Francesco da Mosto takes to the Italian road in search of Shakespeare. He explores how Shakespeare used Italy to tell his most passionate stories about falling in love.
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Welcome to Italy.
400 years ago, this was the place William Shakespeare dreamt about.
'To him, Italy was a country of romance,
'Once it was the centre of the Roman empire,
'and, in Shakespeare's time, the heart of the Renaissance.
'Italy set the fashion for the western world.
'In art and poetry, music and manners,
'clothes and even perfume. And, of course,
'politics and power.'
No wonder William Shakespeare was so fascinated with Italy.
Our Italian cities were like exotic stage sets,
perfect for the most colourful stories.
There's hardly a play without a mention of Italy.
And he set more than a third of them here.
O, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
I would rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me!
Did my heart love till now?
We Italians love Shakespeare.
Somehow this Englishman managed to capture the true essence of us Italians -
how we speak, how we behave and how we love.
He taught you how to love through the stories he told about us.
'Venice. The most romantic place in the world.
'And a favourite setting for the plays of William Shakespeare.
'This has been the home of my family since before Shakespeare's time.'
"Venezia, Venezia. Chi non ti vede, non ti prezia."
"Venice, Venice. Only those who don't see you don't value you."
The words of Shakespeare himself,
quoting an Italian proverb in Italian.
Shakespeare painted a picture of Italy as the Land of Love.
It became a favourite destination for the fashionable Elizabethans.
That English love affair with my country is as passionate today as ever.
With a good ship and a fair wind, it could take just four weeks
to travel from London to Italy.
And what about Shakespeare? Did he ever come here? This is the most tantalising question.
Is it so crazy to think that he was in Italy?
Because, in 1585,
at the age of 21,
Shakespeare just vanishes from history for seven long years.
No one knows what he was doing. No one knows where he was.
Shakespeare scholars call this time his "lost years".
'Shakespeare seems to know everything there is to know about Venice.
'Of course, he knew about gondolas.
'He knew the Rialto was where merchants did business.
'He appreciated that we Venetians make excellent maps
'and sea charts.
'He knew a traditional gift here is a dish of doves.
'And that our favourite Venetian saying is, "Sano come il pesce." As healthy as a fish.
'He even knew about the boats connecting Venice with the mainland, the traghetti.
'So how could he know so much about us?
'Historian Alberto Toso Fei is a Venetian expert on Shakespeare.'
'It's nice to imagine that William Shakespeare came here.
'The buildings, the canals, the flavour of the place is so much the same as in his time
'that it's easy to feel it's possible.'
'I learned about Shakespeare when I was at school and he's stayed with me ever since.
'I think it was Shakespeare who taught me everything about the art of love.
'Well, almost everything.
'How to be a true lover.'
But Shakespeare didn't start out like this.
He seems to have had all the arrogance of a young man in a hurry.
Do you marry with your heart or with your head?
Shakespeare seemed sure you should marry first for money
and worry about love later.
'So what about Shakespeare in love?
'Well, he married at just 18.
'His wife, Anne, was much older.
'She was a farmer's daughter and she came with a generous dowry.
'This is the ancient university town of Padua,
'for centuries the scene of young romance,
'of student love.
'It is the set of Shakespeare's first Italian play and it set a pattern.
'First, look around for inspiration and see what's already been written.'
The romantic story The Taming of The Shrew was "borrowed" from an Italian play
written some years before by Ludovico Ariosto.
His version was set in Ferrara,
but Shakespeare chose to move it to the learned atmosphere of Padua.
'But it wasn't enough. So next he went further back in history
'to find ideas he could play with.
'He set about studying our thinkers and philosophers.
'For Shakespeare, Italy was like an intellectual treasure trove.'
In our modern world, we have hundreds of "How To" books.
How to lose weight, how to get over a nervous breakdown,
how to be successful in life. We think it is a new thing.
Far from it.
Self-help books were already huge in 16th-century Italy
and long before.
The founding father of all guide books to life
was one of our greatest Roman poets - Ovid.
