Speculation: Was Shakespeare Italian? Was he born in Sicily?
This thought has perplexed many people, especially in England. It’s generated the same indignation that it would cause us to hear an allegation that Pirandello was a foreigner who had moved to Agrigento.
Over the centuries, scholars have been puzzled by Shakespeare’s profound knowledge of Italian. Shakespeare possessed an impressive familiarity with stories written by Italian authors such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Matteo Bandello, and Masuccio Salernitano. His plays contain too many accurate details about esoteric affairs in distant places, at courts, to have been written by someone “of low social standing such as Shakespeare”. Fifteen out of thirty seven Shakespearean plays are set in Italy, which is quite amazing if one thinks that Shakespeare never set foot abroad. He never mentions Stratford in his plays, for instance, while his knowledge of Italian toponomy, art, ways of living, laws, history and traditions are things that everyone can verify by reading his plays.
In an attempt to solve the mystery of Shakespeare’s Italian leanings, one former teacher of literature has published a new hypothesis especially for people eager to hear something new about the bard.
First of all, we all agree with Prof. Juvara when he says that it is the substance of Shakespeare’s plays and its heritage that really counts and it belongs to humanity in the first place. After all, nationalities are social conventions.
In his book “Shakespeare era italiano” (2002), retired Sicilian professor Martino Iuvara claims that Shakespeare was, in fact, not English at all, but Sicilian. His conclusion is drawn from research carried out from 1925 to 1950 by two professors at Palermo University. Iuvara posits that Shakespeare was born not in Stratford in April 1564, as is commonly believed, but in Messina as Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza.
His parents were not John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, but were Dr. Giovanni Florio, and Guglielma Crollalanza, a Sicilian noblewoman.
Crollalanza, literally Crolla (Shake) lancia (Speare) according to Iuvara studied abroad and was educated by Franciscan monks who taught him Latin, Greek, and history.
Because of their Calvinist beliefs, Michelangelo Florio’s family was persecuted by the Inquisition (Messina was then under the Spanish yoke) for alleged Calvinist propaganda. It seems that Giovanni Florio had published some sort of invective against Rome and the Church. The family supposedly departed Italy during the Holy Inquisition and moved to London. It was in London that Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza decided to change his name to its English equivalent.
Iuvara’s evidence includes a play written by Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza in Sicilian dialect. The play’s name is “Tanto traffico per Niente”, which can be translated into Much traffic for Nothing or Much Ado About Nothing. He also mentions a book of sayings written by a writer, one Michelangelo Crollalanza, in the sixteenth century Calvinist Northern Italy. Some of the sayings correspond to lines in Hamlet. Michelangelo’s father, Giovanni Florio, once owned a home called “Casa Otello”, built by a retired Venetian known as Otello who, in a jealous rage, murdered his wife.
In Milan, according to documents found by prof. Iuvara, Michelangelo falls in love with a 16-year-old countess belonging to the Milanese aristocracy, Giulietta. The girl’s family opposed their love, so the girl is sent to Verona (…) under the protection of the city governor. When Michelangelo reaches her there, he learns that the girl has committed suicide because of the sexual harassment of the governor, a fervent anticalvinist, who accuses Michelangelo of having murdered the girl.
After Giulietta’s death, Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza decided to flee Italy because the inquisitors had already murdered his father.
We must admit that the similarities between Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza and Shakespeare are intriguing…
“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”
Style edited by Nino Russo