John Florio - Shakespeare Authorship Theory

Shakespeare Authorship Theory

Florio is one of many individuals who has been identified as the real author of the works of William Shakespeare by advocates of the Shakespeare authorship question. In 1921 his father was proposed as a candidate. However, according to Canadian-Italian writer Lamberto Tassinari, Florio's own vitality, wit, education, learning, facility with a wide vocabulary and with Italian literature, offered him the opportunity to refine the language through playwriting.

According to Tassinari, both Florio and Shakespeare shared a fascination with Italy, with proverbs and with enriching English. Both were attracted to the Court, monarchs and aristocrats. In John Florio’s biography, unlike Shakespeare’s, there is absolute historical evidence of a close liaison with the aristocracy and the court. The Earl of Southampton was Florio’s pupil and later patron, John Florio also became the personal secretary, language teacher and groom of the Privy Chamber to Queen Anne from 1603 till her death in 1619. Florio, writing under the pen name of Shake-speare, suggests Tassinari, intended to enrich the English culture with ideas and words from the Italian culture and language but adopted clumsy phrases like “mi perdonato” (The Taming of the Shrew, 1.1.25) or “Si fortune mi tormente, sperato me contento”! (Titus Andronicus, 2,4, 179), to avoid being identified as an Italian and also to give his audience simpler and comprehensible expressions in a foreign language.

Scott McCrea, author of The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question (2005), reviewing Tassinari's book declared that it is full of "inconsistencies and ridiculous logic". McCrea refers to Tassinari’s argument that Shakespeare purposely massacres the Italian language because Florio is "concealing his identity by mangling his Italian", a claim which, according to McCrea, contradicts "his mission of improving English culture". McCrea compares Florio's own poetry to Shakespeare's, observing that "Reading Shakespeare alongside Florio makes one painfully aware of how beautiful and poetic even the two dedications to Southampton are, and how prosaic and fundamentally different is Florio's mind."

Tassinari in his book states that Florio’s style was highly appreciated, first by his friend playwright Ben Jonson and poet, brother in law, Samuel Daniel; then by Florio’s biographers Clara Longworth de Chambrun (1921), Frances Yates (1934) and critics Felix Otto Matthiessen (1931) and André Koszul (1931). Among the most authoritative critics is T.S. Eliot, to whom Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essays is a classic of English literature, second only to the translation of King James’s Bible.

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