Italian Studies 204: Shakespeare’s Italy: Books and Readers in the Anglo-Italian Renaissance

Instructor: Professor Diego Pirillo

‘Inglese italianato è un diavolo incarnato’ (an Italianate Englishman is a devil incarnate), Roger Ascham famously said in the Schoolmaster (1570), blaming the ‘Italianate Englishmen’ for spending their time reading Petrarch and Machiavelli rather than the Bible. Despite Ascham’s attack on the ‘Italianate Englishmen’, the influence of Renaissance Italy in early modern England remained wide and persistent, as is clear to any reader of the Merchant of Venice or Romeo and Juliet. This seminar will not simply look at Shakespeare’s Italian sources but will investigate more broadly the Tudor and Stuart encounter with Renaissance Italy, examining its cultural, religious and political implications. Special attention will be given not only to canonical authors (Shake-speare, Sidney, Bacon, Machiavelli, Castiglione, Ariosto, Bruno, Montaigne and others) but also to the system through which books were disseminated and received, bringing to light the crucial role played by publishers, translators, readers, censors and other cultural go-betweens. The entire seminar will be hosted by the Bancroft Library and will give students the opportunity to access its collections and to learn new methodologies for the study of books as material objects.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills the Critical Approaches and Methodology requirement for the DE in REMS. It may also count as an elective.