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Why did Shakespeare visit the small town of Bassano?

Why did Shakespeare visit the small town of Bassano?

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Published by JOHN HUDSON
Article originally published in the Clyde Fitch Report, based on the research by the late Dr Roger Prior, on why the author of the Shakespearean plays had such detailed knowledge of the small Italian town of Bassano. What does this tell us about the authorship and composition of the plays?
Article originally published in the Clyde Fitch Report, based on the research by the late Dr Roger Prior, on why the author of the Shakespearean plays had such detailed knowledge of the small Italian town of Bassano. What does this tell us about the authorship and composition of the plays?

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: JOHN HUDSON on Jan 31, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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s Foundation XVIII: Goats andMonkeys or Why did the author ofShakespeare visit the small town ofBassano?
Monday, December 14, 2009
By John Hudson,
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report 
 Nearly 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, his strangeexpression about goats and monkeys as images of lustcontinue to draw attention. The Milwaukee Shakespearecompany even chose, in forming a new group out of the ashesof the defunct one, to use it as their name. But where does thisstrange image come from? It appears in
both as a cursebut also as a kind of metaphor in Iago’s speech in Act 3, Scene3, which is worth quoting in full:What shall I say? Where’s satisfaction?
It is impossible you
should see this,
Were they as prime as goats, as hot asmonkeys,
As salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross
Asignorance made drunk. But yet, I say,
If imputation and strongcircumstances,
Which lead directly to the door of Truth,
Will giveyou satisfaction, you may have’t. (III.iii.404-411)Neither the Arden nor the New Variorum editions of Shakespeare have anything helpful to say about where thisimagery comes from or what might conceivably link thesepeculiar concepts of goats, monkeys, salt, drunken ignoranceor a “door of Truth.” But I do want to draw your attention to abrilliant, certainly obscure piece of research by Dr. Roger Prior,formerly of Belfast University. It appeared, unfortunately, in the Journal of Anglo-Italian Studies, published by the University of Malta, which means it is almost impossible to get throughinterlibrary loan and even of the eight U.S. libraries that carrythe journal, not all have the 2008 volume in which it appears.Prior’s work concerns the small Italian town of Bassano, northof Venice. In the main square, there was an apothecary knownas “the Moor,” after the large sign of a moor’s head that hungoutside. There was also another apothecary in the square,which until 1591 was run by a man named Giovanni Otello.Several other members of the Otello family lived in the townand two of them, both notaries, ordered pictures from JacopoBassano, the town’s most famous artist.A smaller square in the town was known as the Piazza of Salt.Prominent in this square was the rather dilapidated buildingdepicted in the black and white photograph above. Coveringthe front was a remarkable fresco. It could only be properlyseen in the early morning when there was good light and allthe window shutters were closed. When opened, theseshutters, known as gelosie (literally jealousies), would haveblocked out much of the artwork. The fresco was painted in1539 by Bassano. Until 1583, the house was owned by thephilosopher Zuanne Corno, an ambassador to the Venetiansenate, whose title was the Count Palentine and was known forwriting a sonnet about weeping. His surname, Corno, meant
“Mr. Horns,” the Elizabethan image of cuckoldry. His son-in-law Zanetto, a salt merchant, operated his shop out of one of the ground floor storefronts.The fresco is divided into several bands. At the top is a seriesof animals, with a prominent sheep. Next to it, a large goatunderneath which there is seated a monkey. (The themereflects the New Testament warning that people will be dividedinto sheep and goats.) Roughly underneath this monkey is alarge painting of a naked woman — Truth — who standsbetween two of the arched windows. She can only be seen, of course, when the shutters are closed; at other times, theshutters form a door and cover her over. To the left of Truth isanother large allegorical figure, with two faces and a snakearound her arm, signifying Prudence. Finally, beneath Truth isa painting of the Drunkenness of Noah, and to the left, thedaughters of Lot after their escape from Sodom.The connections between
and the town of Bassanobegin, therefore, with the character of Othello, who supposedlyuses drugs and medicines to seduce Desdemona and can betraced to Otello’s apothecary in the main square.Iago’s speech, meanwhile, suggests the author of 
hadactually seen this fresco and associates it with the theme of cuckoldry that dominates the play. As if moving vertically downthe fresco, Iago’s account begins with the goat and themonkey, then it refers to the figure of Truth as being coveredwith the shutter doors, or “jealousies.” The salt refers to thesalt shop on the ground floor and “ignorance made drunk”refers to the drunken Lot having sex with his daughters and tothe drunken, naked Noah. The author’s interest in this fresco— a Biblical allegory, in which Truth is concealed by jealousies— is compatible with the other Biblical allegory in the play.The problem, of course, is that if he ever went to Italy at all,why would the man from Stratford visit the small Italian townof Bassano, which was not on the usual tourist trail? It makesmuch more sense — as indicated in my last column — that the

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konichiwadesuka added this note
What I mean, is a bigger more detailed color picture (you have a smaller one above).
konichiwadesuka added this note
Where can we find a picture of this fresco?
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