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16. Italian in Tudor England: Why Couldn't a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Pamela J. Benson


Tudor England's attitude toward Italy was divided between admiration and fear. Englishmen traveled to Italy for study and commerce, and, impressed by the manners, literature, and learning they encountered, they brought Italian books home, translated them, published them, imitated them, and admonished others to read them. But many of their compatriots responded to the travelers, their tales, and their books with anxiety; they asserted that Italy corrupted both the travelers themselves and those who heard their tales or read their imported books and translations – the moralists' theme ever was, “Englese italianato, e un diabolo incarnato” [sic] (“An Englishman Italianated is a devil incarnated”) (Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster , 1570: 26). Despite this resistance and criticism (perhaps even stimulated by it), Italian literature and culture played a crucial formative role in the literary and intellectual development of Reformation England. Works of the most famous Elizabethan writers and those now relatively obscure were inspired by Italian texts and advertised their Italian connections, as can be seen in Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596), which conspicuously attempts to “overgo” Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1516 and 1532), and in Riche's Farewell to the Militarie Profession (1581), which is a flamboyant pastiche of Italian sources. Above all, of course, the “long deceased ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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