Was Shakespeare Sicilian? Crollalanza…?

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

Giovanni Morreale
Giovanni Morrealehttps://timesofsicily.com
I would define myself an "eclectic" mind, trying, with all my hearth and soul to realize my dreams, which often gravitate around my family and my land, Sicily. Professionally, I am a Civili Engineer, seconded to the IT world of Cyber Security, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence.

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  1. Certainly food for thought. There’s a huge hole in William Shakespeare’s history which would fit perfectly with Signor Crollalanza and explain his attitudes and talents. There’s no reason why he couldn’t have been taught English from a young age. English was a very important trading language at that time and a teacher and mentor for such a young man would have been the norm. Shakespeare was a common name in that part of Warwickshire. It may have been possible that there was a tenuous link between the Crollalanza family and the English equivalents. Certainly John Shakespeare was a trader and importer as part of his business, hinting at International connections. If John Shakespeare and Mary Arden were to shelter a “cousin”, fleeing from religious and political persecution it would both explain the lack of a birth record and reflect well on the generosity of the family. Whatever the truth of his birthright, William Shakespeare was a phenomenal playwright who enjoyed playing the King and had a political world view of incredible depth. Not a bad sense of humour either, despite a gift for tragedy. Either way, thanks for positing such an interesting theory.

  2. His prose was a bit too emotional and histrionic for an Anglo anyway. But he was an English subject and so the UK gets full credit for his legend as the world’s greatest playwright. Perhaps this explains why a queen once thanked the nation of Italy for bringing civilization and culture to the world. This may have been a hint of exactly who the Bard was.

  3. As a Sicilian I can say that for sure such a thesys is very interesting and intriguing from the hystorical point of view.?But after all, this would not change the substance of the matter.?Which is that Shakespeare (or Florio-Crollalanza) was a genius, that was writing in english and that, due to his greatness, belongs not really to a specific country (whatever it might have been) but to the whole mankind.?Just like Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci or few others.
    I hope I did not make too many mistakes with my english 🙂

  4. Very good Giovanni,

    I’m convinced; Shakespeare was Sicilian… It was a very fun and intriguing article to read.

  5. I also heard that Leonardo Da Vinvi was born in Cardiff and was actually a welsh sheep farmer called Owen Jones. He moved to Italy and changed his name to Da Vinci, which isn’t the Italian equivalent but he rather liked the sound of it. Da Vinci’s intricate knowledge of Wales and its people is clear to see in his work. If you look closely at the Vitruvian man you can see that his knowledge of the anatomy of welsh people was excellent. How could he have known that people in a far off land would share the same anatomy as Italians? Simply because, he was not Italian.

  6. I too am convinced. The amount of time “Shakespeare” spent in England also explains the one great puzzle – why was his stuff was so bad when he wrote in his native language and so rich when he wrote as “Shakespeare”. I enjoyed reading the comment by James, but I wonder if he is pulling our legs? I don’t believe for a minute that Leonardo Da Vinci was welsh. Unlike, say, Vincent van GoghGoghGogh and Johan Sospan Bach. Anyway, to quote Shakespeare, ciao bambinos.

  7. Funny enough, I’ve just seen the BBC documentary this week and I’m watching Romeo and Juliet right now. That’s interesting. Indeed, very interesting for it seems there is no record of his life until he appeared in the London theatre scene. Anyway, I love Shakespeare wherever he came from.

    Ciao Giovanni
    By the way I whish you a great 2016.

  8. James your comment is very drole and not a little ironic. Why should Shakespeare not have been Sicilian? The arts have always been populated by people of different nationalities who have left their countries of origin for all sorts of reasons and have been adopted by other countries e.g. Yves Montand (Italian in France), Charles Aznavour (Armenian in France), and you just have to look at the USA and see so many famous authors, actors, artists born in countries other than the one in which they have developed their particular speciality.
    I think that whether Shakespeare was Sicilian or not makes no difference to the fact that in the same way as many people and places are considered to be part of the world heritage that belongs to all humanity, so does Shakespeare’s (Crollalanza’s) genius!
    Very sincerely, Franca Glorialanza

  9. Iuvara’s thesis seem to be perfect… Everything he mentions, as Shakespeare’s Italian origins, is very appropriate and this would revolutionize the whole apparatus of our knowledge! Waiting for a confirmation of that, we could say , according to Agatha Christie’s words, that two clues are a coincidence, but three clues are a proof!
    I really think Shakesperare was a genius of English literature and of international culture, like very few artists… and this solution would make him even more layered and complete in his cultural heritage and would explain many misteries about his life and liteary activity… impossible to be framed with the fragmentary elements we have had up to now.

