Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Shakespeare and Italy: Einstein

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

Shakespeare and Italy:

Einstein, Lewis. The Italian Renaissance in England. NY: Columbia University Press, 1902. Rpt. NY: Burt Franklin, 1970.

“Lastly, intellectual activity centred almost exclusively around Oxford” (2).

“In the early years of the fifteenth century, when the lowest depths of imntellectual torpor had been reached in England, the efforts of a single man were to bring about a great change and introduce new rays of light. In Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, son of Henry the Fourth, and in the cultivated circle of his friends, the intellectual hopes of his country were centred. His career is of interest to the literary student, not only as the first conspicuous English example of the Italian princely patron and lover of learning, but as the benefactor of a great university, the collector of classical manuscripts, the the correspondent and protector of learning Italians who dedicated their works to him, many of whom even visted himn in England” (3).

“Oxford about that time had sunk to her lowest level…. For a time the university was reduced to the greatest misery, and the ruin of education seemed imminent. Scarcely a thousand students remained in her ruined halls” (7).

Humphrey responsible for “the practical purpose of the new humanism he introduced from Italy” (8).”What this was, as well as the practical purpose of the new humanism he introduced from Italy …” (8).

“With his death, however, in 1447, the first period of English humanism may be said to have ended. It was not a great age; its scholars were for the most part obscure men, whose names, with scarce an exception, have been forgotten. Its very knowledge of Greek, even if not confined to the Italian humanists in England, probably died out” (13).

“on the registers of Padua, British names appear frequently” (14).

“During the Middle Ages, English scholars were by no means unknown in Italy. At the University of Bologna there was an English ‘nation,’ and both Vicenza and Vercelli had English rectors, while on the registers of Padua, British names appear frequently” (14).

“To know Greek was the next thing to heresy in the minds of many who regarded its literature as unorthodox” (43).

“A new type of courtier had grown up in Italy. At the courts of Urbino, Mantua and Ferrara, a higher conception had been formed of what the companion of a prince ought to be; his manners and accomplishments became an outward reflection of the new life of the Renaissance, infusing its spirit into the court” (60).

“Scores of allusions can be found to these books in the English literature of the age, and especially to the Coregiano, which in itself may almost be said to have given voice to the undefined mass of Italian influences at the Tudor court, and assisted in forming in England the new type of courtier” (61).

“The accomplishments and pleasures of the courtly life had, however, first been systematized in Italy, and in sport, as well, its guidance was supreme. Even in horsemanship, Edward the Sixth has his Italian riding-master at the court” (69).

“Saviolo’s Practise, dedicated to ‘the English Achilles,’ Robert, Earl of Essex, obtained, however, a far greater celebrity, and still remains of interest as the great source from which the Elizabethan dramatists acquired their knowledge of duelling” (73).

“Even the Earl of Oxford, returning from his travels abroad, had with great difficulty been dissuaded from employing this Italian custom to revenge himself on Sidney” (74).

“Saviolo, like Castiglione, advised gentlemen to keep close guard over their tongues, neither to bear slander nor tell tales, and always to behave rightly to men of inferior station. To illustrate his point, he related the story of a wrestling match, which later Shakespeare made use of in As You Like It. Saviolo’s tale was of an overbearing Moor vanquished by Rodomont, the Duke of Mantua’s brother, who though himself a wild sort of fellow, would yet not ‘suffer so beastly a creature to stain the honor of Italian gentlemen.’ Touchstone’s description of the different kinds of lies was likewise taken almost certainly from Saviolo, who discussed conditional and foolish lies, lies in particular and lies in general” (74).

“Many other Italian articles were also in great demand in England, for the Renaissance brought with it a perfect passion for novelty, which welcomed the introduction of foreign fashions. This was especially true of the luxuries Italy had to offer. Its embroidered gloves, sweet bags, perfumed leather jerkins, and costly washes, were all said to have been introduced into England by the Earl of Oxford, returning home from his travels” (79).

“In the matter of costume, especially, the influence of foreign fashions was felt. Italian, French, and Spanish articles of dress became fashionable at different times. The poor Englishman, bewildered, knew no longer which was to turn” (79).

“The dandyism of the Elizabethan courtiers was sharply commented on and satirized by many writers of that age. It was even said that men changed daily the fashions of their clothes, no longer thinking a hundred pounds a great sum to spend on the wearing apparel of a gentleman” (80).

“Just as music, sports, and pastimes were held to be the flower of courtliness, so its fruit was in the proper advice to a prince, and in guarding him from evil. It was the courtier’s place to see to it that his prince should not be deceived by liars or flatterers” (91).

“Most of all he ought to cultivate learning; a knowledge of history would teach him many things of value. In studying the lives of great men, he would himself desire greatness, … ‘but he that savoreth not the sweetness of letters cannot know how much is the greatness of glory'” (Castiglione, qtd. 92).

“But learning was superior to arms, since it might of itself achieve immortality, which arms could not do without its aid” (93).

“the Earl of Surrey, who, though he never set foot in Italy (in spite of the pretty story told by Nash and Drayton), is yet said to have affected its dress, and employed an Italian jester in his household” (97).

