Thursday, 5 August 2010

Much Ado About Dante

On reading something of Dante I have come across the figure of Beatrice.

Without wishing to provide a synopsis of Dante’s writing – even if that were possible – or of Shakespeare’s play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ I am asking whether it is reasonable to assume that Shakespeare read Dante’s, ‘Divine Comedy’?

As I understand ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ features two pairs of lovers including Beatrice and Benedick.

Dante is reputed to have loved a woman named Beatrice. Though it is widely understood that they hardly met, it does seem to be a delightful coincidence that Shakespeare wrote a play featuring the name of Dante’s love, Beatrice.

In further reading of Dante’s spiritual autobiography it can also be found that:

“Benedict tells Dante that his wish will be granted when he reaches the Empyrean, where the pilgrim finds the saint seated between St. Francis and St Augustine in the celestial rose.” (William Wilson)

From Benedict to Benedick, from Beatrice to Beatrice; did Shakespeare have Dante’s, ‘Divine Comedy’ in mind when he wrote, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’? Was Shakespeare inspired by Dante?

Shakespeare is most unlikely to have been able to read Italian and it is true that a translation of the Divine Comedy into English did not yet exist in 1600. Yet the publication of The Merchant of Venice suggests a greater knowledge of Italian culture and society reflected in Shakespeare’s writing.

My guess is that Shakespeare had read Dante.

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