, a short but cogent comparative analysis of Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays and Shakespeare's theater. What is the outcome of Taylor's meticulous investigation? In short, Taylor demonstrates that Shakespeare's theater employs more than 750 words and phrases taken from Florio's Montaigne, and used by Shakespeare no earlier than 1603. (Yet Taylor later asserts with certainty that there also exist traces of this influence in Shakespearian works written earlier than 1603. Let us be clear: not just isolated words, which would represent an immense borrowing at this level, but virtually identical phrases (nouns with a verb or an adjective), like caste the gorge at; sacrilegious theefe; cheverell conscience; idle, immaterial; fustian terms ("speak fustian,'' in Shakespeare); strike amazement; ignominy and shame; nipping air, and countless other phrases and over 600 words used first by John Florio and then by Shakespeare. This goes way beyond borrowing! Taylor's little book, which has gathered dust for decades on the shelves of university libraries, should be required reading for all students of English literature.
So: eighty seven years ago the coincidence of words and thought between the Montaigne translation and a good number of Shakespearian comedies and dramas written in 1603, and after (and "strangely," before that date as well) had been proved. But literary criticism took no notice. No contemporary Shakespearian critics, and certainly not Shapiro or Greenblatt dare to quote Taylor!
These are not suppositions or hypothesis but facts which Stratford's guardians refuse to acknowledge. The solid evidence collected by a minority of honest orthodox scholars isn't universally discussed and acknowledged by the mainstream academics who decide to ignore what would otherwise compromise the status quo. No one is denouncing this scandalous, unscientific attitude.
The Italian presence in Shakespeare is a huge, complex argument that cannot be dismissed in such a superficial manner as Shapiro does "A curious Shakespeare could have learned everything he needed to know about the Italian settings of his plays from a few choice conversations" (p.275). Absolutely ludicrous! In my book I address the Italian case in chapter 17 "The Spirit and the Land of Italy" where the full spectrum of Italianness in Shakespeare is considered. Now a book presented in 2009 in a limited edition and published in November 2011 for a wider distribution, "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy. Retracing the Bard's Unknown Travels" by the late Richard Paul Roe, consolidates the evidence of Shakespeare's Italian connection, ipso facto disqualifying the sedentary man from Stratford. The book provides the proofs and arguments (some already proposed from 1918 to 2004 by Sullivan, Grillo, Lambin and Magri) to conclude that the author has a first hand knowledge not only of Italy's geography, topography, language and history but, what is more crucial, he adds to the factual information numerous subliminal, intimate, personal and essential details which imply real souvenirs, a life lived! For lack, I would say, of more convincing candidates, Richard Roe decided in favor of Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford. But, John Florio's Italian credentials are bolder and infinitely more convincing than Edward de Vere's. Finally, Shapiro's antipathy towards the subject "Italy" goes so far as to refer to Amelia Bassano, a poet from an apparently Jewish, Italian Venetian family, of musicians at the court of Elizabeth, as Aemilia Lanier, using her husband's family name without any mention of her Italian heritage. Amelia Bassano is the woman a British subject living in New York believes is the author of the divine plays and sonnets.
SHAPIRO AND THE GREAT DOUBTERS
The Jewish American scholar is particularly embarrassed in dealing with some of the greatest Shakespearian skeptics he chooses to deal with. Among them, Sigmund Freud is the most embarrassing case for him. In the many pages dedicated to the father of psychoanalysis, he tries to explain Freud's heresy with some kind of awkward psychological arguments: his mentality, his obsession and special interest in people not being what they seem to be, etc. He also uses arguments of the same level to interpret Mark Twain and Henry James. He certainly didn't convince me and I have the impression he himself isn't quite convinced.
Despite the fact that most mainstream critics consider his book the ultimate affirmation of the official truth and the very end of the Shakespeare Authorship Question, it is impossible not to notice that there is an unsolved mystery somewhere in the Shakespeare story. This perception is confirmed by Shapiro himself in an article he published in The New York Times pathetically titled "Hollywood Dishonors the Bard" (October 17th 2011). Shapiro ends his defense of Stratford (not of Shakespeare!) with these words:
Why anyone is drawn to de Vere's cause is the real mystery, one not so easily solved as who was the true author of Shakespeare's plays.(my emphasis)
I shall briefly respond to Shapiro's question Why is anyone drawn to de Vere's cause?
