Principal Notes and Queries John Florio’s A World of Words (1598) as Link between Plot and Subplot..

John Florio’s A World of Words (1598) as Link between Plot and Subplot in Twelfth Night

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Volumen:
63
Idioma:
english
Revista:
Notes and Queries
DOI:
10.1093/notesj/gjw138
Date:
September, 2016
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1

Five Notes on the Text of The Spanish Tragedy

Año:
2016
Idioma:
english
Archivo:
PDF, 119 KB
422

NOTES AND QUERIES

Twelfth Night V.i.30 as the earliest usage of the word. On the
church alluded to, see Twelfth Night, ed. Donno, n. ad loc.
5
Alexander Dyce, A General Glossary to Shakespeare’s
Works (Boston, MA, 1904), s.v.
6
Twelfth Night, ed. Donno, n. ad loc.; C. T. Onions, A
Shakespeare Glossary, rev. Robert D. Eagleson, rev. edn
(Oxford, 1986), s.v. (‘with quibble on sense of ‘‘occasion,
time’’ ’). The annotation is Eagleson’s. Onions had misidentified ‘cast of the dice’ as the literal meaning of throw here
and ‘venture’ as a derivative metaphorical meaning: Onions,
A Shakespeare Glossary (Oxford, 1911), s.v. (‘fig. venture’).
7
Alexander Schmidt, Shakespeare Lexicon, rev. Gregor
Sarrazin, 4th edn (Berlin, 1923), s.v.
8
The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 3rd
edn (New York, 2016), gloss ad loc. Contrast The
Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, 2nd edn
(Boston, MA, 1997), n. ad loc. (‘(1) time; (2) throw of the
dice’).
9
David Crystal and Ben Crystal, Shakespeare’s Words:
A Glossary and Language Companion (London, 2002).

of multiple metaphorical fields, expresses the
two characters’ verbal ingenuity.
ERIC WEISKOTT
Boston College
doi:10.1093/notesj/gjw148
ß The Author (2016). Published by Oxford University Press.
All rights reserved. For Permissions,
please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
Advance Access publication 14 July, 2016

JOHN FLORIO’S A WORLD OF WORDS
(1598) AS LINK BETWEEN PLOT AND
SUBPLOT IN TWELFTH NIGHT
EVER since John Manningham wrote his diary
note on a performance of Twelfth Night that he
attended in February 1602 (o.s. 1601), the main
source for Shakespeare’s play has been ultimately traced back to the play Gli Ingannati, by
the Sienese Accademia degli Intronati (performed in 1532; first published in 1537 and
then reprinted several times down to the 1611
collected edition of the Commedie degli
Accademici Intronati).1 We also know that
Shakespeare took additional elements from various versions of this plot available at the time,
either in Italian or in F; rench translation. He
must also have consulted the English version,
entitled ‘Of Apolonius and Silla’, included in
Barnabe Riche’s Farewell to Military Profession
(1581).
Riche’s collection of short stories additionally contains a tale (‘Of Two Brethren and
Their Wives’) that seems to have furnished
Shakespeare with elements of the Malvolio
plot. The main source of the latter, however,
has recently been identified as the punishment
of a character called ‘Bonifacio’ in Giordano
Bruno’s only play, Candelaio, printed in Paris
in 1582.2 Bruno spent the following two and a
1
‘At our feast wee had a play called ‘‘Twelve night, or
what you will’’; much like the commedy of errores, or
Menechmi in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in
Italian called Inganni. A good practise in it to make the
steward beleeve his Lady widdowe was in Love with him,
by counterfayting a letter, as from his Lady, in generall
termes, telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparraile, &c., and then when
he came to practise, making him beleeve they tooke him to
be mad.’ (Quoted in The Norton Shakespeare, gen. ed.
Stephen Greenblatt [New York, 1997], 3334.)
2
Cf. Hilary Gatti, ‘Giordano Bruno’s Candelaio and
Possible Echoes in Shakespeare and Ben Jonson’, Viator,

