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Othello's Island 2015

at the Severis Foundation • Nicosia • Cyprus


Speaker: Dr Rosemary E. Bancroft-Marcus (Independent)

Title: "Georgios Chortatsis, the Cretan Shakespeare, and the Veneto-Cretan literary Renaissance"




Shakespeare had a distinguished Greek contemporary on the Venetian-ruled island of Crete: Georgios Chortatsis, whose extant works, all evincing a thorough knowledge of Italian Renaissance literature, include a pastoral comedy, a tragedy, two comedies, and several spectacular interludes. His home town of Rethymno had been burnt to the ground in 1571 by a detachment of the Ottoman fleet besieging Cyprus. Crete was not to fall to the Sultan for another century, but the shock resulted in greater rapprochement between its Venetian and Greek residents, and indirectly in the flowering of literary, artistic and theatrical productivity known as the Cretan Renaissance. Chortatsis’s two known patrons were leading citizens of Chania, where around 1586 a theatrical Academy was being set up modelled on the renowned Accademia Olimpica of Vicenza; I suggest that his Panoria and Erophile were first performed in Chania. In the mid-1590s, Chortatsis seems to have moved to the capital (now Iraklio), setting of his comedies Katzarapos and Stathis (the latter a refugee from Cyprus). Its local Academy, the Stravaganti, had as principal Andrea Cornaro, perhaps a distant relative of Cyprus’s last Queen; and Andrea’s brother may be the Vitsentzos Kornaros who wrote the romance of chivalry Erotokritos, featuring in Book Two a knight from Cyprus. The poetic style of both Chortatsis and Kornaros has affinities with the Cypriot Greek collection of Petrarchistic poems dated to the 1570s. Could it be that Cyprus had enjoyed an earlier literary Renaissance, whose works are lost to us?




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