Why anyone is drawn to de Vere's cause, actually is not a mystery if one reasons factually. Since 1850, a minority of mostly rational, independent and intellectually honest readers of Shakespeare's plays such as Whitman, Dickens, Twain, James, Freud, Joyce, and Chaplin have doubted the man from Stratford not because he was the son of a glover, but because the actor's life and career are at odds with the works of Shakespeare. To solve the mystery they had at their disposal only a handful of possible alternative English authors. In 1920 J. T. Looney published a book proposing Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as Shakespeare. Today the growing number of Oxfordian believers lack evidence, but are embracing the conclusion Looney reached 92 years ago. Oxford, who died in 1604, seems a little more probable and logical a candidate than Marlowe, who died in 1593, or Sir Francis Bacon, a rather cold and rigorous thinker. In other terms, Oxford is an inescapable choice for those who want to keep a Shakespeare of pure English DNA. In this respect anti-Stratfordians are, like the Stratfordians, incapable of breaking the blood circle, of crossing the ethnic, nationalistic line. To both of them, a foreigner, a Jewish-Italian Shakespeare is simply unacceptable.
Shapiro writes insistently:
Like all good detective fiction, the Shakespeare mystery can be solved only by determining what evidence is credible.(4)
There may well have been bundles of letters, theatrical documents, and even a commonplace book or two that outlived Shakespeare, but if so they have never been found.(48)
Further efforts to unravel the mystery of Shakespeare were pointless (51) (.all my emphasis)
So, again, for Shapiro, Shakespeare and his plays are surrounded by mysteries. What Shapiro lacks is the good Will, I mean the right candidate!
Along a handful of English aristocrats, silent in a corner of History, there is an impure Englishman, John Florio, patiently awaiting in the wings. Florio is a second generation migrant, a transcultural linguist-courtier, the son of an Italian exile with Jewish forebears, who became more English than the English, who saw England from the outside and loved it.
DOWNSIZING SHAKESPEARE TO SAVE STRATFORD
I'm convinced that Shapiro has unconscious doubts, even conscious ones about Shakespeare's identity! The very project of his book bears evidence of it. Why write an entire book about that Question, thus breaking a long standing academic tradition of silence, if he weren't assailed, in some way, by these same doubts? Doubters indeed worry him. From the great minds of the past as Mark Twain, Henry James and Sigmund Freud to the growing number of anonymous Shakespeare's readers. Disturbed by the Authorship debate, Shapiro decided to address it openly to avoid eventual greater damage to Shakespeare's reputation and status:
I became increasingly interested in why this subject remains virtually taboo in academic circles, as well as in the consequences of this collective silence. (5)
Therefore, armed with apparently big doses of common sense and erudition, he decided to intervene and try to understand the doubters.
I think it's possible to get to why people have come to believe what they believe about Shakespeare's authorship, and it is partly in the hope of doing so that I have written this book. (8)
In the outset of his book he indicates the main reason to explain the popularity of the annoying Authorship Question: it is the fabrication, in the past one hundred and fifty years, of the Shakespearian mythology by fanatical admirers of the Bard. All over the world - Shapiro thinks - a consistent part of Shakespeare's passionate readers reacted to this excess and became increasingly suspicious of the demi-god Author academia had created. Recently the "revolt" reached the periphery of the academic world with the Authorship question being studied in a number of universities across the continents. Then in December 2011 Hollywood fired its guns with Anonymous the movie!
In a situation perceived as critical (his book was published in April 2010), Shapiro acted like an anxiously resolute surgeon willing to amputate a big chunk of Shakespeare's rotten flesh in order to save his life:
Only one thing - he writes - could have arrested all of this biographical speculation: admitting that a surprising number of the plays we call Shakespeare's were written collaboratively. (58, my emphasis)
For this "Save Stratford" operation, Shapiro disposed of one single theoretical tool: the early modern versus the modern argument, an idea which applied to Shakespeare is destined to provoke a dramatic change in his interpretation.
