Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

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Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Edited by Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi ANGLO-ITALIAN RENAISSANCE STUDIES SERIES Series Editors General Editor: Mich

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Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Edited by Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi


ANGLO-ITALIAN RENAISSANCE STUDIES SERIES Series Editors General Editor: Michele Marrapodi, University of Palermo, Italy Advisory Editors: Keir Elam, University of Bologna, Italy Robert Henke, Washington University, USA This series aims to place early modern English drama within the context of the (XURSHDQ5HQDLVVDQFHDQGPRUHVSHFL¿FDOO\ZLWKLQWKHFRQWH[WRI,WDOLDQFXOWXUDO GUDPDWLFDQGOLWHUDU\WUDGLWLRQVZLWKUHIHUHQFHWRWKHLPSDFWDQGLQÀXHQFHRIERWK FODVVLFDO DQG FRQWHPSRUDU\ FXOWXUH$PRQJ WKH YDULRXV IRUPV RI LQÀXHQFH WKH series considers early modern Italian novellas, theatre, and discourses as direct or indirect sources, analogues and paralogues for the construction of Shakespeare’s drama, particularly in the comedies, romances, and other Italianate plays. Critical analysis focusing on other cultural transactions, such as travel and courtesy books, the arts, fencing, dancing, and fashion, will also be encompassed within the scope of the series. Special attention is paid to the manner in which early modern English dramatists adapted Italian materials to suit their theatrical agendas, creating new forms, and stretching the Renaissance practice of contaminatio to achieve, even if unconsciously, a process of rewriting, remaking, and refashioning of ‘alien’ cultures. The series welcomes both single-author studies and collections of essays and invites proposals that take into account the transition of cultures between the two countries as a bilateral process, paying attention also to the penetration of early modern English culture into the Italian world. OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES A Bibliographical Catalogue of Italian Books Printed in England, 1558–1603 Compiled by Soko Tomita Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy: Intertextuality on the Jacobean Stage Michael J. Redmond Courtesans, Shakespeare, and Early Modern Drama Duncan James Salkeld Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare & His Contemporaries Edited by Michele Marrapodi Machiavelli in the British Isles Alessandra Petrina

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Edited by Laura Tosi Ca’ Foscari University of Venice Shaul Bassi Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

© Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi have asserted their rights under the Copyright, Designs and 3DWHQWV$FWWREHLGHQWL¿HGDVWKHHGLWRUVRIWKLVZRUN Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Wey Court East Union Road Farnham Surrey, GU9 7PT England

Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington VT 05401-4405 USA British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Visions of Venice in Shakespeare. – (Anglo-Italian Renaissance studies) 1. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616 – Knowledge – Venice. 2. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616 – Settings. 3. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616. Merchant of Venice. 4. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616. Othello. 5. Venice (Italy) – In literature. I. Series 822.3’3–dc22 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Visions of Venice in Shakespeare / edited by Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi. p. cm. — (Anglo-Italian Renaissance studies) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Venice (Italy)—In literature. 2. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616—Knowledge— Venice (Italy) 3. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616. Merchant of Venice. 4. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616. Othello. I. Tosi, Laura, 1966– II. Bassi, Shaul. PR3069.I8V57 2011 822.3’3—dc22 2010025850 ISBN 9781409405474 (hbk) ISBN 9781409405481 (ebk) II

Contents List of Figures List of Contributors Acknowledgements

vii ix xiii

Foreword Stanley Wells


Introduction: Visions of Venice in Shakespeare Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi


Part 1 Sources 1

Supersubtle Venetians: Richard Knolles and the Geopolitics of Shakespeare’s Othello Virginia Mason Vaughan



Venice, Shakespeare and the Italian Novella Daria Perocco



Genealogy of a Character: A Reading of Giraldi’s Moor Karina Feliciano Attar


Part 2 Political Culture and Religious Policy in Venice and England 4

Shakespeare and Republican Venice $QGUHZ+DG¿HOd


‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost: From London to Venice via Navarre Gilberto Sacerdoti


Job in Venice: Shakespeare and the Travails of Universalism Julia Reinhard Lupton


83 105

Part 3 Crossing Boundaries and the Play of Identity 7

‘Strangers … with vs in Venice’ Graham Holderness


Shakespeare, Jonson and Venice: Crossing Boundaries in the City Laura Tosi




Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


The Return from the Dead in The Merchant of Venice Kent Cartwright



Othello and Venice: Discrimination and Projection Alessandro Serpieri


Part 4 Venetian Plays and their Afterlife 11




Merchant of Where? The Venetian Plays in English Visual Culture Stuart Sillars Rewriting Venice and Radicalizing Shylock: Nineteenth-Century French and Romanian Adaptations of The Merchant of Venice Madalina Nicolaescu Barefoot to Palestine: The Failed Meetings of Shylock and Othello Shaul Bassi



231 251

List of Figures 6.1

Vittore Carpaccio, Meditation on the Passion. Job sits on the right; St. Jerome on the left. Oil and tempera on wood, c. 1510. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Stewart Kennedy Fund 11.118. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.



Francois Boitard, engraved by Elisha Kirkall: Frontispiece to The Merchant of Venice, from The Works of Mr William Shakespear; in six volumes. Adorn’d with Cuts. Revis’d and Corrected, with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author. By N. Rowe, Esq. (London: Jacob Tonson, 1709). By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library. 200


Charles Knight: Frontispiece to The Merchant of Venice from The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere. Edited by Charles Knight (London: Charles Knight and Co., 56 monthly parts, 1838–1843). Author’s collection.


Henry Courtney Selous: title-page to Othello from Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare: The Plays of Shakespeare. Edited and Annotated by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke (London: Cassell, Peter, and Galpin, 1864). Author’s collection.


William Hodges, engraved by John Browne: The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene 1, published 1 December 1795. Author’s collection.


Unsigned engraving of a scene from Charles Kean’s production of The Merchant of Venice (1858), published in the Illustrated London News, 7 August 1858. Author’s collection.





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List of Contributors Karina Feliciano Attar (Ph.D., Italian, Columbia University, 2005) is Assistant Professor of Italian at Queens College of the City University of New York. She has published essays on Masuccio Salernitano and Pietro Fortini, and is currently completing a book on Christian–Jewish and Christian–Muslim liaisons in the fourteenth- to sixteenth-century Italian novella. Shaul Bassi is Associate Professor of English Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His research, teaching and publications are divided between Shakespeare, postcolonial studies and Jewish studies. His publications include Le metamorfosi di Otello. Storia di un’etnicità immaginaria (2000) and Poeti indiani del Novecento di lingua inglese (1998). He is the editor of a new Italian edition of Othello (translated by Alessandro Serpieri, 2009) and co-author (with Alberto Toso Fei) of Shakespeare in Venice. Exploring the City with Shylock and Othello (2007). Kent Cartwright is Professor of English and chair of the Department of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Shakespearean Tragedy and Its Double: The Rhythms of Audience Response (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991) and Theatre and Humanism: English Drama in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1991). He has recently edited A Companion to Tudor Literature (Blackwell, 2010), and he is currently editing The Comedy of Errors for the Arden Shakespeare, 3rd series. $QGUHZ+DG¿HOG is Professor of English at the University of Sussex. He is the author and editor of over 20 books, including Literature, Politics, and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (1994), Literature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance, 1545–1625 (1998), Amazons, Savages and Machiavels: An Anthology of Travel and Colonial Writing, 1550–1650 (2001), and Shakespeare and Republicanism (2005). He is the editor of Renaissance Studies and is currently writing a new biography of Spenser. Graham Holderness is Professor of English at the University of Hertfordshire, and author or editor of numerous studies in early modern and modern literature, drama and theology. Recent books include Shakespeare and Venice (Ashgate, 2010) and Shrews: Gender and Power in Shrew-Taming Narratives 1500–1700 ZLWK'DYLG:RRWWRQ +HLVDOVRDZULWHURI¿FWLRQDQGSRHWU\&XUUHQWSURMHFWV include Shakespeare and the Middle East, and the representation of Christ in OLWHUDWXUHDQG¿OP+HLVFXUUHQWO\ZRUNLQJRQDQHZELRJUDSK\RI6KDNHVSHDUH


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Julia Reinhard Lupton is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. She is author of Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology and Afterlives of the Saints: Hagiography, Typology and Renaissance Literature and co-author with Kenneth Reinhard of After Oedipus: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis. Her latest book, Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. She has started work on a new project on Shakespeare and designs for living. Madalina Nicolaescu is Professor of English Literature at the University of Bucharest. She is author of Eccentric Mappings of the Renaissance (1997) and Meanings of Violence in Shakespeare’s Plays (2002). Further recent publications include ‘Religion and War in Henry V’ in Shakespeare and War, edited by Paul Fransen and Ros King (2008); ‘Mixing and Mingling: Bodin and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus’ in Shakespeare in Europe: History and Memory, edited by Marta Gibinska (Kraków, 2007); and ‘Undoing Nationalist Leanings in Teaching Shakespeare’ in Shifting the Scene: Shakespeare in European Culture (2003). Daria Perocco is Professor of Italian Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Her work focuses mainly on literary and cultural history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially drama (Machiavelli), treatises (Bembo, Castelvetro, Amadi), travel literature (Viaggiare e raccontare, 1997), women’s writing and narrative (Bandello, Straparola). She recently published a book with WKHFULWLFDOHGLWLRQRIWKH¿UVWVRXUFHVRIRomeo and Juliet (La prima Giulietta, 2008) and edited previously unknown texts dedicated to Venetian rowing races (Poesie per le regate, 2006). Gilberto Sacerdoti is Professor of English Literature at Università Roma Tre. He is the author of two books on Shakespeare: Nuovo cielo, nuova terra. La rivelazione Copernicana di Antonio e Cleopatra di Shakespeare (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990, reprint Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2008), and 6DFUL¿FLRHVRYUDQLWj Teologia e politica nell’Europa di Shakespeare e Bruno (Torino, Einaudi, 2002). He has also written a number of essays on Ralegh, Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli, Bacon, and Toland. Alessandro Serpieri, Professor Emeritus of English Literature at the University of Florence, has carried out extensive research on dramatic language as well DV RQ SRHWU\ DQG SURVH +LV PDLQ ¿HOGV RI LQWHUHVW DUH WKH (OL]DEHWKDQ WKHDWUH (particularly Shakespeare), the poetry of John Donne, romantic poetry, nineteenthand twentieth-century poetry, aspects of the novel, and twentieth-century theatre. His rich bibliography includes: John Webster (1966), the Epistolario of Joseph Conrad (1966), Hopkins – Eliot – Auden (1969), T.S. Eliot: le strutture profonde (1973), I sonetti dell’immortalità (1975), Otello: l’Eros negato (1978, 3rd revised edition, 2003), Retorica e immaginario (1986), On the Language of Drama (1989), and Polifonia shakespeariana (2002).

List of Contributors


Stuart Sillars is Professor of English at the University of Bergen, having previously been a member of the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. His most recent books are Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic, 1720–1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and The Illustrated Shakespeare, 1709–1875 (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and his other books discuss literature and YLVXDO DUW LQ WKH WZR ZRUOG ZDUV DQG YLVXDO UHODWLRQV LQ SRSXODU ¿FWLRQ +H LV a member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Letters, a Visiting Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and an Honorary Research Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Laura Tosi is Associate Professor of English Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. She has researched and written articles on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, women’s studies, eighteenth-century mock-heroic poetry, postmodernist ¿FWLRQ DQG FKLOGUHQ¶V OLWHUDWXUH 6KH KDV ZULWWHQ PRQRJUDSKV RQ %HQ -RQVRQ¶V plays (Comunicazione e aggressione, Milan 1998) and John Webster (La memoria del testo, Pisa, 2001) and has edited and translated a collection of Victorian fairy tales (Draghi e Principesse, Venice, 2003). Her latest book is on the literary fairy tale in England (/D ¿DED OHWWHUDULD LQJOHVH, Venice, 2007). She is currently editing (with Alessandra Petrina) a collection of essays on Elizabeth I: Representations of Elizabeth I in Early Modern Culture, for Palgrave Macmillan (April 2011). Virginia Mason Vaughan is Professor of English at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. With Alden T. Vaughan she co-authored Shakespeare’s Caliban: A Cultural History and co-edited The Tempest for the Third Arden Series. She is also the author of Othello: A Contextual History and Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500–1800. Stanley Wells is a renowned authority on Shakespeare and other writers of his time. He is Chair of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon and Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham. He is also the General Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare series, of the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare, and of the Penguin edition. He was formerly Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham. He holds honorary doctorates from Furman University and from the Universities of Munich, Hull, Durham, Warwick, and Craiova. He edited the annual Shakespeare Survey for Cambridge University Press for 19 years and has written many books and articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In 2007 he was awarded a CBE for services to literature.

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Acknowledgements We wish to thank the general editor of the series in which this book is published, Michele Marrapodi, and our commissioning editor, Erika Gaffney, who took a generous and friendly interest in it, as well as many friends and colleagues with whom we have discussed, on different occasions, the topic of this book: Gil Anidjar, Palmira Brummett, Fernando Cioni, Paul Edmondson, Flavio Gregori, Joshua Holo, Farah Karim-Cooper, Loretta Innocenti, Patricia Parker, Elizabeth Pentland, Dorit Raines, Susanne Wofford, and Daniel Vitkus. Thanks to John Moore and David Newbold for their precious linguistic advice. We are grateful to our friend Patrick Spottiswoode, director of Globe Education, Shakespeare’s Globe, London, and his staff for co-hosting the conference that inspired the present book (Shakespeare in Venice, Venice, 12–13 October 2007) and for allowing us to test and discuss ideas regarding the complex relationship between Shakespeare’s ‘Venetian’ plays and their location on several occasions in the Globe lecture season of 2007–2008. Without Patrick’s support and enthusiasm we believe that none of this would have happened. We also express our gratitude to the Dipartimento di Studi Europei e Postcoloniali – Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia and Ateneo Veneto di Scienze Lettere e Arti for hosting the conference. We would also like to thank the Banca Cariparo for a generous contribution towards the Venice conference organization, as part of the research project ‘Queen and Country’, directed by Alessandra Petrina, to whom we extend heartfelt appreciation of her advice and friendship. And last, but by no means least, to our spouses, Susanne and Renato, we give much thanks for conversations and advice about the project, but most of all for keeping up our spirits at occasional moments of uncertainty or crisis. This book is dedicated to the memory of Janet Adelman, a very special friend with a very special vision of Shakespeare.

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Foreword Stanley Wells

From an early age, Shakespeare was steeped in early Italian culture, above all through study of its language and its literature. The Roman classics were drilled into him at the grammar school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The extent to which this kind of education permeated the culture of his time is not easy for us to imagine, but it is illuminated by a passage in the diaries of the law student John Manningham, who saw an early performance of Twelfth Night at the Middle Temple in 1602 (and who told the scurrilous anecdote about Shakespeare anticipating Burbage in an assignation with a woman of easy virtue: ‘William the conqueror was before Richard III’). Manningham records that his ‘cousin,’ as he calls him, one day UHSHDWHGIURPPHPRU\DOPRVWWKHZKROHRIWKH¿UVWERRN±RYHUOLQHVORQJ± of Virgil’s Aeneid, and that two days later the same man ‘rehearsed without book very near the whole of the second book of the Aeneid, viz. 630 verses without missing one word.’ This was, as Manningham dryly notes, ‘A singular memory in DPDQRIKLVDJH¶$QGRIDQ\DJHDWDQ\WLPHZHPLJKWZHOOUHÀHFW It’s clear that Shakespeare developed a deep fondness for especially Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which he read both in the original and in Arthur Golding’s translation, but also that he knew and made use of such writers as Virgil, Cicero, Plautus, Terence, and Seneca. It was probably only after he left school that he EHJDQWRH[SHULHQFHWRRWKHLQÀXHQFHRI,WDOLDQ5HQDLVVDQFHZULWHUV±3HWUDUFK Boccaccio, Castiglione and Bandello among them. Italians living and working in (QJODQGLQÀXHQFHGKLVZRUN0LFKDHO:\DWW¶V¿QHERRNThe Italian Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Politics of Translation (2005),1 offers a fascinating study of Anglo-Italian relations of the period. John Florio plays a major role in the story, and Shakespeare undoubtedly knew some of Florio’s work, including his translation of Montaigne, and may well have been acquainted with him personally, through his membership of the circle of Shakespeare’s patron the Earl of Southampton. Jonathan Bate has even conjectured that Florio’s wife – curiously ZHGRQ¶WNQRZZKDWKHU¿UVWQDPHZDV±PD\EHLGHQWL¿HGZLWKWKHVRFDOOHGGDUN lady of the Sonnets.2 English attitudes toward Italy during the period were ambivalent. Maybe they can be characterized by the contrast between Machiavelli and Castiglione. At times the country was thought of as a sink of antiquity and an Italianate Englishman 1 Cambridge series of Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). 2 Jonathan Bate, The Genius of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 57–8.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


was spoken of as a ‘diablo incarnato.’ In Piers Penniless (1592) Thomas Nashe apostrophizes the country in vivid terms: ‘O Italy, the academy of manslaughter, the sporting place of murder, the apothecary–shop of poison for all nations.’3 And in The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) he writes of it as a land from which a traveller may bring ‘the art of atheism, the art of epicurizing, the art of whoring, the art of poisoning, the art of sodomitry.’4 His traveller visits Venice, where he has lurid adventures – he and his master are taken to the house of ‘a pernicious courtesan’ alluringly named Tabitha the Temptress, and as a result of her wiles they land up in prison. There is however no evidence that Nashe himself ever visited the country. 7KHQHJDWLYHYLHZRI,WDO\LVUHÀHFWHGODWHULQDERRNSXEOLVKHGLQE\ the historian Peter Heylyn, who writes of Italian men that ‘in their lust they are unnatural, in their malice unappeasable, and in their actions deceitful. They will blaspheme sooner than swear, and murder a man rather than slander him. They are exceeding jealous over their wives.’ And he describes the women only a little more favourably, quoting a proverb which Shakespeare had cited in Othello: ‘The women are generally witty in speech, modest in outward carriage, and bountiful where they bear affection; and it is proverbially said that they are magpies at the door, saints in the church, goats in the garden, devils in the house, angels in the street, and sirens in the windows.’ This is the dark view of Italy, the one that is UHÀHFWHGLQIRUH[DPSOHWKHWUDJHGLHVRI7KRPDV0LGGOHWRQDQG-RKQ:HEVWHU Shakespeare knew and adopted this perspective on the country, but for him Italy was above all a land of romance. It is not too much to say that if Italy had not existed, he would have had to invent it – even that in some respects he did. Plots of many of his most delightful comedies derive, directly or indirectly, from Italian literature. In The Taming of the Shrew, he writes of ‘great Italy’ and praises ‘fruitful Lombardy’ as the country’s ‘pleasant garden.’5 And in Love’s Labour’s Lost the pedant Holofernes quotes the proverb ‘Venetia, Venetia,/chi non ti vede, non ti pretia.’6 Bandello’s novelle LQÀXHQFHGMuch Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, Boccaccio’s Il Decamerone lies behind All’s Well That Ends Well, set partly in Florence, The Merchant of Venice is anticipated in the Florentine writer Ser Giovanni’s Il Pecorone, and the manners of Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano provided Shakespeare (and many of his contemporaries) with models of courtly behaviour and speech. There is even reason to suppose that we have underestimated the number of his plays originally set in Italy. It has always seemed odd that though the action of the Folio text of Measure for Measure is set in Vienna, most of the characters have Italian names – Isabella, Lucio, Claudio, Angelo, and so on. 3

Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller and Other works, ed. J.B. Steane (London: Penguin, 1985), p. 83. 4 Nashe, p. 345. 5 William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 2nd rev. ed., ed. Brian Morris (The Arden Shakespeare, London: Routledge, 1981), 1.1.3–4. 6 William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost, ed. H.R. Woudhuysen (The Arden Shakespeare, Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998), 4.2.95–6.



In an important article, John Jowett has made a strong case for the belief that the surviving text represents an adaptation by Thomas Middleton of a play originally VHWLQ,WDO\VSHFL¿FDOO\OLNH0LGGOHWRQ¶VThe Phoenix – which has a similar theme – in Ferrara.7 Though it is unlikely that Shakespeare would have learned Italian at school, he certainly appears to have been able to read the language. In this he would have been helped by his training in Latin and his familiarity with French, witnessed most obviously by the Princess of France scenes in Henry V. Cinthio’s tale on which Othello is based had not been translated into English when Shakespeare based his great tragedy on it, and Naseeb Shaheen demonstrates that he was undoubtedly LQÀXHQFHG E\ WKH RULJLQDO UDWKHU WKDQ E\ D )UHQFK WUDQVODWLRQ8 Interestingly, a speech of Portia’s in The Merchant of Venice shows that a command of Italian was regarded as a necessary accomplishment of an English gentleman. Speaking of her would-be suitor ‘Falconbridge, the young baron of England,’ she complains that he ‘hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian.’9 I like to think that Shakespeare would QRWKDYHZULWWHQWKLVLIKHKLPVHOIGLGQRWKDYHDWOHDVWDUHDVRQDEOHÀXHQF\LQDOO three languages. Whether Shakespeare ever travelled to Italy himself has been endlessly debated. It has been an especially favoured subject of those who like to suppose that someone other than Shakespeare wrote his works. How, they ask, could he have known as much as he appears to have known if he had not visited the country? Well, one can reply that, as the editors of this volume point out in their Introduction, he could have learned about it from ‘innumerable written and oral sources’ including conversations with those who had. And there is such a thing as the power of the imagination. Many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, such as Ben Jonson, John Webster, and many others wrote plays and other works of literature set in Italy without being known to have visited it. Of Venice, E.H. Sugden, in his invaluable Topographical Dictionary to the Works of Shakespeare and his Fellow Dramatists (1925), remarks that ‘none of our dramatists show any personal knowledge of’ the city-state, and that ‘the local references to it are of the most general character. Ben Jonson, in Volpone, mentions more details than any other of them, but even they are meagre and derived from hearsay.’10 At least one English theatre practitioner did, however, visit the country, and that is Shakespeare’s close colleague Will Kemp, who was a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and for whom Shakespeare wrote a sequence of roles 7

John Jowett, ‘The Audacity of Measure for Measure in 1621,’ Ben Jonson Journal 8 (2001): pp. 229–47. 8 Naseeb Shaheen, ‘Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Italian,’ Shakespeare Survey 47 (1994): pp. 161–9. 9 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 10th rpt., ed. John Russell Brown (The Arden Shakespeare, London and New York: Methuen, 1984), 1.2.64–6. 10 E.H. Sugden, Topographical Dictionary to the Works of Shakespeare and his Fellow Dramatists (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1925), p. 543.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

including Dogberry and possibly Falstaff. After leaving the company in or around 1599, Kemp visited both Germany and Italy. In Rome he met up with the English traveller Sir Anthony Shirley, and the encounter is dramatized in a comic episode in a curious play, The Travels of the Three English Brothers, written by William Rowley, John Day and George Wilkins a few years later. In this play Kemp has a mildly bawdy conversation with an Italian Harlequin and his wife. Thomas Nashe, in An Almond for a Parrot (1590) also associates Kemp with Harlequin, suggesting WKDWFRQWHPSRUDULHVOLNHVFKRODUVODWHUVDZDI¿QLWLHVEHWZHHQWKHWHFKQLTXHVRI English clowns and the Italian commedia dell’arte. Whether or not Shakespeare travelled to Italy, writers have often enough LPDJLQHG KLV SUHVHQFH LQ WKH FRXQWU\ DQG VSHFL¿FDOO\ LQ 9HQLFH 2QH RI WKH more preposterous examples comes in a book called The Real Shakespeare, A Counterblast to Commentators, published in 1947 by an 82-year-old gentleman named William Bliss, who was known as ‘the father of English canoeing.’ (We must not hold this against him.) In this book Bliss proposes that when Shakespeare was aged 13 he left home to join Sir Francis Drake on his voyage round the world on the Golden Hind, and that in 1585 he went to sea again, was shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, and found his way from there to Venice where he met and fell in love with the Earl of Southampton. Romance between 6KDNHVSHDUHDQG6RXWKDPSWRQDOVR¿JXUHVSURPLQHQWO\LQ(ULFD-RQJ¶VUDF\QRYHO Serenissima, of 1987, later issued in America under the new title of Shylock’s Daughter: A Novel of Love in Venice ,WV FHQWUDO FKDUDFWHU LV DQ$PHULFDQ ¿OP star named Jessica who takes a journey backward in time in the course of which she meets up with Shakespeare, Southampton, and a courtesan posing as a boy. Steamy scenes ensue; the three were, she writes, ‘a three-backed beast that pants and screams and begs for mercy.’11 Venice has also of course provided wonderful ORFDWLRQVHWWLQJVIRU6KDNHVSHDULDQ¿OPV,WUHDVXUHWKHVLOHQW¿OPRIThe Merchant of Venice starring Ermete Novelli and his matronly wife (she plays Portia) of 1910, ODVWLQJVRPHWHQPLQXWHVRUVRZKLFKIDVFLQDWLQJO\KDVVFHQHV¿OPHGRQORFDWLRQ in the city a century ago. The story of Shakespeare and Italy, centering on the international city-state of Venice, is inexhaustible. This volume, appropriately written by a distinguished international and multi-disciplinary team of scholars, offers sophisticated and learned expositions of the relationship between the dramatist and the city, centering DVLV¿WWLQJRQ6KDNHVSHDUH¶VWZR9HQHWLDQSOD\VOthello and The Merchant of Venice 7KH ¿UVW LQGHSWK VWXG\ IRU PDQ\ \HDUV LW RIIHUV QHZ DQG LOOXPLQDWLQJ insights into a fascinatingly diverse topic.

