There has been much ado – and understandably so – in the Sicilian media about the presence on the island this week of the Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson. Miss Thompson has been here to film scenes for the forthcoming BBC documentary Shakespeare in Italy and visited Messina, Castellammare del Golfo and Palermo, where she graced the Antico Caffè Spinnato, much to the delight of the staff and their early-morning customers.
The documentary, presented by the historian and broadcaster Francesco da Mosto, will focus on the Italian locations and strong theatrical traditions which inspired the bard as well as pointing out the ways in which Shakespeare has influenced and continues to influence Italy. According to a BBC press release, there might have been another, secret reason why Shakespeare was so fond of Italian settings and to find out more we’ll just have to wait for the screenings.
According to the Palermo edition of La Repubblica, Miss Thompson, when asked what she thought about the theory that Shakespeare was not only Italian but Sicilian, replied that she did not think it mattered. She believes he came from a mixed background and that the coming together of different cultures can save humanity. She also said that the British and the Sicilians share a sense of irony and an awareness of the closeness of tragedy and comedy.
The “Shakespeare was Sicilian” theory has been around for some time and Professor Martino Iuvara from Ispica wrote a book about it, Shakespeare era italiano, in 2002. In this volume he claims that Shakespeare was born Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza [or Scrollalanza] in Messina and that his family later fled to London to escape religious persecution. “Crolla” can be translated as “shake” [verb] and “lanza” is almost “lancia”, which can mean “spear”, a theory with which the author Andrea Camilleri [of Montalbano fame] and his friend the director Giuseppe Dipasquale had much fun when they turned it into a play in 2010.
What do I believe? For what it’s worth I believe that William Shakespeare was indeed from Stratford-upon-Avon, England but, like Miss Thompson, I do not think that it matters.
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