Let's follow Shapiros's path until its dramatic conclusion. It was, I'm convinced, quite a shock for many of his readers outside and inside academia:
Shakespeare is not our contemporary, nor as universal as we might wish him to be. (10)
There's also reason to be skeptical about the extent to which early modern emotional responses resemble ours. (271)
As much as we might want Shakespeare to have been like us, he wasn't - and biographers lead us astray when they invite us to imagine that he was. (273, all my emphasis)
There is more. To give Shakespeare a realistic, human, (I would rather call it a Stratfordian dimension!) his linguistic skills, particularly the size and sophistication of his vocabulary are redefined by Shapiro:
No less groundless is the argument that Shakespeare's vocabulary was far greater than someone with only a grammar school education could have possessed. (276, my emphasis)
I wonder what Harold Bloom, Jonathan Hope, Simon Palfrey, Stephen Booth and a legion of Shakespeare students who had praised the poetic superiority and linguistic richness of Shakespeare's vocabulary have to say about this drastic liquidation. Perhaps they all instinctively felt that Shapiro had done what needed to be done in an emergency situation and therefore no one, so far, is contesting. Shapiro though, is aware of how traumatic his amputation could be for believers and adds:
It may take a decade or two before the extent of Shakespeare's collaboration passes from the graduate seminar to the undergraduate lecture, and finally to popular biography, by which time it will be one of those things about Shakespeare that we thought we knew all along. (.) I know that I am not alone in struggling to come to terms with how profoundly it alters one's sense of how Shakespeare wrote (.) (255)
Shapiro did what shrewd politicians do in critical times : a radical reform to avoid the worse. A lesser Shakespeare is a safer Shakespeare. The playwright from Stratford-Upon-Avon, albeit reduced, Shapiro thinks, is still in place and with him the two million visitors industry and thousands of Shakespearian university chairs are safe.
What matters to me in his downsizing, is that now the author's persona is closer to the truth , Florio is a step away from Shapiro's impure Shakespeare. John Florio, the man who shook the spear against ignorance, wrote in collaboration with much more than four other writers, wrote much more than just eight plays with them! Notorious collaborators were not only George Peel, George Wilkins, Thomas Middleton and John Fletcher (who perhaps later on added their contributions to Florio's manuscripts) but also his father Michel Angelo Florio, his mentor Giordano Bruno, his friends Samuel Daniel, Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd.. Without forgetting his great collaborators of the past Plautus, Ovid, Boccaccio, Dante and of the present like Michel de Montaigne, Pierre de Ronsard, Miguel de Cervantes. Lastly but not leastly the Italian Renaissance masters like Marsilio Ficino, Pietro Aretino,Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, Giambattista Giraldi detto Cinzio, Baldassarre Castiglione. whom academics are so forgetful of.
Post Scriptum: Shakespeare's Jewishness, besides his Italianness, is another "quality" which points to John Florio. Indeed, the candidacy of the only other Jewish author, Amelia Bassano, is ill-founded. Actually, all the arguments advanced in her name (knowledge of Italy, Scriptures, Continental languages and Hebrew, aristocracy manners and music) can be applied much more convincingly to Florio, the Tübingen theology student, Montaigne's translator, Southampton tutor and Queen Anne personal secretary for sixteen years. I wonder if John Florio, the Italian Jewish Shakespeare, is the candidate James Shapiro was unconsciously referring to when in 1997 he published "Shakespeare and the Jews."
FLORIO AS SEEN BY SCHOLARS: 1921-2007
Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World, 2004.
Born in London, the son of Protestant refugees from Italy, Florio had already published several language manuals, along with a compendium of six thousand Italian proverbs; he would go on to produce an important Italian-English dictionary and a vigorous translation, much used by Shakespeare, of Montaigne’s Essays. Florio became a friend of Ben Jonson, and there is evidence that already in the early 1590s he was a man highly familiar with the theater. (p. 227)
Keir Elam, ‘At the cubiculo’: Shakespeare’s Problems with Italian Language and Culture”, in Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare & his Contemporaries, edited by Michele Marrapodi, 2007.
Florio provides not only the venues but some of the actual dialogic material that Shakespeare employs in his representations of Italy in The Shrew and in later comedies, thereby rendering superfluous any mere physical journey to the peninsula. Shakespeare’s explorations of Italy, its language and culture begin and end within – altough they are certainly not limited to – the confines of Florio’s texts. (p.100)
Longworth Chambrun, Giovanni Florio. Un apôtre de la Renaissance en Angleterre à l'époque de Shakespeare, 1921.
Le lecteur constatera que le poète anglais et le grammairien italien employaient les mêmes tournures, presque les mêmes phrases, quand ils s'adressaient à leur protecteur commun, Southampton. (p. 103)
Le voisinage du grammarien et son influence indirecte sur le dramaturge suffit à expliquer bien des mystères, et rend inutile les théories baconiennes ou autres de ceux qui s'obstinent à croire que ce n'est pas le "Stratfordien" qui a écrit Shakespeare. Qu'on ne m'accuse pas de vouloir remplacer Bacon, Rutland ou le sixième comte de Derby, par Florio. Les travaux de ce dernier fournissent par eux-mêmes l'évidence que le grammairien était incapable de produire une oeuvre dramatique de quelque envolée. (p. 179)
Michael Wyatt, The Italian encounter with Tudor England: a cultural politics of translation, 2005.
