Sederi Yearbook 28

William C. Carroll, “’I knew him in Padua’: London theatre and early modern constructions of erudition.” SEDERI 28 (2018): 7–32.


DOI: [pending]                                                          Download PDF



This paper examines one aspect of the two-way cultural traffic between London and Padua: how the city of Padua figured in debates about the nature of masculinity in early modern London, especially its theatres. Invariably known primarily for its university—noted by Coryat and Moryson, a tourist attraction for Chaucer, Sidney, and Milton—the name “Padua” became synonymous with “erudition.” While learnedness was in theory a positive quality, the place of learnedness in a declining honor culture and its complex role in constituting masculinity remained a contentious subject. English writers by turns envied or scorned the learning acquired in Italy, and invocations of Padua and its link to rapier fencing resulted in a series of contradictory figures in the drama of Shakespeare and Webster: doctors, pedants, enlightened philosophers, lovers, murderers for hire.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Webster; Jonson; Padua; Italy; university; fencing; masculinity; honor.



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