Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 21, 1902
“There are substantial reasons for believing that Shakespeare was also one of Florio’s friends (…) We have collected various points of indirect evidence showing Shakespeare’s familiarity with these manuals [“First Fruits” e “Second Fruits”], but these being numerous and minute cannot be given here. (…) It is the book [“First Fruits”] that Shakespeare would naturally have used in attempting to acquire knowledge of the language after his arrival in London. (…)
Shakespeare would thus have the opportunity of making Florio’s acquaintance at the outset of his London career, and everything tends to show that he did not miss the chance of numbering amongst his personal friends so accomplished a scholar, so alert, energetic, and original a man of letters, as the resolute John Florio.”
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Longworth Chambrun, 1921 Giovanni Florio. Un apôtre de la Renaissance en Angleterre à l’époque de Shakespeare,.
Le lecteur constatera que le poète anglais et le grammairien italien employaient les mêmes tournures, presque les mêmes phrases, quand ils s’adressaient à leur protecteur commun, Southampton (p. 103).
Le voisinage du grammarien et son influence indirecte sur le dramaturge suffit à expliquer bien des mystères, et rend inutile les théories baconiennes ou autres de ceux qui s’obstinent à croire que ce n’est pas le « Stratfordien » qui a écrit Shakespeare. Qu’on ne m’accuse pas de vouloir remplacer Bacon, Rutland ou le sixième comte de Derby, par Florio. Les travaux de ce dernier fournissent par eux-mêmes l’évidence que le grammairien était incapable de produire une oeuvre dramatique de quelque envolée.
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George Coffin Taylor, 1925 Shakespere’s Debt to Montaigne.
When the number of expressions in Shakspere, and the number of the thoughts in Shakspere, which could never have taken on their final form but for a previous reading of Montaigne, [translated by John Florio] are borne in mind, it may well be asked whether any other single work that Shakspere read influenced him in so many differerent plays and in so great a variety of ways – words, phrases, passages, thoughts (p. 42)
. The strong influence in The Tempest is inexplicable, except on the theory that Shakspere returned for a brief interval to his reading of Montaigne (p. 32).
Shakspere was most profoundly and extensively affected by the Florio Montaigne in every way immediately after he had first had the opportunity to become familiar with the work in its entirety, […] Shakspere bore Montaigne’s marks upon him to the grave. In what respects did Montaigne affect him? Practically in every respect in which a dramatist would naturally be affected by an essayist…
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André Koszul, 1931 L’offrande d’un traducteur, in Revue Anglo-Américaine.
Mais certes nos listes antérieures montrent aussi, et plus clairement encore, que malgré ces quelques traces d’une discrétion relative, Florio est essentiellement un importateur et un innovateur hardi, hardi souvent jusqu’à la témérité. Bien plutôt qu’à la famille des « puristes » il appartient à cette grande tribu des hommes de la Renaissance qui en tous pays pensaient un peu comme notre Ronsard. « Plus nous aurons de mots en nostre langue, plus elle sera parfaitte. »
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Felix Otto Matthiessen, 1931 Translation: an Elizabethan art.
Florio’s greatest gift was the ability to make his book come to life for the Elizabethan imagination. (…) Florio creates a Montaigne who is an actual Elizabethan figure (p.141).
The Zeitgeist breathed through him (p. 130).
It would be dangerous to press too for the striking similarities (p.162). [between Shakespeare and Florio]
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Frances A. Yates, 1934 John Florio. The life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England,
The number, variety and picturesqueness of the English equivalents which Florio manages to collect for each Italian word are remarkable. This task brought home to him the wealth of English (…) The collection of so many English equivalents for each word must have involved at least as wide a reading in English as in Italian. To have found time in a busy life of teaching for such a vast and valuable work predicates in Florio an unwearying industry and an absolutely genuine devotion to letters (p.190).
It is very probable that Shakespeare had sometimes occasion to study this dictionary (p. 268).
Clearly Florio’s Italian lessons were designed, not only to teach Italian, but also to lead up to a refinement, a polish, an elaboration in the learner’s English style (pp. 40-41).
One is again and again reminded that Florio was Shakespeare’s contemporary and that they had the taste for words in common. (…) The way is now clear for an entirely fresh consideration of the whole problem of Florio’s relations with Shakespeare. This book, which is dedicated to the impartial consideration of the facts of Florio’s life, is not the place for such a study, which must contain some controversial elements, but the following is a brief outline of an argument which I hope to develop at length elsewhere.