John Willinsky has demonstrated Florio's importance as a source for some 3,843 English words in the second edition of the OED. Of these, Florio is responsible for the earliest appearances of 1,149 words (…),
(…) first Chaucer with 2012 earliest appearances, second Shakespeare with 1969 and third John Florio with 1149.
These statistics provide a striking picture of the manner in which Florio's work both registered and contributed to the development of English, a further indication of the multi-directional consequences of his philological stewardship. (pp.230-231)
Frances A. Yates, John Florio. The life of an Italian in Shakespeare's England, 1934.
The number, variety and picturesqueness of the English equivalents which Florio manages to collect for each Italian word are remarkable. This task brought home to him the wealth of English (...) The collection of so many English equivalents for each word must have involved at least as wide a reading in English as in Italian. To have found time in a busy life of teaching for such a vast and valuable work predicates in Florio an unwearying industry and an absolutely genuine devotion to letters. (p.190)
It is very probable that Shakespeare had sometimes occasion to study this dictionary. (p. 268)
Clearly Florio's Italian lessons were designed, not only to teach Italian, but also to lead up to a refinement, a polish, an elaboration in the learner's English style. (pp. 40-41)
One is again and again reminded that Florio was Shakespeare's contemporary and that they had the taste for words in common. (…) The way is now clear for an entirely fresh consideration of the whole problem of Florio's relations with Shakespeare. This book, which is dedicated to the impartial consideration of the facts of Florio's life, is not the place for such a study, which must contain some controversial elements, but the following is a brief outline of an argument which I hope to develop at length elsewhere. (pp. 334-36)
Manfred Pfister, Inglese Italianato- Italiano Anglizzato: John Florio in Renaissance Go-Betweens. Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe edited, 2005.
Translators, if they work on a certain level, translate from a foreign language into their own. With Florio, the reverse is true – or, rather, the rule does not apply, as with him the difference between own and foreign language becomes uncertain or collapses altogether. This is a measure of his linguistic and cultural in-betweenness [...] it is also quite impossible to decide, from which of the two languages he translated into the other […] which is the original and which the translation.( p. 48)
André Koszul, L'offrande d'un traducteur, in Revue Anglo-Américaine, avril 1931.
Mais certes nos listes antérieures montrent aussi, et plus clairement encore, que malgré ces quelques traces d'une discrétion relative, Florio est essentiellement un importateur et un innovateur hardi, hardi souvent jusqu'à la témérité. Bien plutôt qu'à la famille des "puristes" il appartient à cette grande tribu des hommes de la Renaissance qui en tous pays pensaient un peu comme notre Ronsard. "Plus nous aurons de mots en nostre langue, plus elle sera parfaitte." (p.520)
Felix Otto Matthiessen, Translation: an Elizabethan art, 1931.
Florio's greatest gift was the ability to make his book come to life for the Elizabethan imagination. (...) Florio creates a Montaigne who is an actual Elizabethan figure . (p.141)
The Zeitgeist breathed through him (p. 130)
It would be dangerous to press too for the striking similarities (p.162) [between Shakespeare and Florio]
George Coffin Taylor, Shakespere's Debt to Montaigne, 1925.
When the number of expressions in Shakspere, and the number of the thoughts in Shakspere, which could never have taken on their final form but for a previous reading of Montaigne,[translated by John Florio] are borne in mind, it may well be asked whether any other single work that Shakspere read influenced him in so many differerent plays and in so great a variety of ways – words, phrases, passages, thoughts. (p.42)
The strong influence in The Tempest is inexplicable, except on the theory that Shakspere returned for a brief interval to his reading of Montaigne. (p.32).
Shakspare was most profoundly and extensively affected by the Florio Montaigne in every way immediately after he had first had the opportunity to become familiar with the work in its entirety, […] Shakspere bore Montaigne's marks upon him to the grave. In what respects did Montaigne affect him? Practically in every respect in which a dramatist would naturally be affected by an essayist.. (p.33).
THE AUTHOR MATTERS
Who cares who wrote Shakespeare?
Does the author matter?
Or is the play the thing?
This is the kind of rhetoric questions we often hear about Shakespeare. What matters here is the œuvre. The Authorship Question has been a waste of time and we must believe that “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare”. This is a fideistic “logic” as expressed in the medieval formula Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd). This is also the conclusion of a prominent Shakespearian, James Shapiro who, in his lastest book Contested Will,contests the anti-Stratfordian non-believers. There is a misunderstanding here or rather an ambiguity very convenient for Shakespearians. They refuse to acknowledge that what is contested here is not Shakespeare, nor his works, but the biographical identity of the author. I agree, the Shakespeare Authorship Question is tiresome and annoying, its weakness results from the inconsistencies of the authors proposed within the last two centuries and not to the critique of the “man from Stratford”. All the candidates, from Francis Bacon to Mary Sidney, share a pure English ethnic stock and Shakespearian credentials which are solely linked to their social status and levels of education, nothing else. Anti-Stratfordians and Stratfordians are “hunting the bad Will”, their theorem is flawed!
