Tracing a Villain: Typological Intertextuality in the Works of Painter, Webster, Cinthio, and Shakespeare
Baldesar Castiglione's Book of the Courtier in Tudor England at a fraught moment in European history. This mixture of historical fact and mistaken inference well describes what we can fairly call Shakespeare's Castiglione. The transformation of chivalric romance into Italian Renaissance epic is the great accomplishment of Italian literature during the Quattro and Cinquecento, as Giuseppe Mazzotta cogently explains in his recent essay on that topic. In the process of undoing Othello's confidence in virtually everyone and everything but "honest Iago", the Venetian ensign summons up a counter image to Cassio's hymn of praise to the divine Desdemona. Only the death of his son, Mamillius, at last breaks Leontes' pathological intractability, which Paulina finally dares to call tyranny. In the final act of the performance, poetry and philosophy become indistinguishable from one another as they vie, in Cavell's terms, to make things happen to the soul.