The Origins of Drama…le origini del teatro inglese
The tradition of telling stories in the Middle Ages brought to the birth of the drama.
At first the drama was practiced in the church during the mass. The mass is a sort of dialogue between the priest (prete) and his people and some parts of the Gospels (Vangeli), at that time, were acted on particular festivities like Christmas, Easter, Corpus Christi. The original and most important forms of drama were the mystery plays (1200 -1500)and the miracle plays. They were Bible stories from the Creation to the Second Coming (Doomsday), and lives and martyrdom of the Saints. They were both spoken in Latin and were, at first, performed inside the church in front of the altar, then they moved outside the church, in the courtyards (cortili) and ultimately on carriages or platforms (carri) on wheels (ruote), which could move from place to place, the pageants. Little by little (a poco a poco), Latin was replaced by vernacular and more humorous particulars taken from daily life were added to amuse (entertain = divertire) the audiences that had little or no education. The third important type of medieval drama were the morality plays – typical of 1400 – dramatized allegories, in which the characters were human features (characteristics = caratteristuche), virtues and vices. The most important of this type of plays was Everyman, centered on man and on the salvation of his soul. Afterwards the morality plays developed into the interludes, short plays or incidental entertainments, usually performed in the middle of a feast. The characters were still frequently allegorical, but with more comical elements and an easier language. The most famous and enjoyable of interludes are The Play of the Wether by J. Heywood, printed in 1533, in which Jupiter tries to please (satisfy = compiacere) all the contradictory desires of men.
William Shakespeare, Bardo Immortale
The most famous story teller of English literature is undoubtedly William Shakespeare. He was called the Immortal Bard because he succeeded in telling stories keeping the attention of the public alive and involving people in his plots. His characters were human beings with their vices and virtues, they could love and kill at the same time, and they could not avoid their destiny. For this reason everybody felt to be part of their lives and actions.
Also the life of William Shakespeare is legendary. There are no certain sources about him, somebody even says he did not properly exist, others say it was Francis Bacon’s pen-name. However, legends say he was born in April 1564 in Stratford upon Avon, the son of Mary Arden and John Shakespeare, a glover, a tradesman and a yeoman (farmer=coltivatore). William studied Latin, composition and rethoric at the local Grammar School. When he was 18, he married a girl called Anne Hathaway, probably eight years older than he, and they had three children, a daughter Susanna and twins (gemelli) Hamnet and Judith. The tradition tells that, around 1584, Shakespeare left Stratford because he had got into trouble (si era messo nei pasticci) through hunting(cacciando) in the territories of Sir Thomas Lucy, and in order to avoid (per evitare) punishment (punizione) he left his native town. The legend also narrates that the character of Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor is a parody of Sir Lucy. Then there are about 8 years during which it there are no news about the Bard. Probably he emerged in London as an actor and a successful playwright. By 1594 Shakespeare had become the principal member of the company of the Chamberlain’s Men, which became the King’s Men when James I became king. They performed at first in their own theatre the Globe, built in 1599 and later in the covered (coperto) Blackfriars theatre. Shakespeare bought a house, New Place, in Stratford where it seems he finally went to live in 1610 and where he died on April 23, 1616.
Michelangelo Crollalancia, meglio noto come William Shakespeare
Retired Professor Martino Iuvara has written a book supplying (giving = fornendo) evidences (prove) that William Shakespeare came from Sicily. He was born in Messina in 1564, the son of Dr. Florio and Guglielma Crollalanza, a family persecuted by the Catholic Church because of their Calvinist ideas. They left Messina, at that time under the Spanish crown (=corona), and moved to Treviso, near Venice. There they settled (established = si stabilirono) into a house built by a Venetian mercenary moor, Otello, who had killed his wife out of jealousy. Michelangelo first studied in Venice, Padua, Mantua, then he travelled all through (per tutta) Greece, Spain and Austria before reaching England. There he went to live with a host, probably William’s mother relative who had lost a son, William. The man started calling Michelangelo William. The future playwright translated and then adopted his mother’s surname, Crollalancia, as his own surname Shake-the-Spear or Shakespeare. His wife was Anna Hathaway, known to be a very talented ( very good = di talento) translator. This theory could explain many obscure aspects of Shakespeare’s legendary life. Sicily had already got a remarkable theatrical tradition and was already famous for theatrical operas and sceneries…and Shakespeare was an expert and an innovator. He was familiar with ships and rules of the navy…and now we know he travelled a lot. He had a deep knowledge of Italy, its history and tradition …. and many of his works take place in Italy (including Romeo and Juliet; Othello, The two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Screw, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, A Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, his last work). Just the comedy “troppu trafficu pì nnenti”, written in Messinese dialect appeared 50 years after in England with the title Much Ado about nothing.