As soon as you introduce the “Italian Anglified” John Florio, the Question starts making sense. Let’s see.
In Shakespeare’s case, an author’s life and persona are so dramatically distant from the oeuvre that perplexity and doubts about his real identity were raised during his lifetime. Doubting the identity of the “man from Stratford” is certainly reasonable, and questions on his identity do not represent, as too many people still seem to think, a “conspiracy theory” but what I would call a “logic theory”! The life of an author matters, it is natural, normal and logical! Biographical events are a crucial component to the full understanding of the context within which the oeuvre took form. It was time to dismiss the poststructuralist pretension which attempted to eliminate the author as the main responsible for the literary and artistic creation. It is obvious that multiple factors, that is structures, participate in the creation of a text, of a work of art. The author is the center of this field of forces and it is ridiculous to minimize his role in the creativity context. Of course the oeuvre is essential! Homer’s is the universally known example of an oeuvre without an author, but the Iliad and the Odyssey belong to mythological times not to the beginning of the capitalistic era. In abstract terms, if we had to choose between life and oeuvre, we would obviously take the oeuvre since without it there cannot usually be an author! But this is an abstract situation.
Shakespeare’s case is unique as no other writer presents the same profile. The life and oeuvre of all authors are deeply connected. Why shouldn’t this rule also apply to the author of Hamlet and Othello? Why is the biography of the greatest dramatist of all times unimportant? I believe that it is even more important to know Shakespeare’s life than the lives of other great writers. The biographies of Frantz Kafka, Marcel Proust or Roberto Bolano for example, are decisive in reading and interpreting their novels and Shakespeare is no less author than them, creating scores of new words and opening ill-mapped literary territories. Even for Dante (1265-1321) the facts of his life, his banishment from Florence and his subsequent voluntary exile, are fundamental to the understanding of his poetic and philosophical universe. Shakespeare’s work holds such a powerful symbolism and.universal values that one wishes to know more of his persona. It is natural and quite normal to want to know the origin of the father of the English language and, to some extent, of the British culture, the “inventor of the human”. Scholars or common readers who argue that his life –story does not matter, are driven to this conclusion by embarrassment and necessity. When the hero of a Nation-Empire possesses such a meager and pitiful biography, one must theorize its insignificance!
L’ITALIA E FLORIO
A distanza di qualche anno, ormai, dalla pubblicazione in italiano e poi in inglese del mio libro, mi sono chiesto perché l'Italia sia così ostile ad accogliere l'idea di uno Shakespeare di origine italiana. Voglio condividere con voi queste mie riflessioni.
Malgrado siano stati abbastanza numerosi in Italia, una quarantina tra critici e anglisti, coloro che hanno ricevuto nel marzo 2008 Shakespeare? È il nome d'arte di John Florio , solo tre hanno risposto alle lettere di accompagnamento e nessuno ne ha scritto una recensione. Due specialisti si sono tuttavia pronunciati a favore di Florio ma l'hanno fatto di nascosto. Il primo è A.C. il quale privatamente, in una lettera a un amico comune, si è detto convinto dal libro. Il secondo è Dario Calimani che nel 2009 intervenendo in un Blog del New York Times ha commentato molto positivamente il libro che gli sembra quasi metter fine alla questione Shakespeariana, tanto che Calimani invita interlocutori e lettori del blog a prenderne conoscenza.
Alla mia richiesta di rendere ufficiale la loro opinione, i due si sono dileguati.