11 Erica Jong, Shylock’s Daughter: A Novel of Love in Venice (New York: Norton, 2003), p. 120.

Introduction: Visions of Venice in Shakespeare Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi

Around the time Shakespeare was writing about the city, Venice was undergoing a ‘shift from a center of information about the world (especially the East) to a center of information about itself.’1 It was the beginning of an ongoing process that turned, as has often been remarked, a real city into a myth. Having accumulated over the centuries an immense amount of economic, social and cultural capital while at the same time becoming less and less competitive in an expanding world market, Venetians started investing in symbolic capital and made of their name a currency that circulated throughout Europe and beyond, exerting its LQÀXHQFH LQ VXFK GLVSDUDWH DUHQDV DV SROLWLFDO WKHRU\ SDLQWLQJ WUDYHO OLWHUDWXUH and global tourism. The myth of Venice, ‘that nearly inexhaustible repertoire of stories the Venetians told themselves about themselves,’2 was quickly adopted by non-Venetians, so that the longevity and persistence of this city of fantasy and imagination has to be credited now to foreigners, visitors, strangers, with William Shakespeare prominent among them. We hardly need to be reminded that Shakespeare, like Venice, has long become a far-reaching myth, which today we may call ‘global’ rather than ‘universal,’ because we have learned that its unequalled planetary reach was not only caused E\ LWV LQWULQVLF FXOWXUDO YDOXH EXW DOVR E\ WKH IDFW WKDW KLV ZRUNV ÀHZ IDU DQG wide on the wings of powerful economic and political forces linked to British colonization. The existence of myths, while claiming eternity, depends on their being perpetually reinvented, endlessly reproduced, casually recycled, remolded into new artistic masterpieces (whether a classical Venetian painting or a new Shakespearean staging) or debased into trite clichés. Myths are myths because we periodically revisit them, or to be more precise, because they invite periodic reconsideration, drawing attention to themselves as they speak to broader cultural and political concerns. Our brief opening quotation also implies that before it started disseminating in profusion idealized and virtual Venices, the real city had based its fortunes on 1

Peter Burke, ‘Early Modern Venice as a Centre of Communication and Information,’ in Venice Reconsidered: The History and Civilization of an Italian City-State, 1297– 1797, ed. John Martin and Dennis Romano (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 391. 2 Martin and Romano, p. x.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

diversity (of people, merchandise, political forms, information, etc.), a diversity that has been alternatively (and sometimes, perhaps even in Shakespeare, simultaneously) interpreted positively or negatively as opulence, confusion, SDUDGR[ PL[WXUH ,Q WKLV OLJKW ZH PD\ GH¿QH WKH SUHVHQW FROOHFWLRQ RI HVVD\V as a book that relies on an academic cultural mix in the same way as Venice was represented as a mixed city. Setting out to offer new perspectives to a traditional topic, it deliberately tries to bring together different critical outlooks informed by different cultural and academic traditions. Philology and theory, history and politics, and the visual and performing arts all intersect here and prove to be complementary tools to broach such a complex and engrossing subject. Shakespeare’s appropriation and re-creation of the Venetian symbolic landscape is here investigated and explored through a variety of perspectives by an academic equivalent of that ‘famous concourse and meetings of so many distinct and sundry nations’3 that was so typical of Venice and that the English traveller Thomas Coryat described in 1608 in such fascinating terms. A Symbolic Landscape Venice is possibly the most enduring of all symbolic landscapes of the Renaissance. In the last three decades research on the relationship between landscape and national identity suggests that landscape is less real and physical and more ideologically charged than we can imagine – a country of the mind, mediated through culture. As Meinig has noted, ‘we regard all landscapes as symbolic, as expressions of cultural values, social behaviours, and individual actions worked upon particular localities over a span of time. Every landscape is an accumulation … and every landscape is a code, and its study may be undertaken as a deciphering of meaning.’4 The cultural geography of the Republic can indeed be perceived as an accumulation of traditions, myths, values and anti-values which is constructed along primarily narrative lines (as in travellers’ reports for example) as well as dramatic ones, with the extraordinary impact of early modern plays set in Venice (as in Thomas Platter’s much-quoted observation, ‘the English pass their time, learning at the play what is happening abroad … since for the most part the English do not much use to travel, but prefer to learn of foreign matters and take their pleasures at home’).5 If landscapes are indeed part of the iconography 3 Thomas Coryat, Coryat’s Crudities (1611), vol. 1 (Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons, 1905), p. 318. 4 David W. Meinig, ‘Introduction,’ in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays, ed. D.W. Meinig (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 6. 5 Thomas Platter’s Travels in England, ed. Clare Williams (London: Jonathan Cape, 1937), p. 170, cit. in Ania Loomba, ‘Outsiders in Shakespeare’s England,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, ed. Margareta de Grazia and Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 160.



of nationhood,69HQLFHLVFRQVWUXHGDVWKHXOWLPDWH¿FWLRQDOODQGVFDSHRIRWKHUQHVV a representation that resembles reality in its being inescapably bound up with the sea. In the association with the city, the sea appears both as a geographical feature of protection (from land invasions) and vulnerability (to the intrusiveness of tides, then as today) and is strongly felt to be a key factor in the extent of the commercial and political domination of the Republic in the Mediterranean. One often wonders about the impact of the early modern experience of approaching the city from the sea, which must have been central to the perception of the Venetian landscape. The traveller would have been exposed to a most peculiar variety of paradoxical cityscape that established a very close and inescapable connection with the surrounding environment of the lagoon, a place of mediation between urban spaces and the spaces of travel and commerce. As Denis Cosgrove has succinctly put it, ‘The sixteenth-century myth of Venice was at once geographical and historical, and it found expression in the constitution of Venice as a symbolic landscape.’7 Brabantio’s words, ‘This is Venice: my house is not a grange’ (1.1.105–6)8 are there to remind us that Venice is the city par excellence, the open space where a multitude of nationalities, religions and ethnicities made their way through the centuries right into the heart of the symbolic landscape of early modern JOREDOL]DWLRQµDFRPPRQDQGJHQHUDOPDUNHWWRWKHZKROHZRUOG¶LQWKHGH¿QLWLRQ given by Lewes Lewkenor.9 It is a landscape that Shakespeare found described in innumerable written and oral sources, ranging from travellers’ reports to maps, from translations of Venetian political treaties to possibile conversations with the Anglo-Italian cultural mediators of the time such as John Florio and Philip Sidney, and perhaps even with the Venetian merchants living in London.10 It is not easy to determine with certainty what the educated view of Venice was in England and contrast it with its theatrical counterpart.11 Both fantasies and projections combine sophistication with corruption, sameness and alterity, often producing a powerful vision which blurs the boundaries between historical 6 D.W. Meinig, ‘Symbolic Landscapes. Some Idealizations of American Communities,’ in Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes, p. 164. 7 Denis Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998 [1984]), p. 109. 8 William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. Michael Neill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). 9 Gasparo Contarini, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, trans. Lewes Lewkenor (London, 1599; reprinted Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), p. 132. 10 See, among others, David C. McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson and the Myth of Venice (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990) and John R. Mulryne, ‘Between Myth and Fact: The Merchant of Venice as Docu-Drama,’ in Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, ed. Michele Marrapodi (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 111–26. 11 See the chapter ‘“I had read Contarine”: Sources for Shakespeare and Jonson,’ in McPherson, pp. 17–26.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


IDFW DQG LPDJLQDU\ ¿FWLRQ 2EYLRXVO\ WKH (OL]DEHWKDQ YLHZ RI 9HQLFH LV QRW entirely dissimilar to that of the whole of Italy in some respects, that of the most DGYDQFHGFLYLOL]DWLRQRIWKHWLPHLQWKH¿HOGVRIDUWPXVLFOLWHUDWXUHDQGIHQFLQJ as well as banking, political science,12HWF WKLVLVWKHIDQWDV\ZH¿QGLQPDQ\ of Shakespeare’s comedies) but also the cradle of political, religious and sexual FRUUXSWLRQ$VPDQ\RIWKHHVVD\VLQWKLVERRNVHHPWRFRQ¿UPWKHSOD\ZULJKW worked most of this available information into his oeuvre, and, as John Drakakis has eloquently put it, ‘Shakespeare’s two Venetian plays both represent, and maintain a critical distance from, Venice, and … in different ways they interrogate and challenge existing elements of the received “myth.”’13 It is certainly worth asking why, as mentioned before, Shakespeare and Venice seem to call for our attention in the present moment. A century ago the Scottish historian and Venice resident Horatio Brown wrote: ‘the scattered allusions to be collected from [Shakespeare’s] plays prove an intimacy with Venice which is surprising in a man who probably was never out of England.’14 There was a distinct note of nostalgia in this suggestion, a longing to follow the footsteps of a mythical journey by Shakespeare to Italy, an antiquarian pursuit of a long-gone past at a time when, probably, clever gondoliers and romantic expatriates were inventing Desdemona’s houses and Shylock’s banks to quench the thirst for authenticity of enthusiastic bardolaters. Back then, and for a long time afterwards, whether Shakespeare ever set foot to Venice (or the rest of Italy) was a vexed question. Today it appears more fruitful to investigate the Venetian plays as intellectual sites of interacting voices and discourses from the most diverse cultural collocations. We NQRZWKDWVXI¿FLHQWLQIRUPDWLRQZRXOGKDYHEHHQDYDLODEOHWR/RQGRQUHVLGHQWVWR ‘picture’ a believable version of Venice on page or stage. Perhaps these exchanges took place at the Oliphant, a Bankside inn that catered to Italian customers and that is mentioned in Twelfth Night or, near the Tower and Bishopsgate where, as Michael Wyatt has recently shown in his book on the cultural exchanges between Italy and England, Venetian merchants used to meet, nostalgically referring to these places in London as the Rialto and San Marco.15 Hence we can safely compare Shakespeare to Lewes Lewkenor, the English translator of Gasparo Contarini’s The Commonwealth and Gouernment of Venice (1599), a famous book that Shakespeare probably read. In his note ‘To the Reader,’ Lewkenor writes: I was not so fortunate as to be a beholder of the glory [of Venice], yet I have not omitted from time to time to gather such observations as well by reading the best and choicest authors entreating thereof, as also by conference with sundry well 12

Murray J. Levith, Shakespeare’s Italian Settings and Plays (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 4–5. 13 John Drakakis, ‘Shakespeare and Venice,’ in Marrapodi, Italian Culture, p. 172. 14 Horatio Brown, Studies in the History of Venice, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1907), p. 160. 15 Michael Wyatt, The Italian Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Politics of Translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 187.



experienced gentlemen, as might not only satisfy the curiosity of my own desire, but also deliver unto others a clear and exact knowledge of every particularities worthy of note.16

Some of ‘the best and choicest authors’ may well be among those analyzed in the present book – see Mason Vaughan’s chapter on historical narratives of the Ottoman empire or Attar’s chapter on the Italian novella. Gradually abandoning the projective fantasy that the playwright visited the Serenissima and walked its teeming piazzas and calles, drawing inspiration for Shylock and Othello, critics started leaning toward the view that Venice was to EH VHHQ OHVV DV RQH VSHFLDO DQG VSHFL¿F FLW\ WKDQ DV WKH HSLWRPH RI WKH &LW\ D summa of the urban and civic qualities that fascinated and troubled early modern Europe. In this light Shakespeare’s Venice could be utilized without bothering with Italian sources, at a time when in fact the historical background of literary works was at best taken for granted. Such a metaphorical view could then be taken to the anglocentric extreme of suggesting that if you scratched the surface RI 6KDNHVSHDUH¶V 9HQLFH \RX FRXOG HDVLO\ ¿QG 6KDNHVSHDUH¶V /RQGRQ ,Q  David McPherson’s seminal book Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice criticized the widely held view that the Venice of Shakespeare’s plays was London in thin disguise and turned to actual Venetian history, and crucially to the historical construction of the Myth of Venice. In the following decade, such works as Michele Marrapodi’s Shakespeare’s Italy: Functions of Italian Locations in Renaissance Drama (1993) reconsidered in a more critically and historically nuanced way the whole relationship between Shakespeare and Italy. In the same period a growing bibliography, and in particular two important books such as John Gross’s Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (1992)17 and Virginia Mason Vaughan’s Othello: A Contextual History (1994),18WHVWL¿HGWRWKHQHZUHOHYDQFH attributed to the Venetian plays and to their rich critical and theatrical afterlives. If, DV,DQ.RWW¶VROGDGDJHJRHVµHYHU\KLVWRULFDOSHULRG¿QGVLQKLP>6KDNHVSHDUH@ what it is looking for and what it wants to see’19 and if for most of the twentieth century, Hamlet and Lear contended for the title of ‘the best, the great, or the chief masterpiece of Shakespeare,’20 at the turn of the third millenium it seems easier to mirror ourselves in plays where tormented rulers and medieval monarchies give way to citizens of multireligious societies and a teeming metropolis. As John Drakakis cogently writes:


Lewkenor, in Contarini, p. 12. John Gross, Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (London: Chatto and Windus, 1992). 18 Virginia Mason Vaughan, Othello: A Contextual History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). 19 Ian Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary (London: Routledge, 1994 [1965]), p. 5. 20 R.A. Foakes, Hamlet Versus Lear: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 1. 17

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


Our sense of what Venice might have meant to the Elizabethans and early Jacobeans is sharpened by our own pressing – one might almost say, apocalyptic – JOREDO FRQFHUQ ZLWK W\SHV RI JRYHUQPHQW UHOLJLRXV FRQÀLFW WKH RSHUDWLRQDO ethics and morality of political power, and doubts about what is now beginning to look like the premature victory of a liberal consumer capitalism.21

In other words, The Merchant of Venice and Othello, the plays where Shakespeare is at his most local and contemporary, have become his most distinctly global and topical works. Venice as city state appears to embody the Renaissance culture of SDUDGR[LQWKHZD\LWERWKÀDXQWVDQGFRQWDLQVRSSRVLWHYLHZVZLWKRXWRIIHULQJ a solution based on commonly held opinions and/or orthodoxies. Peter Platt has recently explored ‘how a geographical site could do the work of a verbal paradox’:22 on the paradoxical Venetian stage we watch Shylock and Othello negotiating their complex identities as aliens and citizens, in a deliberately ‘double’ setting where even apparently similar constructions of ethnicity, like Morocco and Othello, HQFRXUDJHERWKLGHQWL¿FDWLRQDQGGLIIHUHQWLDWLRQ9HQLFHLVLQGHHGµDSODFHZKHUH doubleness makes plainness all but impossible.’23 7KHHVVD\VSUHVHQWHGLQWKLVFROOHFWLRQWKH¿UVWERRNWREURDFKWKHVXEMHFWIRU QHDUO\WZRGHFDGHVFRQVLGHU9HQLFHDFXOWXUDOO\FKDUJHGVLJQL¿HUWKDWQHHGVWREH explored in its multiple resonances, both in Shakespeare’s historical context and LQWKHODWHUWUDGLWLRQRIUHFRQ¿JXULQJ9HQLFHDVRQHRIWKHFLWLHVPRVWUHSUHVHQWHG in Western culture. Sources The section devoted to the sources pays tribute to Shakespeare’s exceptional transformational powers and his position as cultural mediator of many crucial cultural discourses of early modern Europe. Elsewhere Keir Elam has usefully labelled Italy as a mega-source, ‘a generative machine producing powerful models,’ an intertext which is produced by the constant exchange of interconnected literary as well as cultural texts.24 Venice is indeed one of the main strands of the Italian intertext, a discursive and imaginative space which creates and is in its turn created and enriched by the eclectic use of a number of ‘sources proximate,’ in Robert Miola’s words,25 or the so-called ‘books on the desk’ that we imagine Shakespeare consulted, plundered, digested and ultimately appropriated when writing the 21

Drakakis, p. 170. Peter G. Platt, Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009), p. 9. 23 Platt, p. 10. 24 Keir Elam, ‘Afterword: Italy as Intertext,’ in Shakespeare, Italy and Intertextuality, ed. Michele Marrapodi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p. 255. 25 Robert S. Miola, ‘Seven Types of Intertextuality,’ in Marrapodi, Shakespeare, Italy and Intertextuality, p. 19. 22



Venetian plays. Virginia Mason Vaughan opens the debate with her discussion of Richard Knolles’s Generall Historie of the Turkes (1603), a narrative of the Ottoman empire which centres on the Cyprus Wars as a backdrop for Othello. Vaughan’s chapter broadens the traditional notion of setting as simply the place where a play is located, to consider the implications of placing a tragedy based on Giraldi Cinthio’s novella within the historical and geographical framework of the contentious earlymodern Mediterranean world. When Othello is examined in the intertextual context of Knolles’s Generall Historie, we see a shift in the representation of Venice, moving from the military prowess embodied in Othello to the Machiavellian diplomacy suggested by Iago. This trajectory was deeply rooted in Europe’s cultural memory of the Cyprus Wars as well as its perception of the Venetian Empire. The subsequent history of Venice, well known to many in Shakespeare’s original audience, followed the path of Iago, the supersubtle Venetian. Both Daria Perocco and Karina Attar have studied Shakespeare’s reshaping of his novella sources within its more immediate literary and historical contexts, suggesting that this tradition offers so much more than a pedestrian reformulation of stereotypes or even a set of narremes26 ready to be elevated to the Bard’s superior dramatizing skills. Perocco’s essay is as much a philological as a cultural investigation of the sources that Shakespeare may have consulted for his Venetian plays, from the various revised editions of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone, which contains the novella which inspired The Merchant of Venice, to Giraldi Cinthio’s novella featuring Disdemona and the Moor. Attar’s reading of Giraldi revises most existing scholarship, which tends to view the tale as a pale antecedent for the Elizabethan tragedy. A close study of the novella within its most immediate literary and historical contexts suggests that it offers far from pedestrian reformulations of stereotypes. This essay also incorporates the growing body of research on sixteenth-century Venetian–Ottoman and Venetian–Ferrarese UHODWLRQV DV ZHOO DV &\SUXV¶V UROH LQ 0HGLWHUUDQHDQ FRQÀLFWV 9LHZHG IURP WKH perspective of its diverse literary antecedents and through the contentious earlymodern Mediterranean world of cross-cultural relations, Giraldi’s novella emerges as a powerful and innovative narrative. An avid and attentive reader of novellas (whether in the original or in translation), Shakespeare himself found Giraldi’s tale to be a compelling basis for one of his most poignant and violent love-stories, and it EHKRRYHVWKHWZHQW\¿UVWFHQWXU\UHDGHUWRUHFRQVLGHUWKHQRYHOODLQLWVRZQULJKW Political Culture and Religious Policy in Venice and England The second section analyzes the role of Venetian politics and religion in Shakespeare. The degree of political interest that Venice was generating in the English at the time was indeed remarkable and their cultural construct of Italy can 26 Louise George Clubb, ‘Italian Stories on Stage,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy, ed. Alexander Leggatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 35.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


also be seen as the projection of English fears of political instability and political aspirations. In the plays under examination, Venice is constructed as a puzzle of utopian and dystopian qualites that gives a hint of what England might become and the way in which it could deal or was already dealing with internal and external FRQÀLFWV7KHSROLWLFDOP\WKRIWKHSerenissima had been created by a substantial body of celebratory writing and cultivated in England by writers such as Lewes Lewkenor and travellers like William Thomas, who had praised the republic’s mixed goverment as combining the best elements of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy.27According to the supporters of the ‘myth,’ the welfare of the Venetian people was guaranteed by a system of checks and balances between the political bodies as well as an elective monarch whose reduced authority would prevent his rule from turning into tyranny. Renaissance politics was never divorced from religious matters and Venice played a special role in this scene. A devoutly Catholic city whose identity and civic rituals were imbued with religious symbols and myths, Venice was proudly DQG VRPHWLPHV GH¿DQWO\ LQGHSHQGHQW RI 5RPH WKH RWKHU IDYRULWH FLW\ LQ HDUO\ modern English drama), to the point of incurring the Interdict in 1606–07. It did not hesitate to host and tolerate communities of Protestants, Jews, heretics DQGHYHQWKHLU¿HUFHHQHPLHVDQGULYDOVWKH7XUNV6KDNHVSHDUH¶V9HQLFHZKLFK PDQ\ FRPPHQWDWRUV KDYH VHHQ DV WRR YDJXH DQG QRQVSHFL¿F QHYHUWKHOHVV interrogates and mobilizes some of the most topical early modern religious and political discourses. Addressing the European debate about the superiority of the republican RYHUWKHPRQDUFKLFDOV\VWHP$QGUHZ+DG¿HOGHODERUDWHVRQKLVVHPLQDOZRUN RQ6KDNHVSHDUHDQGUHSXEOLFDQLVPE\ORRNLQJDWWZRWH[WVZKRVHLQÀXHQFHRQ 6KDNHVSHDUHKDVQRWEHHQVXI¿FLHQWO\LQYHVWLJDWHG%\FRQWHQGLQJWKDWKHPDGH use of the popular treatise A Mirror for Magistrates when composing his history SOD\V+DG¿HOGVXJJHVWVWKDW6KDNHVSHDUHDOVRGUHZRQ7KRPDV¶VHistory of Italy (1549), arguably the main English source of information on Italian culture in the Tudor age, when writing The Merchant of Venice.28 It is Thomas’s popular text that would have logically provided the detailed and balanced description RI WKH9HQHWLDQ OHJDO V\VWHP WKDW LV GUDPDWL]HG LQ ZKDW DSSHDUV WR EH WKH ¿UVW Elizabethan play set in Venice. Creating unexpected links between the coeval debate on the merits of the old Anglo-Saxon legal system versus the Roman /DZLQWURGXFHGE\WKH1RUPDQFRQTXHVW+DG¿HOGVHHV6KDNHVSHDUHFRQFXUULQJ ZLWK7KRPDVLQVKRZLQJµWKH9HQHWLDQFLWL]HQVDEOHWRGH¿QHWKHLURZQZD\VRI thinking about the law, and that what they argue can then become law.’ On the other hand, it is the subsequent reading of Lewkenor’s translation of Contarini, a 27

See the chapter “‘How harmful be the errors of Princes.” English Travellers in :HVWHUQ (XURSH±¶LQ$QGUHZ+DG¿HOGLiterature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance 1545–1625 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 17–68. 28 William Thomas, The History of Italy (1549), ed. George B. Parks (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963.



IDUPRUHXQTXDOL¿HGFHOHEUDWLRQRI9HQLFH¶VSROLWLFDOVWDELOLW\WKDWVHHPVWRKDYH inspired Shakespeare to stage in Othello a Venetian republican system that works better as a whole than the individual citizens that constitute its parts. *LOEHUWR6DFHUGRWLGHSDUWVIURPWKH¿FWLRQDO9HQLFHRI2WKHOORDQG6K\ORFN to show how the real city was a real arena of political experimentation that may ZHOO KDYH LQÀXHQFHG 6KDNHVSHDUH WKURXJK VXFK LPSRUWDQW ¿JXUHV DV *LRUGDQR %UXQRZKRVHDUUHVWLQ9HQLFHLVWKHPRVWVLJQL¿FDQWH[FHSWLRQWRWKHWUDGLWLRQDO vision of a city tolerant of dissident views. By a closely argued reading of a short passage from Love’s Labour’s Lost (a puzzling play where Venice is mentioned in passing for reasons that have never been fully accounted for), Sacerdoti constructs a complex intellectual genealogy that positions Shakespeare in the fraught debate on the relationship between the state and the church that had caused bloody wars of religion in France and elsewhere in Europe. The focus of his analysis is the word ‘self-sovereignty,’ which Shakespeare uses in a cryptic riddle within the play. It was a key concept in political theories that were promoted in England by Giordano Bruno and certainly captured the interest of Elizabeth I, who ORRNHGDWWKH)UHQFKVLWXDWLRQDQGDWWKHLQÀXHQFHRI5RPHRQSROLWLFVZLWKGHHS SUHRFFXSDWLRQ6XSHUVHGLQJWKHLQÀXHQWLDOLQWHUSUHWDWLRQVRI)UDQFHVWKH QRYHOOD@¶ EHFDXVH µWKH colorless heroine, the melodramatic villain, the sordid crime passionel, the clumsy nemesis which overtakes villain and hero, and the leisurely tempo of the story are all obstacles to dramatic treatment,’ remains largely the norm.2$QGUHZ+DG¿HOG 1

On Giraldi’s plays, see Philip R. Horne, Tragedies of Giambattista Cinthio Giraldi (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), and Horne’s editions of several of Giraldi’s plays for the Edwin Mellen Press; Riccardo Bruscagli, G.B. Giraldi: Drammaturgia ed esperienza teatrale (Ferrara: SATE, 1972); Corinne Lucas, 'HO¶KRQQHXUDXµOLHWR¿QH¶OH contrôle du discours tragique dans le théâtre de Giraldi Cinzio (Rome: Bonacci, 1984); Mary Morrison, The tragedies of G.B. Giraldi Cinthio: the transformation of narrative source into stage play (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997); and Fabio Bertini, ‘Havere a la giustizia sodisfatto:’ tragedie giudiziarie di Giovan Battista Giraldi Cinzio nel ventennio conciliare )ORUHQFH6RFLHWjHGLWULFH¿RUHQWLQD )RU*LUDOGL¶VWUHDWLVHRQ epic romance, see Giambattista Giraldi Cinzio, Discorso dei romanzi, ed. Laura Benedetti et al. (Bologna: Millenium, 1999) and Scritti critici, ed. Camillo Crocetti (Milan: Marzorati, 1973). The name most Shakespeare scholars employ for Giraldi is Cinthio (or Cinzio), his self-appointed penname in reference to the god of poetry Apollo. 2 Shakespeare’s Sources: Comedies and Tragedies (1961; reprint, London: Routledge, 2005), p. 126. See also William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. E.A.J. Honigmann (The Arden Shakespeare. Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997, rpt. 2004), p. 386; G.K. Hunter, ‘Othello and Colour Prejudice,’ and Helen Gardner, ‘The Noble Moor,’


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

in his recent overview of sources for and interpretations of Othello, summarizes and asserts the prevailing attitude, arguing that Shakespeare transforms ‘a vicious morality tale into a tragedy that acknowledges the issues of race, place, and gender’ and that Othello ‘bears little resemblance to the unpleasant and violent character’ in the novella.3 Giraldi’s plot certainly seems to supply some evidence for such readings. A valorous Moorish captain and Disdemona, a beautiful Venetian woman, live happily married in Venice for some time. When the Venetian Republic elects to send the Moor to lead its new garrison in Cyprus, the couple travels to the island LQWKHFRPSDQ\RIWKUHHFORVHFRQ¿GDQWVDVWDQGDUGEHDUHUKLVZLIHDQGDKHDG of the guard. In Cyprus, the standard-bearer becomes enamored of Disdemona, but failing to attract her romantic attentions, he imagines that she must already have another lover – the head of the guard. The standard-bearer then convinces WKH0RRURI'LVGHPRQD¶VLQ¿GHOLW\FRPHVXSZLWKDSORWWRNLOOKHUDQGFDUULHV it out with the Moor’s help. Both the Moor and the standard-bearer are ultimately brought to justice, albeit in fundamentally different ways. While many of these narrative developments are noted in studies of Shakespeare’s refashioning of the tale,4 there has been no attempt to read the novella closely and on its own terms. This essay reconsiders Giraldi’s narrative within its immediate historical and literary contexts in order to show that it offers far more than a straightforward recapitulation of conventional motifs already present in the preceding novella tradition. The history of sixteenth-century Venetian-Ottoman relations frequently brought to bear in discussions of OthelloLVDVLJQL¿FDQWIUDPH of reference for a more nuanced understanding of how Giraldi’s novella registers contemporary anxieties about cross-cultural encounters. In what follows, I argue that Giraldi’s novella challenges cultural expectations about race and gender by originally combining several character types common to the novella tradition: bestial Moors, noble Moors, unjustly accused women, and jilted or cuckolded men. Reading the tale against other comparable novellas reveals the complexity of Giraldi’s project and suggests that Shakespeare’s own interest in the narrative went beyond the basic elements of plot and character. While Shakespeare wrote Othello GXULQJ WKH ¿UVW \HDUV RI WKH VHYHQWHHQWK century, and set his tragedy on the eve of the 1570 Ottoman conquest of Cyprus, Giraldi wrote his novella earlier (at least before 1565 when the Hecatommithi was published). When Giraldi began composing and compiling his collection in the late 1520s, the Ottomans had already seized several key territories east and south of Italy, including Constantinople (1453); parts of Dalmatia, Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Greece; Negropont (1470); the Morea (1460 and 1503); and in Interpretations of Shakespeare, ed. Kenneth Muir (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 180 and 176, respectively. 3 William Shakespeare’s Othello: A Sourcebook (Routledge: London, 2003), p. 7. 4 For Shakespeare’s use of novella sources see Daria Perocco’s chapter ‘Venice, Shakespeare and the Italian Novella’ in this volume (pp. 33–46).

Genealogy of a Character


2WUDQWR EULHÀ\LQ 0HKPHW,,¶VSODQVWRLQYDGH,WDO\ZHUHRQO\DEDQGRQHG upon his death in 1481. His son and successor, Bayezid II, waged a successful war against Venice (1499–1503) for control of lands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Adriatic Seas.5 Under Suleiman I (1520–1566), Ottoman forces continued to seize QXPHURXV&KULVWLDQVWURQJKROGVLQ(DVWHUQ(XURSHDVZHOODVVLJQL¿FDQWSRUWLRQV of land in the Middle East and North Africa. The Ottoman conquest of Belgrade in 1521, as well as its sieges of Vienna (in 1529 and 1532), signaled the Empire’s most ambitious plans for western territorial expansion and brought Muslim forces to the doorstep of continental Europe.6 During Suleiman I’s reign, a period almost exactly coterminous with the Hecatommithi’s composition (1527–1565), the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power. The Venetian Republic, on the other hand, had begun its slow decline, due not only to the rise of Turkish power, but also to the newly discovered trade routes and markets across the Atlantic and around the coast of Africa. In the mid-sixteenth century, however, the outcome of Venetian-Ottoman rivalries for commercial and military dominance in the Mediterranean had yet WREHGHWHUPLQHG9HQLFHIDFHGDVLJQL¿FDQWFRQWUDFWLRQRILWVPDULWLPHSRZHUV but this was a time of decline and profound instability, not of certain defeat, for the Republic. For sixteenth-century Italian readers whose concerns about current HYHQWV LQFOXGHG YLFWRULHV DQG ORVVHV DJDLQVW 2WWRPDQ ÀHHWV DQG ZKR OLYHG LQ D state of heightened alert vis-à-vis their Eastern neighbors, a story about the tragic union between a Venetian woman and a Moorish captain would have conjured this perilous political, economic, and cultural context. *LUDOGL¿UVWVXJJHVWLYHO\HYRNHVDQ[LHWLHVDERXWFURVVFXOWXUDOHQFRXQWHUVLQ his paratextual dedicatory letter at the beginning of the third deca, a portion of the collection often overlooked in studies of the tale.7 In this letter, Giraldi prompts his addressee and readers at large to bear in mind the aesthetic conventions of visual art through which light or white hues could be further illuminated by their proximity to dark or black ones. Giraldi also explicitly notes the long-established Christian tradition of assigning the opposing moral values of virtue/vice to light/ dark: ‘Egli è commune parere de più saggi del mondo, Illustrissima Signora, che un 5 This was the third of eight wars between the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman (PSLUHWKDWVSDQQHGWKHHDUO\¿IWHHQWKWRWKHHDUO\HLJKWHHQWKFHQWXU\ 6 )RU D FRPSUHKHQVLYH RYHUYLHZ RI WKHVH FRQÀLFWV VHH 3DOPLUD %UXPPHW Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery (New York: SUNY Press, 1994). 7 This oversight is partly explained by the print history of the collection. Although the Hecatommithi was an instant “bestseller,” with seven editions published between 1565 and 1608, there are no modern editions of the collection. The dedicatory letters to members of the contemporary aristocracy that precede each deca, moreover, are not included in any of these early editions, but can be found in Susanna Villari’s Per l’edizione critica degli Ecatommiti (Messina: Sicania, 1988). The collection is structurally modeled on both Boccaccio’s Decameron and Masuccio Salernitano’s Novellino. The Hecatommithi’s frame narrative is set in the aftermath of the 1527 Sack of Rome, as a group of noblemen and ODGLHVÀHHE\VKLSWR0DUVHLOOHDQGVSHQGWKHMRXUQH\WHOOLQJWDOHV

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


contrario posto appresso all’altro più chiaramente si conosca, che s’egli da sé solo è considerato. Et nel vero la esperienza mostra che così è appunto, perché il bianco appresso al nero si scuopre vie più chiaro, & l’oscuro, che porta con lui il vitio, fa vie più comparere i raggi lucentissimi della virtù, che, senza così fatto paragone, non comparirebbero.’8 Overall, the third deca illustrates this binary opposition through stories of either faithful or unfaithful spouses. Yet, the dedicatory letter resonates particularly with the story of Disdemona and the Moorish captain, the only tale in the collection that explicitly foregrounds racial, religious, and cultural difference through a black-white sexual union.9 The thematic links between the letter and the novella may suggest that Giraldi wished to warn readers of the dangers of associating with those of a different race. Conversely, the frame characters that narrate and offer commentary on the tale, guiding the actual reader, resist viewing the protagonists according to the categories set up in the letter. The novella’s narrator, Curzio (who in the opening section of the Hecatommithi’s frame story sanctions marriage as the only legitimate avenue for love), introduces his narrative as a counterpoint to stories of truly adulterous women, and cites the ‘insidie tesele da animo selvaggio’ and the ‘leggerezza di chi più crede’ (65) as the combined causes of the couple’s tragic demise.10 Curzio does not present his narrative as a story about race. Nor does he HQGRUVHWKHFRUUHVSRQGHQFHRIVLJQL¿HUZLWKVLJQL¿HGDVVHUWHGLQWKHGHGLFDWRU\ letter. Instead, the tale’s narrator calls attention to the nefarious schemes of evildoers (the standard-bearer) and the exploitable weakness of credulous minds (the Moor). Following Curzio’s preamble, the novella offers an ironic contrast WRWKHOHWWHU¶VSUHPLVHE\H[SORULQJWKHGLI¿FXOW\RIMXGJLQJSHRSOHDFFRUGLQJWR external markers of identity in a complicated world where such values are at once endemic and deceptive. 8

Villari, p. 56. The letter is dedicated to Laura Eustochia di Dianti, the lover (or, according to some scholars, third wife) of Giraldi’s patron, Duke Alfonso I d’Este. ‘Most Illustrious Lady, it is the general opinion of the world’s wisest men that when something is placed beside its opposite it becomes more clearly knowable than if it is considered in isolation. And in truth experience shows that this is so, because white becomes lighter when it is next to black, and what is dark, which is accompanied by vice, illuminates the very bright rays of virtue, which, without such a comparison, would not be apparent.’ (Unless otherwise noted, all emphases and translations from Giraldi’s text and other sources are mine.) 9 Interestingly, a portrait attributed to Titian and generally thought to represent Laura di Dianti with a black page was produced in Ferrara in the 1520s, when Giraldi was an almost constant presence at the Este court as tutor to Alfonsino (one of Laura’s and the Duke’s two sons). See Paul H.D. Kaplan, ‘Titian’s Laura Dianti and the Origins of the Motif of the Black Page in Portraiture,’ Antichità Viva 21, 1 (1982): pp. 11–18, and 21, 4 (1982): pp. 10–18 and Jane Fair Bestor, ‘Titian’s Portrait of Laura Eustochia: the Decorum of Female Beauty and the Motif of the Black Page,’ Renaissance Studies 17, 4 (2003): pp. 628–73. 10 ‘insidious plots orchestrated against [Disdemona] by a savage mind’ and ‘lightness of one who believes too readily.’

