Shakespeare and Italy: D’Amico
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Shakespeare and Italy:
D’Amico, Jack. Shakespeare and Italy: The City and the Stage. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
“To create the urban settings of Venice, Verona, or Padua, Shakespeare drew on characteristics of the parishes and wards of London shared by / the Italian communes…. But there is an important difference. Shakespeare’s Italy is not an emerging nation-state dominated by a central court; his Italian city-states are not satellites revolving around Rome. Some, perhaps most notably Venice, are very distinctive urban centers, and they are all, in a sense, variations on what Lewis Mumford calls ‘the walled container’ (321), enclosed within walls that create an identity, defining a space within which one can be protected, or from which one can be banished” (9-10).
“Though symbolically flanked by the open port and the potentially open marketplace, and alive with the exchange of goods and ideas, the cities also have the capacity, like the stage, to wall in open spaces, to close gates, doors, and windows” (14).
“Kenneth R. Bartlett provides a concise survey of English travelers to Italy, from the Tudors who considered Italy as ‘the graduate school of humanism and the vita civile…” (15).
“And one must add that Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Italian language may have been sufficient to provide him direct access to works in Italian available in London, such as Ser Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone, an important source for The Merchant of Venice, of which no English translation has been found (Shaheen 161-69)” (17).
D’Amico’s chapters address architectural components: the Piazza, City Streets, Interior Spaces, the Court, Gardens, etc.
“The open stage as piazza maps an urban space that would have reminded the audience of the social and economic forces that drew many young men, like Shakespeare, to the city of London” (36).
“As the open space of the stage clears, we move from the dark streets of Venice to the council of state, where public and private matters will be debated. The council scene, with its table, lights, and maps, provides a fitting introduction to a consideration of Shakespeare’s interiors, since they can be most generally divided between the public and private” (70).
“There are a number of instances in Shakespeare’s Italian settings where the audience perceives a young woman’s bedroom as a prison rather than a warm and secure refuge from the tempests of the outside world” (86).
“The formal garden with its arches and hedges has an obvious metatheatrical quality that suits the staged scene designed to precipitate a transformation” (125).
The Tempest: “The island, like the vision of an ideal city, exists in the imagination. It is this quality of the isle that makes it, among other things, more like a theater in a city than a geographical place fixed solidly on God’s globe” (172).