That Italian William Shakespeare, or rather… from Messina


By John

«With this novel I wanted to restore a bit of Italianness to William Shakespeare, a total poet who belongs to everyone, including ours.” Shakespeare speaks thus of “his him”. Pete Maggi, film producer and distributor, founder of the film distribution company Eagle Pictures and from then on of other important Italian and international distributions of film and television content. For his debut novel, “Shakespeare reloved” (Solferino) Maggi chose to tackle a challenging theme that certainly lends itself to fiction with the aura of myth, mystery and legend that surrounds the figure of that great bard of the human that is Shakespeare.
Ultimately it is a question of literary thinking in the form of narration which in the novel gives space to the picaresque, the adventurous, the historical, with the Spanish Inquisition which represses intelligences and freedoms in its bloody grip in the name of the defense of the Catholic faith against heresies. The protagonist is the very young Michelangelo Florio, son of John Florio, who arrived in Messina at the Crollalanza house to escape the Inquisition that persecutes his father Michelangelo. Love breaks out between John and Guglielmina Crollalanza and from their romantic union Michelangelo will be born, but in a convent, where Guglielmina is taken refuge while John has to escape. Hence a series of chiaroscuro adventures with frequent narrative scene changes, but in the foreground there is always love, passion and desire, which push Michelangelo, the future William Shakespeare, to write, travel, meet and love. Because according to Maggi «stories are born from what we experience and Shakespeare too certainly had many experiences which he then transferred into his poetic world».
Maggi – what tomorrow (6 pm) he will present his book in Messina at the Ubik Gilda dei Narratori bookshop, talking with the councilor Enzo Caruso and the architect Antonino Principato, and then it will be Friday in Palermo and Saturday in Catania – he does the same with his characters: he makes them live the stories that later became Shakespeare’s immortal ones, from Messina to Venice, to Rome, Verona and London. With a conclusion that gives space to love and new adventures for the one who is one for all, the Poet William Shakespeare. Ultimately the author “uses” Shakespeare not so much to illuminate his mystery, which remains, but to perceive and make people perceive the immensity of his genius.

A challenging theme for a debut novel…

«A true obsession, since I was filming “The Merchant of Venice” in 2003 and I was struck by that work’s knowledge of the city, of Italian legislation and of certain customs that only those who had lived there could know: I think, for example, of the “goldenlock” mentioned in the “Merchant”, a use of Venetian girls, or the “ragusine”, boats used by the Republic of Venice. In Venice, during the time I stayed there, I started searching the archives on the passage and presence of Shakespeare in the city but I found nothing. Meanwhile, I read documents and essays, like that of Santi Paladino from 1927. And from then on, wherever I went, I researched and investigated. Finally, the novel that freed me, so to speak, from this magic.”

Of course, you took many liberties in the novel…

«Too many I would say, but mine is also meant to be a provocation. If I ever present the book in London where I lived for seven years, from 1998 to 2006, I would like the earls of Pembroke to be called into question, heirs of William III of Pembroke, to whom John Florio, who defined himself as “an Italian English ” and about whose connection with William, perhaps even biological, there can be no doubt, he entrusted writings and documents relating to Shakespeare. Papers that have never been opened to scholars.”

And speaking of Italian ancestry, it is Sicily that we need to look at and it is no coincidence that she begins the novel with the arrival of the very young John Florio in Messina, at the Crollalanza home.

«When I filmed “Il delitto Mattarella” in Sicily I continued my research. And my doubts were the same ones contained in Nino Principato’s book on Shakespeare in Messina. The Crollalanzas, whose English rendering is Shakespeare, were an important noble family of Milanese origin but with a branch transplanted to Messina. It was customary, as I verified in the archives of the English College of Rome, that those who wanted to go to England took on an “alias” which usually took up a surname of maternal ancestry of the family”.

How much does your novel owe to Madden’s “Shakespeare in love”? And could it become a film?

«I owe nothing to Madden and yes, it could become a film, or a series as happens with many plots today. And I had plots in mind. There were many possible stories in the novel which naturally I had to contain.”

What do you hope for your book?

«May it give pleasure and joy to those who read. My “reloved” means not so much “recycled” but “reloved”, “relived”. A Shakespeare who is loved above all by young people for his immortal greatness.”