Genealogy of a Character


Throughout the novella, Giraldi exploits anxieties about reading white against EODFNDQGYLUWXHDJDLQVWYLFHE\LQÀHFWLQJGLVFRXUVHVDQGUHSUHVHQWDWLRQVZLWK deliberate ambiguity. While Shakespeare’s Othello offers much biographical information about its protagonists, we know very little about the prehistory of the characters in the source story. Giraldi follows the long-standing novelistic convention of omitting identifying particulars about most of his protagonists, including their names. Disdemona, the single exception to this rule, is named after the Greek for ‘ill-fated spirit’ (dysdaimon) suggesting that the novella should be read primarily as a story about fate, an issue I will return to in my conclusions.11 The other principal characters, those transformed into Othello, Iago, Emilia, and Cassio in the Elizabethan tragedy, are instead initially apparently stripped of identifying labels beyond their military or social status: captain, standard-bearer, standard-bearer’s wife, head of the guard. Cultural, racial, and religious difference is certainly signaled in the rubric that precedes the novella: ‘Un capitano Moro piglia per mogliera una cittadina Veneziana.’12 Yet, the tale begins with a highly unconventional assertion of double cultural assimilation: the Moorish captain is employed by the Venetian Republic and married to a Venetian citizen. Fully integrated into Venetian society both SURIHVVLRQDOO\ DQG SHUVRQDOO\ WKH 0RRU LV DQ H[HPSODU\ ¿JXUH ZKRVH DFWLRQV UHÀHFW ZHOO RQ KLV SDWURQV µXQ 0RUR PROWR YDORURVR LO TXDOH SHU HVVHUH SUR¶ della persona, e per avere dato segno, nelle cose della guerra, di gran prudenza e di vivace ingegno, era molto caro a que’ signori, i quali, nel dar premio agli atti virtuosi, avanzano quante repubbliche fur mai’ (65).137KH¿JXUHRIWKHQREOH0RRU ZDVD¿[WXUHLQWKHFDVWRIFKDUDFWHUVFRPPRQWRWKHIRXUWHHQWK¿IWHHQWKDQG sixteenth-century novella. Brave and magnanimous Moors, to whom Giraldi’s is partly heir, feature in several tales from Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (1351) and Masuccio Salernitano’s Novellino (1476). Giraldi’s valorous Moor clearly evokes this tradition, in turn derived from chivalric romance models. However, the noble Moors in other collections are never linked romantically to Christian women. Moors who engage in sexual relations with Italian women elsewhere in the novella tradition are in fact antithetical to such images of noble Moors: they are invariably portrayed as overly sexual, sometimes sadistic, and often illiterate slaves.


In their analysis of the etymologies of Disdemona, Henry and Renée Kahane note that the Greek ‘dysdaimon’ could mean cursed with an evil destiny, ill-starred and unhappy, or God-fearing and religious. ‘Disdemona: A Star-Crossed Name,’ Names: Journal of the American Name Society 35, 3–4 (1987): pp. 232–5. 12 ‘A Moorish captain takes as his wife a Venetian citizen.’ Giambattista Giraldi Cinzio, De gli hecatommithi di M. Giovanbattista Gyraldi Cinthio nobile ferrarese (Nel Monte Regale: Appresso Lionardo Torrentino, 1565), p. 64. Citations of the novella in the body of this essay are from this edition. 13 ‘A very valiant Moor, who because he was personally courageous and had given proof in warfare of great prudence and skillful energy, was very dear to those [Venetian] lords, who in rewarding virtuous actions advance the interests of any republic.’

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


Matteo Bandello’s Novelle (1575), widely acknowledged for having provided the source stories for Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Much Ado About Nothing (either directly or through translations), includes a particularly brutal tale of Moorish violence. In novella III, 21, a Moorish servant, seeking revenge for the beating he received, brutally rapes his master’s wife in front of their FKLOGUHQPXUGHUVWKHPDOOEHIRUHWKHPDVWHU¶VDQJXLVKHGJD]HDQG¿QDOO\NLOOV himself. Bandello repeatedly characterizes the Moorish slave as a cruel and VLQLVWHUIRHµLOSHU¿GRPRUR¶µORVOHDOPRUR¶µLOFUXGHOPRUR¶µVFHOOHUDWLVVLPR barbaro.’14 Salernitano’s Novellino, as well as the Proverbi (1470), by his contemporary Antonio Cornazano, include equally graphic tales, although the context for Christian-Moorish encounters is quite different. Both collections were produced in the wake of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and both narrate tales of Christian-Moorish adultery that characterize women and Moors in highly derogatory terms.15 The adulterous women are cast as H[FHVVLYHO\OXVWIXOEHDVWVµ¿HUDVLOYDQDGLYRUDWULFH¶µVFHOOHUDWDHOLELGLQRVVLVVLPD lupa,’ ‘pazza, insensata, ribalda, temeraria, e prosuntuosa bestia.’ Similarly, the Moorish slaves are described as ugly and monstrous brutes: ‘l’orribilissimo moro,’ ‘bruttissimo oltre misura,’ ‘nero veltro,’ ‘irrationale animale,’ ‘mostro terreno,’ ‘nero corbacchione,’ ‘can moro,’ ‘boia.’ Their inter-racial sexual act is DOVRGH¿QHGLQEHVWLDOWHUPVµLQIHWWDHSXWULGDFDUQH¶µODFRPLQFLzDODFDQLQDD martellare,’ ‘col tuo caro moro la tua foiosa rabbia sfocare,’ ‘inspedava carne,’ ‘sgunucando, rancognando.’16 Salernitano’s and Cornazano’s collections have yet to be fully explored by Shakespeare studies, but the language of sexual H[FHVV FRQWDPLQDWLRQ GH¿OHPHQW DQG EHVWLDOLW\ LQ WKHVH H[FHUSWV DQWLFLSDWHV some of the images that open Othello in intriguing ways: ‘an old black ram /


‘The treacherous Moor,’ the disloyal Moor,’ ‘the cruel Moor,’ ‘the most wicked Moor.’ Matteo Bandello, Tutte le opere di Matteo Bandello, vol. 2, ed. Francesco Flora (Milan: Mondadori, 1943), pp. 675–6. Hunter notes this novella as further evidence of the images of Moors that Elizabethans familiar with Giraldi’s tale might have anticipated seeing on stage (Othello and Colour Prejudice, pp. 193–4). Here, I wish to highlight the difference between Bandello’s representation of Moorish identity and Giraldi’s. 15 Nevertheless, as I argue in my book in progress, Scandalous Liaisons: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Italian Novella, in Salernitano tales of Christian-Moorish liaisons, the Moorish slaves are also occasionally portrayed in positive terms, revealing the complexity and ambivalence inherent in contemporary Christian notions of Muslim identity. 16 The women: ‘savage devouring beast,’ ‘wicked and most wanton she-wolf,’ ‘crazy, LUUDWLRQDO ¿OWK\ LPSXGHQW DQG SUHVXPSWXRXV EHDVW¶ 7KH 0RRULVK VODYHV µWKH PRVW horrendous Moor,’ ‘immeasurably ugly,’ ‘black hunting dog,’ ‘irrational animal,’ ‘earthly monster,’ ‘black carrion crow,’ ‘black dog,’ ‘executioner.’ Their copulation: ‘corrupt and LQIHFWHG ÀHVK¶ µEHJDQ WR KDPPHU DW KHU OLNH D GRJ¶ µWR TXHQFK \RXU KRW OXVW ZLWK \RXU dear Moor,’ ‘he was skewering meat,’ ‘grunting, snorting.’ See Masuccio Salernitano, Il novellino, ed. Salvatore Nigro (Milan: Rizzoli, 2000) novelle 22, 24, and 25; and the third story in Proverbii di Messer Antonio Cornazano in facetie (Catania: Guaitolini, 1929).

Genealogy of a Character


Is tupping your white ewe’ (1.1.87–8), ‘covered with a Barbary horse’ (1.1.110), ‘the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor’ (1.1.124).17 6LJQL¿FDQWO\*LUDOGLGRHVQRWIROORZDQ\RIWKHVHPRGHOV$OWKRXJKKLV0RRU weds and therefore beds a Christian woman, he is not viewed as repugnant on this account. Disdemona falls in love with him because he is virtuous, and not out of lust: ‘tratta non da appetito donnesco, ma dalla virtù del Moro, s’innamorò di lui’ (65).18 For his part, the Moor ‘vinto dalla bellezza e dal nobile pensiero della donna, similmente di lei si accese’ (65).19 The two live together, and for quite some time ‘di sì concorde volere, ed in tanta tranquillità, mentre furono a Venezia, che mai tra loro non fu, non dirò cosa, ma parola men che amorevole’ (65).20 Their resolve to travel to Cyprus together reinforces the impression that their marriage is built on mutual trust, affection, and respect. Domestic harmony is rare in the novella tradition, even among Christian couples, and unheard of in tales of black-white unions. While Giraldi clearly eschews the virulent language for representing ChristianMoorish unions employed by Salernitano, Cornazano, and Bandello, a passing reference to the objections raised by Disdemona’s family to the marriage implicitly signals the instability of their union.21 Their disapproval neither prevents the marriage, nor hinders the couple’s initial happiness, and Venice is cast as a place where cross-cultural, inter-religious, and inter-racial relations might not only H[LVW EXW HYHQ ÀRXULVK LQ ERWK WKH SXEOLF DQG SULYDWHV VSKHUHV +RZHYHU WKH geographical shift from Venice to Cyprus promises further harassment of the happy couple. Cyprus becomes the setting for a series of personal vendettas (by the standard-bearer and Moor), tragic misreadings (by the Moor and Disdemona), and stereotypically negative views of Moors (by Disdemona and the standard-bearer). The narrative relocation to Cyprus is far from accidental. The island, arguably RQH WKH PRVW ¿HUFHO\ FRQWHVWHG VLWHV LQ WKH VL[WHHQWKFHQWXU\ 0HGLWHUUDQHDQ ZDVVWUDWHJLFDOO\VLJQL¿FDQWIRUFRPPHUFLDODQGPLOLWDU\GRPLQDQFH9HQLFHKDG struggled to maintain its control of Cyprus since claiming it from the Lusignan dynasty in 1489. Over the course of the following decades, Cyprus suffered frequent raids by Ottoman forces, as well as by the numerous pirates and corsairs of 17

Quotations from Othello are from the Arden edition, ed. by E.A.J. Honigmann (Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997, rpt. 2004). 18 ‘attracted to the Moor by his virtues, rather than from any female appetite, she fell in love with him.’ 19 ‘won over by the beauty and noble mind of the lady, his love was similarly kindled.’ 20 ‘[The couple] was so united and lived in such serenity while in Venice, that between them there was never a word, much less I will say, an action, that was less than loving.’ 21 ‘si congiunsero insieme per matrimonio, ancora che i parenti della donna facessero ciò che poterono, perché ella altro marito si prendesse che lui’ (65). ‘They joined together in marriage, even though the woman’s relatives did what they could for her to take a different husband than him.’

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


GLYHUVHUHOLJLRXVDI¿OLDWLRQDQGJHRJUDSKLFDOSURYHQDQFHWKDWUHJXODUO\VFRXUHGWKH Mediterranean in search of booty and prisoners. In 1539, the Ottomans destroyed Limassol (today one the largest commercial ports on the Mediterranean trade route, situated on the southern coast of Cyprus). These threats repeatedly forced Venice to fortify its bases on the island at Nicosia, Famagusta, and Kyrenia. Moreover, while from 1489 to 1570 Cyprus was technically Venetian territory, it remained under the suzerainty of the Egyptian Mamluks until 1517. When the Ottomans expanded their empire by capturing Egypt and Syria in that year, they considered Cyprus an integral part of their empire and Venice began to send to Constantinople the annual tribute it had formerly sent to Cairo.22 If Giraldi’s novella seems to foreshadow the 1570 Ottoman-Venetian battle for Cyprus, it is because when the HecatommithiZDVSXEOLVKHGWKHRXWFRPHRIFRQÀLFWVRYHUFRQWURORIWKHLVODQG still hung in the balance. The move from Venice (‘la Serenissima’) to this isolated Venetian outpost in the then-fraught Mediterranean conjures Venetian-Ottoman tensions and suggests that the Moor’s commitment to defending Venice’s interests should be scrutinized. Despite the initial presentation of the Moor as virtuous and brave, contemporary readers would likely have wondered whether the Moor could be trusted to defend the island, or whether he would turn into a threatening internal antagonist – and LI VR E\ ZKDW PHDQV 8QLGHQWL¿HG E\ QDPH RU FRXQWU\ *LUDOGL¶V 0RRU LV DQ unknown entity – all we know at the outset is that he is courageous, virtuous, and black. Should the Moor be seen as a former slave; a Turkish or North African soldier captured in battle; an ex-diplomat from distant lands; a foreign mercenary hired to aid the Venetian Republic in its military ventures? The last suggestion is perhaps the most likely, since throughout the sixteenth century the Ottomans frequently offered Venice military aid through mercenaries. Although this was RIWHQ D SUR¿WDEOH HQWHUSULVH IRU 9HQLFH LW ZDV DOVR YLHZHG DV D KD]DUGRXV DQG ‘un-Christian’ policy by the Church, which repeatedly and publicly condemned such alliances.23 The four passages in the tale that have garnered the most critical attention are precisely those that signal contemporary apprehensions about Moorish identity by highlighting society’s tendency to view Moors according to negative stereotypes:


For the history of Cyprus in this period, see Benjamin Arbel, Cyprus, the Franks, and Venice, 13th–16th Centuries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000). Today, it remains the only Mediterranean territory still nationally divided between two entities, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot. 23 For the history of Venetian-Ottoman alliances, and of foreign mercenaries serving in Venice’s forces, see Marie F. Viallon, Venise et la porte Ottomane (1453–1566): un siècle de relations vénéto-ottomanes, de la prise de Constantinople à la mort de Soliman (Paris: Economica, 1995), pp. 202–3; see also Eric Dursteler, Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Genealogy of a Character


1. 7KH VWDQGDUGEHDUHU DWWHPSWV WR LQÀDPH WKH 0RRU DJDLQVW KLV ZLIH E\ attacking his racial identity: ‘Dovete adunque sapere che non per altro è grave alla donna vostra il veder il capo di squadra in disgrazia vostra, che per lo piacere che ella si piglia con lui: qualora egli in casa vostra viene, come colei a cui è già venuta a noia questa vostra nerezza’ (68).24 2. Disdemona, bewildered by her husband’s uncharacteristic anger, accuses him of being true to his ethnic roots: ‘Ma voi Mori siete di natura tanto caldi che ogni poco di cosa vi move ad ira ed a vendetta’ (68).25 3. Disdemona, ignorant of the root causes of her husband’s changed attitude towards her, assumes her family’s reservations were well-founded: ‘E temo molto di non essere io quella che dia esempio alle giovani, di non maritarsi contra il voler de’ suoi; a che da me le donne italiane imparino di non si accompagnare con uomo, cui la natura, e il Cielo, e il modo della vita disgiunge da noi’ (71).26 4. The Venetian authorities, hearing of ‘the barbarian’s cruelty against one of its citizens’ (‘intesa la crudeltà usata dal barbaro in una lor cittadina,’ 74) from the standard-bearer and the head of the guard, seize the Moor in Cyprus, bring him back to Venice, interrogate and torture him at length, DQG ¿QDOO\ VHQWHQFH KLP WR H[LOH ZKHUH KH LV SXUVXHG DQG NLOOHG E\ Disdemona’s relatives. Critics have taken the views expressed in these passages at face value. In other words, the protagonists’ opinions have been read against each other, rather than within the context of the rest of the novella, and of the literary antecedents and analogues with which Giraldi and his readers would have been familiar. Geoffrey Bullough, for instance, argues that there is no inconsistency in Cinthio’s account between the Moor’s nobility and his vindictiveness. The Moor’s virtù … rests in his determination and strength of purpose. Therefore, once the Moor has been tricked by the Ensign into an illusion about Disdemona’s guilt and a conviction of her merited punishment, the cruel, barbaric murder plan is entirely in keeping with the earlier portrait of a hot-blooded and vengeful Moor.27


‘You must therefore know that the only reason your wife is troubled at seeing the head of the guard in your disfavor, is that she has been taking pleasure with him whenever he comes to your house, like someone to whom your blackness has become distasteful.’ ‘Venuta a noia’ might also be translated as ‘has become boring.’ 25 ‘But you Moors are so hot by nature that any little thing moves you to anger and vengeance.’ 26 ‘I fear greatly that I shall be a warning to young girls not to marry against their parents’ wishes; and Italian ladies will learn by my example not to tie themselves to a man whom nature, Heaven, and manner of life separate from us.’ 27 Geoffrey Bullough (ed.), Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, Vol. VII (New York: Routledge, 1973), p. 236.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


Disdemona’s reading of her husband according to stereotypes of Moorish identity KDVWKXVEHHQUHL¿HG7KHVWHUHRW\SHLVVWHUHRW\SHG6XFKYLHZVVLPSOLI\*LUDOGL¶V complex approach to questions of loyalty, honor, and race, overlooking key narrative developments, as well as the striking absence of racial, cultural, and religious bias elsewhere in the novella. Furthermore, scholars routinely disregard the explicit moral appended to the tale, and instead identify the fears Disdemona expresses in the third passage cited above as the moral message revealed in the tale’s tragic ending.28 Each of the perspectives articulated in the four passages above can in fact be countered through a close reading of other textual moments and narrative GHYHORSPHQWV 7KH ¿UVW SDVVDJH LPSOLHV WKDW ¿FNOH ZRPHQ PD\ LQLWLDOO\ ¿QG Moors exotic and sexually enticing, but will quickly tire of them and/or become repulsed, implicitly recalling the xenophobic and misogynist views articulated in Salernitano’s and Cornazano’s novellas of adulterous Christian-Moorish encounters. Like the rest of the standard-bearer’s allegations against Disdemona, the slur against the Moor’s ethnicity is intended to persuade him of her adultery by reinforcing conventional assumptions and preventing Disdemona from presenting herself on her own terms. Yet, as the novella repeatedly emphasizes, Disdemona is anything but an inconstant bride. As the all too credulous Moor should remember, moreover, she fell in love with his virtuous character, not out of any capricious sexual interest in his exoticism. While the Moor tragically falls into the standardbearer’s trap, attentive readers are mindful that the comment is an example of malicious and ultimately destructive slander at odds with Giraldi’s representation of Disdemona’s love for her husband. In the second passage, Disdemona’s claim that all Moors (the implication being only Moors) are naturally quick to anger and revenge explicitly invokes the trope illustrated in Bandello’s graphic tale of the Moorish slave’s cruel retribution. Leo Africanus’s Descrittione dell’Africa, a work often cited as a source for Othello through John Pory’s 1600 translation, also describes Moors as prone to jealousy and savage vengeance. Africanus’s work circulated in manuscript form as soon as it was completed in 1526 and, like Shakespeare, Giraldi may well have drawn inspiration from the Descrittione for Disdemona’s statement. Yet the narrative sets XSDFOHDURSSRVLWLRQEHWZHHQWKH0RRUDQGKLVVWDQGDUGEHDUHUWKDWFRQÀLFWVERWK with Disdemona’s stereotyping of her husband and with the binary oppositions set up in the dedicatory letter.


For this reading, see Shaul Bassi, Le metamorfosi di Otello: storia di un’etnicità immaginaria (Bari: Edizioni BA Graphis, 2000), p. 22; Leslie Fielder, The Stranger in Shakespeare (New York: Stein and Day, 1972), pp. 146 and 173; and Bullough, p. 200. This view is so broadly accepted that The Royal Shakespeare Company’s online summary of the tale concludes: ‘Cinthio’s melodramatic tale seems to have been intended as a warning to daughters not to marry a man so different to themselves and a warning to obey their parents’ wishes,’ ‘Shakespeare’s Sources for Othello.’ html (accessed October 25, 2009).

Genealogy of a Character


When Disdemona accuses her husband of reacting according to his naturally ‘heated’ Moorish nature, he becomes even angrier and vows to avenge the affronts to his cultural identity and virility.29 Rather than recognizing her husband’s words as proof of his ‘heated’ nature, however, Disdemona ‘rimase … tutta isbigottita a queste parole, … veduto, fuor del suo costume, il suo marito contra lei riscaldato’ (68).30 Although she initially employs a racial stereotype to characterize the Moor’s anger, she also immediately acknowledges that his reaction is quite out of character. The Moor thus acts ‘fuor del suo costume,’ even according to the woman who knows him best. On the other hand, at the end of the novella the standardbearer is said to act entirely according to his custom when he treacherously accuses a colleague of another crime he himself committed: ‘non volendo egli mancare del suo costume, accusò uno compagno’ (74–5).31 Moreover, while the Moor is introduced as a valorous and loyal soldier, friend, colleague, and KXVEDQGWKHVWDQGDUGEHDUHULVFDVWDVWKHSHUVRQL¿FDWLRQRIHYLOFRZDUGLFHDQG cunning: ‘della più scellerata natura, che mai fosse uomo del mondo’; and later: ‘quantunque egli fosse di vilissimo animo, copriva nondimeno coll’alte e superbe parole, e colla sua presenza di modo la viltà ch’egli chiudea nel cuore, che si scopriva nel sembiante un Ettore, od uno Achille’ (66).32 True to his changeable and wicked nature, the standard-bearer becomes jealous and vindictive when he fails to attract Disdemona’s romantic attentions: ‘ma mutò l’amore, ch’egli portava alla donna, in acerbissimo odio’ (67).33 The standard-bearer is thus clearly portrayed as more innately hot-blooded and prone to jealousy, vengeance, and violence than the Moor, who is instead driven to suspicion and murder by the insinuations and ‘proofs’ the standard-bearer brings before him, and by his own weakly credulous nature. Contrary to the premise announced in the dedicatory letter, the novella suggests that appearances can be tragically deceptive. Rather than simply viewing the story as an unambiguous illustration of Moorish barbarity, contemporary readers would likely also have recognized it as an original variation on the motif of unjustly accused women and gullible men. A common subject of both narratives and paintings (we need only remember 29 ‘A queste parole più irato, rispose il Moro: Tale lo potrebbe provare, che non sel crede; vedrò tal vendetta delle ingiurie che mi son fatte, che ne resterò sazio’ (68). ‘At these words, the Moor became even more angry, and replied: Anyone who does not believe it could easily prove it; I shall have such vengeance of the injuries against me as will satisfy me.’ 30 Disdemona ‘was bewildered by these words …, seeing her husband heated against her in a manner contrary to his habit.’ 31 ‘Not wanting to be defective in his custom, he accused one of his companions.’ 32 ‘[The standard-bearer had] the most evil nature of any man on earth,’ and ‘although he had an extremely cowardly soul, nevertheless he disguised the cowardice that he enclosed in his heart through high and lofty words and acts, so that he seemed on the surface to be another Hector, or an Achilles.’ 33 ‘the love he bore the woman transformed itself into the bitterest hatred.’ Unlike Othello’s arguably motiveless villain, Iago, Giraldi’s standard-bearer schemes to kill Disdemona precisely because she does not notice his amorous advances.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


the myth of Lucrece so popular throughout the early-modern period), unjustly DFFXVHG ZRPHQ IHDWXUH LQ WZR UHODWHG YDULDQWV RI SDUWLFXODU VLJQL¿FDQFH IRU Giraldi’s tale: the novella of Bernabò, Ambrogiuolo and Zinevra in Decameron ,,DQGWKHµQRYHOOD¶RI3ROLQHVVR$ULRGDQWHDQG*LQHYUDLQVHUWHGLQWRWKH¿IWK canto of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1532). In both narratives, credulous men are persuaded of their beloveds’ adultery by the cunning insinuations of a wicked rival whose attentions have been spurned by the women in question.34 Giraldi would have been familiar with both texts, and the almost verbatim parallels between parts of his novella and these precedents suggest that he derived several images and phrases from them. Just as the standard-bearer’s love for Disdemona turns to hate, so too the would-be suitor in Ariosto’s narrative, Polinesso, rapidly begins to hate Ginevra: ‘tutto in ira e in odio si converse.’35 The Moor’s heartbroken reaction to the allegations of Disdemona’s adultery also echoes the reactions of Ariodante and Bernabò in Ariosto’s and Boccaccio’s stories, respectively. In Giraldi’s tale we read that: ‘lasciarono tali parole così pungente spina nell’animo del Moro … che se ne stava tutto maninconioso’ (67).36 When the standard-bearer alleges that Disdemona is sleeping with the head of the guard because she is bored/disgusted with his blackness, ‘queste parole passarono il core al Moro insino alle radici’ (68).37 When the Moor then returns home to Disdemona, tormented by the thought of her adultery, he is described as ‘Il misero Moro, come tocco da pungentissimo strale’ (69).38 In Boccaccio’s novella, Bernabò reacts in exactly the same way to WKHWKRXJKWRI=LQHYUD¶VLQ¿GHOLW\µTXDQGR«XGuTXHVWRSDUYHFKHJOLIRVVHGDWR


Ariosto’s variant was likely inspired not only by Boccaccio’s novella, but also by an HSLVRGHLQWKHODWH¿IWHHQWKFHQWXU\&DWDODQSRHPTirant lo Blanc by Joanot Martorell and Martí Joan de Galba: in chapters 267–8 and 283, a servant (la Viuda Reposada) disguised as a black gardener contributes to a false accusation of adultery against her mistress Carmesina, instigating her lover’s wrath. See Tirant lo blanc, trans. David H. Rosenthal (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), pp. 412–14 and 427–9. For a discussion of the analogies between these episodes, see Paolo Valesio, ‘Genealogy of a Staged Scene (Orlando Furioso V),’ Yale Italian Studies 1 (1980): pp. 5–31. Ariosto’s refashioning in WKH¿IWKFDQWRRIWKHFurioso itself served as a source for the story of Hero and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, either directly, through Bandello’s variant set in Messina (novella I, 22), or through one of the many English translations and transformations of the story in circulation in Elizabethan England. See Claire McEachern’s discussion of sources in her Arden edition of Much Ado (London: Thomson, 2006), pp. 4–12. 35 ‘[his love] was completely converted to anger and hatred.’ Orlando Furioso, ed. Marcello Turchi (Milan: Garzanti, 1994), V.21.8. All other quotations from the Furioso will appear parenthetically in the text. 36 ‘[the standard-bearer’s] words left such a sharp thorn in the Moor’s mind … that he became very melancholy.’ 37 ‘these words drove through the Moor’s heart down to its roots.’ 38 ‘The wretched Moor [was] as if struck by the sharpest of darts.’

Genealogy of a Character


d’un coltello al cuore, sì fatto dolore sentì.’39 Similarly, Ariodante in Ariosto’s text is described as ‘misero’ when he sees Ginevra with Polinesso (in reality it is her servant in disguise), and suicidal: ‘cade in tanto dolor, che si dispone / allora allora di voler morire: / e il pome de la spada in terra pone, / che su la punta si volea ferire’ (V.51.8–52.4).40 Perhaps most interesting for students of Othello are the precedents in Boccaccio’s, Ariosto’s, and Giraldi’s narratives for Othello’s famous exhortation – ‘Give me the ocular proof’ (3.3.368). In Giraldi’s tale, the Moor demands that the standard-bearer display the evidence before his eye: ‘se non mi fai … vedere cogli occhi quello che detto mi hai’ (69),41 a phrase often cited as evidence that Shakespeare knew Giraldi’s tale in the original Italian rather than through Gabriel Chappuys’s 1584 translation.42 In Boccaccio’s novella, Ambrogiuolo makes a bet with Bernabò that he will be able to show him proofRIKLVZLIH¶VLQ¿GHOLW\ ‘se tu hai voglia di vedere pruova di ciò che io ho già ragionato’ (II, 9, 22).43 When Ambrogiuolo shows Bernabò the items he stole from Zinevra’s room, claiming them as love tokens, and describes the room itself, Bernabò argues that such ‘proof’ might have been obtained in any number of innocent ways and asks for more evidence. It is only when Ambrogiuolo relates intimate details of Zinevra’s body (she has a mole beneath her left breast surrounded by six gold-colored hairs) that Bernabò believes his wife must have slept with him. Elaborating on the trope of visible evidence even more explicitly, Ariosto’s Polinesso offers to make Ginevra’s adultery manifest before Ariodante’s eyes: ‘di quel che t’offerisco manifesto, / quando ti piaccia, inanzi agli occhi porre’ (V.40.3–4). Ariodante likewise demands to see with his own eyes: ‘Quando sia che tu mi faccia / veder questa aventura tua sì rara, / prometto di costei lasciar la traccia, / a te sì liberale, a me sì avara: / ma ch’io tel voglia creder, non far stima, / s’io non lo veggio con questi occhi prima’ (V.41.3–8).44 Ariodante is only convinced after he thinks he witnesses Ginevra (in fact it is her servant Dalinda in disguise) embracing Polinesso. 39 Decameron, ed. Vittore Branca (Milan: Mondadori, 1985), II.9, 33. ‘When Bernabò heard this, he felt as though he had been stabbed through the heart, such was the pain that assailed him.’ All other quotations from the Decameron will appear parenthetically in the text. 40 ‘Wretchedly he sees everything from afar, and falls into such anguish, that he immediately resolves to die, and plants the pommel of his sword in the ground, wanting to wound himself with its point.’ 41 ‘If you do not make me see with my own eyes what you have told me.’ 42 Giraldi Cinzio, Giambattista. Premier volume des cent excellentes nouvelles de M. Jean Baptiste Giraldy Cinthien, trans. Gabriel Chappuys (Paris, 1584). 43 ‘if you want to see proof of what I have told you.’ 44 Polinesso: ‘That which I pledge to offer you, whenever you like, I will place before your eyes.’ Ariodante: ‘With a wounded heart, pale face, trembling voice, and bitter mouth, [he] answered: “Whenever you show me proof of this rare adventure of yours, I promise to forego the chase of one so kind to thee, and cold to me, but don’t think that I will believe you, XQOHVV,VHHLWZLWKPLQHRZQH\HV¿UVW.’”


