Date Thesis Awarded

5-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Theatre, Speech & Dance

Advisor

Laurie J. Wolf

Committee Member

Gary L. Green

Committee Member

Elizabeth A. Wiley

Committee Member

Christine Scippa Bhasin

Abstract

This thesis, Bard in the Gondola, Barred in the Ghetto: Operatic Adaptations of Shakespearean Text and Italian Identity in the Late Nineteenth Century, is based on the comparison between two texts. The first is William Shakespeare’s first quarto edition of The Merchant of Venice. The second is the 1873 vocal score and libretto of Ciro Pinsuti and G.T. Cimino’s opera, Il Mercante di Venezia: un melodramma in quattro atti. The contrast between the two works is made within the context of Italian unification, nationalism and identity juxtaposed with the literary and philosophical trends of the nineteenth century that impacted the way in which the opera was created and received by Italians.

Central to the work is the theme of identity. After its final unification in 1871, Italy was nominally one country, a nation strong and cohesive. However, there were several cultures within the society that had to form a new national spirit by either rejecting their old, local traditions and beliefs and molding an entirely new identity or shaping together bits and pieces from each Italian experience that reflected the division of powers present in the peninsula for centuries. Religion, gender and ethnicity all factor into an individual’s Italian-ness and are all examined in the Pinsuti opera. The use of theatre as a means of shaping this discussion continued into the twentieth century of Italy, as the nation still struggles to unite a divided culture of north and south, of progress and tradition.