- Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: Rewriting, Remaking, Refashioning
Shakespeare and his contemporaries set many plays in Italy because it had the most influential European culture. Italy transformed classical and medieval French literature, producing an enormous amount of material. Meanwhile the culture of Italy was both admired and scorned. Michele Marrapodi' s first two edited collections on the general theme of Shakespeare and Italy moved beyond source studies, which remain essential first steps, and concentrated instead first on intextuality and then, in his second volume, on the role of location. Going a step further yet, this third collection of essays, including some of the same contributors, relates Italian culture to English drama by looking at the political implications of dramatic constructions.
The essays in this volume are divided into three sections, summarized by the volume' s subtitle. All are connected by the understanding that plays were often improvised to a greater or lesser extent, based on something like interchangeable parts. These theatregrams (Louise George Clubb' s word) are most obvious in Shakespeare's riffs on commedia dell'arte character types. Meanwhile Jacobean tragedy was exploiting forms like Guarinian tragicomedy and pastoral in ways that reinforced or challenged the political order of England. Within these limits Marrapodi's contributors find plenty of room to work.
The first section is perhaps the most positivist, but also shows how scholars in this field can pour new wine into old bottles through careful attention to detail. There are essays by Louise George Clubb, who revisits the theme of textual contamination; Frances K. Barasch, on the harlequin aspects of 1 Henry IV; Adam Max Cohen on Castiglione's influence on Henry V; Marrapodi, who provides a wide-ranging meditation on the protean nature of pastoral; Robert Henke, who gives a fresh perspective on mimesis and Hamlet; and Jill Phillips Ingram, who pays welcome attention to Gascoigne, rather than his source Ariosto or his adapter Shakepeare, in her thoroughly researched essay on the intertexts of The Supposes. [End Page 1036]
The second section features essays that turn on the idea of Italy as well as specific sources. Keir Elam reminds us that familiarity with Florio's Second Fruites explains much about Shakespeare's knowledge of Italian. J. R. Mulryne brings our attention to correspondence by a Sephardic Jewish Venetian merchant named Daniel Rodriga (the ending of his name explains the pronunciation of the great American justice Benjamin Cardozo, pronounced Cardoza). Lisa Hopkins convincingly manages to locate the Earl of Essex somewhere between Harington's version of the Orlando furioso and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Nina daVinci Nichols takes on the theatregrams of dreams, sprites, and recognition games, while Jason Lawrence works through the connections between Marston's Malcontent and Guarini's Il pastor fido.
The third section focuses on ideology. Again, some of these ideas are nascent in Marrapodi's earlier collections, but are deepened here, particularly in the meditation on Venice by John Drakakis. Coriolanus is explored by Claudia Corti in a gender sensitive essay and Victoria Scala Wood analyzes The Tempest in terms of ceremonial power that informs the stage and the state. Michael J. Redmond connects Prospero's relationship to political power to the political intrigues in works by Marston, Middleton, Beaumont, and others. It was onto Italy that England projected its sexual anxieties —not unnaturally, given the notoriety of Aretino. Celia Daileader defends the sexual excesses of Middleton's women while remaining properly shocked by Aretino's. A final essay by Giorgio Melchior explores the musicality of Romeo and Juliet, an essay one might almost think was waiting to be written, given the prominence of Italian music and even, if one follows A. L. Rowse's suggestions, the world of musicians that Aemilia Lanyer, perhaps Shakepeare's dark lady, belonged to. If Shakespeare was in love, the solution to the puzzle, pace Hollywood, probably does not lie in Illyria and the aging queen but...