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

As in Othello, in all three Italian variants on this stock narrative of deception and intrigue, unscrupulous jilted men (Ambrogiuolo, Polinesso, and the standardbearer) fabricate misleading evidence in order to trick foolish men (Bernabò, Ariodante, and the Moor). In all three variants, the men who believe they have been cuckolded are prepared to kill their women in revenge. In Ariosto’s refashioning of Boccaccio’s narrative, an entire kingdom is in fact willing to execute Zinevra, following a local monarchical law punishing women who have sex outside of (or before) marriage. There are notable differences in the narrative dénouements of each variant, however. In Boccaccio’s novella, Bernabò orders a servant to kill his wife Zinevra in the woods. The servant takes pity on her and sets her free. Zinevra escapes into a series of Mediterranean adventures, by turn fantastic and UHDOLVWLFDQGLV¿QDOO\YLQGLFDWHGDQGUHXQLWHGZLWKKHUKXVEDQGLQWKHWDOH¶Vlieto ¿QH. For his treachery, Ambruogiuolo is apprehended, tied to a pillar, covered in honey, and left to die devoured by the stings of bees and wasps. In Ariosto’s variant, Ariodante initially considers suicide, but ultimately chooses to return to the Scottish kingdom where Ginevra’s fate is being decided in a joust in order to ¿JKWQREO\IRUKHUOLIHDQGKRQRUGHVSLWHEHOLHYLQJKHUWREHXQWUXH2QFHDJDLQ a happily-ever-after ending is brought about, in this case with the aid of one of Ariosto’s chivalric heroes, Rinaldo. In Giraldi’s tale, on the other hand, events unfold with tragic consequences. There is no opportunity to vindicate Disdemona’s character in the Moor’s eyes (as happens at the end of Othello with Emilia’s confession). It is important to note that the standard-bearer single-handedly devises and executes the plot, while the Moor stands by, railing against his wife, and then helps to cover up the murder and make it look like an accident. Whereas in OthelloWKHKHURLVJXLOW\RIPXUGHULQWKH¿UVW degree, in Giraldi’s tale the standard-bearer shoulders this responsibility, while WKH0RRUPD\RQO\EHDFFXVHGRIEHLQJDQDFFHVVRU\WRWKHFULPH6LJQL¿FDQWO\ DIWHUWKHFULPHWKH0RRULVQHLWKHUJOHHIXOQRUVDWLV¿HGE\UHYHQJH,QVWHDGKH is rather empathetically portrayed as almost insane with grief: ‘il Moro, che la donna aveva amata più che gli occhi suoi, veggendosene privo, cominciò ad avere tanto desiderio di lei, che l’andava, come fuori di sé, cercando per tutti i luoghi della casa’ (74).45 The punishments meted out to the standard-bearer and the Moor similarly suggest that Giraldi wished to cast his hero in a sympathetic light, rather than as a stereotypically vicious Moor. The standard-bearer is apprehended and tortured by the Venetian authorities for another crime, and dies when his inner RUJDQVUXSWXUH,QWKH¿QDOSDVVDJHVRIWKHWDOHWKHVWDQGDUGEHDUHULVGHVFULEHGDV worse than all wicked men (‘peggiore di tutti i scellerati,’ 74). The Moor is similarly apprehended by the Venetian Republic (following the standard-bearer and head of the guard’s false accusations that he single-handedly killed Disdemona), brought EDFNWR9HQLFHWRUWXUHGDWOHQJWKDQG¿QDOO\VHQWLQWRH[LOH*LUDOGLZULWHVWKDWWKH 45 ‘The Moor, who had loved the lady more than his own eyes, seeing himself deprived of her, began to desire her presence so much that he went about, as though out of his mind, looking for her all over the house.’

Genealogy of a Character


Moor endured physical torture and interrogation with his ‘valorous soul’ (‘valor dell’animo,’ 74), a characterization that brings us back full circle to the initial presentation of the Moor as ‘molto valoroso’ and ‘pro della persona’ (65). It is the constancy of his character (‘la sua costanza,’ 74), and the absence of a confession that force the Venetian authorities to condemn him to exile rather than death. Even though a Moor – an alien stranger, a ‘barbaro’ different in nature, religion, and culture – is (as far as Venice’s authorities know) responsible for the death of a Venetian citizen on Venetian soil, in the absence of a confession, banishment is the only legal penalty. Disdemona’s murder is instead vindicated through a lex talionis: her relatives track the Moor down in exile and execute him, as he deserved.46 Just UHWULEXWLRQHQVXUHVWKDWWKH0RRUDQGVWDQGDUGEHDUHU¶VGHDWKV¿WQRWRQO\WKHLU deeds but also their natures. Just as in introducing his tale its narrator, Curzio, had steered clear of racial bias, so too at the beginning of the next narrative the other frame characters eschew stereotypically negative readings of the Moor’s actions qua Moor. Instead, they marvel at the excessive malevolence in a human heart, the standard-bearer’s (‘Parve meravigliosa cosa ad ognuno, che tanta malignità fosse ritrovata in uman cuore,’ 75), chastise Disdemona’s father’s choice of her ill-fated name,47 and blame the Moor for having believed too foolishly (‘fu biasimato il Moro, che troppo follemente avesse creduto,’ 75). The reproach aimed at the Moor recalls the words Zinevra directs at her gullible husband, Bernabò, at the end of Boccaccio’s tale: ‘più credulo alle altrui falsità che alla verità da lui per lunga esperienza potuta conoscere’ (Decameron, II, 9, 64).48 In Giraldi’s novella, it is certainly possible to infer a moral message, as many critics have done, from Disdemona’s earlier comment that women should learn to obey their parents and not marry a man different in nature, religion, and culture. While the frame characters’ concluding remarks do not unequivocally negate this reading, they do leave the question of the tale’s overarching moral message open to debate. 46 ‘Ma vincendo egli, col valore dell’animo, ogni martorio, il tutto negò così costantemente, che non se ne potè mai trarre cosa alcuna. Ma sebbene, per la sua costanza, egli schifò la morte, non fu però che, dopo lo essere stato molti giorni in prigione, non IRVVHGDQQDWRDSHUSHWXRHVLOLRQHOTXDOH¿QDOPHQWHIXGD¶SDUHQWLGHOODGRQQDFRPHHJOL meritava, ucciso’ (74). ‘But overcoming, with the courage of his soul, every torture, [the Moor] denied everything with such constancy, that nothing could be drawn from him. But even though he scorned death with his constancy, he was nevertheless condemned to SHUSHWXDOH[LOHDIWHUKDYLQJVSHQWPDQ\GD\VLQSULVRQDQGZDV¿QDOO\NLOOHGE\UHODWLYHVRI the woman, as he deserved.’ 47 ‘si determinò tra la brigata, che essendo il nome il primo dono che dà padre al ¿JOLXRORGHYUHEEHLPSRUJOLHOHHPDJQL¿FRHIRUWXQDWRFRPHFKHEHQHHJUDQGH]]DFRVuJOL volesse indovinare’ (75). ‘It was determined by the frame characters, that since the name is WKH¿UVWJLIWDIDWKHUPDNHVWRDFKLOGKHVKRXOGLPSRVHRQKHUDPDJQL¿FHQWDQGIRUWXQDWH one, as though wishing to foretell good and greatness.’ 48 ‘paying more attention to another man’s falsehoods than to the truth that years of experience should have taught him.’

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


Rather than producing the conventional narrative anticipated in the dedicatory letter and rubric that precede the third deca and seventh novella, respectively, Giraldi seems to strive to challenge gender and ethnic stereotypes that circulated in the sixteenth-century cultural imaginary. In his reading of Othello, G.K. Hunter argues that the play manipulates our sympathies, supposing that we will have brought to the theatre DVHWRIFDUHOHVVDVVXPSWLRQVDERXWµ0RRUV¶,WDVVXPHVDOVRWKDWZHZLOO¿QG LWHDV\WRDEDQGRQWKHVHDVWKHSOD\EULQJVWKHPLQWRIRFXVDQGLGHQWL¿HVWKHP with Iago, draws its elaborate distinction between the external appearance of the devilishness and the inner reality.49

5HVWRUHG WR LWV KLVWRULFDO DQG OLWHUDU\ VSHFL¿FLW\ *LUDOGL¶V WDOH FDQ EH UHDG LQ similar ways as a narrative that explores the consequences on human relationships of culturally-shaped prejudices about women and Moors. On the one hand, this Renaissance tale of black-white, Moorish-Venetian, Muslim-Christian romance, intrigue, and murder exploits contemporary anxieties about cross-cultural encounters in the context of Ottoman military, economic, and cultural expansion in the sixteenth-century Mediterranean and the concurrent changing fortunes of the Venetian Republic. On the other hand, rather than only warning against the irreconcilable differences which make religious, cultural, and ethnic difference seem de facto dangerous, the narrative puts us on guard against those that are closest to us, most like ourselves, even those who bear our ‘standards,’ those who are the guardians of our own identities. The novella thus questions our assumptions and our aversions, plays into them and then destabilizes them by showing us a Moor who is noble, honorable, and heroic, and also capable of acting out our negative fantasies – fantasies focused as much (if not more) on avenging wounded male honor, as on the potential of ‘barbarous aliens’ for violence. Giraldi’s novella subverts the trope advertised by the dedicatory letter, revealing the wicked underside of outwardly virtuous (white) characters and the noble, albeit weak, nature of outwardly fearsome (black) characters. Read within its immediate historical and literary contexts, Giraldi’s tale emerges as one of the most intriguing and original variations on the theme of black-white sexual encounters in the Italian novella. Works Cited Arbel, Benjamin. Cyprus, the Franks, and Venice, 13th–16th Centuries. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. Ariosto, Ludovico. Orlando Furioso. Edited by Marcello Turchi. Milan: Garzanti, 1994. Bandello, Matteo. Tutte le opere di Matteo Bandello, vol. 2. Edited by Francesco Flora. Milan: Mondadori, 1943. 49

Hunter, p. 195.

Genealogy of a Character


Bassi, Shaul. Le metamorfosi di Otello: storia di un’etnicità immaginaria. Bari: Edizioni BA Graphis, 2000. Bertini, Fabio. ‘Havere a la giustizia sodisfatto:’ tragedie giudiziarie di Giovan Battista Giraldi Cinzio nel ventennio conciliare. Florence: Società editrice ¿RUHQWLQD Bestor, Jane Fair. ‘Titian’s Portrait of Laura Eustochia: The Decorum of Female Beauty and the Motif of the Black Page.’ Renaissance Studies 17, 4 (2003): 628–73. Boccaccio, Giovanni. Decameron. Edited by Vittore Branca. Milan: Mondadori, 1985. Brummet, Palmira. Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery. New York: SUNY Press, 1994. Bruscagli, Riccardo. G.B. Giraldi: Drammaturgia ed esperienza teatrale. Ferrara: SATE, 1972. Bullough, Geoffrey (ed.). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. VII. New York: Routledge, 1973. Cornazano, Antonio. Proverbii di Messer Antonio Cornazano in facetie. Catania: Guaitolini, 1929. Dursteler, Eric. Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Fielder, Leslie. The Stranger in Shakespeare. New York: Stein and Day, 1972. Gardner, Helen. ‘The Noble Moor.’ Proceedings of the British Academy 41 (1955). Reprint in Interpretations of Shakespeare, edited by Kenneth Muir. 161–79. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Giraldi Cinzio, Giambattista. De gli hecatommithi di M. Giovanbattista Gyraldi Cinthio nobile ferrarese. Nel Monte Regale: Appresso Lionardo Torrentino, 1565. ———. Discorso dei romanzi. Edited by Laura Benedetti et al. Bologna: Millenium, 1999. ———. Premier volume des cent excellentes nouvelles de M. Jean Baptiste Giraldy Cinthien. Translated by Gabriel Chappuys. Paris, 1584. ———. Scritti critici. Edited by Camillo Crocetti. Milan: Marzorati, 1973. +DG¿HOG$QGUHZ HG William Shakespeare’s Othello: A Sourcebook. Routledge: London, 2003. Horne, Philip R. Tragedies of Giambattista Cinthio Giraldi. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. Hunter, G.K. ‘Othello and Colour Prejudice.’ Proceedings of the British Academy 53 (1967). Reprint in Interpretations of Shakespeare, edited by Kenneth Muir. 180–207. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Kahane, Henry and Renée. ‘Disdemona: A Star-Crossed Name.’ Names: Journal of the American Name Society 35, 3–4 (1987): 232–5. Kaplan, Paul H.D. ‘Titian’s Laura Dianti and the Origins of the Motif of the Black Page in Portraiture.’ Antichità Viva 21, 1 (1982): 11–18, and 21, 4 (1982): 10–18.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Lucas, Corinne. 'HO¶KRQQHXUDXµOLHWR¿QH¶OHFRQWU{OHGXGLVFRXUVWUDJLTXHGDQV le théâtre de Giraldi Cinzio. Rome: Bonacci, 1984. Martorell, Joanot and Martí Joan de Galba. Tirant lo Blanc. Translated by David H. Rosenthal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. Morrison, Mary. The Tragedies of G.B. Giraldi Cinthio: The Transformation of Narrative Source into Stage Play. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. Muir, Kenneth (ed.). Interpretations of Shakespeare. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. ———. Shakespeare’s Sources: Comedies and Tragedies. 1961. Reprint, London: Routledge, 2005. Salernitano, Masuccio. Il novellino. Edited by Salvatore Nigro. Milan: Rizzoli, 2000. Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. The Arden Shakespeare. Edited by Claire McEachern. London: Thomson, 2006. ———. Othello. Edited by E.A.J. Honigmann. The Arden Shakespeare. Waltonon-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997, rpt. 2004. Valesio, Paolo. ‘Genealogy of a Staged Scene (Orlando Furioso V).’ Yale Italian Studies 1 (1980): 5–31. Viallon, Marie F. Venise et la porte Ottomane (1453–1566): un siècle de relations vénéto-ottomanes, de la prise de Constantinople à la mort de Soliman. Paris: Economica, 1995. Villari, Susanna. Per l’edizione critica degli Ecatommiti. Messina: Sicania, 1988.

PART 2 Political Culture and Religious Policy in Venice and England

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Chapter 4

Shakespeare and Republican Venice $QGUHZ+DG¿HOG

Venice occupied a central place in the English imagination in the sixteenth century. There was, of course, the prospect of sex, whether imagined or real, most famously illustrated in Thomas Coryat’s descriptions of Venetian courtesans.1 As we are coming to realize, one of the key reasons behind the development of the Grand Tour was the sowing of wild oats, what many would now call sex tourism. Venice’s reputation as the home of the world’s most desirable and available women was one reason for English enthusiasm.2 There was also the wealth, the cosmopolitanism, and its pivotal role as gateway to the East.3%XWSHUKDSVWKHPRVWVLJQL¿FDQWUHDVRQV that Englishmen admired Venice were political. Venice was often an ally against the papacy, and a whole section of the Calendar of State Papers, when archived in the nineteenth century, collect the voluminous correspondence and diplomatic contact with Venice.4 Venice also served as an intriguing political example, a stable republican city-state that formed a pointed and instructive contrast to the uncertainties and exclusive hierarchical order of Tudor England.5 David Riggs, in his recent biography of Christopher Marlowe, has argued that many intelligent and restless young men in London, especially writers, cut off from the stability of 1 5HSURGXFHG LQ $QGUHZ +DG¿HOG HG  Amazons, Savages and Machiavels: An Anthology of Travel and Colonial Writing, 1550–1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 53. 2 Jeremy Black, The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century (Stroud: Sutton, 1992), p. 196; Virginia Mason Vaughan, Othello: A Contextual History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 16–17. More generally see Ian Littlewood, Sultry Climes: Travel and Sex (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2003). See also Laura Tosi’s chapter ‘Shakespeare, Jonson and Venice: Crossing Boundaries in the City’ in this collection, pp. 143–65. 3 David McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990); Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), passim; Vaughan, pp. 13–34. 4 See Jonathan Bate, ‘The Elizabethans and Italy,’ in Travel and Drama in Shakespeare’s Time, ed. Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Michèle Willems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 59. 5 For discussion, see John Grenville Agard Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University 3UHVV   SS ± ± 6HH DOVR$QGUHZ +DG¿HOG Literature, Travel and Colonialism in the English Renaissance, 1540–1625 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 17–68, 200–264.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


inherited wealth, were desperate for a means of attacking the status quo, opening a space for themselves to think and so asserting their value and originality. Riggs argues that Marlowe turned to the classics as a means of establishing his identity as a thinker and writer.6 But, for others, notably Shakespeare, representing Venice was an equally obvious means of thinking about the problems and opportunities of Elizabethan England. %HIRUHWKHSXEOLFDWLRQRI/HZHV/HZNHQRU¶VLQÀXHQWLDOWUDQVODWLRQRI*DVSDUR Contarini’s The Commonwealth and Government of Venice in 1599, the principal source that informed English men and women about Venice was William Thomas’s History of Italy (1549, reprinted 1561, 1562).7 Thomas’s work was undoubtedly WKHFHQWUDOLQÀXHQFHRQ(QJOLVKSHUFHSWLRQVRI,WDO\DQGLWVHIIHFWRQWKHLUSROLWLFDO and cultural universe, certainly outside diplomatic circles, and, at last, the impact of this major work is being recognized.8 Thomas was the main English conduit of Italian culture after the mid-Tudor period until the death of Elizabeth, and virtually DOO UHSUHVHQWDWLRQV RI ,WDO\ WKDW DUH QRW EDVHG RQ ¿UVWKDQG REVHUYDWLRQ FDQ EH traced back to his work. Thomas’s success happened, in part, by accident. He appears to have led a rather dissolute early life and by his own admission he did QRWSODQWRWUDYHOWR,WDO\EXWÀHGWKHUHDIWHUKHKDGEHHQLQYROYHGLQDQDWWHPSWHG embezzlement. He returned after the death of Henry VIII and the accession of Edward VI, probably at some point in 1548. Thomas was either an astute politician or a skilful political opportunist – probably both – who recognized what interested the new regime and was ready to use his talents and the knowledge he had acquired in Italy. After the moribund political tyranny of Henry VIII’s last years there was hope that a rosy new English era might dawn with the committed Protestant boy king, and there would be a chance of forging a more dynamic and politically liberal culture.9 Edward’s reign witnessed the production of numerous political, cultural and literary experiments, including A Mirror for Magistrates, probably the most popular work of the sixteenth century.10 Although, like Thomas’s History of Italy, 6

David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (London: Faber, 2004), pp. 54–60, passim. 7 On Lewkenor, see David McPherson, ‘Lewkenor’s Venice and its Sources,’ Renaissance Quarterly 41 (1988): pp. 459–66. On Thomas see William Thomas, The History of Italy (1549), ed. George B. Parks (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963), pp. IX–XXVIII; ODNB entry (by Dakota L. Hamilton). 8 Angelo Deidda, Maria Grazia Dongu, and Laura Sanna (eds.), Lezioni ai Potenti: William Thomas e l’Italia, con una selezione da The Historie of Italie (Cagliari: CUEC,   /DXUD 6DQQD µ³$ ERNH H[FHG\QJ SUR¿WDEOH WR EH UHGGH´ :LOOLDP 7KRPDV¶V Italy,’ in Una civile conversazione: Lo scambio letterario e culturale anglo-italiano nel Rinascimento, ed. Keir Elam and Fernando Cioni (Bologna: CLUEB, 2003), pp. 159–80. 9 W.K. Jordan, Edward VI: The Threshold of Power, the dominance of the Duke of Northumberland (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970), pp. 28–44. 10 Lily B. Campbell (ed.), The Mirror for Magistrates, edited from original texts in the Huntington Library (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938). For analysis, see John N. King, English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


the Mirror has largely been ignored and read only as background material, it played a dominant role in establishing the literary and political culture of Elizabethan England – again, like Thomas’s work. The Mirror is a radical adaptation of the familiar genre of ‘mirrors for princes,’ signalling the focus was not the crown but WKRVHZKRDFWXDOO\JRYHUQHGLQLWVHOIDVLJQL¿FDQWVKLIWRIHPSKDVLVDQGVLJQDO of intent.11 The confessions of the ghosts of powerful men who misgoverned and PLVPDQDJHGWKHFRXQWU\¶VDIIDLUVDQG¿QDQFHVDUHGHVLJQHGWRSHUVXDGHUHDGHUVWR learn from their mistakes and so avoid the terrible errors that they made, whether as governors (magistrates) themselves, or as an articulate public who keep an eye on the magistrates (‘mirrors for princes’ literature was never simply for princes, but about princes). The MirrorWULHVWRHQFRXUDJHDQGLQÀXHQFHWKHGHYHORSPHQW of a ‘public sphere,’ a Protestant ideal of a more participatory political culture that can include far more people than has hitherto been imagined, giving readers the chance to think about English history in ways that enable them to help shape its past and future. The impact of the Mirror on William Shakespeare, who used it throughout his writing career, has yet to be adequately investigated. Thomas’s work developed out of the same cultural and literary milieu that produced the Mirror. His History, which owed a great deal to Machiavelli’s sceptical history of Florence, and his devotion to Livy as a political analyst and historian, is designed to show readers a series of political examples so that they can be informed about the effects of different political systems.12 Thomas expects English readers to make different judgements about the various Italian states and so to learn very different lessons from each one (again, just like the Mirror). Naples is the worst of all states, where corruption has seeped into every aspect of everyday OLIHSROLWLFDOFXOWXUHLVGRPLQDWHGE\DJJUHVVLRQDQGFRQÀLFWDQGSRLVRQLQJKDV become the normal means of resolving domestic and public problems; Rome is little better, dominated by the rule of the self-interested papacy, and its citizens also run a considerable risk of ending their days prematurely through the secret application of poison; Milan, Florence and Genoa are still corrupt but have redeeming elements and so provide more nuanced examples for their English readers, their histories containing varied lessons of the triumphs of political LQGHSHQGHQFH VNLOIXOO\ SUHVHUYHG DQG PDJQL¿FHQW FXOWXUDO DFKLHYHPHQWV DORQJ with grotesque tales of self-interested ruthlessness and the abuse of others.13

3ULQFHWRQ3ULQFHWRQ8QLYHUVLW\3UHVV $QGUHZ+DG¿HOGLiterature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  SS±6FRWW/XFDVµ³/HWQRQHVXFKRI¿FHWDNHVDYHKHWKDWFDQULJKWKLVSULQFH forsake”: A Mirror for Magistrates, Resistance Theory and the Elizabethan Monarchical Republic,’ in The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England: Essays in Response to Patrick Collinson, ed. John F. McDairmid (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 91–107. 11 On ‘mirrors for princes’ literature see Lester Kruger Born, ‘The Perfect Prince: A Study in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Ideals,’ Speculum 3 (1928): 470–504. 12 Sanna, ‘A boke,’ pp. 163, 166–74. 13 )RUDQDO\VLVVHH+DG¿HOGLiterature, Travel and Colonialism, pp. 24–32, passim.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


The best state in Italy is Venice, which has all the advantages of stability and liberty, the wealth to be able to absorb and tolerate legions of disparate strangers and an active political system that encourages its citizens to get involved in public affairs. Thomas argues, with what would appear to be scarcely TXDOL¿HGDSSURYDO For their principal profession is liberty, and he that should usurp upon another should incontinently be reputed a tyrant, which name of all things they cannot abide. For when a subject of theirs says, ‘Sir, you are my lord, you are my master,’ he takes it for the greatest villainy of the world.14

If we bear in mind the political charge that the word ‘tyrant’ possessed in this period, a description that no political leader could ever accept, then we should realize the radical statement that Thomas is making here.15 For Venetians, tyranny is a present danger, and they have to be constantly on guard against threats to their liberty, in itself a true sign of virtue, and something that promotes virtue, suggesting that Thomas was aware of the nature of political debate in sixteenthcentury Italy.16 If we also consider that the most commonly made criticism of Henry VIII in his last years was that he had become a tyrant and had deprived the English of their traditional liberties, then we can see how Thomas’s comment about Venice might have been designed to impress an English audience eager to learn from Italy and transform a native political landscape.17 A key point that Thomas makes is that there is hardly any corruption in Venice EHFDXVH RI¿FHV DUH QRW DOORZHG WR EHFRPH VLQHFXUHV UHPDLQLQJ IRUHYHU LQ WKH hands of one family, and then distributed to their wider network and clients, a FRPPRQFRPSODLQWDERXWRI¿FHKROGLQJLQHDUO\PRGHUQ(QJODQG182I¿FHVFDQEH given to one holder for life, but the governing class are under great pains to make sure that they are evenly and fairly distributed: 14

Deidda et al (eds.), Lezioni ai Potenti, p. 244. All subsequent references to Thomas’s History in parentheses in the text. 15 On ‘tyranny’ in the early modern period, see Robert M. Kingdon, ‘Calvinism and Resistance Theory, 1550–1580,’ in The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450– 1700, ed. J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 193–218; Rebecca Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990). 16 On the concept of liberty, see Quentin Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). On Italian political debate, see James Hankins (ed.), Renaissance Civic Humanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Peter Stacey, Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 17 See Greg Walker, Writing Under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 18 See the excellent discussion in Mark Goldie, ‘The Unacknowledged Republic: 2I¿FHKROGLQJ LQ (DUO\ 0RGHUQ (QJODQG¶ LQ The Politics of the Excluded, c.1500–1850, ed. Tim Harris (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 153–94.

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


Amongst all other, this notable order they have, that two gentlemen of one IDPLO\FDQQRWEHLQRQHPDJLVWUDWHRUKLJKRI¿FHWRJHWKHUDWRQFH%\UHDVRQ whereof, those gentlemen that of one name are fewest in number grow a great deal sooner and oftener to authority than they that be of the most, which is thought a wonderful help of their unity and concord. For if many of one name should rule at once, they might happen so to agree that it should be an undoing of their commonwealth (248).

It is easy to see why Thomas places such emphasis on the relative equality of Venice’s republican principles and why it seemed such an intriguing and often attractive political model in contrast to the limitations of hierarchically-structured England, especially for those who hoped for dramatic change in the early years of the reign of Edward VI. It is also clear just why such descriptions appealed to DVSLUDWLRQDO\RXQJPHQRQWKHPDNHVXFKDVWKHZULWHUVZKRÀRFNHGWR/RQGRQDV the city grew exponentially in the late sixteenth century.19 Thomas’s account of Venice is measured, often subtle and balanced, but also carefully leading the reader to accept his conclusions. He is eager to show that, while the city-state has much to teach the English, many of its virtues also produce concomitant vices. Venetian liberty leads to sexual vice and excessive indulgence RIWKHVLQVRIWKHÀHVKDQGZRUVWRIDOOWKHSHUYHUVLRQRIFKLOGUHQ But surely many of them trade and bring up their children in so much liberty that one is no sooner out of the shell but he is hail fellow with father and friend, and by that time he comes to twenty years of age, he knows as much lewdness as is possible to be imagined. For his greatest exercise is to go amongst his companions to this good woman’s house and that, of which in Venice are many thousands of ordinary, less than honest … . And the bastards that they beget become most commonly monks, friars, or nuns, who by their friends’ means are SUHIHUUHGWRWKHRI¿FHVRIPRVWSUR¿WDVDEERWVSULRUVDQGVRIRUWK 

This is an ingenious and important passage, which connects Italian sex and Catholicism, much as Roger Ascham was to achieve later in his famous strictures against Italian travel.20 But it also looks back to the vehement anti-Catholic writings RIVXFKNH\3URWHVWDQW¿JXUHVDV-RKQ%DOHZKRVHActs of English Votaries (1546) is a long list of the sexual crimes and corruption of monks and other religious clergy.21 Thomas’s point would appear to be less a warning against Italian vice than a means of verifying what he suggests is worth imitating in Venice. Edward VI,


On writers and young men on the make, see Richard Helgerson, The Elizabethan Prodigals (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); on London’s population rise, see Steve Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds: Structures of life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 1–24. 20 6HH+DG¿HOGAmazons, pp. 20–23. 21 John Bale, The actes of Englysh votaryes comprehendynge their vnchast practyses and examples by all ages, from the worldes begynnynge to thys present yeare (1546).

