1st Edition

Moralizing the Italian Marvellous in Early Modern England

Edited By Beatrice Fuga, Alessandra Petrina Copyright 2025
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    This volume breaks new ground in the exploration of Anglo-Italian cultural relations: it presents analyses of a wide range of early modern Italian texts adapted into contemporary English culture, often through intermediary French translations. When transposed into English, their Italian origin was frequently categorized as marvellous, and consequently censured because of its strangeness: thus, English translators often gave their public a moralized and tamed version of Italy’s uniqueness. This volume’s contributors show that an effective way of moralizing Italian custom was to exoticize its origins, in order to protect the English public from an Italianate influence. This ubiquitous moralization is visible in the evolution of the concept of tragedy, and in the overtly educational aim acquired by the Italian novella, adapted for an allegedly female audience. Through the analysis of various literary genres (novella, epic poem, play, essay), the volume focuses on the mechanisms of appropriation and rejection of Italian culture through imported topoi and narremes.

    List of Contributors


    1.     Beatrice Fuga

    Introduction: the taming of the mirabile

    Section 1: The moralization of tragedy


    2.     Alice Equestri

    George Turberville and the politics of tragedy, power and love in the Tragical Tales (1574)


    3.     Flavia Palma

    ‘States in woe’ and ‘wretched wights’: George Turberville’s Tragical Tales and the Italian novelle


    4.     Luigi Marfé

    Geoffrey Fenton and ‘the Italian manner’: moralizing Bandello, exoticizing Italy


    Section 2: Moralizing custom


    5.     Francisco Nahoe

    Urbino englished: Castiglione in unfamiliar clime


    6.     Luca Baratta

    ‘Polished and filed according to the right sence of the author’: domesticating Leonardo Fioravanti’s Del reggimento della peste in Elizabethan England


    Section 3: From Orlando to Othello


    7.     Richard Hillman

    Reverberations of Rodomonte in and around Othello


    8.     Alessandra Petrina

    ‘The immortal part’: Othello, Giraldi Cinzio’s novella, and the power of words


    9.     Kiawna Brewster

    Charlotte Lennox as translator and critic: feminine subjectivity and Italian identity in Cinzio’s Gli ecatommiti and Shakespeare’s Othello


    Section 4: Moralizing Women


    10.  Elena Spinelli

    Appropriating morality: the tale of Ghismonda and the English Decameron


    11.  Anne Geoffroy

    ‘What followed it were folly to describe’: representing Venice in early modern English Translations of Italian novelle and the poetics of edification


    12.  Beatrice Fuga

    Resounding Fame in Matteo Bandello’s Novelle (1554) and Geoffrey Fenton’s Tragicall Discourses (1567)



    Beatrice Fuga holds a PhD in English Studies. After completing her Master’s degree in English Studies, she obtained a funded PhD at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, where she currently teaches English literature, grammar and translation. Her research revolves around the reception of Italian novelle in the early modern period, and the role of translation in European cultural and political relationships. She has published articles on the reception of Italian novelle in early modern Europe, the interaction between the novella and English early modern theatre, and the materiality of the book. She also works on the translation of medical texts in early modern England, and on the cultural and medical representation of love melancholy and hysteria.

     Alessandra Petrina is Professor of English Literature at the Università di Padova, Italy. Her research focuses primarily on late-medieval and early modern intellectual history, and on Anglo-Italian cultural relations. She has published The Kingis Quair (1997), Cultural Politics in Fifteenth-century England. The Case of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (2004), Machiavelli in the British Isles. Two Early Modern Translations of the Prince (2009), and Petrarch’s Triumphi in the British Isles (2020). Her latest book is Shakespeare. Guida ad Otello (2022).