ELIZABETH THROUGH ThNETIAN EYES ALMOST PARADOXICALLY, Venice's place in the Elizabethan imagination exceeded its actual place in Elizabethan foreign politics. In Volpone, the fast and loose dealings of the Rialto provided Ben Jonson a convenient cover for his satire on London's own commercial classes. Shakespeare used the famously cosmopolitan city as the setting for two different plays foregrounding racial and ethnic hatred, Othello and The Merchant a/Venice. Padua was a Venetian possession in Shakespeare's day, and its university was under Venetian auspices. Perhaps Kate, in The Taming 0/ the Shrew, owes as much as Portia and Desdemona to the Venetian reputation for "super-subtle" women (Oth. 1.3.356).1 Given the city's association with women who defied patriarchal convention, it should come as no surprise that common rumor linked Elizabeth herself-the woman whose frail female body belied her kingly heart and stomach-with the city. The great seventeenth-century gossip Francis Osborne reported longstanding speculation that Elizabeth "had a Son bred in the State of Venice," although Osborne himself argued that such rumors were more suited to a "romance" than to a serious history (Osborne 2: 42).2 One of the things that made Venice loom so large in the English imagination was its
Explorations in Renaissance Culture – Brill
Published: Dec 2, 2004
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