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


a well-educated radical Protestant, and a solemn and rather priggish young man, was hardly likely to permit sexual vice or restore the religious houses.22 Moreover, Venetians were reputed to be greedy and to possess an excessive love of money, a result of the wealth of the city-state and the liberties permitted LQGLYLGXDOVWREHWWHUWKHPVHOYHV:ULWLQJDERXWFXVWRPVRI¿FLDOV7KRPDVREVHUYHV ‘as they come to and fro … I think that Cerebus was never so greedy at the gates of hell as they be in the channels about Venice. And though they in searching a ERDW¿QGQRIRUIHLWXUH\HWWKH\ZLOOQRWGHSDUWZLWKRXWGULQNLQJPRQH\¶   To supply this love and need of trade, the Venetians make great use of the Jews: ‘It is almost incredible what gain the Venetians receive by the usury of the Jews, both privately and in common’ (242). The love of money has infected and limited the great achievements of the republic itself, ‘money (as some say) has entered in more reputation than virtue’ (250). The republican system in public life, which is based on the encouragement of virtue, is balanced by the dominance of greed and self-interest in trade.23 The place where these two halves of Venetian life collide is the law. Thomas encourages his readers to pay particular attention to this aspect of Venetian life and to see how it binds their society together. Judges in Venice enjoy particular freedoms, which mark their legal system out as distinctive within Europe: ‘But he that substantially considers the manner of their proceeding shall plainly see that all matters are determined by the judges’ consciences and not by the civil, nor yet by their own laws’ (252). In Venice, the legal system is almost LQ¿QLWHO\PDOOHDEOHDQGLVEDVHGRQWKHSULQFLSOHWKDWWKHODZLVOHVVDFRGHWKDQ a practice. On the one hand, Thomas is probably encouraging the reader to think about Venetian law in relation to cherished English beliefs in the common law and its importance as a guardian of English liberty. As John Grenville Pocock argued long ago, the native practice of case-based law was regarded by many in England as a peculiarly English feature, a means of distinguishing England from the rest of Europe. In the famous story of the ‘Norman Yoke,’ the ancient Saxon laws of England had been swept away by the Norman invasion and an alien system of Roman law imposed as a means of enslaving a once free population. Many learned antiquaries did their best to make the Anglo-Saxon laws visible once again so that they could be reinstated and the English legal system overhauled and restored to its former glory as a means of guarding and promoting liberty. 7KHPRYHPHQWJDWKHUHGPRUHVHULRXVPRPHQWXPODWHUEXW7KRPDVLQGH¿QLQJ Venetian law in these terms, is making connections to a series of legal practices WKDW GH¿QH D IRUP RI OLEHUW\ WKDW WKH (QJOLVK SDUWLFXODUO\ YDOXH DQG VR IRUJLQJ strong links between Venice and England.24 22

Jordan, Edward VI, pp. 17–27. On republicanism and virtue, see Quentin Skinner, Visions of Politics: Renaissance Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 24 John Granville Agard Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (rev. ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). 23

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


On the other hand, Thomas’s understanding of Venetian law reveals a much darker side: One day the Avogadori comes into the court and lays against the felon that, that either by examination, by torture, or by witness has been proved, and another day comes in the advocate and defends the felon with the best answer he can devise, so that many times the prisoner tarries two, three, and sometime four years ere ever he come unto his trial of life and death. (252)

In Venice, liberty can all too easily turn into its opposite, tyranny, a point made in important histories of political forms such as Polybius’s history of the rise of the Roman Empire.25 Thomas leaves a balanced picture so that the English reader can decide what is the right way of reading Venetian law: ‘But this is clear: there can be no better order of Justice in a commonwealth than theirs, if it were duly observed. Howbeit corruption (by the advocates’ means) is so crept in amongst the judges that poor men many times can want no delays in the process of their matters’ (252). The Venetian legal system works well enough, but it requires good men of proper public virtue to administer it effectively. Thomas leaves the ball in the reader’s court, a familiar conundrum of republican theory. Are Englishmen good enough to adopt a desirable system? Can they control the institutions they establish? Or will they allow them to decay so that men and institutions become mutually corrupting rather than mutually ennobling?26 My contention is that just as Shakespeare made use of A Mirror for Magistrates when composing his history plays, which gives us a sense of their political direction and edge, he also made use of Thomas’s History of Italy when writing The Merchant of Venice SUREDEO\ WKH ¿UVW SOD\ WKDW UHSUHVHQWHG 9HQLFH RQ WKH English stage. Even though Thomas’s History has not featured prominently in discussions of Shakespeare’s play, it is hard to see what other source he could have used. The passages quoted on Venetian law are, I think, at the heart of the representation of the law in The Merchant of Venice, the key feature of its plot. Critics have argued ever since whether what we see in the trial scene in the play LVDQH[DPSOHRIMXVWLFHRUDGHYLRXVFRQWULFNWKDWDI¿UPVD&KULVWLDQLGHQWLW\DQG excludes the outsider.27 Shakespeare, like Thomas, shows the Venetian citizens DEOHWRGH¿QHWKHLURZQZD\VRIWKLQNLQJDERXWWKHODZDQGWKDWZKDWWKH\DUJXH 25

Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979). 26 )RUGLVFXVVLRQVHH$QGUHZ+DG¿HOGShakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 17–53. 27 For discussion, see Jane Donawerth, Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 189–218; Warren Chernaik, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Plymouth: Northcote House, 2005); Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Janet Adelman, Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

can then become law. This is as true of Shylock as it is of Portia. The bond which unites the characters in the plot is the crucial feature. Note how it is imagined and GH¿QHG¿UVWE\6K\ORFNLQDQH[WHQGHGGLVFXVVLRQWKDWQHHGVWREHFLWHGDWOHQJWK Antonio and Shylock agree on the sum that the former will borrow and we then witness them working out the terms and conditions of repayment: Shy. Ay, ay, three thousand ducats. Ant. And for three months. Shy. I had forgot, – three months – [To Bassiano.] you told me so. Well then, your bond: and let me see,– but hear you, Me thoughts you said, you neither lend nor borrow Upon advantage. Ant. I do never use it. Shy. When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban’s sheep,– This Jacob from our holy Abram was (As his wise mother wrought in his behalf) The third possessor: ay, he was the third. Ant. And what of him? did he take interest? Shy. No, not take interest, not, as you would say, Directly int’rest,– mark what Jacob did,– When Laban and himself were compromis’d That all the eanlings which were streak’d and pied Should fall as Jacob’s hire, the ewes being rank In the end of autumn turned to the rams, And when the work of generation was Between these woolly breeders in the act, The skilful shepherd pill’d me certain wands, And in the doing of the deed of kind He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes, Who then conceiving, did in eaning time Fall parti-colour’d lambs, and those were Jacob’s. This was a way to thrive, and he was blest: And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not. Ant. This was a venture sir that Jacob served for, A thing not in his power to bring to pass, But sway’d and fashion’d by the hand of heaven. Was this inserted to make interest good? Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams? Shy. I cannot tell, I make it breed as fast, – But note me, signior. Ant. Mark you this, Bassanio, The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, – An evil soul, producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath! Shy. Three thousand ducats, ’tis a good round sum.

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


Three months from twelve, then, let me see; the rate. Ant. Well Shylock, shall we be beholding to you? … Shy. This kindness will I show, Go with me to a notary, seal me there Your single bond, and (in a merry sport) If you repay me not on such a day In such a place, such sum or sums as are Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound 2I\RXUIDLUÀHVKWREHFXWRIIDQGWDNHQ In what part of your body pleaseth me. Ant. Content, i’faith, I’ll seal to such a bond, And say there is much kindness in the Jew.28

7KH GHYLFH RI WKH ERQG RI ÀHVK KDV D FOHDUO\ GH¿QHG VRXUFH *LRYDQQL Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone (1558).29 This Biblical discussion, based on Genesis 30, is Shakespeare’s own contribution to the story. Why has the tale of Jacob and Laban been added to the play? What cultural work is taking place here? The point, I think, LV WKDW ZH VHH WKH SODQ RI WKH ERQG DV D SRXQG RI ÀHVK GHYHORSLQJ LQ 6K\ORFN¶V mind as the scene progresses, as the staccato syntax of Shylock at the start of the exchange and the deliberate use of pauses signifying thought (‘I had forgot,’ ‘let me see,’ ‘mark’) indicate. Shylock then turns to the story of Jacob and Laban as a means of justifying – and thinking about – the practice of usury. Jacob, sent away from his family for safety after he has deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that should have gone to his elder brother, Esau, works for his uncle, Laban, tending his sheep. Jacob persuades Laban to let him keep the speckled, spotted and brown sheep, cattle and goats that are conceived while he looks after the animals, instead of paying him wages. What Shylock does not add is that Jacob cunningly places the VWURQJHUEHDVWVWRJHWKHUVRWKDWKHLVDEOHWREXLOGXSDODUJHUVHULHVRIÀRFNVWKDQKLV uncle and so appropriates his wealth and becomes by far the richer of the two. What seems like an innocent and generous gesture by a family member is, in fact, a piece RIVHO¿VKFRQQLYDQFH7KHVWRU\PD\ZHOOVD\PRUHWKDQ6K\ORFNUHDOL]HV The story shows that work based on lending/borrowing can be properly rewarded without the actual exchange of money – although the Bible story is not quite what Shylock makes it seem. In this way Shylock appears to circumvent the problem of usury, which Christians avoided but only by allowing Jews to practice what they needed to trade.30 This was a key issue in Venice of all places, 28

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Russell Brown (London: Methuen, 1979, rpt. of 1959), 1.3.60–100; 139–49. All subsequent references to this edition in parentheses in the text. 29 Geoffrey Bullough (ed.), Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 1 (London: Routledge, 1957), pp. 463–76. 30 The most important Tudor treatise on usury is Thomas Wilson’s A Discourse upon Usury (London, 1572), which denounces the practice. Charging a fair price was allowed,


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

of course. Shylock, as the end of this exchange makes clear, is able to beat the Christians at their own game through this scriptural example. The plan of the bond RIDSRXQGRIÀHVKIRUPVDVKHUHKHDUVHVWKHDQWLVHPLWLFWDXQWVKHKDVVXIIHUHG for so long, as his comments make clear. It is important that although Shylock articulates the racist insults, Antonio does not deny them. For Antonio, Shylock is simply citing Scripture for his own malign purpose. The audience is faced with a dilemma, one that has proved stubbornly resistant to any generally accepted VROXWLRQIRUJHQHUDWLRQVRIFRPPHQWDWRUV7KHµIDLUÀHVK¶WKDW6K\ORFNGHPDQGV LQUHWXUQIRUWKHORDQRIWKUHHWKRXVDQGGXFDWVVWHPVIURPKLVUHÀHFWLRQVXSRQWKH VWRU\RI-DFREDQG/DEDQDWZLVWHGLQWHUSUHWDWLRQRIWKHSURGXFWLRQRIÀHVK -DFRE PDNHVÀHVKJURZEULQJVIRUWKOLIHWRFUHDWHKLVRZQUHZDUG6K\ORFNLQWHQGVWR kill, or, at least, force his co-signatory to risk death, as a means of escaping from Christian/Venetian laws and practices). Antonio accepts the bond, partly because he has no choice, partly because, as the play demonstrates, this is what happens in Venice. Shakespeare is showing us a society that enables its citizens – Shylock is not properly equal but he is not without certain freedoms and the ability to act – to make the law themselves, one based on an understanding that Venice is where this can happen. Of course, the court scene reverses this verdict and we are again given a dramatic rendering of the process of law taking place before our eyes. Por. Tarry a little; there is something else, – This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood, 7KHZRUGVH[SUHVVO\DUHµDSRXQGRIÀHVK¶ 7DNHWKHQWK\ERQGWDNHWKRXWK\SRXQGRIÀHVK But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods $UH E\WKHODZVRI9HQLFH FRQ¿VFDWH Unto the state of Venice. Gra. O upright judge! Mark, Jew, – O learned judge! Shy. Is that the law? Por. Thyself shalt see the act: For, as thou urgest justice, be assur’d Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir’st. Gra. O learned judge! – Mark, Jew, a learned judge. Shy. I take this offer then, – pay the bond thrice And let the Christian go. Bass. Here is the money. Por. Soft! The Jew shall have all justice, – soft no haste! He shall have nothing but the penalty. but usury was seen as a means of exploiting honest labour and so was condemned: see Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1998), p. 46.

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


Gra. O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge! Por7KHUHIRUHSUHSDUHWKHHWRFXWRIIWKHÀHVK± Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more %XWMXVWDSRXQGRIÀHVKLIWKRXWDN¶VWPRUH Or less than a just pound, be it but so much As makes it light or heavy in the substance, Or the division of the twentieth part Of one poor scruple, nay, if the scale do turn But in the estimation of a hair, 7KRXGLHVWDQGDOOWK\JRRGVDUHFRQ¿VFDWH Gra. A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew! – 1RZLQ¿GHO,KDYH\RXRQWKHKLS Por. Why doth the Jew pause? take thy forfeiture. Shy. Give me my principal, and let me go. (4.1.301–32)

We now see that the game is up. Shylock’s trickery is outmanoeuvred by Portia. Perhaps the key line in this exchange is Shylock’s incredulous question, ‘Is that the law?’ It is clear that there is no shared understanding among Venetian citizens of what laws they are to uphold and obey. What began through a series of thoughts DERXWD%LEOLFDOVWRU\UHODWLQJWRXVXU\HQGVLQFRXUWZKHQDQXQTXDOL¿HGODZ\HU intervenes to deliver a novel and absurd, but technically plausible, interpretation of the law. The law is a battleground in Shakespeare’s representation of Venice, one that undoubtedly had lessons for an English audience which was steeped in a knowledge of legal practices, and which undoubtedly knew the variety of courts and their different claims as well as the debates over the history of the law that GH¿QHG(QJOLVKSROLWLFDOOLIH31 Read one way, the law in republican Venice must have looked refreshing and enticing. Read another it must have appeared terrifying. %XWHLWKHUZD\9HQHWLDQODZUHSUHVHQWHGIRUWKH¿UVWWLPHRQWKH(QJOLVKVWDJH presented a challenging prospect. The Merchant of Venice is a problematic play that makes use of its location to pose a series of complex questions. Othello is, I would suggest, a play that represents Venice in a far more obviously positive light (which is not to say that it is straightforward, just that Venice plays a very different role). Venice again displays both positive and negative features, only this time far more positive than negative. On the one hand, there is a much more politically sophisticated conception of Venetian institutions and political practice; on the other, a more obviously negative perception of Venetian sexual practices.32 Venice only appears LQ WKH ¿UVW DFW RI WKH SOD\ DQG D JUHDW GHDO LV PDGH RI LWV LQVWLWXWLRQV DQG WKHLU ability to sort out problems. Othello appears before the duke and the senate and defends his marriage to Desdemona: all goes well and the case is treated with 31 See B.J. Sokol and Mary Sokol, Shakespeare’s Legal Language: A Dictionary (London: Athlone, 2000). 32 Vaughan, Othello SS ± +DG¿HOG Literature, Travel and Colonialism, pp. 226–42.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


exemplary reason and the right verdict is reached. Brabantio is seen off – but with considerable courtesy, his advice valued – and the racist taunts of Iago and Roderigo – so prominent in the opening scene – seem a world away from the due process that takes place here. It is hard not to see the play as an endorsement of Venetian values. It is only when the protagonists move to the Venetian garrison on Cyprus that events unravel so tragically. In this masculine world without checks and balances, Iago is able to play on Othello’s fears and persuade him that his wife has behaved disloyally, i.e., not like a true soldier. The negative reputation of Venice as a place of sexual licence is important in the way in which Iago undermines Othello’s FRQ¿GHQFHLQ'HVGHPRQDDQGZHQRZVHHDZRUOGRIFDVXDOPLVRJ\Q\LQZKLFK all the women – Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca – are abused by men. But is this 9HQHWLDQVSHFL¿FDOO\"2UDUHZHQRZLQDZRUOGUXOHGE\PLOLWDU\SRZHUOLIHDQG expectations? It is not clear. Iago does indeed play on the reputation of Venetian women for promiscuity and makes Othello believe in a world where secret – and not so secret – affairs dominate everyone’s love life. And Bianca is a courtesan, a central feature of Venetian life (it is at least arguable that the very mention of a courtesan in early modern England would lead to an association with Venice). But Cassio is a Florentine, Iago and Roderigo are Spanish, not Venetian, names which certainly complicates an English audience’s sense of place; and Othello is not Venetian either, of course.33 In fact, none of the leading men are Venetian, only the women, Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca (all of whom suffer from being represented as whores). Only the relatively minor characters, Brabantio, Montano and Lodovico, are actually Venetian. The implication of Shakespeare’s second representation of Venice is that Venice can tolerate and absorb a number of strangers, but that in the end such cosmopolitanism may well prove problematic and perhaps even undermine the social fabric. It is not only too much sexual liberty that is bad for you, but a liberty that compromises your identity and brings with it certain threats. It might be worth noting that Shakespeare had a hand in the play Thomas More, which deals with the issue of strangers within the realm of England and the May Day riots associated with the fear of foreigners, a detail that probably attracted the unwelcome attention of the authorities.34 This issue also connects Othello and The Merchant. Nevertheless, Othello seems to have much greater faith in the institutions of Venice than The Merchant – after all, it is the powerful Venetian citizens, absent for the rest of the play, who sort out the problems at the start, who mop up the SLHFHVDWWKHHQGDQGUHVWRUHRUGHUTXLFNO\DQGHI¿FLHQWO\:K\"7KHDQVZHUDV David McPherson and others have pointed out, is that in between writing the two 33

Barbara Everett, ‘“Spanish Othello”: The Making of Shakespeare’s Moor,’ in Shakespeare and Race, ed. Catherine M.S. Alexander and Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 64–8. 34 Anthony Munday and others, Sir Thomas More, ed. Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990).

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


plays Shakespeare read Lewes Lewkenor’s translation of Gasparo Contarini’s The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, published in 1599. According to McPherson, when writing The Merchant Shakespeare concentrated on the fabulous wealth of Venice, but turned his attention to its republican political system and ethos after he read Lewkenor’s translation.35 If my sense that Shakespeare knew Thomas’s History well is correct, we need to be careful of this rather neat and schematic reading, but, even so, Shakespeare undoubtedly found that Lewkenor’s translation further highlighted the success and wonder of Venice’s institutions and the city’s fabled stability.36 Thomas had praised Venice fulsomely enough, but, as I have argued above, with some reservations and a certain amount of unease that Shakespeare had developed in The Merchant. Contarini sees Venice possessing the ideal constitution precisely because it exists as a participatory political society that bonds together all its citizens. Contarini describes the city as ‘an excellent contrived mixture of the best and justest governments’ and makes prominent mention of the fact that ordinary citizens have the chance to overturn the decisions of the good and the great (33–4). When the Duke is elected, his name is read out before the assembled Venetians so that if anyone thinks that the chosen candidate LVµXQ¿WRUXQFDSDEOHRUXQZRUWK\RIVRJUHDWDGLJQLW\RUIRUDQ\RWKHUFDXVH shall not thinke his creation to bee for the good of the commonwealth, he riseth up, and with an honest modestie speaketh his opinion, declaring the cause why he thinketh it unmeet that he should be chosen’ (57–8). The objections are then put to the Duke who gets a chance to respond. In this way the state remains stable and, as Contarini argues elsewhere, it is monarchies that depend on the vagaries of dynastic succession that are the really unstable political forms. This is exactly what we see happening in Othello. The tragic action takes place but in the end Venice remains steadfast while the human actors perish in various ways (although we are aware that it is threatened by the Ottoman Empire, a force that may well sweep away its power eventually).37 Shakespeare was evidently interested in republicanism, especially Venetian republicanism, perhaps even seeing its robust political system as a viable alternative to the vicious wars that dynastic succession clearly threw up, and which he chronicled so fully in his history plays.38 The plot of Othello demonstrates the success of Venice, opening with the Duke (Doge) and his council intervening to prevent a problematic and distasteful event, followed by nearly four acts of ever mounting chaos on Cyprus, 35 McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, pp. 69–90; Mark Matheson, ‘Venetian Culture and the Politics of Othello,’ Shakespeare. Survey 48 (1995): pp. 123–33. 36 Gasparo Contarini, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, trans. Lewes Lewkenor (London, 1599. Reprinted Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), pp. 33–58. Subsequent references to this edition in parentheses in the text. For commentary, see Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, ch. 9, pp. 272–332. 37 On Venice’s struggle with the Ottoman Empire, see John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003, rpt. of 1982), pp. 449–517. 38 +DG¿HOGShakespeare and Republicanism, passim.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

and ending with the governing class intervening swiftly at the end to restore order.39 The play shows a state working better than many of the citizens it adopts, who misunderstand or abuse its institutions, especially when not contained within the safety of its borders. If The Merchant explores the politics and culture of Venice for an English audience to consider, Othello represents it, perhaps with conscious provocation, as a model to copy. Works Cited Adelman, Janet. Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Bale, John. The actes of Englysh votaryes comprehendynge their vnchast practyses and examples by all ages, from the worldes begynnynge to thys present yeare (1546). Bate, Jonathan. ‘The Elizabethans and Italy.’ In Travel and Drama in Shakespeare’s Time, edited by Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Michèle Willems. 55–74. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Black, Jeremy. The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. Stroud: Sutton, 1992. Born, Lester Kruger. ‘The Perfect Prince: A Study in Thirteenth- and FourteenthCentury Ideals.’ Speculum 3 (1928): 470–504. Bullough, Geoffrey (ed.). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. London: Routledge, 1957. Bushnell, Rebecca. Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990. Campbell, Lily B. (ed.). The Mirror for Magistrates, edited from original texts in the Huntington Library. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1938. Chernaik, Warren. William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Plymouth: Northcote House, 2005. Contarini, Gasparo. The Commonwealth and Government of Venice. Translated by Lewes Lewkenor. London, 1599. Reprinted Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; New York: Da Capo Press, 1969. Deidda, Angelo, Maria Grazia Dongu and Laura Sanna (eds.). Lezioni ai potenti: William Thomas e l’Italia, con una selezione da The Historie of Italie. Cagliari: CUEC, 2002. Donawerth, Jane. Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984. 39 It is possible that this is an excessively positive reading of the opening act. Daniel Vitkus (private communication) reminds me that a contemporary audience would have been shocked by Desdemona’s elopement and the prospect of miscegenation, and would QRWKDYHVHHQ%UDEDQWLRDVDW\SLFDORYHUEHDULQJIDWKHU¿JXUHDVKHZRXOGXQGRXEWHGO\ be in other plays. This may well be the case, but it still seems to me that even if we make such allowances, Othello represents Venice as a city-state which can sort out its problems TXLFNO\DQGHI¿FLHQWO\

Shakespeare and Republican Venice


Everett, Barbara. ‘“Spanish Othello”: The Making of Shakespeare’s Moor.’ In Shakespeare and Race, edited by Catherine M.S. Alexander and Stanley Wells. 64–8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. *ROGLH0DUNµ7KH8QDFNQRZOHGJHG5HSXEOLF2I¿FHKROGLQJLQ(DUO\0RGHUQ England.’ In The Politics of the Excluded, c.1500–1850, edited by Tim Harris. 153–94. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001. +DG¿HOG $QGUHZ Literature, Politics and National Identity: Reformation to Renaissance. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ———. Literature, Travel and Colonialism in the English Renaissance 1540– 1625. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. ———. Shakespeare and Republicanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ——— (ed.). Amazons, Savages and Machiavels: An Anthology of Travel and Colonial Writing, 1550–1650. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Hankins, James (ed.). Renaissance Civic Humanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Helgerson, Richard. The Elizabethan Prodigals. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Jardine, Lisa. Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996. Jordan, W.K. Edward VI: The Threshold of Power, the Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970. King, John N. English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982. Kingdon, Robert M. ‘Calvinism and Resistance Theory, 1550–1580.’ In The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450–1700, edited by J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie. 193–218. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Littlewood, Ian. Sultry Climes: Travel and Sex. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. /XFDV6FRWWµ³/HWQRQHVXFKRI¿FHWDNHVDYHKHWKDWFDQULJKWKLVSULQFHIRUVDNH´ A Mirror for Magistrates, Resistance Theory and the Elizabethan Monarchical Republic.’ In The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England: Essays in Response to Patrick Collinson, edited by John F. McDairmid. 91–107. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Lupton, Julia Reinhard. Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. McPherson, David. ‘Lewkenor’s Venice and its Sources,’ Renaissance Quarterly 41 (1988): 459–66. ———. Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990. Matheson, Mark. ‘Venetian Culture and the Politics of Othello,’ Shakespeare Survey 48 (1995): 123–33. Muldrew, Craig. The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1998.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

Munday, Anthony and others. Sir Thomas More. Edited by Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990. Norwich, John Julius. A History of Venice. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003, rpt. of 1982. Pocock, John Greville Agard. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975. ———. The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century. Rev. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Rappaport, Steve. Worlds Within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Riggs, David. The World of Christopher Marlowe. London: Faber, 2004. 6DQQD/DXUDµ³$ERNHH[FHG\QJSUR¿WDEOHWREHUHGGH´:LOOLDP7KRPDV¶V,WDO\¶ In Una civile conversazione: Lo scambio letterario e culturale anglo-italiano nel Rinascimento, edited by Keir Elam and Fernando Cioni. 159–80. Bologna: CLUEB, 2003. Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Edited by John Russell Brown. London: Methuen, 1979, rpt. 1959. Skinner, Quentin. Liberty Before Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. ———. Visions of Politics: Renaissance Virtues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Sokol, B.J. and Mary Sokol. Shakespeare’s Legal Language: A Dictionary. London: Athlone, 2000. Stacey, Peter. Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Thomas, William. The History of Italy (1549). Edited and abridged by George B. Parks. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1963. Vaughan, Virginia Mason. Othello: A Contextual History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Walker, Gregory. Writing Under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Chapter 5

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost: From London to Venice via Navarre Gilberto Sacerdoti

‘I may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice:/– Venetia, Venetia,/Chi non te vede, non te pretia’ (4.2.95–8).1 Editors of Love’s Labour’s Lost have been quick to locate the source of this Italian proverb in John Florio’s Second Frutes (1591), but have not paused to ask why the name of Venice should appear in the play. This may be explained away as yet another little conundrum in a notoriously puzzling play; however, a more articulated answer might be suggested by way of a journey (long and circuitous, as is the nature of the play) that connects London to Venice via Navarre and makes this passing allusion quite topical.2 Love’s Labour’s Lost is a comedy which is disconcerting even before it starts. 7KH ¿UVW RQ WKH OLVW RI WKH dramatis personae is a King of Navarre, while his courtiers (Berowne, Longaville and Dumain) bear, as Frances Yates writes, ‘names representing opposite sides in the French wars of religion’ – and we can certainly agree with her that ‘the choice of such opposing names was not muddle or ignorance on Shakespeare’s part but a deliberate allusion to the wars.’3 In fact, while the Duc de Biron (Berowne) and the Duc de Longueville (Longaville) had fought alongside the Protestant Henri of Navarre (supported by England), the Duc de Mayenne (Dumain) was the Guise leader of the Catholic Holy League (supported by Spain), and in real history he had been Navarre’s ‘bitterest enemy.’4 What are they doing all together in ‘a little academe,/Still and contemplative in living art,’ which must make of Navarre ‘the wonder of the world’ (1.1.12–14)? 1

Quotations of Love’s Labour’s Lost, which appear parenthetically in the text, follow Richard David’s 1951 edition of the play for The Arden Shakespeare (Second Series). 2 For a far more complete treatment of the same subject, see Gilberto Sacerdoti, 6DFUL¿FLR H VRYUDQLWj 7HRORJLD H SROLWLFD QHOO¶(XURSD GL 6KDNHVSHDUH H %UXQR (Turin: Einaudi, 2002). 3 Frances Yates, Astraea: the Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), p. 211. 4 See Richard David’s ‘Introduction’: ‘The Duc de Biron and the Duc de Longueville were his faithful supporters; … the Duc de Mayenne was not a supporter, but his bitterest enemy,’ Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Arden Shakespeare, Second Series (London: Methuen, 1951), p. xxv.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

The French religious war was ‘the longest and most dreadful civil war that ever was known in any nation,’ as Edmund Burke called it.5 And according to Burckhardt ‘on the course and the result of the French religious wars depended the religious fate of the entire West.’6 While this dreadful civil war between the Catholic zealots of the Holy League and the Calvinist party of the Huguenots ZDV IRPHQWHG E\ UHOLJLRXV KDWUHG LWV ¿QDO SHDFHIXO UHVXOW ZDV ODUJHO\ GXH WR D third, more secular force: the monarchic party of the politiques, the party of all those Catholics, Protestants, or neither, for whom civil peace, and allegiance to the King, were more important than any allegiance to a religious party or authority. The politiques were simply, as de Thou calls them, ‘tous ceux qui étoient attachés au Roi et qui vouloient la paix.’7 Through its very strangeness, the academic setting of the play cannot but remind us of the far from academic character of this most fateful moment of French and European history. Moreover, if the names in the play point to historical reality, so do the dates. We know from the First Quarto that Love’s Labour’s Lost was presented before Queen Elizabeth and the diplomatic corps at Christmas 1598. That was a momentous year, since in April 1598 the ex-Protestant Henri of Navarre, having EHFRPH+HQUL,9RI)UDQFHKDGLVVXHGWKDW(GLFWRI1DQWHVZKLFKIRUWKH¿UVWWLPH granted Protestants substantial rights in a Catholic state, thus opening a path for secularism, tolerance and freedom of conscience. In fact, ‘neither Protestantism nor Catholicism engendered the spirit of toleration within themselves, but only WKURXJKWKHLUPXWXDOFRQÀLFW¶DQGµWKHRULJLQVRIWKDW$JHRI(QOLJKWHQPHQWZKLFK established the criteria of modern liberalism’ are therefore to be sought in ‘the ideas of the Politiques at the close of the Religious Wars.’8 As for the date of composition, ‘the likeliest,’ according to the Oxford edition, is ‘1594–1595.’9 7KHVH DUH DOVR VLJQL¿FDQW \HDUV ,Q -XO\  +HQUL KDYLQJ discovered that Paris vaut bien une messe, abjured Protestantism and attended Mass in Saint-Denis. His entrance into the Roman Catholic Church secured for him the allegiance of the vast majority of his subjects, and he was crowned King of France at the Cathedral of Chartres on 27 February 1594. These events caused an enormous international sensation. ‘The conversion of Henry IV,’ writes Yates, ‘aroused hopes that some universal solution of both political and religious problems would be found through this French monarch’: since in France ‘the monarchy did 5 Edmund Burke, 5HÀHFWLRQVRQWKH5HYROXWLRQLQ)UDQFH, ed. Connor Cruise O’Brien (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), p. 137. 6 Jacob Burckhardt, Judgements on History and Historians, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 162; the italics are in the text. 7 Jacques Auguste de Thou, Histoire universelle, vol. 6 (La Haye: H. Scheurleer, 1740), p. 593. 8 John H.M. Salmon, The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), pp. 13–14. 9 George R. Hibbard, ‘Introduction,’ in Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 45.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


develop in the direction of liberal solutions of the religious problems,’ it seemed that monarchy could indeed be ‘used as a means of conciliating the opposite religious parties by bringing them together in common loyalty to the crown,’ and there was a ‘widespread belief’ that the sensational news from France ‘signalized a new and more liberal era dawning in the religious history of Europe.’10 But the sensation was perhaps nowhere so great and complex as in England (Navarre’s main ally during the war), where there was a widespread ‘detailed NQRZOHGJH RI )UHQFK HYHQWV¶ DQG ZKHUH WKH µDIÀLFWLRQV RI )UDQFH¶ ZHUH RIWHQ perceived as a ‘looking glasse’ of the dangers that threatened England itself.11 $FFRUGLQJWRWKH&DOYLQLVWOH[LFRQRIWKH7KLUW\¿UVWRIWKHThirty-nine Articles RIWKH&KXUFKRI(QJODQGWKHµVDFUL¿FHRIWKH0DVV¶LVµDEODVSKHPRXVIDEOHDQG a dangerous deceit,’ and Navarre’s attendance of it was therefore duly called by Elizabeth herself an ‘abominable act.’12 Nonetheless it was quite clear that, thanks to this abomination, Navarre had put an end to those civil wars in which four million French – out of a total population of 12–15 million – had lost their lives.13 Therefore his act did not seem so very abominable to everyone – not even to all those who thought it necessary to call it so in public. ‘The Wars of Religion,’ writes Trevor-Roper, quoting Voltaire, ‘destroyed all, or nearly all, the intellectual achievements of the recent past, making the second half of the century frightful and bringing upon Europe “une èspece de barbarie que les Hérules, les Vandales et les Huns n’avaient jamais connue.”’14 Not, then, DSULPLWLYHRUXQFLYLOL]HGEDUEDULVPEXWDVSHFL¿FDOO\&KULVWLDQQHREDUEDULVP LQZKLFKIRUWKH¿UVWWLPHUHOLJLRXVSLHW\KDGPDQLIHVWHGDQDSSDOOLQJSRWHQWLDO to cause the worst of social evils: and ‘it was not till the end of the sixteenth century, till the reign of Voltaire’s constant hero, Henry IV, that the progress of mankind, which those wars had interrupted, could be resumed.’15 And so Navarre, who placed the bonum publicum above religious piety, became for Voltaire the


