Shakespeare and Italy

Mario Praz


It is a matter of no little surprise when from the average Elizabethan dramatist we turn to Shakespeare, to see how his Italian plays are comparatively free from the usual horrors and thrills. Horrible murders and treasons occur indeed on the Shakespearian stage but, oddly enough, not as a rule in the plays whose action takes place in Italy. Was it because Shakespeare disdained the cheap appeal of Italian criminality? Or because the broadness of his vision made him keep in the background the abject and horrible side of human nature, and stress the pure and noble one? Or because the acquaintance he had with Italian things enabled him to take a more sober view of Italian society than the current one circulated by religious or conservative fanatics and cherished by the thrill-seeking crowd?

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