Reason Number 24 of 100 Why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” – His & the Bard’s Deep Knowledge of Italy

For anyone interested in Shakespeare, and particularly the study of Shakespearean authorship, this coming Tuesday, November 8, 2011, is a landmark on the calendar.  That’s the official publication date of a book that could – and should – break down the rigid walls of Stratfordian tradition as more and more people demand some better explanations.

"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" by Richard Paul Roe

This potential bombshell is The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels, by Richard Paul “Dick” Roe, who died December 1, 2010 in Pasadena at eighty-eight, having spent the last quarter-century of his life traveling the length and breadth of Italy on what the publisher, HarperCollins, aptly describes as “a literary quest of unparalleled significance.”

“If you take a map of Italy and grab ten push pins and put them in ten cities, that’s essentially Shakespeare’s Italy,” said Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare by Another Name, in a BBC interview, adding, “That to me is quite a remarkable happenstance.”

And now, in honor of the imminent release of Dick Roe’s masterwork, it’s also the twenty-fourth reason on this list to believe that the Earl of Oxford wrote the Shakespeare works.

When Edward de Vere traveled through Italy at age twenty-five during 1575, he and his retinue skirted Spanish-controlled Milan before navigating by canal and a network of rivers on a 120-mile journey to Verona.  His travels took him to Padua, Venice, Mantua, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Naples, Florence, Messina, Palermo and elsewhere, making his home base in Venice.

Aside from three stage works set in ancient Rome (Corianlanus, Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar), ten of Shakespeare’s fictional plays are set in Italy – Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello (Act One), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (adduced), All’s Well That Ends Well (also France), Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest (which opens aboard a ship in the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy).

Verona, Italy

On the other hand, only one play of fiction (The Merry Wives of Windsor) is set in England … an astounding ten-to-one ratio!  Why?  The only logical answer, I submit, is that “Shakespeare” (whoever he was!) must have fallen in love with Italy.  And I’d think it would be pretty hard to fall in love with a country without ever visiting it!

Oxfordians have often said that Edward de Vere “brought the European Renaissance back to England” when he returned in 1576 after fifteen months of travel through France, Germany and, most extensively, Italy.  He became the quintessential “Italianate Englishman” wearing “new-fangled” clothes* of the latest styles.

Verona

He brought richly embroidered, perfumed gloves for Queen Elizabeth, who delighted in them, and such gloves became all the rage among the great ladies of the time.  And, for example, he brought back his perfumed leather jerkin (a close-fitting, sleeveless jacket) and “sweet bags” with costly washes and perfumes.

Soon enough John Lyly, who was Oxford’s personal secretary and stage manager, issued two novels about an Italian traveler – Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and his England (1580), the latter dedicated to Edward de Vere, who apparently supervised the writing of both books.  Together they are said to comprise “the first English novel” and, yes, in the following decade the great author “Shakespeare” would demonstrate Lyly’s influence upon some of his plays.

"Shakespeare" demonstrates knowledge of the Italian comedy form known as "Commedia Dell'Arte" -- Edward de Vere must have attended shows of the "Commedia" during his time in Venice

“There is a secret Italy hidden in the plays of Shakespeare,” Roe begins the Introduction of his ground-breaking book.   “It is an ingeniously-described Italy that has neither been recognized, nor even suspected – not in four hundred years – save by a curious few.  It is exact; it is detailed; and it is brilliant.”

The descriptions to be found in the Italian plays are in “challenging detail” and “nearly all their locations” can be found to this day.  Whoever wrote them “had a personal interest in that country equal to the interest in his own.”  The places and things in Italy to which Shakespeare alludes or which he describes “reveal themselves to be singularly unique to that one country.”  His familiarity with Italy’s sites and sights – “specific details, history, geography, unique cultural aspects, places and things, practices and propensities” and so on – “is, quite simply, astonishing.”

Roe never mentions Oxford or any other Shakespearean candidate; instead he takes us right away to Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and recounts making one trip to search for – sycamore!  That’s right, he went to find sycamore trees, and they would have to be located in one specific spot — “just outside the western wall” as “remnants of a grove that had flourished in that one place for centuries.”

