In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Shakespeare's Italian Dream: Cinquecento Sources for A Midsummer Night's Dream Robert W. Leslie In the light of Shakespeare's extensive use of Italian settings and nomenclature, and his adaptations of plot-lines ultimately stemming from Boccaccio (Cymbeline), Giraldi Cinthio (Othello and Measure for Measure), Bandello et al. (Romeo and Juliet), it is surprising that the Italianate character of A Midsummer Night's Dream has not been generally noted. Most commentators see the play as drawing from a pool of classical, traditional, and romance sources which include Plutarch, Chaucer, the romance Huon of Bordeaux, Ovid, and Apuleius,1 while Judith M. Kennedy is convinced that Book I of Jorge de Montemayor's Diana (c.1559; Yong's English translation, 1598) furnished Shakespeare with the principal action ofthe play.2 This last has a certain credibility since it is indisputable that Shakespeare used Montemayor 's Felismena/Felix story in Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Book I certainly contains a similar pattern of changing love relationships and rustic setting. However, the strongly Italianate character of Montemayor's Diana and the generic rather than precise nature of the similarities noted by Kennedy do suggest that more exact parallels may be found in the literature of Italy. Hugh M. Richmond appears exceptional in identifying a possible Italian source in Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi II.8 (see Appendix for summary)3 which, to judge by the description given in the novella 's head-word, appears to presage the principal love intrigues of A Midsummer Night's Dream: Possidonio, & Peronello amano Ginevra, ella ama Possidonio, & hà in odio Peronello, il quale è amato da una altra Giovane detta Lisca, EgIi non ama lei, Lisca è promessa dal Padre a Possidonio, & Ginevra símilmente è promessa a Peronello; & nel volere celebrare le nozze, per nuovo accidente Ginevra divien di Possidonio, & Lisca di Peronello . 454 Robert W. Leslie455 (Possidonio and Peronello love Ginevra. She loves Possidonio and detests Peronello, who is himself loved by another young woman named Lisca. He does not love her. Lisca is betrothed to Possidonio by her father. Ginevra is similarly promised to Peronello, but, on their way to celebrate the nuptials, through an unforeseen event, Ginevra becomes the bride of Possidonio and Lisca that of Peronello.)4 The shifting relationships of the lovers and the conflict with paternal wishes (which is not present in Montemayor), taking into account Shakespeare's other instances ofmining Cinthio for plots, demand our consideration, while Richmond sees additional parallels in Possidonio's denunciation of the obstacles to true love (cf. Lysander's similar listing in A Midsummer Night's Dream Li), the removal to a rustic setting (in this case to complete the betrothals by marriage), an imbroglio involving danger and confusion which serves to re-align the love relationships and is ascribed to supernatural influence, and the challenging and overruling of parental opposition by a wiser authority. In addition to these structural details , Richmond also notes a common underlying theme ofthe superseding ofarchaic patriarchal attitudes to marriage which is emphasized by the use of both supernatural and magisterial intervention to deny parental severity. One might quibble that Othello and Measurefor Measure show more direct correspondences with their Giraldian originals than does A Midsummer Night's Dream with Hecatommithi II.8. However, it is clear from the commonly accredited sources listed at the beginning of this article that A Midsummer Night 's Dream is eclectic in character and is not restricted to close observance of a single principal source. The description given by the head-word and the structure of the novella suggest the main love intrigues of the play at least as strongly as, say, The Golden Ass does the Bottom/Titania sub-plot, and few would deny the influence of Apuleius on Shakespeare. Richmond's conclusions nevertheless relate mainly to the broad outlines of A Midsummer Night's Dream's plot. With regard to internal incident, background detail, and personality, further parallels may be found in the world of the Italian pastoral drama and, in particular, Giovanni Battista Guarini's best-seller Il pastorfido (published in London in 1591 and translated into English in 1 602), which prefigures a number of key points of Shakespeare's plot and setting. With regard...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 454-465
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.