Thomas North’s 1555 Travel Journal: From Italy to Shakespeare makes available a little known early modern journal kept by a member of Queen Mary’s delegation to Rome, its purpose to win papal approval of England’s return to Roman Catholicism. The book provides details of the six-month journey, a discussion of the manuscript, and an identification of the twenty-year-old Thomas North as its author. It also points to numerous connections between the journal and the plays of Shakespeare, extending the playwright’s debt beyond North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives and revealing how the journal served as a template for The Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII. Both, the authors argue, were written by North during the Marian years (1554-58) and later adapted by Shakespeare. Like the authors’ 2018 “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels” by George North, this book presents original work using digital research tools, including massive databases and plagiarism software. The earlier book garnered worldwide attention, with a front-page story in The New York Times.
Dennis McCarthy is an independent scholar and author of Here Be Dragons: How the Study of Animal and Plant Distributions Revolutionized Our Views of Life and Earth, as well as other titles.
June Schlueter is Charles A. Dana Professor Emerita of English at Lafayette College and author of The Album Amicorum and the London of Shakespeare’s Time, as well as other titles.
Chapter 1 The Journey
Chapter 2 The Journal and Its Author
Chapter 3 From Italy to Shakespeare
Chapter 4 Revisiting History: North’s Sources—and Shakespeare’s
Chapter 5 Henry VIII: Transplanting a Marian History Play
Chapter 6 The Winter’s Tale: An Homage to Queen Mary
Chapter 7 The Winter’s Tale and Mantua
Chapter 8 Further Thoughts on The Winter’s Tale
Epilogue: The Lost Playwright
In a fascinating and challenging edition of a manuscript travel journal recording an embassy to Italy in 1555, they argue that this work can be attributed to the twenty-year-old North. We should all be grateful for this edition of the travel journal, which will be useful and is based on some impressive detective work.
McCarthy and Schlueter’s book will be compulsory reading in its turn for every scholar of these plays, and for anyone interested in Shakespeare’s reading.
McCarthy and Schlueter have once again produced evidence that ought to rock Shakespearean scholarship to its foundations.
The scholarship in this volume is wide, deep, and impressive. The authors know they have a heavy burden of proof, but they bear it fully.
This study compels us to recognize the Norths as significant protagonists in the vast, fascinating story of Shakespeare and his sources.