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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: November ::
Caesar and Divine Comedy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0652  Tuesday, 18 November 2008

[1] 	From: 	John W Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Friday, 14 Nov 2008 16:32:12 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy

[2] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 15 Nov 2008 12:20:16 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W Kennedy <
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Date: 		Friday, 14 Nov 2008 16:32:12 -0500
Subject: 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy
Comment: 	Re: SHK 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy

Jeremy Fiebig <
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 >

 >It's been awhile, but I recall that Brutus and Cassius, along with
 >Judas Iscariot, are eaten alive for eternity in Dante's _Divine  Comedy_.
 >
 >Would Shakespeare have had a translation of Dante available to him?

It is remotely possible that he might have had access to a Latin prose 
translation, but not, as far as I know, an English one. However, other English 
writers were familiar with Dante in the original, and long had been (Chaucer is 
the first Englishman to make mention of the great Florentine), so he could have 
been acquainted with the broad outline, or with snippets in translation. He 
might even have developed some ability to read Italian himself, for he had Latin 
to start with. Alas, despite all that, there is no solid evidence that 
Shakespeare knew Dante at all.

As an Englishman and as a Protestant (at least outwardly), Shakespeare would 
not, of course, have shared the notion, common in the middle ages, and a key to 
Dante's thought, that the Roman Empire was a vital part of God's plan for 
mankind. The closest thing to a hint of any such thing that I can recall 
off-hand comes at the end of "Cymbeline", and the theme is not developed there 
at all. To Shakespeare, therefore, the assassination of Caesar could not be the 
world- shattering outrage that Dante saw.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Saturday, 15 Nov 2008 12:20:16 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy
Comment: 	Re: SHK 19.0642 Caesar and Divine Comedy

Jeremy Fiebig writes:

 >It's been awhile, but I recall that Brutus and Cassius, along with Judas
 >Iscariot, are eaten alive for eternity in Dante's _Divine Comedy_.
 >
 >Would Shakespeare have had a translation of Dante available to him?

Episodes from Dante's COMMEDIA were used in English works at least as early as 
Chaucer. No extensive portions, however, were printed in English until William 
Hayley's three INFERNO cantos and Charles Rogers' entire INFERNO, both published 
in 1782, followed by Henry Boyd's entire COMMEDIA in 1802 and HF Cary's popular 
COMMEDIA version in 1814. Perhaps Shakespeare had access to unpublished English 
manuscripts, and then Florio was probably available to him for guidance in Italian.

For more detail, check out Paget Toynbee's works:

   ---DANTE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE FROM CHAUCER TO CARY (1909) (2v), both volumes 
available in full or preview form at Google Books.

   ---BRITAIN'S TRIBUTE TO DANTE (1921), available in its entirety at this site:

www.archive.org/stream/britainstributet00toynrich/britainstributet00toynrich_djvu.txt 


Regards,
Joe Egert


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