Mi chiedo: perché in Italia c'è tanta diffidenza, indifferenza e disprezzo per la Shakespeare Authorship Question, ossia per il problema della paternità delle opere di Shakespeare? Che non sia una questione campata in aria appare evidente anche a un esame storico sommario. Per un'opera teatrale e poetica che è una delle massime se non la massima della modernità l'autore, evidentemente, latita. E non è normale, non è logico, non è giusto. Manca di vita, di carne, di psiche. Manca la persona di Shakespeare e mancano i documenti anche personali, gli scritti, le lettere, insomma l'espressione diretta e necessaria della personalità di uno scrittore. Manca di credibilità. La questione Shakespeariana esiste, è una realtà storica e non il risultato di una cospirazione plurigenerazionale che durerebbe almeno dalla metà dell'Ottocento se non dall'epoca stessa di Shakespeare! È ragionevole dubitare della versione ufficiale. Un fatto che io trovo particolarmente sorprendente è il poco o nessun valore che gli specialisti (e dunque l'opinione pubblica che contribuiscono a formare) attribuiscono ai giudizi sull'identità di Shakespeare espressi da un numero elevato di grandi scrittori e scienziati moderni. Mi riferisco evidentemente a autori come Henry James, Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles e altri per cui il nome William Shakespeare sulle copertine dei libri non è sufficiente a identificare l'autore e che a « scuotere la lancia » ossia la penna, è stato qualcun altro. Autori questi, tutti degni di fede, reputatissimi, addirittura adorati, letti da moltitudini e insegnati nelle scuole ma che per questa loro posizione su Shakespeare invece vengono snobbati come si trattasse di cervelli balzani. A me sembra invece che la loro intelligenza, intuizione e sensibilità, insomma il loro genio, sia una garanzia molto più certa della pertinenza del loro giudizio di quella che ci viene dagli specialisti, siano essi dottori delle più prestigiose università anglosassoni, che si chiamino Bloom, Greenblatt o Shapiro.
Ma torniamo al rifiuto di Florio da parte italiana. La prima ipotesi, per quanto riguarda il presente, è che la candidatura Florio è stata inflazionata o come si dice meglio in italiano, sputtanata recentemente dal libretto di un professore di scuola media di Ragusa che ha rilanciato nel 2000 il suo Florio Crollalanza (Shake-speare). La sua tesi folkloristica e l'approccio dilettantesco hanno avuto grande risalto nei media e non solo in Italia. Questo non deve sorprendere perché è una regola del mondo della comunicazione e dello spettacolo. L'attenzione dei media è inversamente proporzionale alla serietà e alla fondatezza delle tesi avanzate. Più una tesi sulla questione shakespeariana, ad esempio, è fasulla e destituita di fondamento, dunque « divertente », più i grossi media hanno tendenza a accoglierla. Insomma i media fanno il loro mestiere : intrattengono senza rischiare di sovvertire le idee dominanti. E la storia tradizionale del bambinello di Stratford-Upon-Avon fa parte, come tante altre favole, dell'arsenale delle idee dominanti. ll rapporto intrattenuto con i due Florio, con il padre Michel Angelo ma soprattutto con il figlio John, dagli universitari italiani anzi, dall'intera cultura nazionale, meriterebbe un libro. Gli italiani, per istinto, stanno dalla parte di chi vince, che siano le armate francesi, le spagnole, le imperiali, Mussolini o Berlusconi. Siamo opportunisti, conformisti, collettivamente pavidi (individualmente temerari), insomma, servili, semplicemente perché anticamente e a lungo sottomessi. E agli italiani conviene più stare sotto lo Shakespeare di Londra che sotto quest'altro shakespeare nostrano, un compaesano come Giovanni Florio che troppo ci somiglia e che poi deprime con quel nome insopportabile che evoca sia la Targa che il marsala! Quanto sia diffuso quest'atteggiamento l'ho visto in Italia a partire dalla stretta cerchia familiare e amicale: un misto di stupore e non so di quale invidia e fastidio. Perché disturbare? Ma per chi ti prendi? La cultura italiana è perfettamente a suo agio con lo Shakespeare dominante, britannico e la semplice idea di sovvertire quest'ordine con un nome italiano la disturba! Come è mai possibile un tale paradosso, si chiederà chiunque appartenga a una cultura "nazionale normale". La questione è complessa e anche contorta ma cercherò comunque di farmi capire. Gli accademici italiani "seri" si sono ben guardati, dall'Ottocento in poi, dal sostenere qualsiasi storia sulle origini italiane di Shakespeare temendo che una simile tesi li avrebbe resi ridicoli agli occhi dei colleghi delle prestigiose università inglesi e americane. Così i nostri professori, non solo hanno respinto sdegnosamente, con zelo superiore a quello dei britannici, le eventuali candidature italiche al ruolo di Bardo, ma sono arrivati a minimizzare anche l'influenza della cultura e della lingua italiane su Shakespeare e a snobbare totalmente John Florio eliminandolo dall'orizzonte dei loro studi.
