Was Shakespeare Italian and born in Italy?

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William Shakespeare is the emblem of English literature for sure, but, you know, every time I read his works he seems so familiar to me, so Italian. This is not only because 15 out 37 of his works are set in Italy, he knows the nature of the Italians so well, that some of his immortal lines mirror perfectly some unchangeable traits of our society. An example? In his famous soliloquy “to be or not to be” , he actually seems to be pondering about committing suicide speculating on life and death, but he truly complains about some aspects of society that have the stamp of the Italian character. First of all ” the law’s delay” (it may take more than ten years to see the conclusion of a trial here and in the end you have spent so much money to pay the lawyers to end up destitute), “the proud man’s contumely“, the”insolence of office“, the”oppressor’s wrong” have been the causes of more than a suicide here especially in these times of economic crisis.

stock-vector-william-shakespeare-139142954However, there has been a lot of speculating about the authorship of Shakespeare. How could it be that a simpleton from Stratford-upon-Avon might display such learning ( likely grammar schools worked really well at those times) and intimate knowledge of Elizabethan and Jacobean courts? So the names of the candidates that for some reason must have hidden behind the pseudonym of Shakespeare are very celebrated indeed: Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe, the 17th Earl of Oxford and many others. My candidate is Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza.

florioIn his book Shakespeare era italiano (2002),  Martino Juvara, a Sicilian Professor, claims that Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza was born in Messina (Sicily) on  23rd April 1564 (William Shakespeare ‘s same date), the  son of  Giovanni Florio, a doctor,  and a noblewoman, Guglielmina Crollalanza. He was educated by Franciscan monks, who taught him Latin, Greek and history . At the age of 15 he and his family had to flee in order to escape the Holy Inquisition, as they were Calvinist. If we focus on the surname Crollalanza, we see that crolla/scrolla in English becomes “shake” and lanza/lanciaspear”;  Shakespeare, in fact.  A coincidence? Maybe.

verona-balcone-giulietta_f824441ee8156884010f7c85ed95932aMichelangelo and his family went to Treviso and lived in the palace of Otello, a Venetian nobleman, who had murdered his wife Desdemona few years before, as he was blinded by jealously. Once in Milan Michelangelo fell in love with a 16-year-old named Giulietta, a young countess who had been kidnapped by the Spanish Governor and had accused the same Michelangelo of the act, as he was against Calvinism. Her family members opposed the union, and Giulietta committed suicide. It’s only after Giulietta’s suicide that Michelangelo decides to leave for England. Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and poet, helped him as he had strong friendships with the Earls of Pembroke and Southampton under whose patronage, Michelangelo reached England in 1588. Once in Stratford he took the name of a cousin that had died prematurely: William.

At this point you may ask: what about the language? Prof. Juvara asserts that his first plays were actually translated and when he married his English wife, she  translated his works. Furthemore, for the biographers of the time Shakespeare seemed to a have a strong foreign accent. One more curiosity. Among the plays Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza wrote in Sicilian there in one entitled “troppu trafficu pì nnenti“. Do you want it translated in English? “Much Ado about nothing” 😀

 

 

 

 

 

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92 thoughts on “Was Shakespeare Italian and born in Italy?

  1. Pingback: Was Shakespeare Italian and born in Italy? | It...

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    • There is no mystery, but the controversy is due to the lack of original documentation. The Italian version of his origin is full of interesting coincidences, but, you know, it’s just fiction ( to be enjoyed on the couch 😉 )

      • Haha yes as I gaze out at the falling snow my running shoes beckon. Reading about Shakespeare sounds like a good way to continue on the couch potato lifestyle. 🙂

  3. Happy to have our Will as an Italian. One theory I liked studied rhyme schemes in detail and concluded that the nearest accent to the author of the plays was the New Zealand accent. Shakepeare a Kiwi anybody?

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  5. Simleton really….come om.
    There are so many allusons To Warwickshire, glove making, Forest of Arden etc etc etc.
    Do you honestly believe it wasn’t him.?
    He is praised by all of contempories in writing and even appears on the registers of the Heraldic Devices in London. Shakespeare was a man of Stratford, of that there is no doubt. That he had only a grammar school education atones to the brilliance of the man, rather than detracting from his innate ability. Shakespeare is as Italian as bangers and mash!

    • I hope you agree with me on the point that despite the many “allusions” you mentioned, there has been a lot of debating on the authorship of Shakespeare. This is one on the many theories, full on nice coincidences, fascinating, but I am far from believing it true. 🙂

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  7. Having lived in Italy, I can hereby confirm you make a resounding case 🙂
    I think it’s funny how all this time later so much uncertainty swirls about the most important wordsmith of the English language..how he might not be English. Now that would be poetic!

