The Italian Connection

Edward de Vere, The Italian Connection

To write of Italy, a skill consummate,
by having the knowledge so intimate.
This could only come from someone who was there,
not from hearing casual gossip in the air.
Called “The Italianate Englishman,”
he showed an Italian acumen.
He brought perfumed gloves for the Queen
to show the fashion of where he had been.
He spoke their language and also Latin,
and became immersed to totally fit in.
His keen mind absorbed their stories and books.
Some plays were hung on those cultural hooks.
Italian proverbs were quoted in them,
and borrowed stories, time and again.
He gained a working knowledge of Italy,
famous Italians and their history.
He had learned their science and their politics,
their loves, passions, romance and their tricks.
He knew Machiavelli’s works
and would have liked their quirks.
He said a new outlook needs new rules,
and civilizations have had their fools.
The average Englishman did not know
the work of artist-architect Romano.
Guillio had decorated the palace for Gonzaga
at his estate in the town of Mantua.
Awed by the frescoes’ grand scale –
he was mentioned in The Winter’s Tale.

From 1583 to 85 Italian philosopher Bruno was in London;
that was where some of his best work was done.
This occult philosopher had scientific ideas
but was often rejected by his peers.
It was likely that Italian-speaking Edward met Bruno
at social occasions in London for people in the know.
His own house, Fisher’s Folly was a literary gathering place
where the intelligentsia could many topics embrace.
Bruno was at Court, Greville’s house, and Northumberland’s clique,
having the opportunity for his enlightened ideas to speak.
Hamlet asks – “Doubt thou that the stars are fire?”
Did Bruno the author thus inspire?
Hamlet’s thoughts in his famous soliloquy
might be echoing Bruno’s philosophy?
Both men were ahead of their time,
having concepts and learning that were prime.
Bruno with natural philosophy and the universe,
Edward with equal volatility in his plays and verse.

Edward knew many Italians in London town,
including a fencing master of renown.
Saviolo’s book of fencing and style
would make a clumsy fighter agile.
A poor swordsman would learn to suffuse
in his school of technique and weaponry use.
They would go from inept to a new swagger
when they learned how to use rapier and dagger.
Oxenford would have seen this in Italy
and no doubt practised regularly.
He would be known as an Elizabethan – ‘blade’,
with sword and costume dressed to parade.
The term of – ‘blade’ – do not forget,
was first used in Romeo and Juliet.

One third of the plays were set in Italy;
in ancient Rome and Messina, Sicily,
twice in Venice, then in Verona,
in Milan, Florence, Mantua and Padua.
Several stories were from Italian legend
which the author would amend and blend.
In order to know these local stories well,
you would have to have been there and travel.

He returned with their fashions and their style
and no doubt made Queen Elizabeth smile.
But he also returned with his memories,
and an eye and an ear for Italian stories.
His stay there was one of cultural immersion,
but he gave Lord Burghley a different version.

Burghley was having him watched and spied on.
So Edward covered up that his life was wanton.
The best way was to pretend that his stay was a bore,
and he wrote that he cared not to see Italy any more.
This letter from Venice of September ‘75,
which dismissed Italy, was written to contrive.
We know that he was a most willing captor,
as he stayed on in Italy for six months more!

Traveller Edward Webbe saw him in Palermo
in combats and tournaments, always on the go.
He was featured in a Commedia dell’Arte.
He would have liked that type of display.
Perucci described it as a mock tournament.
He would have really enjoyed that comedic event.
A cosmopolitan group was there at that time,
a setting for him that was sublime.
There were Turks, Danes and Moldavians,
Persians, Syrians and Dacians.

Oxenford’s longest stay was in Venice
a thriving, multicultural base.
A local proverb about Venice that he knew –
“Only those that don’t see you, don’t love you.”
Another saying from their local dish –
was to be as “healthy as a fish.”
There was a local Venetian story from 1554
about a Jewish moneylender of their folklore.
He lent a Christian money from his vaults
and expected a pound of flesh for defaults.
This story was called –Il Peccorino,
and was one that Oxenford would know.
The climax took place at the Doge’s Palace,
which was the scene of the law courts in Venice.

Within Julius Caesar an assassination and plot
that would have offended the Queen a lot.
There had been several plots and attempts on her life,
it would be alarming to see Caesar stabbed with a knife,
not just once, but wounded twenty-three times,
and the murderers escaped from their crimes.
A 16th century copy of Plutarch’s Lives
can be currently found in Venetian archives.
Oxenford probably read the original while there;
he was well known as a scholar with some flair.

Who would have read the Art of Love by Ovid?
Oxenford, most probably did.
He had studied Ovid with his uncle Golding,
whose translation of Metamorphoses was sterling.
The Art of Love was how to woo and keep your lady.
You could say it gave advice that was somewhat shady.
The Taming of the Shrew was from an Italian play
where two young couples interact in their own way.
The English version was set in Padua
with the shrew being Caterina.

Romeo and Juliet had a swordfight
that Oxenford would have known all right –
from an Italian legend already told,
this partial setting – a Verona household.
Dante mentions Montecchi and Capuleti –
two families from the early 14th century.
One scene at a masked ball was a tradition
that Oxenford knew he would be able to mention.
The story of young love from opposing families
which ends as one of his several tragedies.

The Deceived was the name of a comedy
staged in Siena every 6th of January,
in England that date is called Twelfth Night,
A nice recipe for some playwright.

Much Ado about Nothing, set in Sicily,
is a light comedy that ends happily.
The Courtier was a guide to etiquette
and local aristocratic life in vignette.
Beatrice, an opinionated and outspoken woman,
and Benedick, a somewhat obstinate man.
Does the author allude to his organ’s size,
as a well-formed one he describes?
In the way that the author tells this tale
we find character strength in the female.

Oxenford knew astrologer John Dee
and was interested in aspects of alchemy.
Science, alchemy and magic were all explored
while he was traveling abroad.
Giovanni Battista Della Porta in 1563
wrote a book about cryptography.
From 1558 something worth a second look
was what he wrote as a natural magic book.
His Academy of Secrets or natural sciences study
would have fascinated Oxenford’s curiosity.
He had planned that to Naples he would go;
this journey may have produced Prospero.
This character is an educated magician,
who comes to terms with what he has seen,
both in experiments and also in life,
where we balance on the edge of a knife.
We need enlightenment in science and the soul,
such a revelation should be experienced by all.
The tempest of storm and experiment
should abate to produce spiritual content.

There was another angle to his longer stay in Italy,
and it wasn’t just the pursuit of politics and alchemy.
Oxenford was exploring his sexuality.
Baxter said he “lived a life of infamie.”
Something he wouldn’t indulge in back at home,
because he was probably too well known.
In Venice, Virginia Padoana, courtesan,
was the female prostitute for this man.
Oxenford was bisexual – didn’t you know?
He had a 16-year-old boy called Cuoco.
It was said that the sexploits of Oxenford’s
were recorded in Venetian state records!