Dopo il saggio informativo ma riduttivo di Vincenzo Spampanato pubblicato sulle pagine della rivista di Benedetto Croce nel 1924, è stato Mario Praz a massacrare, dieci anni più tardi, John Florio con una critica che sembra piuttosto una di quelle stroncature propinate a contemporanei avversari allo scopo di produrre loro il massimo danno possibile. In effetti è difficile da capire l'aggressività di Praz - insegnante di italiano in varie università inglesi dal 1923 al 1934 - nei confronti di chi, come Florio, l'aveva preceduto in Inghilterra guadagnandosi grande fama. Che non sia questa la chiave di lettura per interpretare tanto astio? Quale che sia la causa profonda, vediamo alcuni passaggi dell'incredibile stroncatura praziana, tratti da articoli poi raccolti nel volume Machiavelli in Inghilterra (1962).
Personaggio importante, dunque il Florio, se non proprio simpatico. Poiché del cortigiano e del letterato cinquecentesco egli sembra possedere molte delle meno amabili caratteristiche, trafficone, sicofante, piaggiatore, pedante, acrimonioso (.) come tanti poligrafi dell' età sua (.) è un mediocre che deve la sua fama a eccezionali circostanze. (.) Ché Florio era un retore (.) Non basta saper sciorinare tutte le risorse d'una lingua per essere buono scrittore (.) la figura dell'autore di un dizionario, d'una raccolta di proverbi, e di manuali di conversazione bilingue, non è circonfusa d'alcun alone poetico; nulla di sublime che ne redima la meschinità; (.) il Florio, pel quale la frase non è che un accordo di suoni, e l'importante è veramente la parola, caramella che egli succia beato, per classificarla o per estrarne una freddura. (.) Il suo insegamento mirava più alla figura che alla sostanza; ad arricchir la memoria degli allievi con frasi fatte, proverbi, ecc. (pp.167,168,171, 375)
Quando uno dei "padri" della critica letteraria e dell'anglistica italiana si è espresso così su un autore, non sorprende più che le successive generazioni di studiosi italiani si siano piegate all'autorità del Maestro e abbiano disprezzato Florio inorridendo solo all'idea di una sua possibile identità shakespeariana. Così in Italia nessuno ha saputo interpretare i profondi legami del Bardo con la nostra letteratura e trarne le dovute conclusioni, nessuno ha visto come, al di là delle ingannevoli apparenze, il linguista erudito e il drammaturgo condividessero carattere, pregi e difetti. al punto da coincidere!
Tra gli ultimi studiosi italiani "condizionati" c'è Alessandro Arcangeli, specialista di danza e passatempi rinascimentali che in un articolo del 2005 pubblicato in Francia, scrive:
Si des suggestions plus ou moins récentes, disant que Florio a été le vrai auteur du théâtre de Shakespeare, peuvent prêter à sourire, et même si la fréquentation personnelle entre les deux peut être raisonnablement imaginée mais n'est pas explicitement documentée, et même si l'identification de Florio comme étant la personne dont s'inspirent certains des personnages shakespeariens n'a pas convaincu grand monde, il reste attesté que Shakespeare utilisa de façon récurrente des passages tirés des écrits de Florio.
(Se alcune teorie più o meno recenti, secondo cui Florio sarebbe il vero autore del teatro di Shakespeare, possono far sorridere, e anche se è ragionevole immaginarsi che i due si frequentassero malgrado la cosa non sia documentata, e anche se l'identificazione di Florio come la persona che avrebbe ispirato alcuni personaggi di Shakespeare non è accolta da tutti gli specialisti, è tuttavia un fatto che Shakespeare ha utilizzato in modo ricorrente passaggi tratti dalle opere di Florio.)