  8. Quite an interesting look at Bill the Bard Stephy. What I find interesting is that there aren’t supposed to be any other writings by him, i.e. Letters to family, friends other poets. One of history’s conspiracies I think.

    • There is lack of documentation, in fact, that’s why there are so many nice stories about his identity. After all it’s the sixteenth century, there was no facebook 😉

      • Dead right Stephy, it’s what makes him all the more intriguing. I saw a page along the lines of if Shakespeare had a FB page. Bit of a hoot actually. 🙂

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  10. In my opinion sometimes coincidences are true. We should open our mind to discover other realities and don’t focus on tradition. So could Shakespeare be Italian? I don’t know, we should ask him…

  11. Hello Stefy…

    Hello Stefy…
    This is a valid hypothesis… It really makes sense if we keep in mind some great very well known plays by the Bard. Specifically: “Romeo and Juliet”. There are so many unknowns facts and unanswered question as regard to Shakespeare that I would say: Maybe she was italian (why not?).

    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

  12. Well, we do know the Bard was not original. Most of his stories originate from older stories from around the world. It does not surprise me to find some stories come from Italy, after all Ovid was a big influence on the plays and we all know where Ovid lived!

    • The Italian influence was actually ever greater. Ovid, as you said, but above all Seneca, Plautus and also the original tragic story of Romeo and Juliet belongs to Matteo Bandello a bishop and writer of the fifteenth century! 🙂

  13. Hilarious: thank you. As someone once said, the plays of Shakespeare were either written by him or by someone else of the same name. Fascinating to see how much it matters to people: some good old British snobbery going on, I’m afraid!

    • This is exactly what this post was meant to be : hilarious. Few years ago an article had appeared on the Times on this subject, whose main concern was to prove that this theory was only the insane product of and old retired Sicilian professor ( “retired” was repeated many times). Thanks for stopping by.
      Cheers
      Stefy

  14. Interesting. The idea that he was a ‘simpleton’ has been abandoned nowadays I think! It is widley accepted that playwrights did collaborate but hand writing analysis suggests he was the single author of much of the writtten record. Sorry I don’t have the references.

  15. It actually sounds totally feasible to me, London was a Roman outpost after all…. John Cabot… Giovanni Caboto!? why would he write so much about Italy? I think there is a very strong argument here….

  16. well we have Mr Bell claiming he invented the telephone and for many years this was believed by many until it was proven htat Mr Bell stole the idea off an Italian named Meucci, so it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that shakesspear was an italian and that the culturally bereft brits have been claiming him as their own….

    • First Night Design
      Do you mean the most UNbelievable! All the evidence points to the bard being born in Stratford upon Avon. There are documents to prove this – check out http://www.shakespeare.org.uk
      To hold to the bizarre idea that he was Italian is rather like believing those people who imagine anyone apart from WS wrote the plays – for example Edward DeVere. Most of these arguments have been demolished by Louis Marder among others.

      • You’ve read too much into my comment and made assumptions. I have never held with Shakespeare being anyone other than Shakespeare and have no truck with the other theories put about which have always seemed very flimsy. Of these theories, I do think the Italian connection is the most interesting and sounds a great deal more believable than the others. I’m not a scholar. Perhaps you are. This is simply a layman’s take, albeit from one whose forbears include Anne’s family!

      • In fact, William Shaksper, the uneducated actor was born in Stratford upon Avon. But William Shakespeare, the poet and playwright was Giovanni Florio. I don’t know if you have read the (linked) documents I have posted on my previous comment.
        But it is really funny to read article written by Stratfordians, admitting Florio has edited William Shakespeare works.
        For example in the below article published in the guardian, Saul Frampton says Florio edited the First Folio
        http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/12/who-edited-shakespeare-john-florio
        in the below article published in the Oxford University Press, they have the courage to say that the Essays of Michel de Montaigne translated by John Florio and published only in 1603, it was probably known to Shakespeare even before it appeared in print. http://blog.oup.com/2015/09/shakespeare-michel-de-montaigne-john-florio/#sthash.x2C4C7ML.dpuf
        I know it is really hard to accept it, but we need to wait other 400 years to reveal the true identity of William Shakespeare?
        Actually this wouldn’t have happened if the heirs of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke had given access to the all 340 books and manuscripts (“printed and unprinted”) belonged to John Florio. In fact in his will, Florio left gifts to the Earl of Pembroke, clearly on condition that he looked after his second wife, Rose. Here’s the will:

        Instead, William Shaksper’s (the uneducated actor) last will and testament mentions second-best bed, goods, chattels, leases, plate, jewels, and household stuff whatsoever, but not books and manuscripts. Strange? Not really. Also the different writing styles of the two testament indicates who is the real William Shakespeare.