De Arte Amandi - The Art of Love.
'Written around the year 1BC,
'it was still one of the most popular books in Shakespeare's day.
'This is a precious edition from 1526.'
How To Get Her.
"Dress well, have a good haircut, remember her birthday
"and promise her the Earth."
Book Two. How To Keep Her.
"Never ask how old she is, win over her servants,
"let her miss you, but not for too long."
Book Three is for le donne.
"Learn music and dance, put on makeup,
"but not when he's looking. Try a mix of younger and older lovers." Nice.
"Don't leave out seductive coos and delightful murmuring.
-"And when you like it, show it with panting breaths." Very nice.
'In The Taming of The Shrew, Shakespeare updates Ovid for the modern audience.
'Some jokes for his female fans
'and lots of jokes for the young Elizabethan men about town.'
There are two young couples in the play - Hortensio and Bianca, in love in the traditional fashion,
and Petruchio, the hero,
and Katherina, the shrew.
Shrew, by the way, didn't mean an old woman,
but a headstrong, difficult young woman.
This is courtship without love.
Petruchio is after Katherina just for her money.
And these are the rules of the game, according to Shakespeare.
Don't ask her to marry you. Just tell her the wedding date.
Don't make it to the church on time. Be late, very late.
So even if she hates you, she will love you when you arrive.
Even if she means no, she say yes.
Back home, beat your servants so she'll see you're the boss.
Bamboozle her until she'll say and do anything you order.
If needs be, starve her.
Promise her favours, then withhold them.
Of course, this couple is nothing like Petruchio and Katherina.
Look at them. They really love each other.
But Shakespeare is saying to us these are the new dos and don'ts of love.
He's even saying marry for money.
Whatever she's like, get her money and make her obey you.
This is the work of a young man who has never fallen in love.
'It was after his wife gave birth to twins that Shakespeare vanishes from history.
'The so-called seven lost years when maybe he was here in Italy getting away from it all.'
After the lost years, Shakespeare reappears in London.
It's 1592. He's newly and passionately in love.
But who was she?
Most scholars believe she was Italian, of course.
And her family came from just a few miles away from here.
'This is Bassano del Grappa,
'ancestral home of Emilia Bassano,
'a child of professional musicians who came to London in the 16th century.
'Shakespeare celebrates his great love for her in his sonnets.'
He describes her
as a beautiful lady with dark hair and raven black eyes.
We know her today as La Dama in Nero.
'Still musical, the Bassano family survives today,
'but scattered around the world.
'Peter Bassano is an English brass player and conductor.'
Hi, Francesco. Good to see you. How are you?
Food, wine - brilliant. Generally, terribile!
-Let's try with my terrible English!
-What a good idea!
How can you be so sure that Emilia was the Dark Lady?
Shakespeare paints a portrait in the sonnets of a dark, musical lady
and Emilia fits all those bills. The timing's right. She was first identified in the early 1970s
by a very famous historian, who discovered her in the casebooks of a doctor and astrologer,
Simon Forman. And it was that description that pointed him in the direction of Emilia.
Once you start looking at the plays, there's this whole coincidence.
There's a Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, a Bassianus in Titus Andronicus.
The name Emilia in its various forms comes up five times in the Shakespeare canon.
So there's something that points in her direction. She's a very good candidate for it.
-And how did Shakespeare meet Emilia?
-Well, nobody knows exactly,
but Emilia had become a mistress of Henry Carey, who became a patron of Shakespeare's company of actors.
-Yes, but what about his wife?
Poor Anne Hathaway.
Of course, it was a shotgun wedding.
She was pregnant, she was several years his senior, she was just a farmer's daughter.
I don't think there was an enormous amount that they had in common.
He was highly intelligent, highly read. She was an illiterate woman.
Coming to London, being away from home, he would have been attracted to someone like Emilia,
who had a striking personality, musical, a poet herself.
And...I guess he just couldn't help himself.
How long do you think the affair lasted for?