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postdates by almost a century the last citation
for that meaning at Oxford English Dictionary
Online, ‘throw, n.1’, 1 (‘The time at which anything happens; an occasion’), from Gavin
Douglas’s Eneados (1513).
Some Shakespeare scholars have recognized
Orsino’s wordplay, while others have missed
the primary meaning ‘time’. In his General
Glossary to Shakespeare’s Works, Alexander
Dyce offered that throw meant ‘both ‘‘a throw
of the dice’’ and ‘‘time’’ (the latter signification
being common in our earliest poets)’.5 In her
edition of Twelfth Night, Elizabeth Story
Donno notes ‘occasion’ as the primary meaning
at V.i.32, citing C. T. Onions’s Shakespeare
Glossary.6 In his Shakespeare Lexicon,
Alexander Schmidt mistook the primary meaning of throw for a dicing metaphor, glossing at
this throw ‘by this device, by this trick’ in his
entry for throw ‘a cast of dice’.7 The gloss in
the Norton Shakespeare (‘throw of the dice’)
gives no indication of the older meaning or the
wordplay.8 Throw ‘time’ is missing from David
Crystal and Ben Crystal’s Shakespeare’s Words.9
The pun on ‘throw (of the dice)’ helps account for Shakespeare scholars’ inconsistent
understanding of the primary meaning of
throw at Twelfth Night V.i.32. The pun probably also explains why Shakespeare reached
for this obsolescent word in 1600 or 1601.
The mixture of colloquialisms, a proverb, and
a punning obsolescent word, like the collision

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September 2016

NOTES AND QUERIES

xliii (2012), 357–76, and Elisabetta Tarantino, ‘Bruno’s
Candelaio, Shakespeare and Ben Jonson: Building on
Hilary Gatti’s Work’, in Martin McLaughlin, Ingrid D.
Rowland, and Elisabetta Tarantino (eds), Authority,
Innovation and Early Modern Epistemology. Essays in
Honour of Hilary Gatti (Oxford, 2015), 118–36.
3
Cf. Gatti, ‘Giordano Bruno’s Candelaio’, 362–4. On
Florio as cultural mediator (not least with regard to
Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italian) see Frances Yates,
John Florio (Cambridge, 1934); Naseeb Shaheen,
‘Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Italian’, Shakespeare Survey,
xlvii (1994), 161–70; Michael Wyatt, The Italian Encounter
with Tudor England (Cambridge, 2005); Jason Lawrence,
‘Who the devil taught thee so much Italian?’: Italian
Language Learning and Literary Imitation in Early Modern
England (Manchester, 2005).
4
Cf. Samuel Pepys’s and William Archer’s criticism of
the play on these two counts respectively, as summarized,
for instance, in Sonia Massai (ed.), William Shakespeare’s
Twelfth Night. A Sourcebook (London, 2007), 135.

