Gasparo Contarini, The commonwealth and government of Venice, 1599 - p.133.

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Date:1599

Description:A Shakespeare contemporary writes about Venice.

The lawyer Lewis Lewkenor travelled in Europe, perhaps as a spy working against the English Catholics. He translated Contarini's book on Venice, first published in 1544, in which the explanations of life and custom would have been useful to all who traveled to the city state. Lewkenor was related to the Combes family of Stratford, and so was possibly personally known to Shakespeare, who used this translation for ideas in Othello, and in The Merchant of Venice.



On page 133, continuing the pages headed the Venetian Commonwealth, the paragraph beginning on line 10 of the page reads:

For the education of their gentlemen has always been such that from their infancy till such time as the hairs of their beards begin to appear, they should be under the tutorship of schoolmasters, and instructed in learning according to their capacities and from thence forward (except some few wholly addicted to some profession of learning) they should apply themselves to navigation, being thereunto (as it were) even drawn by their own inclination and nature. Many do sail into far regions, as well by traffic to increase their substance, as also by experience to gain the knowledge of the government, laws, conditions and customs of other countries. Many put themselves into the galleys of war, there enuring and practicing their bodies to labour and their minds to the knowledge of the excellent art of naval discipline, in which the Venetians have (as I say always) been worthily renowned. And there is an ancient law, continuing even till these times of ours in force and vigour, that there should be a yearly stipend allowed out of the common treasure to two young men of the nobility in every armed galley, only thereby to breed in them a skilfulness in matters pertaining to the sea: for the better attaining to the which there...
[continues on next page of the volume].

Full title: Gasparo Contarini, The commonwealth and government of Venice. Written by the Cardinal Gaspar Contareno and translated out of Italian into English by Lewes Lewkenor, With sundry other collections, annexed by the translator, With a short chronicle of the lives and raignes of the Venetian dukes. London, Imprinted by John Windet for Edmund Mattes, 1599.


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Donor ref:SR 87.9 Venice [19,575] (32/10584)

Source: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Library

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