by Lamberto Tassinari

1. John Florio added more than one thousand new words to the English language, the same
contribution attributed to William Shakespeare. Furthermore, Florio compiled the first
Italian/English dictionary. The 1611 edition contained 74,000 Italian words and 150,000 English
words. Frances Yates, author of Florio’s biography (1934) defines Florio’s dictionary as the
epitome of the era’s culture.

2. John Florio and his father Michel Angelo, a former Franciscan monk who converted to
Protestantism (and the son of converted Jews), are two erudite Italian scholars like few at that
time in England. They possessed a vast knowledge of the arts, science, literature, theology,
botany, medicine, falconry, law and seamanship – an encyclopedic knowledge which
Shakespeare clearly commanded. Few knew European literature like John Florio who, having
read the material in the original languages (Italian, French and Spanish), also taught it.

3. Immersed between the Jewish traditions of his ancestors and the Catholic and Protestantism
religions of his father Michel Angelo is John Florio, whose vast knowledge sacred scriptures
coincides with Shakespeare’s.

4. William Shakespeare and John Florio display the same bombastic style: the same exaggerated
use of metaphor, rhetoric, wit (quips and puns), poetic sense and extensive use of proverbs. They
even coin words in the same fashion. This is easily verified in the introductory texts of Florio’s
scholarly works: the dictionary A Worlde of Wordes (1598), First Fruits (1578) and Second Fruits
(1591), two brilliant Italian/English teaching booklets. Thousands of words and phrases written
by Florio appear later in Shakespeare’s works. Two of Florio’s phrases become titles of William
Shakespeare’s comedies. Florio is a juggler of words and a polyglot: he speaks four modern
languages, as well as Latin, Greek and probably Hebrew – the same languages known by
Shakespeare, according to scholars.

5. John Florio translated Montaigne’s Essays and Boccaccio’s Decameron, two exceptional
works. The “idea” of translating these fundamental texts during such a crucial time for the
development of English culture is in itself an extraordinary feat. Florio’s translations prove that
he is a great writer, a poet close in spirit and style to Shakespeare. If we keep in mind that Florio
was writing “in prose” and not in “verse” like Shakespeare, this closeness is undeniable.

6. The impressive knowledge of the Bible and liturgies, both Catholic and Protestant, which
Shakespeare supposedly possesses matches perfectly with John Florio’s biography. The two
Florios, father and son, are regarded by critics as minor characters within the small Protestant and
heretic Italian diaspora. In reality, they were the first major promoters of Italian culture abroad.
The younger Florio studied at the German University of Tübingen with Pier Paolo Vergerio, an
ex-Catholic bishop of Capodistria, converted to Protestantism. In England, he befriended the
circle of reformed scientists and scholars which included Teodoro Diodati, the brother of
Giovanni, a Calvinist and the first Italian translator of the Bible.

7. John Florio owned 340 books in Italian, French and Spanish and an unknown number in
English. He read 252 books in preparation for his dictionary New World of Words. These are the
same books which Shakespeare had to have read in the original language as inspirations for his
plays. Florio’s will bequeath his library of Italian, French and Spanish books to his friend and
protector William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.

8. The works of Shakespeare demonstrate “a culture of exile,” a theme very familiar to Florio.

9 The great influence of Montaigne’s thought and vocabulary upon William Shakespeare,
reluctantly recognized by Shakespearean scholars, was demonstrated by George Coffin Taylor’s
Shakespeare’s Debt to Montaigne (1925)

10. The vast knowledge of Italian writers, some of whom had not yet been translated into English,
could not have been known by the “man from Stratford.” One clear example is Giordano Bruno, a
Neapolitan heretic philosopher burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1600. The
presence of Bruno’s thought and vocabulary in Shakespeare’s works is evident – it is a “physical”
presence, which is refuted or ignored by Shakespearean scholars. This closeness is unexplainable
if one considers the “man from Stratford,” but natural and normal if one remembers that John
Florio and Giordano Bruno were house guests of the French ambassador in London for more than
two years (from 1583 to 1585). Many of their works cross-reference each other.

11. William Shakespeare’s impressive musical knowledge is surprising, and very difficult to
explain. John Florio, on the other hand, was a musician and was responsible for inviting
musicians to perform at the royal court.

12. William Shakespeare is shown to possess a strong aristocratic persona. Yet the man normally
credited with writing the plays is the son of illiterate parents, and father of two illiterate
daughters. John Florio, on the other hand, was a teacher and friend of powerful aristocrats and the
Groom of the Privy Chamber to James I and Queen Anne for 16 years.

13. All the “friends” of Shakespeare who appear in the colourless biography of the man from
Stratford are John Florio’s historically documented friends – from Lord Southampton to William
Pembroke. William Shakespeare’s presumed godfathers were John Florio’s well-known students
and protectors. Ben Jonson considers Florio “his loving Father and worthy Friend Master John
Florio. Ayden of his Muses.”. Similar tributes are shared by many other nobles.

14. William Shakespeare demonstrates an undeniable Italian sensibility. Examples abound, as 16
plays boast Italian plots. The man from Stratford shows an excellent knowledge of Italian, as if he
read the arduous Giordano Bruno, Ariosto, Aretino (another one of the Bard’s major inspirations)
in the original. Naseeb Shaheen states in his Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays (1999)
that, when an English translation is available, Shakespeare’s words resemble the original Italian.

15. Finally, there is an ontological and sociological proof all in one. If two such characters –
Shakespeare and John Florio – had lived in London at the same time, if they had shared patrons,
friends, interests, passions and abilities, then why have they never met nor is there any mention of
them meeting? Perhaps they would even have clashed, leaving behind visible traces. Instead,
there is a total void. They could not have met, of course, since they are one and the same! If
Florio shared with Shakespeare the same patrons, the same friends, the same interests, passions
and abilities and yet never met him, nor mentioned him, proves once more that William
Shakespeare never existed as the scholarly, multilingual, aristocratic Italianizing author of the
works penned (when they were) by William Shakespeare.