Yates, pp. 124, 210. ‘One contemporary English analysis of the French scene [The Mutable and Wavering Estate of France … with an Ample Declaration of the Seditious and Treacherous Practises of that Viperous Brood of Hispaniolized Leaguers, 1597, Preface] expressed the KRSH³WKDWWKHDIÀLFWLRQVRI)UDQFHPD\EH(QJODQGVORRNLQJJODVVHDQGWKHLUQHJOHFWRI peace our continued labour and studie how to preserve it.”’ Salmon, pp. 16, 38. 12 See David, p. 60n. 13 See Jean-Hippolyte Mariéjol, La Réforme et la Ligue. L’Edit de Nantes (Paris: Hachette, 1908), p. 413. 14 See Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, Religion, the Reformation and Social Change (London: Macmillan, 1967), p. 199, who (wrongly) refers to ‘Essai sur le moeurs, ch. cxxi, clxxix, clxxxvii.’ But in 1563 Ronsard had already written that ‘sous ombre de l’Evangile’ the French ‘ont commis des actes tels, que les Scythes n’oseroyent ni ne voudroyent seulement avoir pensé’ (Pierre de Ronsard, Discours des Misères de ce temps, vol. 2, Oeuvres Complètes, ed. Jean Céard, Daniel Ménager, Michel Simonin [Paris: Gallimard, 1994], p. 1042). 15 Trevor-Roper, p. 199. 11


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

proto-enlightened ideal sovereign, worthy of being sung about by his (rather modest) epical Muse in the Henriade. But Voltaire was simply echoing at a distance the enthusiasm of the so called politiques – those contemporaries of Navarre’s who thought that political peace was the most important aim, and that only an autonomous civil power, freed from submission to any ecclesiastical power, and superior to confessional factions, was able to bring it about. Therefore Catholic politiques recognized Navarre’s legitimacy even before he attended Mass, and Calvinist politiques continued to recognize it even after he had attended it. As for Navarre, while it was well known that his conversion to Catholicism had been a matter of policy and not of inward faith, neither had his previous Protestant faith been a model of piety. According to the Venetian ambassadors, it was widely known that he had no faith at all, that he used to laugh at his Calvinist ministers even when they were on the pulpit, and that he used to throw cherry-stones at them while they were preaching.16 As for Elizabeth’s sanctimonious reaction to his conversion: ‘Ah! que douleurs, oh! quel regrets, oh! que gemissements je sentois en mon âme par le son de telles nouvelles … Mon Dieu! est-il possible que mondain respect aulcun deut effacer le terreur que la crainte divine nous ménace?’[‘Ah, what pains, oh! what regrets, oh! how my soul moaned when I heard the sound of such news … My God! Is it possible that worldly respect should erase fear of God?’]17 We may or may not agree with Voltaire that ‘when the murderer of Mary Stuart spoke of the fear of God, it is highly probable that she “faisait la comédienne” as she was often accused of being.’18 But it is certainly true that a fair amount of mondain respect or worldly regard had never been absent from her own way of dealing with religion. ‘Her conduct of Church affairs,’ writes Patrick Collinson, ‘was DERYHDOODQDFWRIVWDWHVPDQVKLS¶DQGKHU¿UVWDFWKDGEHHQµWRH[FOXGHWKH3RSH and assume supreme powers over the Church.’19 As for her Protestant piety, Sir John Neale thought that while in ’93 Navarre found out that Paris was well worth

16 See Howell A. Lloyd, The Rouen Campaign 1590–1592. Politics, Warfare and the Early-Modern State (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 16. The anecdote comes from Niccolò Tommaseo (ed.), Relations des ambassadeurs vénitiens sur les affaires de France au XVIe siècle, vol. 2 (Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1838), p. 632. See also Quentin Hurst, Henry of Navarre (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1937), p. 9, where Navarre’s religious tolerance is seen as a result of his inward rationalism and agnosticism. 17 Cecil Manuscripts (H.M.C.), 4:404; quoted in John B. Black, Elizabeth & Henry IV: being a short study in Anglo-French relations, 1589–1603 (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1914), pp. 65–6. 18 Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII, ed. René Pomeau, vol. 2 (Paris: Éditions Garnier, 1963), p. 539. 19 Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 29–30.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


a Mass, she had long before realized that London was well worth a sermon.20 But let us go back to the play. Having made clear that both names and dates in the play seem to point to crucial events in European history, I shall focus on a single, apparently minor, merely ‘sporting’ detail. In the play there is a strange deer-hunting scene where the hunter is a Princess – a Princess who, though French, has quite a lot in common (in this scene at least) with Queen Elizabeth of England, who was herself a keen deer-huntress.21 ‘The description of the “hunt,”’ writes Dover Wilson, ‘is generally assumed to be connected with Queen Elizabeth’s visit on 15–17 August 1591 to Cowdray, the house of Lord Montague, grandfather to the Earl of Southampton, DQGVKRUWO\DIWHUWR7LWFK¿HOG6RXWKDPSWRQ¶VRZQKRXVHDWERWKRIZKLFKSODFHV ‘standings’ were prepared for her to shoot from at deer in a paddock.’22 And so similar is this French hunt to the hunts of Elizabeth, that H.C. Hart thinks that Shakespeare had actually read The Queen’s Entertainment at Cowdray, printed in 1591.23 The scene might well then be a sort of obsequious reference to the Queen’s favorite sport, but this does not make it any less disconcerting. Unlike the English Queen, in fact, the French Princess is not so very keen on deer-hunting; before starting she asks the Forester: ‘where is the bush / That we must stand and play the murderer in?’ (4.1.7–8)24 ‘Play the murderer,’ we must admit, are strange words, in the context of an encomium. Nonetheless they hint at the whole of the Princess’s attitude to hunting deer, somewhere between frank disgust and disdainful tolerance due to force majeur. Neither disdain nor disgust, however, are strong enough to prevent her from committing what she herself calls a ‘detested crime’; after a theological joke ZLWKWKH)RUHVWHURQVDOYDWLRQµE\PHULW¶ D&DWKROLFµKHUHV\«¿WIRUWKHVHGD\V¶ [4.1.21–2]), in fact, the Princess does proceed to murder the deer, but she makes clear that if she does ‘spill the poor deer’s blood’ making herself ‘guilty’ of this ‘detested crime,’ it is only for the ‘outward’ reason of gaining ‘glory,’ ‘praise’ and ‘fame.’25 20 See John E. Neale, The Age of Catherine de Medici (London: Jonathan Cape, 1943), p. 16. 21 See Fritz Levy, ‘The Theatre and the Court in the 1590s,’ in The Reign of Elizabeth I. Court and Culture in the last decade, ed. John Guy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 283–4. 22 John Dover Wilson (ed.), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), p. 153n. 23 H.C. Hart, ‘Introduction,’ Love’s Labour’s Lost (London: Methuen, 1906), pp. xlviii–xlix. 24 For ‘the Princess’s evident distaste for hunting,’ see Henry R. Woudhuysen (ed.), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998), p. 174n. 25 ±)RUWKHµKHUHV\«¿WIRUWKHVHGD\V¶VHH'DYLGQµ7KH3ULQFHVVLV referring to her “tip” to the forester [see ll. 18–19: “Here, good my glass, take this for telling true: / Fair payment for foul words is more than due.”], and likening it to the good works which the Catholics held would alone procure salvation, whereas the Protestants believed


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

This is truly strange. As Dover Wilson points out, if ‘“merit” refers to the 5RPDQGRFWULQHRIMXVWL¿FDWLRQE\ZRUNV¶LWLVDOVRFOHDUWKDWµWKH³KHUHV\LQIDLU ¿WIRUWKHVHGD\V´DQGWKH³GHWHVWHGFULPHV´RIZKLFK³JORU\JURZV JXLOW\´IRU “fame’s sake, for praise, an outward part” point unmistakably to the “abominable act” as Elizabeth described it, by which Henry bought Paris at the price of a Mass’ – a Catholic heresy which ‘became an accomplished and publicly acknowledged fact in July 1593,’ when ‘England received the news with consternation.’26 Indeed, apart from the consternation of Protestant England, his heresy was so shrewdly ¿WIRUWKH)UHQFKSROLWLFDOQHFHVVLWLHVRIWKHWLPHWKDWLWUHFDOOVZHPD\DGGWKH greatest of Machiavelli’s princely virtues. For the abominable Florentine believed that the prince ‘who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.’27 But, as David remarks, if the passage does obviously allude to what Elizabeth called the ‘abominable act,’ then we must admit that ‘the Princess’s moralizings must … be also aimed at Henri.’28 This is certainly true; indeed the Princess’s PRUDOL]LQJV ¿W 1DYDUUH¶V EHKDYLRU LQ UHDO KLVWRU\ PXFK PRUH FOHDUO\ WKDQ KHU own on the stage. It was Navarre, in fact, who, for outward political reasons, had committed the abominable act or detested crime of converting to Catholicism and attending Mass. But by so cheaply buying the praise of the Catholics, he had also gained the durable fame and glory of putting an end to the worst tragedy that his country had ever known. And if these were the practical effects of his immoral abjure, we might almost say, as Biron says in the play, that ‘it is religion to be thus forsworn’ (4.3.359). Indeed, if we were Navarre’s French ambassador attending the play, along with the Queen and the other European ambassadors, during the court festivities of &KULVWPDVZKDWHOVHFRXOGZHWKLQNKHDULQJDERXW&DWKROLFKHUHVLHV¿WIRUWKH WLPHV"%XWLIWKHVHPRUDOL]LQJV¿Wboth Navarre’s abominable act and the Princess’s detested crime, then these two actions must have something in common. And, since Navarre’s abominable act was attending Mass, and the Princess’s detested crime was the spilling of a poor deer’s blood, we are forced to ask: can Masses have anything to do with spilling a deer’s blood? As we shall see, it all depends on the kind of deer whose blood you spill. But luckily for us the text generously provides, in the following scene, a full scholarly commentary on the hunt. The commentary has two authors, a Curate and a Schoolmaster, both of them pedants, as most commentators are, or should be. First of all, quoting Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Curate explains that what the Princess called the detested crime of spilling a poor deer’s blood was nonetheless a ‘very reverend sport, truly: and done in the testimony of a good conscience’ (4.2.1–2). IDLWKRQO\ZDVQHFHVVDU\³-XVWL¿FDWLRQE\IDLWK´EHFDPHRQHRIWKHVWDQGDUGWHVWVE\ZKLFK Protestant orthodoxy was tried – hence “heresy” of l. 22.’ 26 Dover Wilson, pp. 153–4n. 27 Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. George Bull (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 80. 28 David, p. 60n.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


Dover Wilson’s note is certainly right: ‘The curate gives the sport his blessing; it is a godly one.’29 But the problem is: what is so reverend and godly, in this bloody sport, and why does it deserve a Curate’s blessing? As for the blood that has been spilt, we learn from the Schoolmaster that the Latin word ‘sanguis’ is somewhat more appropriate for it, and that this sanguis is similar to a ‘ripe’ apple, ‘who now hangeth like a jewel in the ear of coelo, the sky, the welkin, the heaven; and anon falleth … on the face of terra, the soil, the land, the earth’ (4.2.3–7). Doesn’t this recall something, this sanguisWKDW¿UVWLVLQKHDYHQEXWWKHQZKHQULSHIDOOVRQ the earth? Well, to my mind it does recall something, but before saying what, let us take a look at the real climax of the pedants’ commentary, which is an alliterated riddle on the precise age (or ripeness) of the murdered deer.30 So exceedingly strange and grotesque is this ‘extemporal epitaph on the death of the deer’ (4.2.47–8) that, according to Mario Praz, the prince of Italian English Studies, its absurdity has no equal in Western literatures.31 Of course, since its author is the pedantic Schoolmaster Holofernes (with the same name and profession as the grand docteur sophiste who in Rabelais teaches Gargantua Latin), David may be wise when he warns that ‘to explain the logical connection’ of the riddle ‘may be a piece of pedantry worthy the man himself.’32 In the Renaissance, nonetheless, outward absurdity could be, and sometimes was, a way of conveying inward meanings of an importance directly proportionate to their outward absurdity. This esoteric literary technique was known as Sileni Alcibiadis, and its main examples are to be found, among others, in Erasmus, Giordano Bruno and Rabelais. Two thirds of the Gargantua’s Prologue, in fact, are dedicated to these Sileni, and Rabelais promises that if the readers are able to imitate ‘the most philosophic beast in the world’ (i.e., the dog, whose teeth are strong enough to break bones and suck the marrow), then the absurdities of the text that follows might disclose certain µP\VWqUHVKRUUL¿FTXHV¶ZKLFKKHVD\VGHDOERWKZLWKµQRVWUHUHOLJLRQ¶DQGµO¶HVWDW politicq.’33 Should Holofernes’s riddle belong to this kind of absurdity, it would certainly be wise to run the risk of pedantry and look for an explanation. Otherwise ZHPLJKWUXQWKHJUHDWHUULVNRIPLVVLQJVRPHH[FLWLQJKRUUL¿FP\VWHU\


Dover Wilson, p. 156n. ‘The preyful princess pierc’d and prick’d a pretty pleasing pricket; / Some say a sore; but not a sore, till now made sore with shooting: / The dogs did yell; put ’ell to sore, then sorel jumps from thicket; / Or pricket sore, or else sore’ll the people fall a-hooting. / ,IVRUHEHVRUHWKHQ¶HOOWRVRUHPDNHV¿IW\VRUHV±2±VRUHO2IRQHVRUH,DQKXQGUHG make, by adding but one more l’ (4.2.55–60). 31 See Mario Praz, Dizionario Bompiani delle opere e dei personaggi di tutti i tempi e di tutte le letterature (Milan: Bompiani, 1983), p. 466 (sub voce ‘Oloferne’). 32 David, p. 77n. According to Woudhuysen, Holofernes may ‘owe something to Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel (ll. 14 and 19), in which Thubal Holofernes is made Gargantua’s tutor,’ p. 3. 33 François Rabelais, Gargantua. Première édition critique faite sur l’Editio princeps, ed. Ruth Calder (Genève: Droz, 1970), pp. 9–14. 30

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


7KHULGGOHVROXWLRQLQWKHHQGLVQRWVRKDUGWR¿QG,IZHWUHDWLWDVLILWZHUH for example, an advanced level Sudoku, we cannot but reach the conclusion that when the deer’s blood falls, like a ripe apple, from heaven to earth, the deer is a ‘sorel’ (4.2.59) – i.e., ‘a buck in its third year.’34 But what has this got to do with the 5DEHODLVLDQKRUUL¿FWKHRORJLFR±SROLWLFDOP\VWHU\PHQWLRQHGDERYH"1RWPXFK perhaps; nonetheless, when a deer is three years old, each of its antlers divides into WKUHHEUDQFKHV±DVZDVFRQ¿UPHGWRPHE\DUHWLUHG7\UROHDQIRUHVWHU±ZKLFK means that when the Princess spilled the poor deer’s blood, it had a 33 on its forehead. But Someone Else, of course, was 33 when His heavenly blood was spilt on the face of the earth – and via the Song of Songs, of course, the deer was and is a fairly common emblematic image of Christ himself. Before attempting an overall interpretation, let me confess that, when relating WKH¿UVWSDUWRIWKLVP\VWHU\ WKHSULQFHO\KXQWLWVHOI ,RPLWWHGWKHPRVWJODPRURXV of its results. As already mentioned, the Princess makes clear that if she does spill the poor deer’s blood and makes herself guilty of this detested crime, it is only for the outward reason of squeezing out of it glory, praise and fame. But then Boyet, one of the Lords attending the Princess, observes: ‘Do not curst wives hold that self-sovereignty / Only for praise’s sake, when they strive to be / Lords o’er their ORUGV"¶ ± $QGWKH3ULQFHVVFRQ¿UPVµ2QO\IRUSUDLVHDQGSUDLVHZHPD\ afford / To any lady that subdues a lord’ (4.1.39–40). The relation between the act of spilling a poor deer’s blood and the fact of holding a ‘self-sovereignty’ that allows certain ‘curst’ ladies to ‘subdue’ their lords and become ‘Lords o’er their lords’ may well be a P\VWqUHKRUUL¿FTXH, but it most certainly deals with nostre religion and l’estat politicq. For self-sovereignty is an exquisitely technical political term, and its practical conquest was the greatest problem of the early modern states. In order to obtain and maintain a fully DXWRQRPRXVVRYHUHLJQW\HDUO\PRGHUQSULQFHVKDGLQIDFW¿UVWRIDOOWRJHWULGRI ecclesiastical superiority, or overlordship.35 From Bartolo da Sassoferrato down to Jean Bodin (whose De Republica was a textbook both in Cambridge and London, and had been printed cum privilegiis of both the ‘Most Christian’ King of France and the ‘Most Serene Queen of England’) self-sovereigntyPHDQW¿UVWRIDOOWKDWDVRYHUHLJQLQRUGHUWREHsibi princeps, i.e., self-sovereign) and superiorem non recognoscens, had to be independent of any other power: Bodin’s souveraineté absolue, for instance, concerns above all the sovereign’s relations not to the subjects below, but to those theocratic religious powers who thought they had the divine right and duty to be above him (or her).36 In practical 34

Hibbard, p. 155n. For a full discussion of the riddle, see Sacerdoti, pp. 37–8. See the classic study of John N. Figgis, The Divine Right of Kings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914). 36 See Margherita Isnardi Parente, ‘Introduzione,’ in Jean Bodin, I sei libri dello Stato (Turin: UTET, 1964), pp. 28–9. For the De Republica as a textbook, see Kenneth D. McRae, ‘Introduction,’ in Jean Bodin, The six Bookes of a Commonweal. A facsimile reprint of the English translation of 1606 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), p. A62. 35

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


terms this meant that early modern princes, in order to acquire self-sovereignty, had ¿UVWRIDOOWRVXEGXHWKHVHRYHUORUGVDQGVREHFRPHORUGVRYHUWKHLUORUGV Which, of course, is precisely what the Princess does on stage. But when, in real history, the Most Serene Queen in the audience did exclude the Pope and assume supreme powers over the Church, what else had she de facto done, with her ¿UVWDFWRIVWDWHVPDQVKLS"$QGRIFRXUVHZKDWHOVHFRXOGWKH3RSHGREXWcurse the self-sovereign Lady that had excluded him, claiming for herself his supreme powers? When in 1534, her father, Henry VIII, declared himself Supreme Head of the Anglican Church, did not Pope Clement VII answer with a ‘terrible bull’ which ‘excommunicated, anathematized and cursed’ him?37 His daughter’s second Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1559, revived the antipapal statutes of Henry VIII and declared the Queen Supreme Governor of the Church of England, to which Pope Pius V responded in 1570 with the bull Regnans in excelsis, which excommunicated Elizabeth from the universal Church, declared her a heretic and a usurper, and absolved her subjects from any oath of allegiance that they might have taken. But then, qua Pope, what else could the Roman Lord do – give the Queen his blessing, as the Curate does with the Princess? So much, then, for this ‘sudden reference’ to curst (and self-sovereign) Ladies who subdue their lords, which, according to Dover Wilson, ‘is curious and seems to have no relation to the context.’38 $ ¿UVW VROXWLRQ IRU WKLV P\VWHULRXV VFHQH LV SHUKDSV DW KDQG 7KH RI¿FLDO position of the Church of England vis-à-vis the Catholic Mass comes straight from &DOYLQ DQG LV IDLWKIXOO\ H[SRVHG LQ WKH7KLUW\¿UVW RI The Thirty-nine Articles, whose title is 2IWKHRQH2EODWLRQRI&KULVW¿QLVKHGXSRQWKH&URVV. As for the text, it runs: ‘The Offering of Christ once made is the perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and WKHUHLVQRQHRWKHUVDWLVIDFWLRQIRUVLQEXWWKDWDORQH:KHUHIRUHWKHVDFUL¿FHVRI Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.’ 6LQFHWKHRQHDQGRQO\VDFUL¿FHULV&KULVWKLPVHOIZKRVHREODWLRQRI+LVRZQ EORRGZDV¿QLVKHGXSRQWKH&URVVWKH&DWKROLF0DVVIURPWKLVSRLQWRIYLHZ cannot but be an abominable act, a detested crime, and a bloody and deceitful blasphemy. And since at every Mass the Pope and Catholic priests claim to offer Christ and to repeat with their own hands the unrepeatable oblation of His blood, they are nothing but, as Calvin calls them in his Institution chrétienneµFDUQL¿FHV¶ The Latin edition – Io. Bodini, De Republica libri sex (Parisiis: apud Jacobum Du Puys sub signo Samaritanae, 1586) – was printed Cum privilegiis Caesareae Maiestatis et Regis Christianissimi, Serenissimaeque Angliae Reginae. Les six livres de la République were ¿UVWSXEOLVKHGLQ)UHQFK 3DULV-DFTXHV'X3X\V  37 See Paolo Sarpi, Istoria del Concilio Tridentino, ed. Corrado Vivanti, vol. 1 (Turin: Einaudi, 1974), pp. 145, 178. 38 Dover Wilson, p. 154n.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

µERXUUHDX[¶µPXUWULHUV¶±LHµH[HFXWLRQHUV¶ZKRDWHYHU\FODLPHGVDFUL¿FHDFW as sacrilegious ‘butchers’ and cruel ‘murderers’ of Christ.39 Let us go back once more to Navarre’s abominable act and the princely murderess’s detested crime. From a Calvinist point of view, Navarre’s attending Mass was certainly abominable, although, by buying the praise of the Catholics, he gained the fame and glory of putting an end to civil war. While it is true that, from the point of view of raison d’État, his merely outward conversion could be considered a fairly cheap price for such a brilliant political result, it is also true that, in order to buy Paris, Navarre had to attend Mass. And his attendance was an implicit but undeniable recognition that his sovereignty was not really VHOIVXI¿FLHQWIRUKLVFDSDFLW\WRH[HUFLVHLWGHSHQGHGRQKLVNQHHOLQJEHIRUHWKDW authority which, having the capacity to offer Christ, celebrates Mass, rather than just attending it. Unlike the Princess, then, he had not subdued these kinds of lords, and therefore his civil authority was still dependent on their spiritual authority. Of course, by attending Mass, Navarre did buy his right to the throne of Catholic France, but by so doing he certainly paid something for it. So much so that, in order to be formally absolved by the Pope, the ex-heretic had to wait two more years, and then send to Rome two lieutenants representing him who in 1595, amid a jubilant crowd, had to kneel before the Pope and receive by proxy that ceremonial beating without which a heretic King could not be absolved. Once beaten, the two ex-Calvinists representing the King of France were then admitted LQWR6DLQW3HWHU¶VZKHUHWKH\ZHUH¿QDOO\JUDQWHGWKHULJKWWRYHQHUDWHWKHH[SRVHG Sacrament of the Corpus Christi.40 Of course, the beating was symbolic, but this does not make the show of a King of France beaten by a Roman Pontiff any less emblematically conspicuous. So much, then, for the political consequences of merely attending WKH VDFUL¿FH RI WKH 0DVV ,I RQO\ &DWKROLF SULHVWV DUH DOORZHG WRRIIHUWKHÀHVKDQGEORRGRI&KULVW¶VERG\WKHQLWPD\EHKDUGIRUD&DWKROLF prince, to be a hundred percent self-sovereign. But by now we should also be able to understand why, on the contrary, the Princess, by playing the murderer and spilling the deer’s blood with her own princely hands, has been able to subdue certain lords and gain full self-sovereignty. From a certain point of view, this clearly recalls the exceptional prerogatives of the Queen of England, who, in order to exercise her sovereignty, never had to be beaten up by a Roman Pontiff – and for the good reason that, unlike the King of )UDQFHKHU¿UVWDFWRIVWDWHVPDQVKLSKDGQRWEHHQWRDWWHQG0DVVEXWWRH[FOXGH the Pope and assume supreme power over the Church. This summa potestas was 39 Giovanni Calvino, Istituzione della religione cristiana, ed. Giorgio Tourn, vol. 2 (Turin: UTET, 1971), pp. 1658, 1667. See Ioannes Calvinus, Institutio Christianae religionis, 4, 18, 5, in Corpus Reformatorum, Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia, ed. Guilielmus Baum, Eduardus Cunitz, Eduardus Reuss, vol. 2 (Brunsvigae: Berolini, 1866), p. 1055. 40 See Saverio Ricci, Giordano Bruno e l’Europa del Cinquecento (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2000), pp. 520–21.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


FOHDUO\ JUDQWHG E\ WKH ¿UVW SDUW RI WKH 7KLUW\VHYHQWK$UWLFOH ZKLFK VWDWHV WKDW in England ‘the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain’ to the monarch, who ‘is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.’ Yet, could the Queen of England do in real life what the Princess does on the stage? Certainly not, for the second part of that same Article proceeds to state that ‘where we attribute to the King’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments.’ If the Queen of England did not have the right to minister either God’s Word or the Sacraments, then she could neither preach sermons nor celebrate Masses. And since these prerogatives still belonged to the clergy, the Queen in the audience was not, and could not be, as self-sovereign as the Princess on the stage. As for heresies, if Navarre’s abominable DWWHQGDQFHDWWKHVDFUL¿FHRIWKH0DVVZDV¿WIRUKLVGD\VWKH3ULQFHVV¶VGHWHVWHG FULPH RI FHOHEUDWLQJ LW ZLWK KHU RZQ KDQGV LV DQ HYHQ ¿WWHU 0DFKLDYHOOLDQ DFW RI statesmanship, since it entails a far more complete self-sovereignty. For all its mysterious strangeness, then, the hunting scene of Love’s Labour’s Lost is nothing but an emblem or hieroglyph which represents on the stage a model of arch-self-sovereignty that not even the English Queen, certainly the most sovereign of European sovereigns, was entitled to. This model, of course, was utterly blasphemous and unacceptable to both Catholic and Calvinist authorities. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that an authority in worldly politics such as Thomas Hobbes would have readily accepted it. ‘In all Common-wealths of the Heathen,’ he writes in Leviathan, ‘the Soveraigns have had the name of Pastors of the People,’ and Christian Sovereigns, according to Hobbes, had not lost, by becoming Christian, the self-sovereignty their predecessors once possessed. And so, since ‘this Right of the Heathen Kings, cannot be thought taken from them by their conversion to the Faith of Christ; who never ordained, that Kings for beleeving in him, should be deposed, that is, subjected to any but himself,’ it is most certain that ‘in every Christian Common-wealth, the Civill Soveraign is the Supreme Pastor.’ This means, in particular, that the Civil Sovereign ‘hath also the authority, not only to preach, … but also to baptize, and to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.’41 Nor could it be otherwise. For ‘the making the /RUG¶V6XSSHUDVDFUL¿FH¶ZULWHV+REEHVµVHUYHWKWRPDNHWKHSHRSOHEHOLHYHWKH Pope hath the same power over all Christians that Moses and Aaron had over the Jews; that is to say, all power, both civil and ecclesiastical, as the high priest then had.’42

41 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Crawford B. Macpherson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), pp. 567–70. According to Richard Tuck, ‘it should be said that Hobbes was not tremendously unusual in espousing a position of this kind,’ for Grotius, in his De imperio summarum potestatum circa sacra FLUFD KDVµDQHTXDOO\FRQ¿GHQWDVVHUWLRQWKDWWKH civil magistrate has, in all times and places, had ultimate responsibility for religious matters’ (‘Hobbes’s “Christian Atheism,”’ in Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, ed. Michael Hunter and David Wootton [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992], pp. 116–17). 42 Hobbes, p. 707.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

