Who Really Wrote Shakespeare's Plays Michel Angelo Florio

About the controversy over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, supporters and arguments for and against Michel Angelo Florio.



Supporters: A fortune-teller in 1925 told Santi Paladino that he would startle the world with an important revelation. Paladino brooded and believed; the result, four years later, was his book Shakespeare sarebbe il pseudonimo di un poeta italiano?, in which Paladino claimed that Florio had authored the Shakespearean works in Italian. John Florio, Michel Angelo's son and a prominent Italian-English scholar, then translated the works into English; and actor William Shakespeare arranged for publication under his own name for the senior Florio.

Paladino organized a National Shakespeare Academy, which was banned by the Italian Fascist authorities in 1930. He returned to the arena in 1955, however, with Un italiano autore delle opere Shakespeariane, considering his "revelation" a matter of Italian national pride.

Who Was Florio? Born in Italy of Jewish ancestry, Florio lived in exile for much of his life. He entered the Franciscan order as a young man, but was defrocked for an unknown offense and also imprisoned. Becoming a Protestant convert, he went as a Calvinist refugee to England, where he fathered John Florio and tutored Lady Jane Grey, England's nine-day queen. Later he wrote an affectionate biography of her. He spent his last years again out of religious favor.

Arguments For: The entire theory is based on the detailed knowledge of Italy shown in the plays, especially in Love's Labour's Lost and The Merchant of Venice. An author who could demonstrate the exacting geographical and cultural familiarity displayed in these plays, yet have published them for English audiences, must have emerged from a unique background--precisely the background of Florio. As an exile whom experience or paranoia had taught to value anonymity, Florio had at his disposal a scholar-son to translate and a handy actor-agent to lend name and negotiating talents.

Other theorists give John Florio (c. 1553-c. 1625) the honor of Shakespearean authorship. Phrasing in The Tempest and King Lear bears many similarities to his translation of Montaigne's Essays, and Montaigne's thought is evident in the searching introspection of Hamlet.

Arguments Against: Most Shakespearean scholars believe that Shakespeare gained his knowledge of Italy and the Italian language from John Florio, who not only authored Italian grammars, but owned an extensive library of Italian works that the playwright probably consulted. Since John Florio was employed as the tutor of Shakespeare's patron, the Earl of Southampton, in 1591, Shakespeare probably knew him well. The playwright may even have satirized his friend in the character of Holofernes, the pedantic schoolmaster, in Love's Labour's Lost.

Shakespeare undoubtedly borrowed much from John Florio's translation of Montaigne for his plays, but no evidence indicates that either Florio wrote plays.

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