Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Shakespeare and Italy: Grillo

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University

Shakespeare and Italy:
Grillo

Grillo, Ernesto M. Shakespeare and Italy. Glasgow University Press, 1949. NY: Haskell House Pub. Ltd., 1973.


“In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII founded in Rome an English college, to which was subsequently added a hospital, under the patronage of a cardinal” (Grillo 57).

Probably traveller introduced fork at Court (58).

Not only plots, but English drama “borrowed from Italian drama much of its technique–chorus, echo, play within a play, dumb show, ghosts of great men, mechanical stage apparatus and all the physical horrors which aroused in the audience feelings of awe and terror” (65).

“Harvey brought back from Padua the new theories on the circulation of the blood” (67).

Zuccaro painted Elizabeth; “Ubaldini was employed as a miniaturist and illuminator” (73).

Gravity from Newton (b. 1642) and gravitation towards center of earth unknown before Kepler, but TC “Is as the very centre of the earth, / Drawing all things to it.”

Sophocles’ Electra chorus consoles Electra for the supposed death of Orestes = mother and uncle to Hamlet on father (93).

“He knew that Padua with all its learning was under the protection of Venice and that Mantua was not. Besides he assigns special and precise attributes to various cities, e.g. Pisa, renowned for her wealth but still more for her ‘grave citizens’, an expression used by Dante; Milan is ‘the fair’ and possesses a ‘royal court’ and the famous St. Gregory Well. Elsewhere he speaks of the Florentines and Neapolitans, and accuses the inhabitants of Pisa of being avaricious. He knew that the Florentines were notable merchants and mathematicians, making frequent use in their commerce of letters of credit and counting their money by ducats; and he was also aware that they were constantly in conflict with the Sienese. And here the poet uses a phrase which is pure Italian–The Florentines and the Sienese are by the ear (si pigliano per gli orecchi)” (98).

Taming I.ii. — Hortensio and Petruchio greet “of pure Italian” (125).

“The word ‘traghetto’, used in Venice to signify an anchorage for gondolas, appears in the plays in the anglicised form of ‘traject'” (125).

Two Gentlemen of Verona — “Sound as a fish” = “sano come un pesce” (126).

Giordano Bruno for several years in England, lectured at Oxford University, in London as guest of French Ambassador who introduced him at Court (128) — sonnets 106, 109, 123.

Berni’s revision of the Orlando Innamorato, Canto LI = Iago’s “Who steals my purse steals trash” (128).

Taming, Merchant, Measure, Twelfth, Othello — purely Italian scenes. “Here we find such definite characteristics, such vivid local colour and such a wealth of precise and vigorous details that we are forced to conclude that Shakespeare must have visited Milan, Verona, Venice, Padua and Mantua” (133).

Florio professor of Italian in London and Oxford “popularised Italian literature amongst the Elizabethan courtiers” (135).

“The form of marriage between Petruchio and Katharine … was Italian and not English” (136).

Sly and pictures, Io, “suggest that the poet may have seen Correggio’s famous picture–Giove ed Io–which is quite possible if he visited the north of Italy in 1592-3, because from 1585 to 1600 the picture was exhibited to the public in the palace of the sculptor, Leoni, in Milan, where it was admired by numerous travellers” (136).

“The description of Gremio’s house and furnishings is striking because it represents an Italian villa of the sixteenth century with all its comforts and noble luxury” (136). My hangings, etc. (137).

Living conditions in England primitive (137).

“Gobbo is a purely Venetian name, which must certainly have been suggested to Shakespeare by the statue of the kneeling hunchback of the Rialto, which forms the base of the pillar upon which in ancient days were affixed the decrees of the Republic” (138).

“The exact distance between Monte Bello and Padua is twenty miles; and this amazing accuracy is no chance coincidence” (138).

Italian lawyers and jurists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance travelled round the cities of Italy putting their counsel and culture at the disposal of the public; very often they decided lawsuits and gave judgment in commercial and civil cases submitted to them” (139).

Not the sea alluded to regarding Verona and Bergamo — river Adige (141).

Tempest line: “In few, they hurried us aboard a bark,” “‘In few’ corresponds to the Italian ‘in breve‘” (142).

Two Gentlemen Valentine sailing from Verona to Milan = ignorance? No. (142).

“The River Adige which comes from the direction of Milan and flows through Verona was a navigable river; and Milan itself was situated on several canals, by means of which it was possible to travel from city to city” (144).

“The River Po, with its thirty main tributaries and many smaller ones, was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as in earlier times, the principle means of transport for the inhabitants of northern Italy” (144).

Two Gentlemen forest in province of Milan where robbers take refuge — “Here too Shakespeare is correct, because he places the forest in the only locality where it ever existed or could have existed” (147).

“Even Byron who travelled map in hand through Europe, and who earned such unstinted praise for the fidelity of his descriptions, made a considerable number of errors in his Childe Harold; Walter Scott, who knew Edinburgh as the Romans know their own city, made some unpardonable mistakes in his novel, The Antiquary; Chaucer, who made at least three journeys to Italy, in the Prologue to his Clerkes Tale makes the River Po flow beyond Venice; and of Browning, who loved and lived in Italy, one could cite many instances of errors in the description of scenes often visited and admired. But no one would dream of suggesting that Scott had never been in Edinburgh or that Chaucer and Browning had never visited Italy” (148).


Italian Bibliography