A canal in Italy

The trees are described in the very opening scene –

Where, underneath the grove of sycamore

That westward rooteth from the city’s side…

There are no sycamore trees in any of the known source materials for the play; and “no one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona.”

So our intrepid detective-explorer arrives in the old city of Verona: “My driver took me across the city, then to its edge on the Viale Cristoforo Colombo.  Turning south onto the Viale Colonnello Galliano, he began to slow.  This was the boulevard where, long before and rushing to the airport at Milan, I had glimpsed trees, but had no idea what kind.”

His car creeps along the Viale and then comes to a halt.  Are there sycamores at the very same spot where “Shakespeare” said they were?  Did this playwright, who is said to be ignorant of Italy, know this “unnoted and unimportant but literal truth” about Verona?  Had he deliberately “dropped an odd little stone about a real grove of trees into the pool of his powerful drama”?

I’m sure you know the answer …

Dick Roe took this photograph outside the Porta Palio, one of Verona's three western gates; and yes, sycamore trees

* “New-fangled” clothing:

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,

Some in their garments though new-fangled ill … Sonnet 91

“Shakespeare’s Guide to Italy” has a dozen chapters, each with more amazing personal discoveries proving that the great author had to have been there:

1 – Romeo and Juliet – “Devoted Love in Verona”

2 – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – part one – “Sailing to Milan”

3 – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – part two – “Milan: Arrivals and Departures”

4 – The Taming of the Shrew – “Pisa to Padua”

5 – The Merchant of Venice – part one – “Venice: the City and the Empire”

6 – The Merchant of Venice – part two – “Venice: Trouble and Trial”

7 – Othello – “Strangers and Streets, Swords and Shoes”

8 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – “Midsummer in Sabbioneta”

9 – All’s Well That Ends Well – “France and Florence”

10 – Much Ado About Nothing – “Misfortune in Messina”

11 – The Winter’s Tale – “A Cruel Notion Resolved”

12 – The Tempest – “Island of Wind and Fire”

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Shakespeare and Italy….a beautiful combination. toni

    • Yes, a wonderful combo. You have a beautiful website and I recommend it to all. Cheers from Hank

      • Thank you Hank. Have a wonderful day. Toni

  2. Hank….I have been studying Shakespeare for years and casually studying De Vere for a few less and every time I read one of your recent blogs, information I have gathered is reinforced or I learn something new entirely! Thank you! Keep up the great work!

    (p.s. – The storm this weekend destroyed my planned first viewing of ‘Anonymous’! :-*( ….I am planning on a weekend jaunt to the cinema for a splendid escape!)

    • Thanks, Chris. Hope you’ve recovered from the storm. We had a few candlelight nights. Enjoy yourself at the movies!

  3. Venice is significant. Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. Oxford might have been gathering more than the sights and sounds if he was working for his guardian/father in law/British intelligence chief Cecil. This hypothesis dovetails with Lilian Winstanley’s book “`Othello’ as the tragedy of Italy: showing that Shakespeare’s Italian contemporaries interpreted the story of the Moor and the lady of Vencie as symbolizing their country in the grip of Spain” (yes, that is the full title). Please bear in mind that the Treaty of Lepanto which concluded the war between the Ottomans and the West (and is alluded to in Othello II, ii, 20-22) only three years earlier in 1572 when the gentleman from Stratford was only eight years old and a young genius who would of course understand then the significance and 30 years later when he wrote the play in part based on that event, or am I being a snob for saying that?

    James Harrington in 1656 wrote the Commonwealth of Ocean, the purpose being to design an English constitution off of Venice’s. Harrington was of positive influence on our founding fathers.

    In 1831, James Fenimore Cooper wrote the novel “The Bravo” about Venetian policy. The book is worth reading (and I am not a big fan of the Natty Bumpo series). The spy in Bravo is named Jacobo, which is Italian for James.

  4. It’s a great joy with all these new excellent Authorship books. Chiljan’s book is really great and I’m so much looking forward to this one as well.

    Cheers

    Mikael


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