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Jonathan Bate, 1998, The Genius of Shakespeare
The belief that Shakespeare’s works were actually written by Florio is harder to refute than the case for any aristocrat’s authorship – but because Florio was not an Englishman, the case for him has never made much headway. Except in Italy, of course…
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Stephen Greenblatt, 2005 Will in the World.
Born in London, the son of Protestant refugees from Italy, Florio had already published several language manuals, along with a compendium of six thousand Italian proverbs; he would go on to produce an important Italian-English dictionary and a vigorous translation, much used by Shakespeare, of Montaigne’s Essays. Florio became a friend of Ben Jonson, and there is evidence that already in the early 1590s he was a man highly familiar with the theater.
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Michael Wyatt, 2005 The Italian encounter with Tudor England: a cultural politics of translation.
John Willinsky has demonstrated Florio’s importance as a source for some 3,843 English words in the second edition of the OED. Of these, Florio is responsible for the earliest appearances of 1,149 words (…),
(…) first Chaucer with 2012 earliest appearances, second Shakespeare with 1969 and third John Florio with 1149.
These statistics provide a striking picture of the manner in which Florio’s work both registered and contributed to the development of English, a further indication of the multi-directional consequences of his philological stewardship.
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Manfred Pfister, 2005 Inglese Italianato- Italiano Anglizzato: John Florio in Renaissance Go-Betweens. Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe edited.
Translators, if they work on a certain level, translate from a foreign language into their own. With Florio, the reverse is true – or, rather, the rule does not apply, as with him the difference between own and foreign language becomes uncertain or collapses altogether. This is a measure of his linguistic and cultural in-betweenness […] it is also quite impossible to decide, from which of the two languages he translated into the other […] which is the original and which the translation.
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Christophe Camard, 2005 «Petruchio, I shall be your ben venuto»: Shakespeare, Jonson et la langue italienne», Shakespeare et l’Europe de la Renaissance.
Si le lien entre Florio et Ben Jonson est à peu près avéré (le British Museum possède en effet une copie de Volpone dédicacée à Florio), on a beaucoup glosé sur l’éventuel lien entre Florio et Shakespeare. En effet si l’on sait que les deux personnages ont dû se croiser et se connaître à certaines époques de leur existence (autour de Southampton notamment), il n’existe malheureusement aucune preuve directe, aucune lettre de l’un ou de l’autre, aucune dédicace prouvant qu’ils se connaissaient personnellement.
(…) certaines différences fondamentales apparaissent à l’étude des textes des pièces entre Shakespeare et Ben Jonson. Chez Jonson, il s’agit beaucoup plus de reprendre directement des mots lus ou appris ailleurs (…) Chez Shakespeare, la langue italienne fait l’objet d’une utilisation pour ainsi dire plus subtile et aussi plus rare. Certes, certains mots ou citations sont souvent repris tels quels, mais la plupart du temps l’auteur y ajoute sa touche personnelle, utilise ces mots étrangers afin de créer des jeux de mots porteurs de sens, si bien que Shakespeare dépasse le simple effet de couleur locale et cherche aussi à enrichir la langue anglaise afin de démultiplier les significations des mots de façon presque anamorphotique. (…) On peut évoquer entre autres le nom de Gobbo qui signifie «le bossu» («hunch or croope-backt» nous dit Florio), ce qui n’est pas sans rappeler la silhouette du Polichinelle de la Commedia dell’Arte ou la statue de «Gobbo di Rialto» érigée au XVIe siècle par Pietro da Salò sur laquelle les Vénitiens avaient l’habitude d’accrocher des petits billets dans lesquels ils ridiculisaient le clergé ou les Patriciens.(…) Il y a une autre explication possible, et que je trouve très séduisante, c’est celle du lien entre le nom de «Maure», nom qui lui est donné dans la source, et celui de la grande famille vénitienne Moro – même mot en italien – qui a donné à Venise un Doge et de nombreux généraux dont un qui a précisément servi à Chypre en 1508. Le blason de cette famille contenait des mûres, ce qui rappelle les fraises brodées sur le mouchoir d’Othello et qui ne sont pas mentionnées chez Cinzio. Dans son livre A Dictionary of the Characters and proper Names in the works of Shakespeare, Frances Griffin Stokes affirme avoir trouvé le nom complet et plus ancien de cette famille qui serait «Otelli del Moro».(…) Pour terminer et toujours pour insister sur cette idée selon laquelle l’italien peut influencer la langue anglaise, je souhaiterais brièvement revenir sur les Fruites de Florio eux-mêmes. En effet, le texte des Fruites a, semble-t-il, beaucoup influencé les deux dramaturges qui se sont aussi intéressés à la partie anglaise du texte. En effet, plus que de simples manuels de langue étrangère, les Fruites sont une œuvre littéraire à part entière où l’on trouve de très nombreux proverbes d’origine anglaise ou italienne, ainsi que des situations dramatiques – car il s’agit avant tout de dialogues – fort intéressantes. (…) Des passages entiers sont, à mon avis, également inspirés de Florio (…)
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Keir Elam, 2007 ‘At the cubiculo’: Shakespeare’s Problems with Italian Language and Culture”, in Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare & his Contemporaries.
