Shakespeare, Nietzsche wrote, was Montaigne’s best reader—a typically brilliant Nietzschean insight, capturing the intimate relationship between Montaigne’s ever-changing record of the self and Shakespeare’s kaleidoscopic register of human character. And there is no doubt that Shakespeare read Montaigne—though how extensively remains a matter of debate—and that the translation he read him in was that of John Florio, a fascinating polymath, man-about-town, and dazzlingly inventive writer himself.
Florio’s Montaigne is in fact one of the masterpieces of English prose, with a stylistic range and felicity and passages of deep lingering music that make it comparable to Sir Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. This new edition of this seminal work, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Peter G. Platt, features an adroitly modernized text, an essay in which Greenblatt discusses both the resemblances and real tensions between Montaigne’s and Shakespeare’s visions of the world, and Platt’s introduction to the life and times of the extraordinary Florio. Altogether, this book provides a remarkable new experience of not just two but three great writers who ushered in the modern world.
About the Author
complete essays appeared posthumously in 1595.
John Florio (1553–1625) was born in London, the son of Michelangelo Florio, a Tuscan convert to Protestantism who had moved to England because of his religious beliefs and who served as a language tutor to several highborn English families. Raised in Italian-speaking Switzerland and Germany, where his father fled after the Catholic Queen Mary I came to the English throne, John Florio returned to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and followed in his father’s footsteps as an instructor of languages, teaching French and Italian at Magdalen College, Oxford, and, under King James I, working as a private tutor to the Crown Prince and the Queen Consort. Florio’s works include First Fruits, which yield Familiar Speech, Merry Proverbs, Witty Sentences, and Golden Sayings; A Perfect Induction to the Italian and English Tongues; Second Fruits, to be gathered of Twelve Trees, of divers but delightsome Tastes to the Tongues of Italian and English men; Garden of Recreation, yielding six thousand Italian Proverbs; an Italian–English dictionary, A World of Words (the second edition of which was entitled Queen Anna’s New World of Words); and his celebrated translation of Montaigne’s Essays.
Stephen Greenblatt is the author of, among other books, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (winner of the National Book Award, the James Russell Lowell Award, and the Pulitzer Prize). He is the John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard.
Peter G. Platt is a professor and chair of English at Barnard College. He is the author of Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox (2009) and Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvelous (1997), and the editor of Wonders, Marvels, and Monsters in Early Modern Culture (1999). He has written articles about Shakespeare, Renaissance poetics and rhetoric, and John Florio. He is currently writing a book about Shakespeare and Montaigne.
Table of Contents
Shakespeare's Montaigne Stephen Greenblatt ix
"I am an Englishman in Italian": John Florio and the Translation of Montaigne Peter G. Piatt xxxiv
Note on the Text xlviii
Dedicatory Poem Samuel Daniel 3
To the Courteous Reader (selections) John Florio 6
The Author to the Reader Michel de Montaigne 9
That to Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die 13
It Is Folly to Refer Truth or Falsehood to Our Sufficiency 34
Of Friendship 40
Of the Cannibals 56
Of the Inequality That Is Between Us 72
Of Age 86
Of the Inconstancy of Our Actions 90
A Custom of the Isle of Cea 99
Of the Affection of Fathers to Their Children 117
An Apology of Raymond Sebond (selections) 142
We Taste Nothing Purely 190
Of a Monstrous Child 194
Of Repenting 196
Of Three Commerces or Societies 212
Of Diverting or Diversion 226
Upon Some Verses of Virgil (selections) 239
Of Coaches 279
Of the Lame or Cripple 304
Of Experience (selections) 317
Selected Bibliography 343
Appendix: Floriolegium 347