play Virginio addresses his daughter’s old
Nurse Clementia, who had been mumbling to
herself, with the words ‘Che fai, che tu parli
cosi dentro a te? egliè pur passata la Befania’
(‘What are you doing, mumbling away to yourself like that? The Epiphany is actually over’),
jokingly referring to the popular belief that on
the eve of the Epiphany animals could talk.5
If Shakespeare consulted the original Italian
play alongside one or more of the other versions available to him, and looked up the unfamiliar noun ‘Beffana/Befania’ in Florio’s
dictionary, this is what he would have found:
Beffania, the Epiphanie: it is spoken in
mockerie.
Beffa, a flout, a scoffe, a gibe, a frumpe, a
iest, a mocke.
Beffana, a bug-beare, a bull-begger, a scarcrowe, a toy to mocke an ape.
Beffare, to flout, to scoffe, to gibe, to frump,
to iest, to mocke.
Beffardo, Beffatore, a flouter, a scoffer, a
frumper, a mocker.6
This series of listings effectively links the festivity of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night with ‘a
jest’ or ‘a toy to mocke an ape’. The connection
between the ‘Beffana’ and the idea of a beffa
(which in modern Italian still means a ‘practical joke’, usually with a malicious undertone)
would have been highlighted by the divergences in spelling whereby the name given for
the festivity in the Ingannati’s Prologue is in
fact listed in Florio as the noun signifying
‘jest’, while he uses a slightly different spelling
(closer to that found in Gli Ingannati I.ii) for
the popular name of the Epiphany. Florio himself must have realized that there was something odd in this, and in the 1611 edition
of his dictionary the two spellings, ‘Beffanı̀a’
and ‘Beffàna’, are listed as synonymous.7
5
Quoted from the 1569 edition of the play, printed together with the Twelfth Night entertainment with no separate title page: Il Sacrificio. Comedia de gli Intronati—
celebrato ne i giuochi d’un Carnovale in Siena. Di nuovo
ristampata, & ricorretta. In Venetia, Appresso Altobello
Salicato, MDLXIX. (Emphasis added.)
6
John Florio, A Worlde of Wordes (London: Arnold
Hatfield for Edward Blount, 1598), STC 11098, p. 41,
EEBO image 31.
7
John Florio, Queen Anna’s New World of Words
(London, 1611), STC 11099, p. 58, EEBO image 36.

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half years in London, where he stayed at the
French Embassy and associated with John
Florio. And indeed in John Florio one finds
several mentions of Bruno’s works, including
as source material for his revised Italian–
English dictionary, Queen Anna’s New World
of Words (1611).3
This note argues that a consideration of the
ultimate Italian source of Twelfth Night in conjunction with the first version of Florio’s
Italian–English dictionary, A World of Words
(1598), helps solve two puzzles concerning
Shakespeare’s play: the relevance of the title
to the play as a whole; and the link between
the main romantic and Plautine plot on the one
hand and, on the other, the subplot concerning
the gulling of Malvolio.4
The Intronati (whose chosen name means
‘thunder-struck’, i.e. by love) presented their
play as originating from a Twelfth-Night misogynistic prank. On the night of the Epiphany,
1532 (o.s. 1531), they had put on an entertainment entitled Il Sacrificio, in which they ostensibly burned mementos from their ladies in order
to rid themselves of all thoughts of love. The
gentlewomen predictably took offence, and by
way of reparation the Accademici then put together Gli Ingannati, ‘virtually in three days’.
This is reported in a witty Prologue, full of
double-entendres, that refers to Twelfth Night
as ‘la notte di Beffana’, using the popular corruption of the name for ‘Epifania’ that is still in
use in Italy today (with the modern spelling
‘Befana’). In addition, in act I scene ii of the

423

424

NOTES AND QUERIES

8
Queen Anna’s New World of Words, unnumbered
pages, EEBO images 6 and 7. On ‘Sacrificio’, see note 5
above. ‘Inganni’ could refer to Gli Ingannati itself or to
either of two other plays, first printed in 1562 and 1592
respectively, that are based on the Sienese comedy. Some
interesting considerations on this tangle of Italian comedies
are offered in Lawrence, ‘Who the devil taught thee so much
Italian?’, 128–29 and n. 35.
9
Cf. Penny Gay, Introduction to Elizabeth Story
Donno’s edition of Twelfth Night (Cambridge, 2003), 4.
10
On the impact and import of this revelation, see Anne
Barton, The Names of Comedy (Oxford, 1990), 137–9.
11
Cf. A Worlde of Wordes, p. 129, EEBO image 75:
‘Festa, a feast, a holyday, a banquet, ioy, pleasure, solace, a
shew. Also a kinde of simnell, cracknell, or gingerbread.’ See
also Shaheen, ‘Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Italian’, 161, for
a dialogue on comedies as enjoyable but frowned upon by
preachers, the knaveries contained therein, and ‘la festa’
(‘holy dayes’) as the appropriate time for them, which is
found on the first page of Florio’s earlier conversation
manual, Firste Fruites (1578). The same association between
comedies and holidays occurs on p. 15 of the latter work