  10. I have just viewed the final portion of the documentary. A fascinating thesis and one which must not have been ignored. Has there been more academic investigation? Aside from Prof. Luvara’s work, can anyone recommend another book relating to this?

    Thank you, and Grazie in advance.


  11. I am Sicilian and I wish it were true that Shakespeare was Sicilian. My question is: if there are no records that Shakespeare(from Stratford) wrote all “his” dramas, why attribute them to Crollalanza? There are no records that Crollalanza wrote them. The Shakespeare from Stratford has left some records of his involvement in the theater, his birth, his marriage, his children and his will. I do not think that any of the suggested names (to be Shakespeare) fit conclusively in his shoes. There are no records from anybody/. Amen.

  12. Sono convinto che Shakespeare era siciliano e stata una frode perfetta da parte degli inglesi che purtroppo non ammetterano mai, spero che per il futuro lo vedremo nei testi scolastici italiani al pari di Dante e Leopardi ma come italiano e no inglese

  13. What a laughable theory. Why does Shakespeare think Milan has a seaport in ‘The Tempest’ (1.2.145)?

    …Nice try Italy.

  14. There are virtually no people named Shakespeare in the UK. I wonder why. There are plenty of Crollalanza (or variations of it) in Messina.
    The idiomatic expression “much ado about nothing” is still used amongst us sicilians “troppu traficu pi nenti” . I find hard to believe that it was a mere coincidence that shakespeare (who never came to sicily) had made up this peculiar expression.
    and why the guy was so obsessed with italy? were not France or Spain or the old Greece or the Far East exoctic places full of the same charme of italy? and yet, he decided to pay tribute to my country in 15 works out of a total of 37. I wonder why indeed.
    Look at his face on the most popular portrait: does he look like an anglosaxon to you? Come on.
    Finally, how come his writing was so passionate and melodramatic, so “omeric” I would say… there hasn’t been an English writer before and after shakespeare who could achieve the same level of dramatic effect, blowing your immagination away. UK has produced excellent writers but shakespeare style is quite unique and somehow conflicting with the british way of thinking and put stories into words. there is instead a sort of familiarity to the italian (sicilian) way of seeing life and describing it with the frequent use of metaphores and similitudes and hyperbole…Et cetera.

    • I am so intrigued by this story and often get into heated debates with my English friends who cannot countenance the possibility that William might have been Sicilian. Personally, I like the idea a lot especially as the last part of my quite long surname is Lanza!!
      I also absolutely agree with you that the passion in Shakespeare’s prose and, as you say, his obsession with Italy do seem to be more than just coincidence!
      Still, there is no need to go to war over this, William Shakespeare was certainly a literary genius whose works have contributed to our world’s beauty.

  15. Milan indeed had a connection to the sea. Well, you have to know too that a man called Shakespeare was not enrolled as a member of a popular London club of theatre people but a man called John Florio. And there are reports that the actor William Shakespeare retired early from stage, possibly to concentrate on his activities as a playwright and dramatist. And there are reports that the actor William Shakespeare spoke English with a very strange accent which might not have been fitting playing English characters on stage (but fitting to characters in plays which were settled in Italy). And, by the way, in 1587 and hence at a time when Crollalanza was supposed to live in Venice or somewhere in Veneto he is said to be studying at the university of Padova, i.e. at an age of 23 years. In 1587 there were some students from Denmark enlisted at the university of Padova, and one of of them was Jacobus Rosenkrantz Danus or Rosencrantz Danus, a man called Rosencrantz from Denmark, just like one of the two friends of Hamlet. We have to find out now how and where Crollalanza/Shakespeare found the name Guldenstern. Maybe in Switzerland when moving gradually to Northern Europe and Denmark in order to escape the bloodhounds of the Holy Inquisition. Shaekespeare undoubtedly was of Italian origin. And look at his portrait. English looked different at all times, but Italians of that time looked like him.

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