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The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard's Unknown Travels Paperback – November 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A fascinating look at a largely untouched aspect of Shakespeare’s identity and influences. Recommended for Shakespeare enthusiasts and scholars as well as travelers looking for a new perspective, this is also particularly intriguing as a companion to specific plays.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“An exceptionally entertaining, enlightening, and handsome companion for a thrillingly literate Italian sojourn.” (Booklist)

“Exciting, original, and convincing....This book is essential reading for all concerned with who really wrote the works of Shakespeare. A thrilling journey of discovery.” (Sir Derek Jacobi)

“This is a revolutionary and revelatory book, part thrilling detective story and part sober scholarly treatise.” (Michael York, Shakespearean actor of stage and screen and co-author of A Shakespearean Actor Prepares)

“This represents a hugely significant intervention in the study of Shakespeare and his dramatic works.” (Dr. William Leahy, Head of the School of Arts, Shakespeare Authorship Studies, Brunel University)

“Unless someone can prove him wrong, anyone who claims to have written the plays of Shakespeare needs to show some Italian travel documents.” (Mark Rylance, Founding Artistic Director, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London)

From the Back Cover

Richard Paul Roe spent more than twenty years traveling the length and breadth of Italy on a literary quest of unparalleled significance.

Using the text from Shakespeare’s ten “Italian Plays” as his only compass, Roe determined the exact locations of nearly every scene in Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about Nothing, The Tempest, and the remaining dramas set in Italy. His chronicle of travel, analysis, and discovery paints with unprecedented clarity a picture of what the Bard must have experienced before penning his plays.

Equal parts literary detective story and vivid travelogue—containing copious annotations and more than 150 maps, photographs, and paintings—The Shakespeare Guide to Italy is a unique, compelling, and deeply provocative journey that will forever change our understanding of how to read the Bard . . . and irrevocably alter our vision of who William Shakespeare really was.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062074261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062074263
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By John D. Lavendoski on December 8, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"One of the great satisfactions of life is to embark upon a long leisurely journey--especially an absorbing intellectual adventure filled with mystery and promise."

So begins "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy"...a new and decidedly adventurous book by the late Richard Paul Roe.

Thirty years ago, the consensus among what may be termed 'Professional Shakespeare Academics' (let's call them PSAs) regarding the bard's knowledge of Italy was: "...he knew little of Italian geography and customs...making glaring errors..." and "...the Italy he wrote about was mostly invented inside his head...with little regard for historical fact."

'Learned English Professors' (LEPs), the local foot soldiers for the infinitely more glamorous PSAs, followed suit, clucking softly to themselves and parroting the notion that Shakespeare's "glaring errors" on Italy were a by-product of his London based research and writing.

The passing years have not always been kind, however, to these views. Several members of the traditionally-minded academic community have already broken ranks over the past two decades as, one by one, the "glaring errors" purportedly made by Shakespeare have been shown to have NOT been errors at all, but rather, to be evidence of detailed knowledge of Italian geography and travel practices as they existed in the late 16th century.

The most obvious example of this detailed knowledge is evidenced by archeological discoveries in Northern Italy which have revealed the extensive system inland waterways that existed in the region during Shakespeare's era and beyond. These include the canals which made possible a journey by boat between Verona and the inland city of Milan...just as Shakespeare himself described in The Two Gentleman of Verona...
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By James Ulmer on November 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Over the past 400 years, much has been imagined about Shakespeare's life, and much less actually known. One of the few certainties about his very uncertain biography was this: Whoever William Shakespeare was, he was clearly a "native genius" who never left England's shores. How else to explain those famous mistakes of geography, such as setting a seacoast in Bohemia or, in Two Gentlemen of Verona, sailing boats between Milan and Verona?

And yet...why would the poet choose to set I0 of his 36 plays in Italy, a land in which he had never set foot? What was it that triggered Shakespeare's fascination with Italian history, customs, geography and mores so evident in Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing? What did Shakespeare really know about Italy, and how did he know it? With no first-hand evidence, historians admit they can only imagine how Shakespeare himself imagined the world beyond England's shores.

In his groundbreaking book, "The Shakespeare Guide to Italy," author Richard Roe is not content to imagine Shakespeare; he hunts him down. Using the canon of Shakespeare's 10 Italian plays as his guide, he treks through Italy by car and by foot to solve specific clues in the plays' lines to prove his thesis: that whoever wrote these works must have had an intimate, first-hand familiarity with Italy itself.

For Roe, the secret to Shakespeare is written in the streets and byways, the rivers and canals and churches of Italy. With the passion and precision of a master detective, he locates the exact spots that the Bard describes in his plays, locations that in four centuries of Shakespeare scholarship have never before been examined.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Frank M. Davis on November 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Fisher tries to make the case that no amount of specific detail of Italy would be inaccessible to William of Stratford regardless if he never traveled to Italy. He gives no examples from the book to show that the unusual details given could have been provided by any specific sources that could be found in London's book stalls or elsewhere. The idea that books were so plentiful and easily available to the common public is in Mr. Fisher's word, "rediculous."

I have read Roe's book and found details such as location of the sycamore trees outside the west wall in Verona identified in R&J remarkable. Furthermore, they are still there! Then there is the identification of "old Freetown" referred to by Escalus in R&J that Roe identified as Villafranca di Verona and the Scaliger castle. This is just from the beginning of the first chapter. There is so much more just in R&J.

Some of the many of details pointed out by Roe that intriqued me were the detailed description of the canal system in Italy at the time of Shakespeare and how they played into the plays of Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew and even the Merchant of Venice. Roe's remarkable dicoveries continues on and on necessitating careful reading but with great reward, such as the likely discovery of Prospero's island. If you love Shakespeare and appreciate history and geography, you will find much enjoyment in reading this landmark book.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Cobb on November 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
In these days of video, we are able to get some sense of what other countries are like, but it is still limited. Imagine how difficult it must have been in Shakespeare's day to get any real sense of Italy -- unless you went there. The plays are full of references to very particular details of Italian towns. What a pleasure to read the canon with this finely researched book in hand. It brings to life the travels of a man who loved Italy and lived there. As regards the authorship question, whoever wrote the plays must have spent time on the Continent. I don't think you can get away from that.
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