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Elizabethan Translations From the Italian

Elizabethan Translations From the Italian

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Excerpt from Elizabethan Translations From the Italian: The Titles of Such Works Now First Collected and Arranged, With Annotations

All readers of the Elizabethan drama must have noticed the profound influence of the Italian literature of the Renaissance upon the poets of that time. Some of the playwrights, like Greene and Munday, were men of travel, "Italianated" Englishmen, who returned home with their heads full of the ideas and culture of the South. Ford and Marston do not hesitate to introduce Italian dialogue into their plays, for many of the dramatists were University men, and the Italian language was studied at Oxford and Cambridge along with Latin and Greek. The scholarly Ascham, inveighing against the Italian leanings of his countrymen, in The Schoolmaster, yet confesses, - "not because I do contemne either the knowledge of strange and diverse tonges, and namelie the Italian tonge, which nexte the Greeke and Latin tonge I like and love above all others."

Spenser, in his Dedicatory Epistle to Sir Walter Raleigh, prefixed to The Faery Queene, ranks the Italian poets Ariosto and Tasso with Homer and Vergil. Marlowe was remembered, even by Shakspere, not as the author of Faustus or of Edward II., but of Hero and Leander, a poem written in the most perfervid Italian manner. Shakspere's own Venus and Adonis was more popular in its day and generation than Hamlet, if we may judge by the evidence of editions. It was printed six times during the poet's life, while Hamlet only reached four editions. I. Henry IV., apparently the most popular Shaksperean play on the Elizabethan stage, came to five editions in the same time.

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