Elizabethan England of the Italian saying
‘L’Epifania tutte le feste si porta via’, i.e. ‘The
Epiphany takes away, ends all holidays’, but it
does seem to be an ancient enough saying to
have been circulating among Italophones in
Shakespeare’s days. The closest English equivalent listed in Tilley is ‘After Christmas comes
Lent’ (C367). In Twelfth Night, Feste is only
named once, in II.iv. However, upon his first
appearance, in I.v, his jesting about ‘fearing
no colours’ when one is dead elicits the put
down ‘A good lenten answer’ from Maria: if
we take together the two proverbs we have
just mentioned, the English (‘After Christmas
comes Lent’) and the Italian (‘L’Epifania tutte
le feste si porta via’), we can appreciate how in
the first scene featuring the fool Shakespeare is
subtly playing with this character’s name.12
Finally, as well as providing the crucial link
between ‘Epiphany’ and ‘mockery’, the page of
Florio’s A World of Words that contains the
entries on ‘Beffania’, etc. would have helped
Shakespeare elucidate an important aspect of
the Boccaccian source for All’s Well that Ends
Well, another (‘problem’) comedy from about
the same time as Twelfth Night: see, on the
right-hand column, the entry ‘Beltramo, faire,
handsome, goodly.’
ELISABETTA TARANTINO
Faculty of Medieval and Modern
Languages, Oxford
doi:10.1093/notesj/gjw138
ß The Author (2016). Published by Oxford University Press.
All rights reserved. For Permissions,
please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
Advance Access publication 19 July, 2016

(STC 11096, EEBO image 28). (The second dialogue of
Florio’s Second Frutes, 1591, condemns English comedies
and tragedies as mere ‘[r]epresentations of histories, without
any decorum’ in a context that suggests idle entertainment,
but does not mention ‘feste’.)
12
As already indicated, throughout Twelfth Night
Shakespeare conflates elements from different sources.
This argument therefore remains valid even in the face of
the undoubted recollection of Thomas Nashe’s works in this
exchange, i.e. of Nashe’s Lenten Stuffe (1599) in Maria’s
reply, and Have with You to Saffron-walden (1596), which
contains the phrase ‘fearst no colours’, in Feste’s jest. On the
presence of Thomas Nashe in Twelfth Night, including yet
another analogue for the gulling of Malvolio, see J. J. M.
Tobin, ‘Gabriel Harvey in Illyria’, English Studies, lxi
(August, 1980), 318–28.

Downloaded from http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/ at University of Newcastle on January 16, 2017

Concurrently, in the list of sources for this edition of his dictionary, which is three times as
large as that for the 1598 version, Florio adds
two entries that are connected to the play of
Gli Ingannati, i.e. ‘Inganni. Comedia’ and
‘Sacrificio, Comedia’.8
On p. 118 of A World of Words (EEBO image
70), Florio further glosses ‘Epifania’ as ‘the epiphanie or twelftide. Also an apparition or manifestation’. Scene V.i in Twelfth Night is
‘epiphanic’ precisely in this sense, as Sebastian
and Viola finally come face to face with each
other under the astonished eyes of the assembled
cast of characters. As has been remarked, the
impact of this scene is greatly increased by
Shakespeare having the ‘twins’ confront each
other in this way, rather than allowing the heroine to resume first her feminine attire as is the
case with Lelia in Gli Ingannati.9 And as is often
noted, the name Viola is only ‘manifested’ to the
audience in the course of this final scene.10
Thus the title Twelfth Night would have
migrated, via Florio’s dictionary, from the occasion of the source play to the gulling of
Malvolio, giving the latter the prominence already recognized in Manningham’s entry. Title,
plot, and subplot can then be seen to derive from
one conglomeration of Italian influences.
The name of the fool in Twelfth Night also
belongs to this semantic field, since the Italian
word ‘feste’ refers to the ‘holidays’, and especially those over Christmas and the New
Year.11 I have been unable to find traces in

September 2016