“Sir Thomas Hoby and William Thomas, two Englishmen who were in Italy shortly before the middle of the sixteenth century” (117).

“The avowed purpose of his [Thomas’] History of Italy, written after five years of residence there, and first published in 1549, was by a selection of examples from Italian history to enable Englishmen to see how a nation had been enriched through peace and concord and made poor by strife” (117).

“Hoby kept a record of his foreign travels in a diary, intended, however, only for private use, and which has never been published” (118). [British Museum, Egerton Mss., 2148.]

“The important influence Italy had on Hoby was thus the impression he derived from its courtly life, which led him later to undertake his famous translation of the Courtier” (119).

“The Elizabethan Age thus developed a theory of travel. It found in it an educational element of great value, and regarded it half as a science, half as an art” (129).

“Rome was the principle place to be avoided on the journey” (131).

“It was rather about the middle of the sixteenth century that the greatest zeal for Roman remains existed” (135).

“William Barker, whom Hoby met in Siena in 1549 … later became one of the secretaries to the Duke of Norfolk, and was deeply implicated in his plot. He confessed his share under torture, whereupon the duke, who had denied everything, called him contemptuously an Italianified Englishman” (139).

“The English traveller could not, however, foresee that a far greater colonial empire than the / one slipping from the Venetians’ grasp would one day be the heritage of his own descendants, and that its possession would bring with it many of the qualities and faults he had noted as especially belonging to Venice” (144-145).

“The growth of Puritanism encouraged / novelists to attack the ‘Circean Charms’ of Italy and point out their pitfalls and perils. The ‘Italianate Englishman,’ as he was known, became alike an object of satire and reproach” (155-156).

“It was said of the ‘Italianate Englishman’ that he held in greater reverence the Triumphs of Petrarch than the book of Genesis, and preferred a tale of Boccaccio to a story in the Bible” (161).

“The new type of Italianate Englishman who returned home, bringing with him foreign affectations and vices, with a smattering of learning and a pretence of worldly wisdom doubly irritating to sober Englishmen, was no rare exception” (164).

“It seems remarkable that one of the most curious types of Englishmen should be known by no account of himself, or of his own tastes and peculiarities, but / only by the satires and invectives written against him. The Italianate Englishman, who followed Italian ways in everything, who admired no wisdom which did not come from across the Alps, who regulated his life to imitate the Italians, wrote no defence of himself” (173).

“Along with the ridiculous aping of Italian fashions on the part of the courtiers, a freedom was professed by many from all moral and religious restraints, till the Englishman returning from Italy began to be looked upon as an enemy of society” (173).

“From time to time, during the sixteenth century, numerous Italians took up their residence at court, or were in the royal service. The musicians, for instance, were ‘almost all Italians'” (188, quoting Florio).

“Even on the list of her New Year’s gifts among those to whom perfumed gloves or gilt plate were given appeared such names as Bassano, Caliardi, Lupo and Ubaldini. Petruccio Ubaldini was an example of the better type of Italian adventurers then to be found at every European court. He had first come over to England in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and having obtained government employ, had served in the war with Scotland. Shortly after this he wrote, probably for the Venetian Signory, an account of English manners, customs and institutions. He found a patron in the Earl of Arundel, who presented him to the queen” (189-190).

“There were no regular architects in England in the sixteenth century” (202).

Ubaldini “was both an illuminator and a painter of miniatures at the court” (205). Isaac Oliver another.

“Italian critics, generally, agreed on the English inability to withstand fatigue, and their need of an abundant meat diet” (218).

“The system of wards in chancery, a source of royal revenue, by which the crown administered the estates of orphans, and enjoyed the income until their coming of age, was described. The king enriched his retainers by giving them wealthy wards in marriage, to whom, if rejected, they were obliged to pay a year’s revenue. Matches were often purposely proposed, so that they might be refused, in order to gain this money for the favorite of either sex. … The king, therefore, would often try to marry one of his courtiers to a rich widow and, in case she refused her consent, he could seize her estate pretending it was his intention to unite it to another’s. For fear of this many widows married almost immediately after their husband’s death” (227).

1300s: “For two hundred years Southampton was the centre of Italian trade with England” (239).

“One, the most prominent member of the Italian community of his day, in the time of national danger, equipped a vessel at his own cost in the fight against the Armada” (268).

Vernacular: “English scholars, by no means so talented as their masters, left this for courtiers to do. At the court, therefore, the new poetry grew up, just as the new learning had prospered at the university” (318).

“The new poetry was distinctively a product of the court in the beginning, flourishing there and nowhere else. In Italy, every courtier had been a poet, and every poet a courtier. Castiglione, who had himself visited England, laid it down as a rule for his courtier to cultivate and polish his native language…. The new poetry in England was to be full of courtly feelings and ideas. It was essentially a literature not / of the people, but of a narrow circle” (319-320).

“There can be as little doubt that Wyatt was the innovator as that Surrey was the greater poet of the two” (321).

