Such Fruits Out of Italy:
The Italian Renaissance in Shakespeare’s Plays and Poems
By Noemi Magri, PhD
Germany: Verlag Laugwitz, 2014, 302 pages
Illustrated, with notes and bibliography
$12.95 plus $2.95 for postage in the US
|n Italian scholar has answered a 400 year old question – are the allusions to Italian language, culture and geography in William Shakespeare’s works accurate or imagined? The answer, according to the late Noemi Magri, PhD, is definitive, the result of the Bard’s experience while living in Italy and his knowledge of Italian history.
Such Fruits Out of Italy is the product of 15 years research by the Italian Fulbright scholar (New York University, 1985) and instructor of English at Mantua’s ITIS School, who passed away in May 2011. The book, a compilation of articles which appeared in British and American publications starting in 1998, has been welcomed by Shakespeare scholars.
“Noemi Magri's combination of a detailed first-hand knowledge of Italian geography, architecture, art, and history with a cool-headed, rigorous approach to scholarship results in the kind of dazzling criticism that is rare in Shakespeare studies,” stated Warren Hope, Professor of English at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. “She is unlike those traditional Shakespeare scholars who, as she says, ‘rejoice’ in finding factual errors in Shakespeare. Instead, she rejoices in finding the reality that is behind Shakespeare's work. Her identification of the actual paintings described in the Induction to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is a tour de force, but her whole book crackles with the passion of discovery. It is not to be missed.”
Dr. Magri’s research yielded the following discoveries:
- That transportation among the northern Italian cities in the 16th century was conducted mostly through a complex network of canals that connected the streams and tributaries of the Po and Adige Rivers to one another. The references in Two Gentlemen of Verona of travelingfrom Verona to Milan by boat was not only feasible but the preferred way to travel between inland cities in northern Italy.
- That the primary source of Shakespeare’s narrative poem, Venus and Adonis, was not Ovid’s Metamorphoses or even Titian’s painting of Venus and Adonis in the Prado Museum, but a unique version of the same painting by Titian held by the artist in Venice until his death, now in the National Gallery of Palazzo Barberini in Rome.
- That the identity of the three wanton paintings described by Shakespeare in the Induction toThe Taming of the Shrew areVenus and the Rose by Luca Penni; Io by Correggio; and Apollo and Daphne by an anonymous artist.
- That the historical location of Belmont in The Merchant of Venice was the Villa Foscari on the Brenta River, designed by the Italian architect, Palladio.
- That the historical location of Saint Jacques Le Grand in All’s Well That Ends Well was San Giacomo Maggiore, near Florence, Italy – not Santiago de Compostela in France.
- That the historical location of Othello and Desedoma’s house in Venice – the Saggitary – was on the Frezzaria near St. Mark’s Square – the street where arrows were made and sold.
- That the historical location of Illyria in Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale was Epirus, or Byzantine Illyria, ruled by the Orsini family for centuries. The Orsini were Dukes but, like Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, Counts as well. Specifically, the Orisini of Epirus were Counts of Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca.
- That The Murder of Gonzago in Hamlet was based on the actual murder of the Duke of Urbino in Venice, who had poison poured in his ears, just as the King in Hamlet.
Michael Delahoyde, Clinical Professor of English at Washington State University, was equally appreciative. “Not only does Noemi Magri assure us that ‘Nothing in Shakespeare is meaningless,’ she shows this to be the case with numerous overlooked or misinterpreted details regarding Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of Italy: its art, geography, politics, law, etymologies, and more. Collecting Magri's work into one volume here, Such Fruits Out of Italy is a treasury of Shakespearean discoveries, and a triumph of scholarship.”
Those interested can assess the research by sampling one of the chapters from the book – Identifying the Historical Location of Belmont in The Merchant of Venice.
The author graduated Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, and later devoted her PhD dissertation to Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, producing a new critical edition based on the first four editions of that Elizabethan book of sonnets. For most of her professional career, she taught English at Mantua’s ITIS School and then trained the English instructors at ITIS. She also promoted English language and literature in Italian schools as an officer of the Anglo-Italian Society.
In tribute to the book’s focus on the aesthetics of the Italian Renaissance, the text has been set in the new digital reproduction of the lost metal typeface of the Doves Press in London (1900-1916), released in 2013. Originally commissioned in 1899 by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, punchcutter Edward Prince’s single-sized 16 point type, used in all of the press’s publications, was a key element of the Press’s influence on modern book design. Among its publishing achievements were a five-volume Bible, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Goethe’s Faust, and Emerson’s Essays, plus several Shakespeare works, such as Hamlet, the Sonnets, Julius Cesar and Anthony and Cleopatra.
It took British designer Robert Green three years to revive, and the digital version’s type font scales as required. Verlag Laugwitz of Germany is proud to present Such Fruits Out of Italy in this rejuvenated and legendary typeface.
Verlag Laugwitz is a German publisher specializing in the literature of the English Renaissance, headed by Dr. Uwe Laugwitz. It has brought out German translations of four plays by Christopher Marlowe as well as five Shakespeare plays, the latter by Frank-Patrick Steckel, including Othello and A Midsummer’s Night Dream in 2014. Among its recent critical titles are Shakespeare’s Education by Professor Robin Fox of Rutgers University (2012) and The Lame Storyteller by the late Colonel Peter Moore, US Army (2010).
A discount of 15% applies on orders of 12 or more copies.
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