7KXV HLWKHU WKH &LYLO 6RYHUHLJQ LV DEOH WR VHL]H WKH VDFUL¿FLDO DQG VDFUDPHQWDO competences of the High Priest, or the High Priest will sooner or later seize all power, both civil and ecclesiastical. Hobbes, of course, was writing in the middle of the English civil war, and 58 years after the end of the French civil wars, he was still convinced that the theocratic ambitions of both the ‘Papacy’ and the Presbyterian ‘Assembly’ (which form together ‘the Kingdom of Darkness’) continued to be the main danger for that absolute self-sovereignty without which civil power could not perform its main duty: to grant the peace of the commonwealth. ‘For,’ as he writes at the very end of Leviathan, ‘it is not the Romane Clergy onely, that pretends the Kingdome of God to be of this World, and thereby to have a Power therein, distinct from that of the Civill State.’ And so, if ‘Qu. Elizabeth,’ by her ‘Exorcism,’ had been able to cast out ‘the Spirituall Power of the Pope,’ and all his ‘Kingdome of Fairies,’ the danger, for England, was far from over. For, if ‘the Spirit of Rome’ had gone out, ‘who knows that … an Assembly of Spirits worse than he, enter, and inhabit this clean swept house, and make the End thereof worse than the Beginning?’43 But while advocating such an exemplary subordination of spiritual power to temporal power comes as no surprise from the absolutist Hobbes, we should remember that the liberal Spinoza, in the draught of a republican constitution which is his last political work, continued to feel just the same. For ‘it is vitally important,’ he states in the Tractatus politicus, that in the ‘churches dedicated to the state religion … only patricians or senators should be permitted to perform its principal rites. Thus only patricians should be allowed to baptize, to solemnize marriages, and to lay on hands; in short, they alone should be recognized as the ministers of churches, and the guardians and interpreters of the state religion.’44 But then the ‘political cause’ that both the Tractatus politicus and the Tractatus theologico-politicus were intended to serve was ‘the establishment of a tolerant liberal State,’ and such a State could not EHHQYLVDJHGZLWKRXW¿UVWFXUELQJWKHWKHRFUDWLFSUHWHQVLRQVRIDOOWKRVHµVXEYHUVLYH elements’ who wanted to ‘restrict the autonomy of the sovereign political power’: elements which ‘clearly included most zealous Calvinists and many adherents to other Protestant sects, not to speak of zealous Catholics.’ Of course, ‘man being a superstitious animal, religion could not be eliminated, but it could be rendered politically harmless; it could even be pressed into the service of a democratic secular State, being used to strengthen people’s loyalty towards the political authorities.’45

43 Hobbes, pp. 714–15. It is certainly ‘worth reminding ourselves that the last words of the main body of Leviathan are directed expressly against the possibility of a Presbyterian take-over in England’ (Tuck, p. 129). 44 Benedict de Spinoza, A Treatise on Politics, in The political works: the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in Part and the Tractatus Politicus in Full, ed. Archibald G. Wernham (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 411. See Sylvain Zac, Spinoza et l’interpretation de l’Écriture (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965), pp. 155–60. 45 Shlomo Pines, ‘Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-politicus, Maimonides and Kant,’ in Further Studies in Philosophy, ed. Ora Segal (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1968), pp. 11, 44.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


I must confess that if I have been able, as I hope I have, to clarify some aspects of this mysterious Anglo-French hunting scene, it is because an identical and equally mysterious hunt is to be found in the Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, the most audacious of the Italian Dialogues published by Giordano Bruno in England – and since Alfonso Ingegno, an ingenious Italian scholar, has been able WRWKURZVRPHOLJKWRQLW,KDYHEHHQDEOHWRSUR¿WIURPLW46 Bruno left Paris at the height of the wars of religion, and went to London in the retinue of the French ambassador, the politique Michel de Castelnau de la Mauvissière, at whose house he resided, and with whom he ‘went continually to Court.’47 While in England (where he became a close friend of John Florio, the translator of Montaigne), he published his masterpieces, which fall into two categories – cosmological and moral – which are nonetheless intimately connected. Since in his new, physically LQ¿QLWHXQLYHUVHWKHUHLVQRSODFHIRUWKH-XGHR&KULVWLDQLGHDRIDWUDQVFHQGHQW God superior to nature, Christianity was for him, strictly speaking, a fable – which in no way means that he was unaware of the Platonic importance of such fables. And if Christianity could only be for him, at best, an instrumentum regni of a Machiavellian-Averroistic kind that had nothing to do with any truth concerning God or nature, he was also keenly aware that different fables told by different &KULVWLDQFKXUFKHVKDGGLIIHULQJSROLWLFDOYDOXHVDQG¿WQHVVIRUWKHWLPHV Dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, the Spaccio de la bestia trionfante (where the dispatched beast is Christianity itself, whose wars of religion marked, for him, the bloody end of its historical cycle) was published in 1584 – i.e., one year after Elizabeth had nominated the relentlessly anti-Puritan John Whitgift, Primate of England, and right in the middle of the turmoil and deluge of theologico– political pamphlets caused by the Archbishop’s ruthless onslaught on growing Puritan dissent. To the Puritans, in fact, the Elizabethan Church was scandalously inadequate, and they pressed for a drastic reform of its hierarchical structure, a purging of residual Catholic elements in the Prayer Book and ritual, and a more vigorous persecution of Catholic recusants. So increasingly strong was the Puritan opposition that by the 1580s it had become clear that Calvinist fundamentalism was (and was going to be) a greater menace, for the English Crown, than any Pope had ever been. And since the appointment of the new Archbishop marks the beginning of Elizabeth’s counterattack, ‘the date of Whitgift’s election – September 23rd, 1583 – was a decisive climacteric in the history of the reformed Church of England.’48 46 See Alfonso Ingegno, Regia pazzia. Bruno lettore di Calvino (Urbino: QuattroVenti, 1987). 47 In 1592 Bruno declared to the Venetian Inquisitors: ‘Ella [Elizabeth] me conosceva, andando io continuamente con l’ambasciator in corte’ (Vittorio Spampanato, Vita di Giordano Bruno: con documenti editi e inediti [Messina: Giuseppe Principato, 1921], p. 734). For Castelnau, see: Gustave Hubault, Michel de Castelnau, ambassadeur en Angleterre, 1575–1585 (Genève: Slatkine, 1970); Ricci, pp. 190–92. 48 Collinson, p. 243.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


For all its exceptionality, Bruno’s book, published just one year after this climacteric date, is also, and above all, an anti-Calvinist and pro-monarchic SDPSKOHW¿WIRUKLVWLPHVLHDpolitique pamphlet, though of an exceptionally radical kind.49 In the second Dialogue of the Spaccio Bruno extols the natural, pantheistic and pre-Spinozistic religion of the ancient Egyptians, for whom God was inside nature, and not outside or above it.50 And then in the third Dialogue, LHWKHODVWSDUWRIWKHZRUNZKHUHKHGUDZVWKH¿QDOFRQFOXVLRQVKHSURFHHGV to mock, in a highly Silenic style, the ‘extra-natural,’ ‘super-natural’ and ‘contranatural’ ‘nice fable’ of the Christian religion, but not without making distinctions between its different historical versions.51 Calvinist fables have, for Bruno, necessarily pernicious civil effects, and for WZRUHDVRQV)LUVWEHFDXVHWKHGRFWULQHRIMXVWL¿FDWLRQE\IDLWKDQGQRWE\PHULW DQGJRRGZRUNVXWWHUO\GHVWUR\VZKDWZDVIRUKLPWKHRQO\SRVVLEOHEHQH¿FLDO effect of Christianity: by telling the multitude supernatural fables on ‘the other life,’ to encourage good social behaviour ‘in this life.’52 Second, because the democratic structure of the Presbyterian church tended to ‘turn the world upside down.’53 ‘Presbyterianism,’ in fact, as James I went on to write, ‘agreeth as well with Monarchy, as God and the Devil.’54 And since Bruno had no use for a democratic theocracy or a theocratic democracy, civil authority, he declares, must repress Calvinism by force.55 Which was precisely what Elizabeth (with the aid of Whitgift) had started doing in 1583. As for the Catholic fables which immediately follow, Bruno’s position is far more nuanced.56 For, he slyly suggests, if ministered by ‘un prencipe,’ and QRW E\ WKH 5RPDQ µVRPPR VDFHUGRWH¶ WKH\ FDQ EH EHQH¿FLDO WR WKH PRQDUFK\ itself.57 More than a suggestion, this is a description of the political reasons that had led Elizabeth to exclude the Pope and assume supreme powers over the Church. Of course, since London was well worth a sermon, she had tolerated, in The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, a substantial amount of Calvinist theology. Article Ten, for instance, resolutely denies free will. For Article Eleven it LVµDPRVWZKROHVRPH'RFWULQHDQGYHU\IXOORIFRPIRUW¶WKDWZHDUHMXVWL¿HGµRQO\ for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own 49

See Michele Ciliberto, Giordano Bruno (Bari: Laterza, 1990), pp. 167–8. Giordano Bruno, Dialoghi italiani, ed. Giovanni Aquilecchia (Florence: Sansoni, 1985), pp. 776–7, 783. 51 Bruno, pp. 771, 802. 52 Bruno, pp. 623–5. 53 Bruno, p. 807. 54 Charles H. McIlwain, ‘Introduction,’ in The Political Works of James I, reprinted from the edition of 1616 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918), p. xc. 55 Bruno, p. 807. 56 See Bruno, pp. 808–14, and Alfonso Ingegno, La sommersa nave della religione: studio sulla polemica anticristiana del Bruno (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1985), pp. 119–20. 57 See Bruno, pp. 812–14. 50

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


works or deservings.’ Article Twelve tolerates ‘Good Works’ only if they ‘are the IUXLWVRI)DLWKDQGIROORZDIWHU-XVWL¿FDWLRQ¶%XW$UWLFOH7KLUWHHQKDVQRGRXEWV that ‘Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God.’ Actually, ‘for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.’ Regarding the hierarchical and Episcopal structure of her Church, nonetheless, Elizabeth, to the outrage of the Puritans, took great care to hold fast to the Catholic pattern – so much so that, by the end of her reign, England had ‘a national, or at least a state faith as well as a state church, to which it is entirely proper to apply the term Anglo-Catholicism.’58 Unlike Presbyterianism, in fact, Catholicism can agree very well with Monarchy – especially if the Monarch subdues the Roman Lord, and takes religious prerogatives into his own hands. In this case it can EHFRPHDPRVWSRZHUIXODQGHI¿FLHQWinstrumentum regni, granting the Monarch all power, both civil and ecclesiastical. Accordingly, Bruno proceeds to hint at FHUWDLQ(XFKDULVWLFDQGVDFUL¿FLDOIDEOHVZKLFKZLWKµYHU\OLWWOHH[SHQVH¶PLJKW SURGXFHDµYHU\JRRGSUR¿W¶59$SUR¿WZKLFKLVPRVWFRQVSLFXRXVO\GHSLFWHGLQD scene dedicated to the ‘royal craziness’ of deer hunting.60 Though crazy, in fact, this royal sport is celebrated in such extravagant terms that according to Bruno’s ¿UVWELRJUDSKHU%DUWKROPqVVLWVSUDLVHFRXOGQRWEXWEHPHDQWDVDQHQFRPLXPRI the huntress Queen of England.61 This is what Dover Wilson and others thought of the Shakespearean princely hunt – a hunt which nonetheless had something strange about it. On the one hand, the spilling of the poor deer’s blood was a detested crime and a murder, but on the other it was a godly, blessed and most reverend sport which conferred on the murderess ‘praise,’ ‘glory’ and ‘fame.’62 This is just as true of Bruno’s royal hunt, for, if ‘butchering,’ ‘killing’ and ‘quartering’ a ‘poor beast’ is an activity fully as ‘ignoble and vile’ as that of the ‘executioner,’ nonetheless, for a king, the ‘pursuit of a deer’ and the killing of ‘a poor beast’ are ‘a virtue, a religion, a sanctity’ which bestow on him ‘onore, riputazion buona e gloria.’63 Since the effects of the two hunts are literally the same (‘praise,’ ‘glory’ and ‘fame’ in English, ‘onore, riputazion buona e gloria’ in Italian) we can somehow agree with Bartholmèss that Bruno’s praise of the ‘royal craziness’ of deer hunting can be taken as a eulogy of Elizabeth – exactly in the same way as the Shakespearian scene is both an encomium of the royal huntress’s actual sovereignty, and a subtly emblematic way of hinting at an even greater self-sovereignty and 58

McIlwain, p. xlvi. Bruno, p. 808. 60 ‘Regia pazzia’ (Bruno, p. 811). 61 See Christian Bartholmèss, Jordano Bruno, vol. 2 (Paris: Ladrange, 1846– 1847), p. 104. 62 ‘Praise’ is repeated seven times (4.1.23, 29, 32, 34, 37, 39 [twice]); ‘glory’ (4.1.31); ‘fame’ (4.1.32). 63 Bruno, pp. 811–12. 59


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

plenitudo potestatis. As he makes use of the same bloody lexicon used by 6KDNHVSHDUH %UXQR ¿UVW PRFNV WKH &DWKROLF VDFUL¿FH RI WKH PDVV HPSOR\LQJ the very words used by Calvin for the Pope and the Catholic priests: FDUQL¿FHV, bourreaux, murtriers), and then obliquely suggests that, for merely outward and political reasons, the Queen, and princes in general, would do well to KROG WKHLU QRVH DQG FHOHEUDWH ZLWK WKHLU RZQ KDQGV WKDW VDPH VDFUL¿FH WKDW KDV been mocked. As for the mocking, far from being merely blasphemous, it has the crucial political IXQFWLRQRIHQOLJKWHQLQJWKHUR\DOVDFUL¿FHUDVWRWKHIDEXORXVDQGFUD]\ QDWXUHRIWKHYHU\LGHDRIVDFUL¿FHNot to believe in the ‘Christian religious myth’ was in fact, for Bruno, a ‘political necessity.’64 Since in times of religious civil strife, in order to grant the peace and unity of the commonwealth, princes should be, like philosophers, above any IDLWK RU FRQIHVVLRQDO DOOHJLDQFH WKH ¿UVW SROLWLFDO GXW\ of a philosopher is to disabuse the prince of the fallacy of the Christian religious myth. But once he has done this, he must also instruct him as to the necessity of maintaining certain religious structures and ceremonies, and teach him the best ways to make use of them for his own good as well as that of the commonwealth. And while Calvinism, as we have seen, could only be, for Bruno, a ‘Favola disutile e perniziosa,’ Catholicism could somehow temporarily work as a ‘Favola morale.’65 But only if its rites and ceremonies are administered by a self-sovereign prince who has been made fully aware of their fabulous, even crazy, nature. This was by no means an original idea, since Machiavelli, in the famous 12th FKDSWHURIWKH¿UVWERRNRIKLVDiscourses (entitled How Important it is to take Account of Religion), had already taught that those princes or those republics which desire to maintain themselves free from corruption, should above else maintain incorrupt the ceremonies of their religion, and should hold them always in veneration; for there can be no surer indication of the decline of a country than to see the divine worship neglected…. The rulers of a republic or of a kingdom, therefore, should uphold the basic principles of the religion which they practise in, and, if this be done, it will be easy for them to keep their commonwealth religious, and, in consequence, good and united.

For this same reason ‘they should also foster and encourage everything likely to be of help to this end, even if they be convinced that it is quite fallacious.’ And indeed, ‘the more should they do this the greater their prudence and the more they know of natural laws.’66 That is exactly what Bruno’s prince does: for the good of the commonwealth he is obliged to consent to the royal craziness of the hunt, and must perform with his 64 See Nicola Badaloni, Giordano Bruno. Tra cosmologia ed etica (Bari: De Donato, 1988), pp. 128–30. 65 Bruno, p. 825. 66 Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, ed. Bernard Crick, trans. Leslie J. Walker S.J. with revisions by Brian Richardson (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 142–3.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


own hands this kind of ‘ceremonies’ and ‘sacrosante bagatelle.’67 Not because he is convinced that they are inherently sacred or holy, but merely out of prudence: for, if he himself did not perform those fallacious, crazy and absurd rites, somebody else would do it – and in that case, adieu self-sovereign ladies who subdue their lords. So meticulously identical are these two hunting scenes that we can safely state that the extravagant emblem of self-sovereignty presented by Shakespeare to Elizabeth in 1598 is a faithful repetition of what Bruno had suggested to the ‘unica Diana’ of England, ‘la diva Elizabetta,’ in 1584.68 If that political emblem of Love’s Labour’s LostVRLQFLVLYHO\¿JXUHGLQWKHJRU\ZRUGVDQGJHVWXUHVRIWKHVWDJH were transformed into an engraving, the incisione should bear the caption: William Shakespeare pinxit, Giordano Bruno invenit.69 $QG QRZ D IHZ ¿QDO ZRUGV RQ 9HQLFH :KLOH (QJOLVK PRQDUFKV WKDQNV WR their summa potestas in religious matters, had fuller sovereignty than any other European monarch, it is also true that the Republic of Venice was the only other European state which consciously aspired to, and partly practiced, such an exemplary self-sovereignty. So much so that, as is well known, when the 5HSXEOLF¶V ¿JKW ZLWK 5RPH GXULQJ WKH ,QWHUGLFW &ULVLV UHDFKHG LWV FOLPD[ DQG Venice (whose whole Senate had been excommunicated by the Pope) seemed on the verge of breaking with Roman Catholicism, William Bedell, the chaplain of the English ambassador in Venice, translated for Paolo Sarpi The Book of Common Prayer, with its Thirty-nine Articles.70 Sarpi, who was the actual leader of the Republic’s policy, cherished the idea of DVRUWRI$QJOLFDQUHIRUPLQ9HQLFHZKLFKKHWKRXJKWYHU\¿WIRULWVPRVWGLI¿FXOW days. And if he was interested in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, LW ZDV FHUWDLQO\ QRW IRU WKHLU &DOYLQLVW WKHRORJ\ RQ VXFK PDWWHUV DV MXVWL¿FDWLRQ by faith, the sinful nature of good works done before the grace of Christ, or the EODVSKHPRXV QDWXUH RI WKH VDFUL¿FH RI WKH 0DVV EXW EHFDXVH WKH\ JDYH FLYLO authority that supremacy over the Church without which a State could not be self-sovereign, as in Venice it was only too clear in those days. To any Venetian observer of English affairs, and to any English observer of Venetian affairs, it was quite apparent that Venetian and English interests coincided. Both states, one a monarchy and the other a republic, pursued, as Frajese writes, ‘the common aim of a European order based upon a league of sovereign States superiorem non recognoscentes.’71 The pursuit and defence of self-sovereignty was thus one of the strongest ties between Venice and England, whose very institutions had something in common. If the Primate of All England was appointed by the King, the Venetian Patriarch 67

Bruno, p. 814. Bruno, pp. 222, 936. 69 For a full treatment of the two hunts, see Sacerdoti, pp. 37–67, 183–228. 70 See Gaetano Cozzi, ‘Note introduttive,’ in Paolo Sarpi, Pensieri, ed. Gaetano and Luisa Cozzi (Turin: Einaudi, 1976), pp. xlviii, lxix–lxxi, lxxx. 71 Vittorio Frajese, Sarpi scettico (Bologna: il Mulino, 1994), p. 252. 68

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


was elected by the Serenissimi Signori. Much as in England, the hierarchies and WKHRUJDQL]DWLRQRIWKH9HQHWLDQGLRFHVHVKDGDOPRVWWKHFKDUDFWHURIFLYLORI¿FHV and structures subjected to the doge. Since the doge sported St. Mark’s Episcopal ring, his power seemed to be linked to priestly powers, and indeed, when in St. Mark’s, he sat in loco di vescovo. In England, the Anglican bishop, Jewel, in order to justify the Queen’s supremacy, had recourse to the prerogatives of the early Christian and Byzantine emperors, who combined in their person both regal and priestly powers, and could celebrate liturgical functions.72 But so did Sarpi in Venice, who repeatedly exhorted the Serenissimi Signori to have no fear, and boldly claim for themselves the rights once owned by the Greek emperors. For ‘the Greek Church,’ he writes, ‘never claimed to be exempted from the authority given by God to temporal princes, but always recognized their supremacy.’73 2QH¿QDOUHPDUN:KLOHLWLVFHUWDLQWKDWWKH6KDNHVSHDULDQVHOIVRYHUHLJQW\ of 1598 (which repeats Bruno’s model of 1584) would still have met Hobbes’s approval in 1651, there is no doubt that in 1607 Sarpi would also have thought LWYHU\¿WIRUKLVWLPHV%XWWKHQ6DUSLOLNH+REEHVZDVFRQYLQFHGWKDWDVORQJ as political power was thought to derive from God, either civil power subdues religious power, or religious power would subdue civil power and seize, in Hobbes’s words, ‘all power, both civil and ecclesiastical.’ In ‘these most turbulent times of ours,’ he reminds one of his French Gallican friends, no other coexistence is possible, between these two powers, ‘nisi alter sub altero.’74 And so, for Sarpi, civil authority not only had the right, but the duty to subdue religious authority – and since, of course, it could not fully do so without seizing the greatest possible number of its priestly prerogatives, Sarpi’s ecclesiastical policy is ‘surprisingly analogous’ to Hobbes’s absolutist ‘solutions’ both in Leviathan and in Behemoth.75 But again, we should remember that the liberal and republican Spinoza held exactly the same view. In fact, if in his 1677 Tractatus politicus only patricians or senators were to be recognized as ministers of churches, and they alone were permitted to perform the principal rites of the state religion, in 1670 the lengthy 19th chapter of his Tractatus theologico-politicus bore the title That the sovereign has full right to control religion.76


See Yates, pp. 39–42, 48; Figgis, pp. 96–9. Biblioteca Braidense di Milano, Consulti in iure, vol. 1, Consiglio del Padre Maestro Paolo sopra l’appellatione di un prete greco…, 5 maggio 1610, f. 103v.; see Frajese, pp. 283, 439–40, 442–3. 74 Paolo Sarpi, Lettere ai Gallicani, ed. Boris Ulianich (Wiesbaden: Steiner Verlag, 1961), p. 141. See also Corrado Pin, ‘Progetti e abbozzi sarpiani sul governo dello stato “in questi nostri tempi assai turbolenti,”’ in Paolo Sarpi, Della potestà de’ principi, ed. Nina Cannizzaro (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2006), pp. 100–101. 75 See Pin, pp. 103, 110, 110n. 76 Spinoza, pp. 205, 217–19. See Geneviève Brykman, La judéité de Spinoza (Paris: Vrin, 1972), p. 68. 73

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


For all its outward sacredness, then, this model pointed inwardly towards secularism and laicism. And in fact ‘the essential feature of the process of laicization,’ writes Frajese, ‘lies not in the abolition of the sacred scene, but in its displacement’ onto the public scene.77 As for ‘secularization,’ one of the main IHDWXUHV RI µWKH FLYLF UHOLJLRXV SKHQRPHQRQ¶ LW HQWDLOV ¿UVW RI DOO DFFRUGLQJ to Weinstein, ‘the transfer of the scene of religious ritual from reserved … ecclesiastical space to public, civic space.’78 Such a model of self-sovereignty, of course, is not easily compatible with Christian piety of any denomination. While we know little about Shakespeare’s faith we do know something, of course, of Bruno’s and Hobbes’s faith, or lack of it. As for Sarpi, after the discovery of his private writings on religion, nobody can still think of him, as was the fashion in the Fifties, as a crypto-Protestant. Recently, Pin has prudently spoken of a ‘problematic position’ in between ‘Christianity and a deistical, if not atheistical, proto-enlightenment.’79 But then Tuck, writing of 6DUSL¶V LQÀXHQFH RQ WKH \RXQJ +REEHV UHPLQGV XV WKDW 6DUSL ZDV DORQJ ZLWK Francis Bacon, the only political thinker of his times who dared to suggest that atheism could be as good a foundation, for civil society, as Christianity.80 ,W LV GLI¿FXOW WR LPDJLQH ZKDW D 9HQHWLDQ DXGLHQFH ZRXOG KDYH WKRXJKW RI 6KDNHVSHDUH¶V9HQHWLDQ SOD\V %XW , DP TXLWH FRQ¿GHQW D SDUWLFXODU FRPPXQLW\ of intellectuals, in Venice, would have greatly appreciated Love’s Labour’s Lost. Works Cited Badaloni, Nicola. Giordano Bruno. Tra cosmologia ed etica. Bari: De Donato, 1988. Bartholmèss, Christian. Jordano Bruno. Paris: Ladrange, 1846–1847. Black, John B. Elizabeth & Henry IV: being a short study in Anglo-French relations, 1589–1603. Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1914. Bodin, Jean. Les six livres de la République. Paris: Jacques Du Puys, 1576. ———. De Republica libri sex. Parisiis: apud Jacobum Du Puys sub signo Samaritanae, 1586. 77

Frajese, 54. Donald Weinstein, ‘Critical Issues in the Study of Civic Religion in Renaissance Florence,’ in The Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion, ed. Charles Trinkaus (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974), p. 267. 79 Pin, p. 90. 80 ‘Paolo Sarpi, leader of the Republic during the Interdict Crisis, was a keen reader of Montaigne and a clear sceptic in his own right.’ In fact ‘Sarpi, despite being a servite friar, went so far as to argue that a community of atheists could function perfectly well as a civil society, and he and his fellows were impressed when they read Francis Bacon’s Essays … Accordingly, they urged the translation of Bacon’s Essays into Latin so that a wider European audience could read them, and were keen to keep in touch with Cavendish and Hobbes in order to use them as a channel of communication with Bacon’ (Richard Tuck, Hobbes [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 10). 78


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

———. I sei libri dello Stato. Edited by Margherita Isnardi Parente. Turin: UTET, 1964. ———. The six Bookes of a Commonweal. A facsimile reprint of the English translation of 1606. Edited by Kenneth D. McRae. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962. Bruno, Giordano. Dialoghi italiani. Edited by Giovanni Aquilecchia. Florence: Sansoni, 1985. Brykman, Geneviève. La judéité de Spinoza. Paris: Vrin, 1972. Burckhardt, Jacob. Judgements on History and Historians. Translated by Harry Zohn. London: Routledge, 2007. Burke, Edmund. 5HÀHFWLRQVRQWKH5HYROXWLRQLQ)UDQFH. Edited by Connor Cruise O’Brien. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968. Calvino, Giovanni. Istituzione della religione cristiana. Edited by Giorgio Tourn. Turin: UTET, 1971. Calvinus, Ioannes. Institutio Christianae religionis. In Corpus Reformatorium. Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia. Edited by Guilielmus Baum, Eduardus Cunitz and Eduardus Reuss. Brunsvigae: Berolini, 1866. Ciliberto, Michele. Giordano Bruno. Bari: Laterza, 1990. Collinson, Patrick. The Elizabethan Puritan Movement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. Figgis, John N. The Divine Right of Kings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914. Frajese, Vittorio. Sarpi scettico. Bologna: il Mulino, 1994. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Edited by Crawford B. Macpherson. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981. Hubault, Gustave. Michel de Castelnau, ambassadeur en Angleterre, 1575–1585. Genève: Slatkine, 1970. Hurst, Quentin. Henry of Navarre. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1937. Ingegno, Alfonso. Regia pazzia. Bruno lettore di Calvino. Urbino: QuattroVenti, 1987. ———. La sommersa nave della religione: studio sulla polemica anticristiana del Bruno. Naples: Bibliopolis, 1985. Levy, Fritz. ‘The Theatre and the Court in the 1590s.’ In The Reign of Elizabeth I. Court and Culture in the Last Decade, edited by John Guy. 274– 300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Lloyd, Howell A. The Rouen Campaign 1590–1592. Politics, Warfare and the Early-Modern State. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Discourses. Edited by Bernard Crick. Translated by Leslie J. Walker with revisions by Brian Richardson. London: Penguin, 2003. ———. The Prince. Translated by George Bull. London: Penguin, 2003. McIlwain, Charles H. (ed.). The Political Works of James I, reprinted from the edition of 1616. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918. Mariéjol, Jean-Hippolyte. La Réforme et la Ligue. L’Edit de Nantes. Paris: Hachette, 1908.

‘Self-sovereignty’ and Religion in Love’s Labour’s Lost


Neale, John E. The Age of Catherine de Medici. London: Jonathan Cape, 1943. Pin, Corrado. ‘Progetti e abbozzi sarpiani sul governo dello stato “in questi nostri tempi assai turbolenti.”’ In Paolo Sarpi, Della potestà de’ principi, edited by Nina Cannizzaro. 89–120. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2006. Pines, Shlomo. ‘Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-politicus, Maimonides and Kant.’ In Further Studies in Philosophy, edited by Ora Segal. 3–54. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1968. Praz, Mario. Dizionario Bompiani delle opere e dei personaggi di tutti i tempi e di tutte le letterature. Milan: Bompiani, 1983. Rabelais, François. Gargantua. Première édition critique faite sur l’Editio princeps. Edited by Ruth Calder. Genève: Droz, 1970. Ricci, Saverio. Giordano Bruno e l’Europa del Cinquecento. Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2000. de Ronsard, Pierre. Discours des Misères de ce temps. Vol. 2, Oeuvres Complètes. Edited by Jean Céard, Daniel Ménager and Michel Simonin. 991–1097. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. Sacerdoti, Gilberto. 6DFUL¿FLR H VRYUDQLWj 7HRORJLD H SROLWLFD QHOO¶(XURSD GL Shakespeare e Bruno. Turin: Einaudi, 2002. Salmon, John H.M. The French Religious Wars in English Political Thought. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Sarpi, Paolo. Istoria del Concilio Tridentino. Edited by Corrado Vivanti. Turin: Einaudi, 1974. ———. Lettere ai Gallicani. Edited by Boris Ulianich. Wiesbaden: Steiner Verlag, 1961. ———. Pensieri. Edited by Gaetano and Luisa Cozzi. Turin: Einaudi, 1976. Shakespeare, William. Love’s Labour’s Lost. Edited by George R. Hibbard. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. ———. Love’s Labour’s Lost. Edited by H.C. Hart. London: Methuen, 1906. ———. Love’s Labour’s Lost. Edited by Henry R. Woudhuysen. The Arden Shakespeare (Third Series). Walton-on-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998. ———. Love’s Labour’s Lost. Edited by John Dover Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962. ———. Love’s Labour’s Lost. Edited by Richard David. London: Methuen, 1951. Spampanato, Vittorio. Vita di Giordano Bruno: con documenti editi e inediti. Messina: Giuseppe Principato, 1921. Spinoza, Benedict de. The Political Works: The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in Part and the Tractatus Politicus in Full. Edited by Archibald G. Wernham. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958. de Thou, Jacques A. Histoire universelle. La Haye: H. Scheurleer, 1740. Tommaseo, Niccolò (ed.). Relations des ambassadeurs vénitiens sur les affaires de France au XVIe siècle. Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1838.