Well, I think the physical affair wasn't that long, perhaps 18 months, two years maximum,
but the emotional affair stayed with Shakespeare for life.
-She has really stolen his heart.
-I think so. And it's wonderful to bring her back home again.
Of course, the sonnet was invented by us as the Italian language of love.
The word sonetto means little song.
And the father of the Italian sonnet was the great 14th-century poet Petrarca.
'Just an hour away, in the valley of San Giorgio,
'is where Petrarch wrote some of his greatest poetry.
'It was Petrarch who inspired Shakespeare to write sonnets
'and to change the way he wrote his love scenes.'
It is so tempting to think that Shakespeare came here
to pay tribute to his favourite poet.
In a way, this is Shakespeare's true spiritual home
because whenever he had something really profound to say about love,
he used the sonnet.
'Petrarch's great love was Laura. He wrote more than 300 sonnets to her.
'Each one celebrates love and then mourns love at the same time
'because Petrarchan love is always unattainable.
'Lisiero Emma Trentin has looked after Petrarch's house for most of her life.'
Shakespeare was a different man by the mid-1590s.
No longer un novellino,
but a man who has known a passionate love,
the affair with Emilia. Now he is a master of poetry, too.
He would experiment by taking the sonnet to new heights.
And his next work would be a masterpiece.
'Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in about 1586.
'But the story of two young lovers tragically separated by their families was already well known,
'its origins lost in the mist of Italian legend.'
Are you here to search for your Romeo? An Italian Romeo, no?
I prefer Spanish. Spanish, not Italian.
There is Romeos and Juliets everywhere here.
It's good. I like a city where the heart is king,
but how much is true? It is a fascinating story.
It was our great Italian poet, Dante,
who mentions the Montecchi and the Cappelletti for the first time.
It is just a name check in his Divine Comedy,
written in the early 1300s.
He places them in Purgatorio, Purgatory,
among the troublesome and feuding families.
We know that the two families, Montague and Capulet, did exist...
They say this 14th-century house
was once the home of the Montecchis,
the real family which was the inspiration for the Montagues in the play.
Today the house is a restaurant.
Here is Juliet's house, or so they call it.
They say that if you stand beneath her balcony
and you make a wish, they come true.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
that I might touch that cheek.
O, Romeo, Romeo,
wherefore art thou, Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet.
This is an invite to the Club of Giulietta. Come with me.
Let's have a look.
It is here, the Club of Giulietta.
All over the world, people who are unhappy in love write to the Club of Giulietta for advice.
Shakespeare sets the most passionate meeting of Romeo and Juliet at a traditional masked ball.
It's a scene charged with romantic intrigue and flirtation.
When Romeo and Juliet first met,
Shakespeare used a sonnet to make them speak,
the Italian language of love as dialogue.
This is the genius of Shakespeare.
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine,
the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Have saints not lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do!
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move,
though grant for prayers' sake.
Then move not while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips by yours my sin is purged.
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Sin from thy lips?
O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.
You kiss by the book.
For us Italians,
Romeo and Juliet strikes a special chord.
It touches the two things at the very heart of our life -
romantic love and family.
And when the two collide,
a love story turns into a tragedy.
an island just off the toe of Italy.
It's part of Italy and yet, in many ways, a different world.
Today, we love to define artists and writers, put them in a box.
Serious or light-hearted?
Profound or funny?
Try doing that with Shakespeare and you are in trouble.
The man who plumbed the depths of tragedy in Romeo And Juliet
is also the man who turned his hand to playful comedy.
Much Ado About Nothing was written in 1598.
It was the dying years of Elizabeth I's long reign
and everyone wanted change.
The court, the government were old and tired.
England was depressed.
Poverty stalked the land.
Plague had made its mark on every family
and unemployment was rising.
People needed cheering up.
CRACK OF THUNDER
'A famous English actress and a friend of mine knows and loves the play.'
-How marvellous to see you in Sicily!
-What awful weather!
-Yeah. Can I stay under your umbrella?
