I mentioned that there was a third reason for this sudden rash of Shakespearn posts – if two can be considered a rash? At lunch a few weeks ago my friend Simonetta mentioned that she recently picked up a book expounding the theory that Shakespeare was really Italian! Why not I thought, everyone has claimed him as their own – I recall in the old USSR he was regarded as one of Russia’s greatest playwrights!!!
A little background check – what did we do before Google, he asked searchingly – revealed that back in 2000 Sicilian professor Martino Iuvara claimed that Shakespeare was, in fact, not English at all, but Italian. His conclusion was drawn from research carried out from 1925 to 1950 by two professors at Palermo University. Iuvara claims that the writer we know as William Shakespeare was actually born in Messina as Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza. His family was hounded out of Sicilia by the Inquisition and he eventually fled to England to live with family who had previously immigrated there and anglicized their name: crolla = shake, lanza = spear. He was taken in by John and Mary Shakespeare and when their son William died he took his name.
And if you look at the settings of his 38 known plays he seemed to have a fondness for Italy: five (Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline) are set wholly or partly in Ancient Rome; three (The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale) wholly or partly in Sicilia and six (Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well) may be described as being set in Italy. However one indignant correspondent in the Times of London – and the claim led to a rather heated and at times unintentionally funny correspondence – suggested that his knowledge of Italy was no more than what you could learn from reading your local Italian restaurant menu. Assuming there was a Ye Olde Trattoria Italiana in his area of Cheapside!
Its an interesting, if highly debatable, theory, and I’m hoping to get my hands on a copy of the book – provided its available in English. It could explain how a man with no university education – Ben Johnson refers to him as “having small Latin and less Greek” – could write such an incredible body of work. One fly in the ointment as I mentioned to Simonetta is that it would have also taken a great command of English for a native Italian to achieve such language. Well apparently Doctore Iuvara has that covered – Crollalanza wrote in Italian and his wife, poor old – he only left me his second best bed – Anne Hathaway-Shakespeare, translated into English! Behind every great man!
Meanwhile I’m off to see Shakespeare’s Sogno di una notte di mezza esate – in English. I just hope they’re using Crollalanza’s original manuscript for the Italian surtitles.
Note: The Google Earth map is the work of someone named “H21” from France posted the placemarks for 85 locations mentioned in Shakespeare. They purposely left off a few places and challenged people to find the missing quoted places. One of the Google Earth team members added a custom placemark which has a picture of Shakespeare. If you have Google Earth you can access it here.
01 marzo – Sant’Albino