“Wyatt’s imagery, moreover, was generally simpler and less involved than that of Petrarch. He could not compare with him in skill, and the conceits he attempted were clumsy and ill-fitting as a rule” (326).

“In all likelihood both Wyatt and Surrey were quite unaware of the almost sacred spirit in which the Italian poets approached the sonnet form. They probably confused it with the popular strambotto; the mistake they made resulted, however, in setting a new English example which was followed by the Elizabethans” (327).

“Little is known of Surrey’s literary surroundings. The legend which inspired Nash and Drayton, of his travels in Italy and his knightly challenge while in Florence to all who dared dispute the beauty of the fair Geraldine, has been proved without foundation” (328).

“It is only necessary to compare his sonnet translations from Petrarch with corresponding ones by Wyatt to see the difference between the two and Surrey’s artistic superiority” (328).

“Just as Wyatt, by introducing the Italian verse forms into England, brought new vigor and life to its decaying poetry, so Surrey brought in the Italian artistic conscience, the love of polish and style and the aim towards perfection. Wyatt had striven in the right direction, but had misunderstood the nature of the Italian sonnet. Surrey likewise ignored the Italian structure, and made use of a model which was to be followed by Watson and Shakespeare” (329).

“Thomas Watson, in his Passionate Century of Love, began afresh the later revival of the sonnet” (332).

“The sources in every case were openly acknowledged, as / they tended to show the author’s erudition. Petrarch, Serafino, Strozza, Firenzuola, and others, were alike brought under contribution to illustrate his wit” (332-333).

“Occasionally the affectation took an outward metrical form as well, and verse was written in the eccentric shape of ‘A Pasquin Pillar'” (333).

“To escape direct imitation or translation, foreign Petrarchists would fall into errors of taste and abuse of metaphor, which led to the over-employment of mythology to illustrate what they had in mind” (335).

“Sidney chose his Stella, Lodge his Phillis, Giles Fletcher his Licia, Constable his Diana. To imitate Petrarch became the greatest ambition of every poet” (336).

First madrigals printed in collection by Yonge, then Watson. “Morley and Dowland continued the work, while Yonge later brought out a second series. John Dowland, who when in Italy had made friends with Giovanni Croce, Luca Marenzio and the other great composers, was the / most celebrated, perhaps, of the English musicians of the day” (349-350).

“John Cooper, for instance, called himself Giovanni Coperario after having been in Italy” (350).

“In Italy, during this time, music, the last product of the Renaissance, was at its height” (350).

“Sidney, Spenser, Dyer and Greville formed a society bearing the name of the Areopagus, perhaps in imitation of the Florentine Academy / in the time of Lorenzo, which bore the same name, although probably based on the one which Baïf had founded in Paris shortly before” (357-358).

“Not only was the English language burdened by ‘inkhorn’ terms as they were then known, but the different continental languages, especially the Italian, contributed to form its vocabulary. This tendency had begun already with Wyatt, who borrowed words here and there. Thomas Wilson had complained of those who, returning from foreign travel, ‘powder their talk with oversea language; … some seek so far for outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mother’s language; … another chops in with English Italianated and applieth the Italian phrase to our English speaking.’ E.K. likewise, in his defence f the Shepheard’s Calendar, spoke of the English language as a ‘hodge-podge of all other speeches'” (360).

Nash: “boisterous compound words, and the often coining of Italianate verbs, which end all in ize, as mummianize, tympanize, tyrannize” (361).

“Sidney’s descriptions called up other Italian reminiscences; the one of the beautiful Philoclea, for instance, may well have been suggested by the painting of Titian and Veronese he had seen in Venice” (363).

Italian books:”In 1599 many of these books were ordered to be burned, and, to use Warton’s own words, the Stationer’s Hall ‘underwent as great purgation as was carried on in Don Quixote’s library” (365).

“The Italian influence on the English drama came chiefly through the translation of novelle, although the dumb show and the play within the play were both of Italian origin” (366).

“Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy, like his own life, remains a paradox. On the one hand, the remarkable amount of information he possessed about Italian cities does not seem as if it could have been acquired except from personal observation. On the other, certain of the errors he made were of such a nature as almost to preclude the possibility of his having been there” (369).

“even granting that he obtained information from the tales of travellers, and / from such books as Thomas’s History of Italy, there seems no sufficient reason for his preferring Venice and Padua. Neither Florence nor Rome attracted him in the same way. His interest in the North can be accounted for in part by his fondness for Bandello and certain of the novellieri; but this does not tell all” (370).

“He went there [Italy], if at all, on board ship, perhaps as a sailor or as an accountant or clerk in the employ of some commercial house in London, for direct trade between the two places was then of common occurrence” (370).

“Each year the college sent out its missionaries to England ‘for the help of perishing souls.’ Before leaving, they went to kiss the feet of the Pope, who supplied them with funds for their journey. In the records which have been preserved, after each one’s name there followed a / brief account of his fate; sometimes it was only imprisonment; but often the factus est martyr and the accounts of those hanged, quartered, and disembowelled showed the perils and dangers which awaited such missionaries in the task they had taken on themselves” (380-381).

Italian Bibliography