La tradizione continua, dunque. Ottanta anni fa Mario Praz, pur conoscendole, non ha tenuto conto delle due biografie di John Florio, quella di Clara Longworth Chambrun "Giovanni Florio. Un apôtre de la Renaissance en Angleterre à l'époque de Shakespeare" (1921) e quella di Frances Yates, "The life of an Italian in Shakespeare's England" (1934). I due libri, specialmente quello di Yates, tracciano infatti un estremamente positivo e elogiativo ritratto di Florio, ben lontano da quello immaginato dai letterati italiani e dagli specialisti di Shakespeare. Le due studiose sfiorano il tabù arrivando a porsi l'inquietante questione del rapporto tra i due contemporanei italofili, il commediografo e il linguista, due scrittori protetti dagli stessi mecenati e amici degli stessi potenti signori. Oggi, Arcangeli non solo ignora quei due libri ma non degna nemmeno i recenti scritti di Manfred Pfister, Micheal Wyatt e dei pochissimi altri secondo cui Florio non era un banale pedante ma un coltissimo e finissimo umanista. Imperturbabili, i nostri studiosi continuano a sostenere che quel lessicografo spaccone d'origine italiana NON può essere Shakespeare. Se il terrore di passare per accattoni nazionalisti è stato certo una ragione importante che ha fatto dimenticare Florio, tuttavia ci sono altri motivi che rimandano, questi, ai meandri dell' italica psiche. Al di là del motivo forse più forte, appunto l'ossequioso, colonizzato allineamento con il credo delle università anglosassoni che hanno etichettato John Florio come talentuoso lessicografo, un pedante Oloferne a cui il Bardo si è vagamente ispirato e basta, bisogna dire anche che gli universitari italiani non hanno mai avuto simpatia per questo strano italiano. Giovanni Florio infatti, è figlio di esuli, come dire profughi, sfollati, terremotati, emigranti, e chi emigra, ossia chi lascia l'Italia, non importa se quasi cinque secoli fa, si espone a una duplice e contraddittoria reazione critica e emotiva. Da una parte c'è la condanna morale rivolta a chi abbandona la patria, dall'altra c'è l'invidia per chi ce l'ha fatta a staccarsi, a liberarsi da una condizione ritenuta, allora come oggi, penosa. Se poi l'emigrato appartiene, come i Florio, alla minoranza di coloro che all'estero si sono illustrati per le doti dello spirito, allora l'oblio è quasi una certezza. John Florio, anche prima di rivelarsi come l'autore delle opere di Shakespeare, era già percepito come un emigrante diverso, atipico, uno che aveva già tutto per non piacere agli italiani: non solo non era cattolico - dove cattolico vuol dire anche accomodante, portato al compromesso, trasformista - ma era anti-cattolico, protestante antipapista, figlio di uno perseguitato dall'Inquisizione di origine ebraica che invece di farsi spedire al rogo come Giordano Bruno, si era rifugiato in Inghilterra e ci era rimasto. John Florio avendo vissuto tutta la sua vita lontano dal commercio con gli italiani, arriva a pubblicare, prima nel 1598 poi nel 1611, un dizionario che contiene 74000 parole italiane raccolte in una quantità di variegatissima letteratura, dai classici del Trecento a tutto il Cinquecento, ma anche in opere scientifiche, tecniche, gastronomiche e militari! Un exploit geniale, di una modernità sorprendente, un risultato superiore al dizionario della Crusca che deve aver lasciato gialli di invidia (vedi Mario Praz) i dotti italiani per quattro secoli! Tutto questo spiegherebbe bene l' antipatia che si è guadagnato in Italia. Se si pensa poi che è stato quest'emigrante a tradurre per primo in inglese gli Essais di Montaigne e, se non bastasse, a dare agli inglesi la prima traduzione integrale del Decamerone, allora si capisce come tanta virtù gli sia valsa l'oblio! In quattrocento anni nessuno, in Italia, ha scritto una monografia su di lui, quasi nessun saggio, né articoli importanti se si esclude quello di Spampanato nel 1924 e le calunnie di Praz nel 1934. E poi non esiste in Italia un premio di traduzione che porti il suo nome; né l'Istituto italiano di cultura di Londra gli è stato intitolato; né tanto meno è stata eretta una sua statua in qualche luogo significativo della capitale britannica o in una città italiana. Anche in occasione della ripresa di interesse e curiosità su John Florio nel 2005, sono studiosi stranieri, un tedesco, un americano e un inglese a riaprire il discorso mentre gli italiani continuano a tenersi, tradizionalmente, a distanza di sicurezza. Anche il rapporto stretto e intimo di amicizia di Florio con Giordano Bruno non ha incuriosito più di tanto i nostri universitari. Io mi chiedo come coloro che conoscono le opere di Bruno non comprendano che l'academico di nulla academia, che detestava i pedanti, non avrebbe mai stretto amicizia per due anni con Giovanni Florio se questi fosse stato davvero il tronfio pedante di Praz!
Per la nostra cultura che ora questo scomodo emigrante venga proposto come Shakespeare è assolutamente intollerabile. Un cambiamento rischioso. Un problema in più, un' immensa, imbarazzante eredità che richiederà un'autocritica e una celebrazione che nessuno avrà voglia di compiere. Gli italiani non amano le riforme e tanto meno le rivoluzioni e, ne sono convinto, la maggioranza di loro, a parte gli sfegatati, nostalgici nemici della "perfida Albione", pensa che sia meglio che tutto resti com'è.
The Man Who Was Shakespeare
by Lamberto Tassinari
This first full length English edition, now out of print, will be reprinted in due
|A paperback version of the book will soon be published with the essential, compelling themes of the first edition as well as new, unsuspected names and stories to the Shakespearian puzzle: Miguel de Cervantes and his
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