Othello – The story begins when a heroic Moorish general in the service of Venice, Othello, appoints (chooses =
nomina) Cassio and not Iago as his chief lieutenant (luogotenente capo). Jealous of Othello’s success and
envious (jealous = invidioso) of Cassio, Iago plans Othello’s downfall (ruin = rovina): he falsely suggests to
Othello that his wife, Desdemona, and Cassio are having a love affair. Desdemona cannot show a
handkerchief (fazzoletto) once given her by Othello; due to (thanks to = dovuto a) Iago’s machinations, it
will be later found among Cassio’s possessions. Iago drives Othello mad (to drive mad = far impazzire) and
Othello, livid with jealousy, kills Desdemona. When he learns, too late, that his wife is innocent, he asks to
be remembered as one who “loved not wisely (prudently = saggiamente) but too well”, and stabs (kills
himself with a knife = si pugnala) himself. The other characters of the play that were in some way Iago’s
accomplices (complici) are all punished. Emilia, Iago’s wife, and Roderigo, his friend, are killed by Iago,
and he is at last punished for his many crimes. Only Cassio, though wounded (hurt = ferito), is rewarded
(given a prize = premiato) and takes power and command in Cyprus. The source of this story derives from
an Italian novella by G. B. Giraldi Cinthio of 1565.
One of his most famous story is Romeo and Juliet (1595), rewritten also nowadays in many ways but still preserving its fascinating approach (approccio) to human passions. The story is simple: Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love with (= si innamorano)each other, but their families are enemies. They marry secretly with the help of Friar (frate) Laurence. Unfortunately, Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, is killed in a duel by Romeo. The prince of Verona banishes (sends away = bandisce) Romeo who, before leaving for Mantua, spends a night with his beloved Juliet. Meanwhile Juliet’s father insists she has to (must = deve) marry the Count of Paris and Juliet, desperate, goes to Friar Laurence to get a solution. The friar gives her a potion ( mixture = pozione) that will make her seem lifeless (almost dead = senza vita) for 42 hours. Romeo comes back to Juliet and thinks she is dead, so drinks a poison (venenum = veleno). When Juliet wakes up and finds Romeo dead, stabs herself (kills herself with a knife = si pugnala). The two enemy families reconcile when the friar tells them the story of the two unlucky lovers.
much ado about nothing – Sicily is under the Spanish crown. Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, and his officers come back to Messina from a recently concluded war. Leonato, a landowner, receives a message that the soldiers will spend a month in his house. Among them there is Count Claudio, who is attracted by Leonato’s only daughter, Hero and Benedick, who is attracted by Hero’s cousin, Lady Beatrice. Benedick and Beatrice are always discussing with witty (humorous = sagaci) and ironical sentences.
There is a masked ball to celebrate the end of the war and the engagement (= fidanzamento) of Claudio to Hero. But Don Pedro’s brother, Don John, is jealous of all this happiness. He thinks a plot with other two soldiers, Borachio and Conrade, to trick (= ingannare) Claudio. He wants Claudio to believe that Hero betrays (is not loyal = tradisce) him. Hero’s maid, Margaret – who does not know of the plot – is seen while speaking to Boracho at night in Hero’s bedroom, while Claudio and Don Pedro are watching. Claudio thinks that the girl is Hero. At the wedding Claudio accuses Hero and leaves her apparently dead from shock. Hero’s father, Beatrice and Benedick, surprised, decide to unveil (=svelare) the truth. With the help of the priest they make everybody think that Hero is really dead. Meanwhile the village constable, Dogberry, and his assistants have arrested Borachio and Conrade. They surprised the two while speaking about the trick played to Claudio and the Duke. This information is given to Leonato and Don Pedro. But Leonato wants to have satisfaction: he forces Claudio who feels guilty (= colpevole) for Hero’s dead to accept to marry Leonato’s ‘niece’, a girl he has never seen before. During the ceremony the ‘niece’ shows her real face: she is Hero. Benedick and Beatrice announce that they will be married too together with Hero and Claudius. Don John is captured while escaping.