Shakespeare Among Italian Criminologists and Psychiatrists, 1870s-1920s


Emanuel Stelzer
University of Verona


Shakespeare, Criminology, Psychiatry, Lombroso


Italians found another way to engage with Shakespeare besides opera. In 1923, Italian intellectual Piero Gobetti wrote that his age would be remembered as a curious chapter in the reception history of Shakespeare, when the Bard got entangled with ideas of criminal anthropology. In fact, the uses of Shakespeare by Lombroso’s school are now forgotten. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Shakespeare began to be portrayed as a genius who anticipated the findings of the Italian Positivist School, or, alternatively, as an authority who could debunk them. Shakespeare’s own psyche and the characters of his plays were explored and pathologised. These studies occasionally percolated into the practices of courthouses, prisons, hospitals, and asylums, and had an impact on the performance of Shakespeare’s plays. This volume provides an edition of hitherto uncollected primary sources which document these uses of Shakespeare. Each text has a parallel English translation, and is introduced by a preface providing details about the context and its main discursive stances. The volume also features a critical introduction and explanatory notes.




May 9, 2021


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