      • Hi
        The Guardian article looks interesting; I havent read it yet though. I suppose we cd swap links/references which counter the arguments for and against till the cows come home! The idea that an author needs to visit a country to write about it is a non-starter. Did Tolkien need to visit Middle Earth!
        He wasn’t uneducated; I think there is some evidence that he attended a grammar sch at Stratford. Just one ref to put a counter argument:
        http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespeareitalian.html

      • Hello Erik, I didn’t write that Shakespeare was Italian because he set almost half of his plays in Italy. In the article you used as a counter argument, it says only that “It was not unusual for an Elizabethan dramatist to set his or her play in Italy”. Have Marlowe, Bacon and Jonson set half of their plays in Italy and displayed such a profound knowledge of Italy and Italian culture? The answer is NO.
        The are not proofs that the uneducated William Shaksper (this is the original surname before the plays were published) attended a grammar school, but only speculation.
        In the article published on the BBC website, you can read “There are no surviving records of the pupils who attended in the 16th Century” the classroom in Stratford-upon-Avon. There are not even proofs that it was a grammar school.
        Instead there are shocking evidences that in William Shakespeare plays there are many references and quotes from Giovanni Florio’s works. It is rather shocking that in William Shakespeare works there are dedications to Giovanni Florio patrons and friends. From Lord Southampton to William Pembroke and Ben Jonson. There are documents about it. In fact even in his will, Giovanni Florio mentions them. But there are not connections between William Shaksper (the the actor from Stratford) and those people.
        William Shakespeare and Giovanni Florio display the same style (use of metaphor, the same rhetoric, the same extensive use of proverbs). They even coin words in the same fashion. This is easily verified in the introductory texts of Florio’s scholarly works: the dictionary A Worlde of Wordes (1598), First Fruits (1578) and SecondFruits (1591). Thousands of words and phrases written first by Florio appear in Shakespeare’s works. Two of Florio’s phrases become titles of William Shakespeare’s comedies.
        How can be explained the fact that in William Shakespeare plays there is an extensive knowledge of Italian writers some of whom had not yet been translated in English (for example Giordano Bruno). Giovanni Florio and Giordano Bruno were house guests of the French ambassador in London for more than two years.
        But after all these evidences (they are not the only ones) astonishingly we have even an admission from another dramatist of the time, writing that Giovanni Florio was the real William Shakespeare.
        Robert Greene in his “Groatsworth of Wit” (London, 1592) writes:
        “Yet, trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feather, that with his ‘Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide’, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and, being an absolute ‘Johannes Factotum’, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country”. Florio is the “Tiger” and the actor “Shaksper” is the Player. “Absolute Johannes Factotum” is Giovanni Florio.
        “Factotum” was a person who helped the noble classes to attend to their duties: in practice what Giovanni Florio had
        always done for some noble families in England.
        Futhermore, “Florio in 1591, after the publication of his
        Second Fruits, was named Johannes Factotum by H. S., since having H. S. read “Resolute J. F.”, which is the way Florio signed his Epistle to the Reader in the Second Fruits, transformed the letter F. (Florio) in
        a ‘familiar’ word: that is “Factotum”.
        And why Giovanni Florio had to keep secret his identity? It is the same Florio to give an answer “I know they have a knife at command to cut my throate un Inglese Italianato, è un Diavolo incarnato (translated= an Italian English is a Personified Devil”.
        http://www.florio-soglio.ch/open.pdf

      • Gentlemen, I truly enjoyed your noble and precious fight upon the real identity of the Bard and let me thank Barbara for having started all this. 😉

      • It is an interesting debate, but also a scandalous cover-up.
        In an interview to the Guardian and in his book, Jonathan Bate says that the “Dark Lady” of the Sonnets is Florio’s wife.
        http://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2007/apr/23/books1176?guni=Article:in%20body%20link
        In an article published in the Guardian, Frampton says Florio was involved in the Sonnets.
        http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/10/search-shakespeares-dark-lady-florio

        Is it really disappointing and sad that we can’t read other plays by William Shakespeare. In his will and testament, Giovanni Florio (aka William Shakespeare) wrote:

        “I give and bequeath unto the right honourable, my singulare, & ever honored good Lord William Earle of Pembroke Lord Chambérlaine: to the Kings most excellent Majestie, and one oJ bis royall counsell of state (if at my death hee
        shall then bee living) all my Italian, French and Spanish bookees, as well printed as unprinted, being in number about Three hundred and Fortie, namefy my new and perfict Dictionary. as also my, tenn Dialogues in Italian and English, and my unbound volume oJ diuers written Collections and rapsodies”.

