Love and Silence in the Renaissance: From the Italian Novella Tradition to its English Legacy

Flavia Palma


The Medieval and Renaissance European literary traditions are testimony to a habit of considering language as the primary medium for love, but there were also interesting exceptions connected to the opposite power of silence. Matteo Bandello’s novella III 17 is a case in point: the tale is centred upon the impotence of amorous words and the paradoxical power of silence. Bandello to some extent appropriated a topic already present in Boccaccio’s Decameron, but it was his novella that fascinated sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: his tale appeared in both English prose and verse translations, as well as being adapted for the stage in a comedy. This paper considers how this peculiar relation between silence and words within love bonds was treated by Bandello and then appropriated both in narrative and theatrical contexts by English writers such as William Painter, Geoffrey Fenton, John God, Gervase Markham, and Lewis Machin.

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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.058


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