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Trevor-Roper, Hugh R. Religion, the Reformation and Social Change. London: Macmillan, 1967. Tuck, Richard. Hobbes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. ———. ‘Hobbes’s “Christian Atheism.”’ In Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, edited by Michael Hunter and David Wootton. 580–98. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. Voltaire. Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l’histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu’à Louis XIII. Edited by René Pomeau. Paris: Éditions Garnier, 1963. Weinstein, Donald. ‘Critical Issues in the Study of Civic Religion in Renaissance Florence.’ In The Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion, edited by Charles Trinkaus. 265–70. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974. Yates, Frances. Astraea: the Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975. Zac, Sylvain. Spinoza et l’interpretation de l’Écriture. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965.

Chapter 6

Job in Venice: Shakespeare and the Travails of Universalism Julia Reinhard Lupton

In Venice, as in other parts of both Western and Eastern Christendom, Job was venerated as a saint, associated above all with the succor of the poor and the miracle of healing. A complex of sacred institutions devoted to San Giobbe, including an oratory, a church, a hospital, and three scuole or confraternities, began to take shape in the Sestiere di Cannaregio in 1372, with major renovations and expansions undertaken in 1470, after a major endowment by the Doge Cristoforo Moro, who was buried there in 1471.1 In Giovanni Bellini’s San Giobbe altarpiece, possibly FRPPLVVLRQHGLQUHVSRQVHWRWKHSODJXHRI-REDQG6W6HEDVWLDQÀDQNWKH Virgin and Child in a sacra conversazione along with other saints; Job, standing LQWKHIRUHJURXQGMXVWWRWKHOHIWRI0DU\DSSHDUVDVDKHUPLWOLNH¿JXUHZKRVH UHVXUUHFWHGÀHVK KDV EHHQKHDOHGRI LWV WHUULEOHVRUHV %HOOLQL¶V LQFRUSRUDWLRQRI various references to the Republic of Venice (the Byzantine seraphs, for example, recall the ducal chapel of San Marco), place this ambitious altarpiece in the high tradition of the Serenissima’s political-theological iconography, which operated above all by crossing liturgical and civic themes, branding its public spaces, and freely mixing Greek and Roman traditions.2 A similar hermit-like Job reappears in two linked paintings of Christ’s Passion by Vittore Carpaccio, The Meditation on the Passion (Fig. 6.1) and The Preparation of Christ’s Tomb, both probably commissioned by the Scuola di San Giobbe for the hospital chapel in 1504.3 Carpaccio’s cadaverous Christs, ruinous landscapes, natural-historical detailing, 1

Rona Geffen, ‘Bellini, S. Giobbe, and Altar Egos,’ Artibus et Historiae 7, 14 (1986): p. 62. See also Brigit Blass-Simmen, ‘“Povero Giopo”: Carpaccios “Grabbereitung Christi” und die “Scuola di San Giobbe in Venedig,”’ Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 35 (1993): p. 120. 2 The painting’s civic elements include the balduchin above the Virgin Mary, the use of Annunciation references that would have linked the painting to the mythic founding of the Republic on March 25, and the architectural evocations of San Marco in the detailing of the space (Geffen). In her classic study of ‘Venice and the Two Romes,’ Debra Pincus notes that the painting systematically combines Byzantine and Roman elements, ‘Venice and the Two Romes: Byzantium and Rome as a Double Heritage in Venetian Cultural Politics,’ Artibus et Historiae 13, 26 (1991): p. 113. 3 Blass-Simmen, pp. 124–5.

Fig. 6.1

Vittore Carpaccio, Meditation on the Passion. Job sits on the right; St. Jerome on the left. c. 1510. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 11.118. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Reproduction of any kind is prohibited without express written permission in advance from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Job in Venice


and memento mori elements lend these paintings an elegiac mood, heightened in each painting by the melancholic posture, head resting in hand, assumed by &DUSDFFLR¶VSHQVLYH-RE¿JXUHVZKRSURYLGHW\SRORJLFDOJORVVHVWRWKHSDLQWLQJV¶ themes of penitence, mortality, and resurrection. Shakespeare was most likely unfamiliar with the Venetian cult of Job, though he might have enjoyed the fact that ‘povero Giopo’ means something like ‘poor schmuck’ in Venetian dialect.4 Yet it is striking that Shakespeare’s two major Venetian plays both pay homage to the Book of Job. Most recent readings of Othello and The Merchant of Venice use scriptural references in these plays as a means of grasping the particular: allusions to circumcision, for example, mark the culture of the Jews in Renaissance Venice, or of Moors and Turks in the Venetian Mediterranean, or of all of these groups as processed through the biases of Elizabethan Englishmen.5 I argue that these two plays, far from celebrating WKH FXOWXUDO VSHFL¿FLW\ DQG RWKHUQHVV RI 6K\ORFN DQG 2WKHOOR GUDPDWL]H WKH process by which these character fall out of particularized regimes of belonging, LQWKHSURFHVVDFWXDOL]LQJXQLYHUVDOSRVVLELOLWLHVIRUGLVLGHQWL¿FDWLRQLQKHUHQWLQ UHOLJLRXVDI¿OLDWLRQDVVXFK,QERWKFDVHV6KDNHVSHDUHGRHVQRWVHFXODUL]HRU negate religious content so much as identify the very heart of religious experience with the event of its own disarticulation. Both plays perform their de-joinings via the Book of Job, which records the extraordinary subjective effects of social and divine violence in order to render those effects transferable among persons, SODFHVDQGHSRFKV-REHQWHUVWKH9HQHWLDQSOD\VDVD¿JXUHRIWUDQVODWDELOLW\ between traditions, including ancient Wisdom cults, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is no accident that these restagings of Job occur in Venice, Europe’s favorite laboratory for the exchange and transmutation of religions and cultures into goods and values transferable across places and periods. Job’s appearances in Shakespeare’s Venice, I argue, can help us recover the travails of universalism – the travels, the labors and the trials – as this ancient text reverberates and remixes in the singular enunciations and global addresses effected by Merchant and Othello.

4 Blass-Simmen, p. 120; she cites Giuseppe Boerio, Dizionario del dialetto veneziano (Venice: 1829). 5 Strong examples of this particularizing approach include Janet Adelman’s PDJQL¿FHQWUHFHQWVWXG\Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008) and M. Lindsay Kaplan, ‘Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender in The Merchant of Venice,’ Shakespeare Quarterly 58, 1 (2007): pp. 1–30. In Shylock Is Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), Kenneth Gross does not eschew historicism, but his approach is more broadly humanistic, and he sets himself the challenge of determining ‘what it means WRNHHSIDLWKZLWK6KDNHVSHDUH¶V¿FWLRQ¶ S ,WLVQRDFFLGHQWWKHQWKDWKHLVRQHRIWKH strongest contemporary readers of Merchant’s Joban subtexts.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


Job of Uz The shell of the Book of Job is an ancient prose narrative, its framing folktale of patience rewarded broken up by a long poetic and dramatic section in which Job refuses comforts of his friends, culminating in the sublime appearance of God himself from the whirlwind to both chastise and exonerate his servant. The prose narrative has spawned many legendary retellings and saintly cults, while the poetic sequence has tended to carry its more plaintive energy into liturgy, especially rites of the dead. Whereas the miraculous restorations of the prose frame imply a VLPSOHHWKLFVRIYLUWXHH[RQHUDWHGDQGUHZDUGHGWKHPRUHGLI¿FXOWDQGVXEVWDQWLDO interior sections grapple with the fact that good people can suffer without cause – the position put forth by Job himself, in the form of argument, but also through the gestural genres of lament, complaint, oath and curse, whose orchestrated pathos tests the limits of discourse. In the prose frame, Job suffers a cascade of losses, beginning with the destruction of his substance (sheep, cattle, camels, servants), followed by the FDWDVWURSKLFGHDWKRIKLVFKLOGUHQDQGHQGLQJLQ-RE¶VRZQDIÀLFWLRQZLWKDWHUULEOH skin disease. Property, posterity, health: these are the pillars of happiness in the patriarchal economy of Job’s world, systematically destroyed under the direction of Ha Satán (the Adversary) and with God’s permission. Job bears the loss of his property and his children with proverbial patience, turning to the routines of ritual for support: ‘Then Job arose, and rent his garment, and shaved his head, and fel downe upon the grounde, and worshiped’ (1:21).6 What catapults Job from prose into poetry, from patience into complaint, is not the death of his children, but, SHUKDSVVXUSULVLQJO\KLVDIÀLFWLRQZLWKVNLQGLVHDVHµ6R6DWiQGHSDUWHGIURPWKH presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boyels, from the sole of his fote unto his crowne. And he took a potsharde to scrape him, and he sate down among the ashes’ (2:6–8). After mourning with his wife and friends for seven days and seven nights, ‘Job opened his mouthe, and cursed his day,’ unleashing the central dialogue of the text. His bodily stigmata deliver a secondary wound, or rather a swarm of wounds, that both circles around and aggravates his earlier privations. -RE¶VVRUHVPRUHRYHUDUHQRWRQO\DSHUVRQDODIÀLFWLRQWKH\DOVRVHDOKLVORVVRI status in the community in which he had once been a master. He who had greeted WKH VWUDQJHU ± WKH SDWULDUFKDO RI¿FH RI KRVSLWDOLW\ SDU H[FHOOHQFH ± KDV KLPVHOI now become a pariah in his own household and in the alliance of households that make up the land of Uz (19:14–16). The sores of Job are a mappa mundi, indexing not only the sublime seriality of his suffering but also the abscessed corpus of the community itself, riven by privations that both require and repel social action.7 6

Unless otherwise noted, all references from the Bible are from the Geneva Bible, 1560 edition, facsimile prepared by Lloyd E. Berry (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). 7 Sara Wheaton has argued that the Book’s ‘existential and philosophical concerns are … [always] subject to its rhetorical, historical, and literary conditions.’ Sara Wheaton,

Job in Venice


The book opens like a fairy tale: ‘There was a man in the land of Uz called Job, and this man was an uprighte and juste man, one that feared God, and eschewed evil’ (1:1). Although commentators debate the location of Uz (‘Uz’ is notoriously ‘fuzzy’), they pretty much all agree that Uz is not in Israel, and that Job was not a Jew. For Jewish commentators, Job could become an emblem of suffering available to all people and peoples, while still subject to more particular DOOHJRUL]DWLRQDVD¿JXUHRI-HZLVKWULEXODWLRQV8 A secondary tradition casts Job as the son of Jacob and Dinah, and thus an Israelite, and we will see signs of a Jewish Job in Shakespeare’s Shylock. In Christianity, Job’s nativity outside Judaism as well as his references to a Redeemer and to resurrection (Job 19:25–6) made him LQWRD¿JXUHIRU*HQWLOHFRQYHUVLRQ)RU0XVOLPV-RE RUµ$\\XE¶ EHORQJHGWRD canon of holy prophets shared by all three religions of the Book. If Job like Abraham is a type of patriarchal hospitality, Job hails even further back to Noah. Noah and Job are both described as WƗP, ‘perfect,’ ‘blameless,’ DZRUGXVHGLQWKH7RUDKWRLGHQWLI\VDFUL¿FLDODQLPDOVLQDULWXDOFRQWH[W9 Like Noah, moreover, Job is associated with a minimal yet universal covenant: if the God of this text speaks of the wonders of Creation, he is also a God of Covenant, and Job appears to follow the Noahide laws established for all peoples after the Flood.10 Like Noah, Job belongs to a world of creatures: ‘Remember, I pray thee, that thou hast made me as the clay, and wilt thou bring me into dust again? Hast thou not powred me out as mylke? And turned me to [curds] like chese?’ ± 7KHPRVWSURYRFDWLYH¿JXUHRIWKHFUHDWXUHLQWKHWH[WKRZHYHULVWKH worm, whose supine body binds disease with creatureliness and with the life of the multitude; slimy and swarming, the worm breeds at the slippery threshold of life and death. In a passage that would spawn whole ecologies of cult and commentary, -REUHSUHVHQWVKLVOLYLQJÀHVKDVWHHPLQJZLWKZRUPVµ0\ÀHVKLVFORWKHGZLWK worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome’ (7:5; KJV). Later legends from rabbinic, Christian and Muslim traditions would recount that the transformation of Job’s sores extruded worms from their ulcerated openings. Humanly Persuading: George Herbert’s Rhetorical Lyrics (PhD diss., University of California, Irvine, 2008). 8 Robert Eisen examines the universalist and particularist dimensions of Jewish medieval commentators in a separate subsection of each chapter of his excellent study, The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 9 JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Chaim Potok (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), Vol. I, Genesis 6:9, note, p. 50. Robert S. Fyall notes the association of Job DQG1RDKDVZHOODVWKHVDFUL¿FLDOODQJXDJHµ+HLV³EODPHOHVV´ WƗP), a word used of clean DQLPDOVRIIHUHGIRUVDFUL¿FH HJ/HYLWLFXV± DZRUGZLWKRPLQRXVQXDQFHVLQ light of what follows.’ Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2002), p. 35. 10 In both rabbinic and Christian commentaries, Job was conceived as a ‘virtuous Gentile who kept the Noahide laws,’ the seven commandments given to Noah after the Flood as the legal requirements for all humanity. See Jason Rosenblatt, Renaissance England’s Chief Rabbi: John Selden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 154–7.


Visions of Venice in Shakespeare

These worms remind us to never lose sight of Job’s genuinely repulsive character, a feature essential to the medieval cults, with their dung heaps, plague sores, and worm mills. Moreover, it is not because Job suffers that his case becomes universal, but because he protests. Cranky, itchy, aggravated, and litigious, he insists on the injustice of his condition. Job is he who subjectivizes his sufferings without symbolizing them, turning them into a political possibility for others. Covenant gives Job something to fall back on when he makes his case. What covenant means for him is the fact that an agreement exists, he has maintained his side of the bargain, and that he has a case in court. Whether covenant is written on the body, in the form of circumcision, or on the tablets of the Law, as in the Decalogue and the Torah, or only in the rainbow that hovers above the UHFHGLQJÀRRGFRYHQDQWPHDQVWKDW*RGWRRLVDFFRXQWDEOHDQGVRWRRLVWKH community. Covenant invites protest. In Merchant, Shakespeare will focus on Job as the litigious subject of covenant (Shylock is Shakespeare’s ‘Jewish Job’), but DJDLQVWWKHEDFNGURSRIDFRPPRQFUHDWLRQGH¿QHGE\YXOQHUDELOLW\WRQHHGDQG to the Joban call to answer privation without rendering it meaningful. In Othello, Shakespeare will testify to the possibility of a Black Job, an Ayyub who is a Semite but not a Jew, and who suffers the passion of chesed or covenant-love perplexed to the extreme. The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare’s Venice colors the landscape of many of the major statements on the relation between religion, civil society and the state, including Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx’s ‘On the Jewish Question,’ and their resolute rejoinder in Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism.11 In its own eyes and in the eyes of Europe, Venice ZDV¿UVWDQGIRUHPRVWDUHSXEOLFLWVFRQVWLWXWLRQDOLVPGRFXPHQWHGDQGGHEDWHG in various political writings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Commonwealth and Government of Venice, written by Gasparo Contarini in 1544 and translated by Lewes Lewkenor in 1599, is often taken as an indicator of the kinds of political knowledge concerning Venice disseminated in the London of the 1590s.12 Presenting Venice as a model of civil justice, Contarini uses the language 11 On Shakespeare, Venice, and German letters, see Julia Reinhard Lupton, ‘Shakespeare’s Other Europe: Venice, the Jews, and Civil Society,’ Social Identities 7, 4 (2001): pp. 479–92. On Shakespeare, Marx and Merchant, see especially Richard Halpern, Shakespeare among the Moderns (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 159–86, and Stephen Greenblatt, ‘Marlowe, Marx, and Anti-Semitism,’ Critical Inquiry 5 (1978): pp. 40–58. 12 Gasparo Contarini, The Commonwealth and Government of Venice. Trans. Lewes Lewkenor (London, 1599. Reprinted Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; New York: Da Capo Press, 1969). For a use of the Lewkenor/Contarini text in order to elucidate the world of Merchant, see for example Thomas H. Luxon, ‘A Second Daniel: The Jew and the “True Jew” in The Merchant of Venice,’ Early Modern Literary Studies 4, 3 (1999): pp. 31–7.

Job in Venice


of consent to describe the founding of the republic. Citizens on the mainland, scattered by the invading Huns, took refuge in the lagoons, seeking there a safe abode for their wives and children, and as I may say their household gods. Afterwards, in the time of the kings, Charles and Pepin, all such as scatteringly inhabited these places, by common consent retired themselves into the Ryalta«RXUDQFHVWRUVIURPZKRPZHKDYHUHFHLYHGVRÀRXULVKLQJ a commonwealth, all in one did unite themselves in a consenting desire to HVWDEOLVKKRQRXUDQGDPSOL¿HWKHLUFRXQWU\13

Contarini’s discourse on Venice is distinctively humanist in its reliance on Aristotelian descriptions of the political life, its Virgilian echoes, and its resolute eschewal of Biblical references. Lacking both an Aeneas and a Moses, Contarini’s Venice leaps into republicanism through an act of constitutive self-assembly. The evocative phrase ‘consenting desire’ designates the civic-humanist scene of political consensus; its image of full harmony (of ‘concent’ in the musical sense) avoids the problem of divergent interests addressed in later contract theory, implying instead WKHULWXDOIRUPVRIDVVHQWDI¿UPDWLRQDQGHOHFWLRQSHUIRUPHGE\PHGLHYDOFLYLF and ecclesiastical bodies at moments of foundation and reconsecration. The Duke or Doge of Venice was elected from the ruling noble families HOLJLEOHIRUSXEOLFRI¿FHDQGKLVPDLQSRZHUZDVWRVHUYHH[RI¿FLRon all the major committees; although elected for life, his residence in the Ducal Palace was considered temporary, and he had no power to redecorate!14 Lewkenor’s translation captures the virtual and theatrical quality of the Ducal person: ‘The exterior shew of the prince in the Cittie of Venice delivereth to the eyes of the beholders the person of a king, and the very resemblance of a monarchie.’15 7KLV VSHFWUDOL]DWLRQ RI 'XFDO SULQFHOLQHVV ¿QGV LWV PRUWDO FRXQWHUSDUW LQ Lewkenor’s description of the rites surrounding the death of the Duke (one of several ‘Diverse Observations’ appended to Contarini’s text). Although marked 13

Contarini, pp. 4–5. On Renaissance Venice in English literature, see especially David McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1990). On political structures and civil ritual in Renaissance Venice, see especially Dennis Romano, Patricians and Popolani: The Social Foundations of the Venetian Renaissance State (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); and Oliver Logan, Culture and Society in Venice, 1470–1790: The Renaissance and Its Heritage (New York: Scribner, 1972). On the Jews of Venice, see David Malkiel, ‘The Ghetto Republic,’ in The Jews of Early Modern Venice, ed. Robert C. Davis and Benjamin Ravid (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), pp. 117–42; and Riccardo Calimani, The Ghetto of Venice, trans. Katherine Silberblatt Wolfthal (New York: M. Evans, 1987). Contarini notes that ‘this authoritie of his by lawes retracted, that alone hee may not doe any thing … the Duke of Venice is deprived of all means, whereby he might abuse his authoritie, or become a tyrant’ (p. 42). 15 Contarini, p. 37. 14

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


by various ceremonies, ‘there is in the Cittie of Venice no greater alteration at the death of their Duke, than at the death of any other private gentlemen.’ The dead Duke, moreover, is subjected to a post-mortem trial in order to determine ZKHWKHU µKH KDG REVHUYHG WKHLU FRXQWULHV ODZHV¶ ZLWK ¿QHV SDVVHG RQ WR KLV heirs if any infringements are found.16 The Duke may ‘shew’ like a prince, but he inhabits a single body only and he remains accountable to the law even in death, marking the republican difference between the Venetian constitution and the political theologies of neighboring monarchies, including Lewkenor’s own. Lewkenor, clearly seeing Contarini’s portrait of a mixed constitution headed by a limited prince as potentially compromising Elizabethan forms of rule, notes in a side gloss: Howsoever the successe hath allowed the government of Venice, either in regard of the smalnesse of their territory, or the strong situation of their cittie; yet there was never any example of any other great commonwealth but that did soone SHULVKE\WKHSOXUDOLWLHRIFRPPDQGHUVDOOJUHDWSKLORVRSKHUVFKLHÀ\H[WROOLQJ WKHPRQDUFK\DQGDOOFRXUVHRIWLPHVDQGH[DPSOHVFRQ¿UPLQJWKHLURSLQLRQ17

In Contarini’s text, Venice consistently emerges as a fundamentally ‘mixed’ body: constitutionally, it tempers monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic institutions, and demographically, its parti-colored ranks are swelled by migrants, merchants, and mercenaries from several nations and coasts. The residents of Venice include WKHQRELOLW\ZKRPRQRSROL]HWKHRI¿FHVRIJRYHUQPHQWWKHcittadini, who share LQ PLQRU RI¿FHV DQG WKH HODERUDWH FLYLF SDJHDQWU\ RI9HQHWLDQ VHOIJRYHUQPHQW on display, and a mixed multitude of artisans, servants, laborers and resident aliens.18 Although nativity into the city’s founding families was a prerequisite for nobility, naturalization into the middle and even the highest class was possible. As Contarini notes, ‘yea and some forrain men and strangers have been adopted into this number of citizens, eyther in regard of their great nobility, or that they had beene dutifull towards the state, or els had done unto them some notable service.’ If naturalization into the nobility was uncommon within the city proper, it was practiced freely in Venetian colonies: our ancesters held it a better course to defend their dominions upon the continent, with forreyn mercenarie souldiers, than with their homeborn citizens …. Some of which have attained to the highest degree of commandement in our army, and for the excedingnes of their deserts been enabled, with the title of citizens and gentlemen of Venice.19


Contarini, pp. 156–7. Contarini, p. 10. 18 Contarini uses the metaphor of the body politic to conceptualize both the constitutional and the demographic hybridization of Venice: pp. 16; 148–9. 19 Contarini, pp. 18, 131–2. 17

Job in Venice


Such passages evoke the civic crossings of Othello and Shylock, though full naturalization was apparently reserved for merchants and mercenaries of Catholic birth, not for Protestants or conversos. Trading privileges were, however, granted to New Christian, Jewish and Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Republic and later to Iberian Jews, allowing economic but not political equality among the mixed merchant classes of Venice.20 The Merchant of Venice has long been linked to the Book of Job. Like Job, Shylock has lost both property and posterity, his daughter and his ducats. In the Jewish tradition, children who marry out are symbolically dead, and parents sit shiva (ritually mourn) for them to mark their permanent exclusion from the circle of the living. ‘I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear!’ Shylock exclaims in a fantasy of restitution that serves to literalize rather than reverse the symbolic death of Jessica (3.1.80–81).21 Kenneth Gross associates Shylock’s cry at the realization of his daughter’s loss, ‘the curse never fell upon our nation till now, I never felt it till now … loss upon loss!’ (3.1.78–84) with the cascade of privations suffered by Job and their signifying logic, building on each other without equating forms of loss.22 Of all his Joban experiments, Shylock is Shakespeare’s most distinctively Jewish Job, signaling not only Job’s origins in the Hebrew Bible, but also the effective de-patriarching, the fall from a position of originary prestige and foundational hospitality that Israel has suffered in the European diaspora. By apprehending Job as a narrative of Jewish travails, 6KDNHVSHDUHGHOLYHUV6K\ORFNDVD¿JXUHRIKLVWRULFDODVZHOODVFRPPXQDODQG subjective suffering. Like Noah and Job, Shylock considers himself tam, blameless; modern audiences, especially Protestant ones, are, I think, inclined to acknowledge the power of Shylock’s claim, but also to see that assertion as a form of moral limit. (As Hamlet says, ‘use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?’)23 Both Shylock’s blamelessness and its constraints are drawn most clearly in the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech, which we can read with and against Job’s passionate self-defenses. When Shylock queries, ‘Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?’ (3.1.44–5) he asserts life itself, the life of the creature, as the ground he shares with those who humiliate him. This creaturely universalism does not simply belong to Christianity, as the higher truth that Christendom both owns and forgets, but rather functions as a common horizon of createdness shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. (We should not forget that Shylock’s query, ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’ echoes an earlier 20

Benjamin Ravid, Studies on the Jews of Venice, 1382–1797 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), p. 152. 21 Line quotations from The Merchant of Venice, which appear parenthetically in the text, are taken from the Arden edition, edited by John Russell Brown (London: Methuen, 1955). 22 Kenneth Gross, Shylock Is Shakespeare, p. 24. 23 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, The Arden Shakespeare (London: Thomson, 2006), 2.2.468.

Visions of Venice in Shakespeare


claim by the Prince of Morocco, suitor to one Portia of Belmont.) Yet Shylock’s defense is also spiked with allusions to covenant – the pricking of circumcision and the hunger regulated by dietary laws, two fundamental symbols of covenant in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. Bare life is always bound up with forms of life, which require cults and culture, a local habitation and a name, in order to be exercised or expressed at all. We cannot simply extract the creaturely moment from the covenantal one – bare life from the forms it bears – in order to distill the promise of Jewish humanism from the straitjacket of Jewish particularism. Saving Judaism from the Jews is no salvation at all. Like Job, Shylock is a creature of covenant, voicing from within the law both the conditions of his own substantial belonging to the nation of Israel and a universality born from disjunction to which the Christian characters in the play remain deaf. As Merchant moves forward, this Jewish Job progressively falls out of covenant, beginning with his decision to dine with Antonio and ending with his forced conversion to Christianity. Initially he refuses to eat, drink or pray with the Christians, agreeing only to walk and talk with them, asserting the segregating function of dietary laws – a separation sought by the Jews in order to maintain the lines of their own community as much as enforced by the Christians threatened by the specter of excessive contact.24 Later, however, Shylock agrees to attend the dinner party at Antonio’s, a possible violation of covenant (we don’t know whether he eats or not) that begins to expose, reduce and materialize Judaism as PHUH FXOWXUHZKLOHDOVRUHÀHFWLQJ6K\ORFN¶VRZQVXEMHFWLYHDQGFRPPXQDOGULIW While Shylock is at supper, Jessica elopes with her Christian boyfriend Lorenzo. It is as if the coincidence of these two events – the simultaneous crossing of Shylock and of Jessica from the ghetto into Christian territory – bore a causal relationship to each other: because Shylock leaves the house, Jessica abandons Judaism, and the patriarch loses his daughter, his ducats, and the forms of prestige and belonging they represent. Whereas Jessica’s passage traces an irreversible exodus, Shylock’s passage draws a loop. Crossing from the ghetto to the city and then back again,25 Shylock’s travails trace a ring that, like Job’s wounds, bears ZLWKLQLWWKHOLYLG¿JXUHRIKLVGHSDWULDUFKLQJµWKHFXUVHRI>KLV@QDWLRQ«QHYHU felt till now’ (3.1.78). There is actually a character named Job in the play: the clown Launcelot Gobbo (or Iobbe).26 Patricia Parker traces an intricate network of allusions and translations WKDW OLQN WKH QDPH RI /DXQFHORW RU /DQFHW  *REER WR ¿JXUHV RI FDVWUDWLRQ DQG circumcision, and hence of violence and community, in the play. She notes that: 24

See the argument by Joshua Holo, ‘Jews in the Ghetto and the Ghetto in Venice,’ presented at a conference on Shakespeare in Venice, hosted by the Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia at the Ateneo Veneto in Venice, October, 2007. 25 For a different discussion of boundary-crossing in Merchant see Laura Tosi’s chapter ‘Shakespeare, Jonson and Venice’ in this volume (pp. 143–65). 26 See the Folio: ‘Iobbe, Launcelet Iobbe, good Launcelet, or good Iobbe, or good Launcelet Iobbe’ (for 1.2.3–6). Q1 and F both read ‘Iobbe’; Q2 reads ‘Gobbo.’

Job in Venice


the lancelet or lancet used for lancing apostumations or boils was at the same WLPH WKH PDWHULDO LQVWUXPHQW LGHQWL¿HG ZLWK WKH ODQFLQJ RI WKH ERLOV RI -RE D SLYRWDO¿JXUH DVD*HQWLOHIURPWKH+HEUHZVFULSWXUHV IRUWKHPRYHPHQWIURP the Old Testament to the New – one of the reasons that Lancelet himself bears the surname ‘Iobbe’ or Job.27

/RZHOO*DOODJKHUVXJJHVWVWKDW*REER¶VJLIWRIWZRGRYHVµ¿JXUHFRQVSLFXRXVO\ as covenantal signs of divine care,’28 an image that once more binds Job and Noah as participants in a primitive universality, its horizon traced by the sideways burrowings of the worm and its vertical dimension marked by the singular cut of a God who covenants with creation itself. Although Gallagher and Parker approach the play from very different portals, Gallagher addressing the theology of the gift and Parker practicing a more culturalist philology, both critics unveil Shakespeare’s Venice as a scene in which religion shifts between the particular habitations of cult and neighborhood and the universal names of God, creation and the stigmata of citizenship. In both Shakespearean drama and Western political theory, Venice exists at the crossroads of the universal and the particular, a scene of cosmopolitan exchange enabled by geographical exceptionalism. Venice’s constitution, admired and dissected by European observers, could become a light onto the nations, replicating the role of Israel itself in Western political theology. The dénouement of the trial scene proffers a cruel parody of the comic ending that resolves the Book of Job. The court has exacted Shylock’s wealth from him as a penalty, and then partially restores it, but on the condition that he convert to Christianity, and that his money go to Jessica and Lorenzo upon his death. The ruling UHFRQVWLWXWHV6K\ORFN¶VKRXVHKROGLQERWKLWVKXPDQDQGLWV¿GXFLDU\GLPHQVLRQV comically translating the story of Job from its Hebrew site of enunciation to its IXO¿OOPHQW LQ &KULVWLDQ VDOYDWLRQ KLVWRU\