The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1021 Friday, 12 April 2002
Date: Wednesday, 10 Apr 2002 17:01:08 -0400
Subject: Belmont on the Brenta?
Thomas Coryate, Coryates Cruidities (1611), sig N8, comments on the
river Brenta as "very commodius for the citizens of Padua. For they may
passe forth and backe in a Barke downe the riuer from Padua to Venice,
and from Venice againe to Padua very easily in the space of foure &
twenty houres." He estimates the distance at twenty-five miles, and he
notes that the river is lined with "goodly faire houses and Palaces of
pleasure." And I have just been looking at Giuseppe Bruno's photographs
of the Brenta in La Riviera del Brenta (1996). Some of the remaining
palaces are striking.
It occurs to me that Shakespeare may have had the Brenta in mind as the
fictional locale of Portia's Belmont. John Florio could have given him
the information. Were Belmont imaginatively placed on the Brenta, the
characters' rapid transit between Belmont, Padua, and Venice would be
But this imaginative placing would NOT account for the apparent fact
that Bassanio and his retinue take almost three months to go from Venice
to Belmont, though his return to Venice is much, much quicker.
Let's pretend, for the sake of discussion, that Belmont is one of the
pleasure palaces on the Brenta. Why would Bassanio take so long to make
the trip from Venice to Belmont if it is twenty-five miles or less?
Yours, Bill Godshalk
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