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Number 31 in this series. Link to all items here.

SHAKESPEARE. These two related items have been combined here onto a single page.

entry Jan 2010
Essere o non essere...mamma mia...atsa questione!

We may add another name to the long list of candidates who—says an underwhelming body of fringe scholars—must have written the works of William Shakespeare. The list so far includes the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere; philosopher and writer, Francis Bacon; playwright, Christopher Marlowe; playwright, Ben Jonson; Sir Walter Raleigh; and Queen Elizabeth I. My personal favorite is Marlowe because he would have had to fake his death in a tavern brawl in 1593 and then to have written under a pseudonym for reasons that we are not at liberty to reveal, but "thereby hangs a tale!" I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I’m just glad that someone wrote the works of Shakespeare, the same way I’m glad that someone wrote Mozart’s Piano Concerto n. 21, even if it was his butcher.

Anyway, the fringe arguments against Shakespeare can be hastily boiled down to these: he didn’t have enough education, and he couldn’t possibly have known all that stuff about Italy that whoever wrote Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice clearly knew.

For the first part, how could the poorly educated son of a glove maker have written Hamlet? I don’t know. I also don't know how a poorly educated bastard could have painted The Last Supper (when he wasn’t designing helicopters). Or how a lackadaisical student could have come up with the Theory of Relativity. Maybe some people are just good at things. Interestingly, at least one other under-educated dolt, Mark Twain, was on the fringe side in this debate (in Is Shakespeare Dead?), but no one seems to know if the Bard of Hannibal really believed any of that or if he was just being an ornery contrariant (who—Mark Twain?!).

For the second part, Shakespeare had ample recourse to such things as the Palace of Pleasure by William Painter, a collection of Painter’s translations of “Pleasant Histories and excellent Novelles…out of divers good and commendable authors...” that provide the Italian settings and plots for much Elizabethan drama. The collection was cobbled together by Painter from many Italian sources including Boccaccio, Gian Francesco Straparola, and Matteo Bandello. And traditional scholarship points out the obvious: Shakespeare’s contemporaries say(!) he wrote the works we attribute to him.  

The most recent theory is that Shakespeare was a Sicilian! Professor Martino Iuvara, 71, a retired teacher of literature, claims (in Shakespeare era Italiano, pub. Ispica. Ragusa, Sicily, 2002) that the Bard was really Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza, born in Messina in 1564 to a doctor, Giovanni Florio, and a noblewoman named Guglielma Crollalanza. The parents had Calvinist sympathies and fled with their infant son to Treviso, near Venice, to escape the Inquisition. There they bought Casa Otello, built by a retired Venetian mercenary called Otello (Othello) who, according to local legend, had killed his wife out of jealousy. The young bard-to-be then studied in Venice, Padua, and Mantua, and travelled in Denmark, Greece, Spain, and Austria. He was befriended by the philosopher, Giordano Bruno, who, says Iuvara, had ties with William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Southampton. In 1588, at age 24, Michelangelo went to England under their patronage. His mother, Guglielma Crollalanza, had an English cousin at Stratford, who took the boy in. The Stratford branch had already translated their name as Shakespeare, and had a son called William, who died prematurely. Michelangelo, says Iuvara, took the name for himself, becoming William Shakespeare.

As one who has taught English as a Foreign Language to thousands of young Italians, I don't think a 24-year-old EFL learner could have written, But thy eternal summer shall not fade/ Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;/ Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,/When in eternal lines to time thou growest:/So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/So long lives this and this gives life to thee. (Or maybe I just had the wrong students.) Also, it is curious that the professor says the name ‘Shakespeare’ is a translation of the Italian surname, Crollalanza. Crollare equals ‘break,’ says he, and lanza comes from lancia, meaning ‘spear.’ The only thing Shake-y here is the prof’s English. Crollare does not mean ‘shake.' Scrollare (with the initial s) means 'shake.' Crollare means ‘collapse’ and by squeaky, generous extension, ‘break’. Thus, maybe we are looking for ‘Breakspeare.’ Is there such a name as Breakspeare? Of course. For two, Nicholas Breakspeare, the one and only English Pope (from 1154 to 1159), and his (maybe) cousin, Boso, (pronounced ‘Bozo.’ I’m not kidding—Bozo Breakspeare), who was a cardinal.

In the spirit of the German woman who once assured me that "sein oder nicht sein..." (to be or not to be) was by Goethe, I offer up a compromise solution: Crollalanza moved to England and became the Pope 500 years earlier. And Goethe? Not a chance. Hoping against hope, I shall now google every German phone book I can find to look for the name Schaukellanze or Schaukelspeer. You see, I have this theory...

added March 28, 2011

Shakespeare & Garibaldi—Etymology Unbound!

This is not the theory I refer to (above), but it's probably just as good. In his journal, La Critica. Rivista di Letteratura, Storia e Filosofia (n. 17, 1919), Neapolitan historian and philosopher, Benedetto Croce, wrote an essay entitled "Shakespeare, Napoli, e la Commedia Napoletana dell'Arte" [Shakespeare, Naples, and the Neapolitan Commedia dell'Arte]. I learned that (1) in The Tempest, the name, Trinculo, (one of the characters) exists only in Neapolitan dialect and (2) that the island in The Tempest may be Lampedusa—unless it's Bermuda! Croce also has a bit of fun with what he calls an "extravagant" piece of scholarship, "one of the many that come to us from the distant places and the erudite world of Shakespeariana." It has to do with the etymology of the name Shakespeare. Croce cites a German source: Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare Gesellschaft [Yearbook of the German Shakespeare Society], vol. XX, 1885, pp. 335-336. When Croce calls something "extravagant," he is being skeptical. (It's hard to tell if he is actually laughing.) He adds, simply, that "Here's one that is curious for us Italians."

Croce finds curious the theory that the names Shakespeare and Garibaldi mean the same thing! Gariwald or Gerwald was the name of a Bavarian duke from the sixth century. In France, that name became the surnames, Giraud, Gerault, etc. and then passed with the Normans into England in the form of Gerald, a name that survives in compounds such as Fitzgerald. The original ducal name, Gerwald, is claimed to come from old German roots ger and wald, meaning, respectively, (1) spear and (2) wield, brandish, or shake. Thus, Garibaldi means Shakespeare.

I did some checking. Indeed, there is an old English (i.e. Anglo-Saxon) form, wald, meaning wield in modern English. Presumably it has an old Germanic equivalent way down yonder in Bavaria. I don't know if wield means the same as shake, but in the world of goofy etymology, anything is plausible! Ger in the meaning of spear? Well, there is an old Germanic root, gar (also ger)—cognate of the modern English gear—used to indicate general armor or warlike accoutrements—such as shield, lance or spear. Thus, Garibaldi and Shakespeare might really be the same name.

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