Florio provides not only the venues but some of the actual dialogic material that Shakespeare employs in his representations of Italy in The Shrew and in later comedies, thereby rendering superfluous any mere physical journey to the peninsula. Shakespeare’s explorations of Italy, its language and culture begin and end within – altough they are certainly not limited to – the confines of Florio’s texts.
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Saul Frampton, 2013 The Guardian
“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Florio’s possible involvement with the Folio is that we may never know its true extent.”
“We cannot tell for certain whether the words were written by John Florio or by William Shakespeare.”
Aubrey Burl shows in his book ‘Shakespeare’s Mistress’ and Jonathan Bate suggested, that the Dark Lady of the sonnets is John Florio’s wife: the Italian-Jewish linguist is therefore clearly very close to Shakespeare. Florio was essential to his formation at the beginning of his career as he was essential for the editing of the First Folio…
William Hamlin, 2013 Shakespeare’s Encounter with Michel de Montaigne.
In the end, though, it was probably Montaigne’s style of thought rather than his arguments that left the deepest impression on English literary culture. Florio captures his inquisitive, meandering style with astonishing verbal exuberance. Apart from Shakespearean drama itself, there’s scarcely another work from Elizabethan England that offers a similar display of lexical brio. Hundreds of words make their first appearance in English, including “criticism,” “masturbation,” “judicatory,” and “dogmatism.” Florio experiments with verbs such as “fantastiquize,” “attediate,” and “dis-wench”; he serves up nouns like “profluvion,” “codburst,” “ubertie,” and “supputation”; and he coins dozens of compound terms, among them “cup-shotten,” “ninny-hammer,” “sinnewe-shrunken,” “wedlocke-friendship,” “greedy-covetous,” and “wit-besotting.” Shakespeare himself was a lover of words and a prolific neologist, so it’s difficult to imagine that he didn’t enjoy perusing Montaigne in Florio’s ebullient vernacular.
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Stephen Greenblatt, 2014 The Telegraph
Yet close attention to the allusions in The Tempest and elsewhere makes clear that Shakespeare read Montaigne not in French but in an English translation. That translation, published in a handsome folio edition in London in 1603, was by John Florio. For Shakespeare — and not for Shakespeare alone but for virtually all of his English contemporaries – Montaigne was Florio’s Montaigne. His essays, in their rich Elizabethan idiom and wildly inventive turns of phrase constitute the way Montaigne spoke to Renaissance England. […] In the early 1590s, he was a tutor to the Earl of Southampton, the wealthy nobleman to whom Shakespeare dedicated two poems in 1593 and 1594. But it is not simply a likely personal connection that accounts for the fact that Shakespeare read Montaigne in Florio’s translation. The translation seemed to address English readers of Shakespeare’s time with unusual directness and intensity.The brilliance of Florio’s achievement was so generally acknowledged that even those English readers with very good command of French – John Donne, Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, and Robert Burton, to name a few – chose to encounter Montaigne through Florio’s English. […] We know that the playwright repeatedly made forays into the essays to seize upon things he thought he could use.Two instances of such forays have been particularly noted by scholars. […]Shakespeare was evidently struck by these passages, for he worked them into his depiction of the bastard Edmund in King Lear, simmering with resentment, frustration, mockery, contempt, and a determination “to seek, by some way how unlawful soever” to provide for himself. Specifically, Shakespeare takes Montaigne’s words, in Florio’s translation, and fashions them into the forged letter that Edmund fobs off as his brother Edgar’s. “I hope,” Edmund declares with a fraudulent show of concern on his brother’s behalf, that he wrote this letter “but as an essay or taste of my virtue.” It is difficult not to see in that word “essay” a playful allusion to Montaigne, for what follows is simply a variation on themes from “Of the Affection of Fathers to Their Children”. Credulous old Gloucester swallows the bait and cries treason.
[…] Though Florio’s Montaigne was published in 1603, at least three years after the probable composition and performance of Hamlet, Shakespeare could have seen a manuscript of Florio’s translation which, licensed for publication and referred to by Cornwallis in 1600, was evidently in circulation well before the first printing.
Mark Abley, 2016 The Gazette, Who Was Shakespeare ?
Revising the « fable » of Shakespeare.