-Yes, you can. Absolutely.
Let's go and see the cathedral.
'Emma Thompson played Beatrice in the movie of Much Ado About Nothing.
'Much Ado is set in late 16th century Sicily.
'Sicilians had grown rich through trade.'
Grazie a lei.
'At the time, the capital, Palermo,
'was a place of great palaces and big money.'
-Oh, look at this!
-I love the colours.
'As usual, Shakespeare steals from Italian literature -
-'Il Cortegiano - The Courtier...'
'A best-selling guide to etiquette and aristocratic living.'
He's very dark, what he's wearing. Has he been to a funeral, do you suppose?
I think they did wear very dark clothes. Men, in particular.
-He has a very refined face.
Yeah. Yeah, he is. He's quite important.
Or at least he thinks he is.
In a sense, I suppose, Shakespeare invented the romantic comedy with Much Ado.
You know, romantic comedies, we're so used to them - When Harry Met Sally,
Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, where you have two people who are at each other's throats,
but you know they're going to end up in love.
They must start by hating each other or by being very in conflict.
That's the journey of all romantic comedies
and in a sense, Beatrice and Benedic were the first ones.
This relationship becomes very clear in "My dear Lady Disdain..."
That book that you gave me which has got it in the Italian as well...
Hang on. Oh, there we go. I've found it.
Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
SHE LAUGHS It's great in Italian.
Then it comes to this bit, "I'd rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,
which you can play in two different ways.
If she's a young woman, you can say, "I don't want to hear men swear they love me,"
and that could be someone who's 19 saying, "It's so boring. Boys, boys, boys!"
It could be that, but it could be an older woman saying...
"I have heard it so many times.
"I would rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me!
It could have an anger to it, a bitterness to it.
It can be played in so many different ways, which is why, of course, it's great writing.
'It's still raining, but there is a man across town
'who doesn't need sunshine to recreate the sparkle of Much Ado.'
CRACK OF THUNDER Crikey!
'We are on our way to see Professor Gabriele Arezzo di Trifiletti, a theatrical historian.'
Francesco da Mosto ed Emma Thompson.
It's strange. It doesn't look like a museum. It's a flat.
"Professor Gabriele Arezzo di Trifiletti."
And this is just the hall.
Look, look, look. Butterflies.
And it's all original.
Don't touch it!
And there's a line in...
She says, "It's like the dress I saw the Duchess of Milan wearing."
TRANSLATES INTO ITALIAN
So what kind of materials was she talking about?
Wait, wait, wait. He's talking about the temperature.
They didn't have velvet, they didn't have wool,
but they were having lighter things like "damasco".
Ah, siciliano. Oh, how beautiful that is!
I think that's one of the most beautiful pieces of lace I've ever seen
because it's so simple and it's not overdone.
It's just exquisite, isn't it?
That's Sicilia as well.
They favoured a much simpler style.
-Maybe I can.
-I might be.
I might consider it!
Don't even think about it.
Practise your fan language while I bung this on.
Of course, you know, Shakespeare uses masks often.
I wonder if he ever saw something like that?
Give me the fan. I'm going to talk to you.
No, no, no. I might... ALL LAUGH
It's nearly the end, but this is one of my favourite bits because it's terribly funny.
Hang on a minute. Wait, wait. It's stopped raining. Put the brolly down
Of course it's stopped. We've come to the end of the day.
This is where... I love this because it's very Shakespearean.
They are saying they love each other, but they're saying it in a funny way, so you say that bit.
Very ill too.
Then Ursula comes and says everything's all right, you've got to come to your uncle's.
"Will you come presently?" And she goes off. And I say, "Will you go hear this news, signior?" You say...
LAUGHTER Let's go to our uncle's!
And as soon as Emma has gone, the sun comes out.
Cosi e la vita.
Before I leave Sicily, I need to make one more trip.
We know some people believe Shakespeare came to Italy during his lost years,
but here in Sicily, things get even stranger.
They believe he was Italian.