        This means there are unpublished books written by Shakespeare, but the Pembroke family is silent about it.

  17. Your research and shares always fascinate me. Much intrigue with this perspective. I guess accepting his origin, one way or another, depends on one’s allegiances (and thus, biased preferences). Personally, I like the view you share. It’s plausible! 👏

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  19. Since I started to study English literature, my teachers, always told me that Shakespeare was the most skilled playwright that English people have ever seen. They even told me, that William was born in Stratford (English city) in 1564, and he studied in an English grammar school. To learn, that William Shakespeare, could be Italian, upsets me (if these voices were true), because, he could give, to oaur poets’ heritage, a great contribution. Sure, it is true, it is not very usually that an English grammar student, could have such a great talent for writing in a language that may not be his.

  20. I really enjoyed this, and the comments debate that it started.

    In my teens, I used to firmly believe that Shakespeare must have had some help, or at least an unnamed collaborator. There is only one known image of the man, probably the most famous in all world literature. Details of his life in Elizabethan London are sketchy, and it was easy to believe that the works could have been by Bacon or Marlowe.
    As I got older, I began to understand the nature of ego and celebrity. I decided that Marlowe or Bacon would never have allowed this grammar-school boy from the Midlands to claim their work as his own. But then I remembered that Marlowe was killed in dubious circumstances, and alleged to be involved in spying. I concluded that we will never know the truth.

    Now I almost want him to have been Italian!

    Thanks for following my blog, it is much appreciated. I will be back to posting on a regular basis soon.

    Best wishes from Norfolk. Pete.

  21. Lot of interesting and particular coincidences.
    But with all the Italian great minds that we had,I would not be surprised if he were Italian too.😊

  22. There are many coincidences that make us wonder on Shakespeare’s identity.If he were Italian he would be added to the many great Italian geniuses.

  23. Obviously the coincidences are many and they make me think that this could be true.I’m surprised that experts still haven’t discovered more and answered this question.

  24. Hello Teacher,

    It strikes me how such a great artist’s origins haven’t yet been identified…however I don’t hesitate to believe this theory (probably just because I love to believe it’s actually true).I really do hope this isn’t a huge hoax,but even if he weren’t truly Italian,the coincidences definitely tell us Shakespeare must have had SOME sort of tie to Italy.He might just have been a huge fan!!

  25. In my opinion, the thesis of the teacher is a bit creative/inventive, because nobody has ever talked about it.
    Maybe he seems like an Italian because he was interested and studied our culture, language, habit, cities so much to appear Italian.
    But I think he was an authentic English.
    I can’t believe that his poetry and his masterpiece could have been translated so well in English from Italian.
    If it is so, his wife was a master in literature…

  26. hmmm… I’ve read it but I don’t know what to write because we will never know it but it’s such a curious fact. It’s interesting because we will never know if the coincidences are really coincidences or not… we should have asked him if he was italian before his death.

  27. Hi teacher,
    I read your article and I found some interesting starting points. The main question I have is: how is it possible that historians have not discovered yet the real origins of Shakespeare? I suppose that is because we haven’t got certain information about his life, and for this reason he is considered a mysterious figure, who allows lots of speculations and different theories about his origins, that are still being analysed.
    Secondly, as I read in the article, his works are mainly set in Italy and they contain references to Italian mentality. That could explain his “probable” Italian origin, even though we can’t forget that Shakespeare’s period was Renaissance, which developed from Italy, and for this reason I think he could have been attracted by this country and its lifestyle without being Italian.
    Furthermore,the language: the English used by Shakespeare and his ability with rhymes and figures of speech let me think he was totally English, but he could have studied this language after his transfer in England, or someone could have taught him it when he was a child.
    To conclude, I think that “the Italian origin theory” is one of the endless conspiracy theories that people usually have, but who knows, maybe one day historians will confirm it: that would be a big blow to English literature, that, actually, it’s quite far from the Italian one. 😏😏

  28. Hello teacher
    I’m surprised to notice all these coincidences, but the majority of the authors is italian, and so he could be too. I would like to discover more about this.

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