I'm on my way to the town Sicilians claim is Shakespeare's birthplace.
Local legend has it that in 1588,
a 24-year-old Sicilian emigrated to England where he became a successful playwright.
His name was Crollalanza. The clue is all in the name.
This is Messina, birthplace of Crollalanza.
Messina is a town determined to reinvent history
and claim the bard for Sicily.
Local journalist Fabio Bagnasco believes we shouldn't dismiss this weird idea altogether.
I'll never go as far as claiming Shakespeare was Italian,
but he definitely had an Italian sensibility.
And it shows more than ever in his greatest and most tragic love story.
The setting, of course, is Venice.
Back in Shakespeare's time,
this city had the most exciting mix of cultures in all the western world.
Venice was the meeting point between east and west.
We were a city where trade was king, not religion.
Here, the Christian world made business with the Islamic world.
This was the most cosmopolitan society in the 16th century.
The figure of Othello, the Moor of Venice, may seem like an outsider,
but this passionate character is the most Italian of anyone in Shakespeare.
As usual, Shakespeare stole the story from Italian literature.
Hecatommithi is a collection of novellas by Cinthio.
It tells the story of a sea captain driven to murder his great love Desdemona
in a fit of jealousy.
CRACK OF THUNDER
In Othello, Shakespeare goes deeper into the psyche of Venice,
allowing him to explore sexual obsession
in all its paradoxes and confusion.
Shakespeare was 40 years old when he wrote Othello.
He lived away from his wife.
Like most professional men, he probably enjoyed the attentions of a mistress or two
or as we prefer to call them in Venice, a courtesan.
In the Correr Museum, there is an intriguing survival from Shakespeare's time.
This is a directory of the most important courtesans in Venice.
It tells you how much money a gentleman had to pay -
"per intrar nella sua gratia" - to enter in their graces.
Their names, their addresses.
And even how much money you have to spend -
6, 2, 8...
It's quite interesting. There were hundreds of copies of this directory circulating in Venice
in the middle of the 16th century for eager visitors to the city.
And this is the only copy left today.
The Doge's Palace is the setting for one of the most agonising scenes in the play.
Lovestruck Othello is summoned to explain how he bewitched Desdemona into marrying him.
It is the first hint of how cruel this story will be,
how pure love is corrupted by prejudice.
Othello is eloquent. He speaks the language of romance,
full of music and poetry,
but jealousy will drag him from the stars to the gutter.
And his love will turn into murderous rage.
This is Shakespeare getting deep into the psychology of love,
the miracle of passion unleashed, but the danger too.
No wonder Othello gave us one of the greatest operas in the Italian language.
# Ave Maria
# Piena di grazia
# Eletta fra le donne
# E le vergini sei tu... #
With a little help from Verdi, of course.
# Prega per chi adorando
# A te si prostra
# Prega nel peccator
# Per l'innocente
# E pel debole oppresso
# E pel possente
# Misero anch'esso
# Tua pieta dimostra
# Prega per chi sotto l'oltraggio piega
# La fronte e sotto la malvagia sort
# Prega per noi
# Prega per noi
# Ave! #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Othello is Shakespeare's farewell note to love.
He shows us how the world conspires to extinguish love.
Never again would he go so deep into the heart of things.
Othello is Shakespeare's most troubling exploration of love.
In Romeo And Juliet, in spite of the lovers' tragic deaths,
there is a feeling that love lives on,
that somehow the world is a better place because Romeo and Juliet's love existed.
In Othello, it is love itself that is murdered.
As we say in Italian,
"grande amore, grande dolore".
"Great love equals great pain."
Shakespeare could almost have written that himself.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Francesco da Mosto takes to the Italian road again in search of Shakespeare in Italy. From Romeo and Juliet to the jealousy of Othello, Shakespeare used the land of love to tell his most passionate stories about falling in love. Needless to say, along the way Francesco adds some insights of his own and revels in claims that not only did Shakespeare visit Italy, but also was born in Sicily. It's a whole new take on the Bard!