Ep 101: John Florio with Marianna Iannaconne

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By Cassidy Cash. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

The term "hand-and-a-half sword" is often used in reference to long-swords but is not considered a historical description of the weapon. There is no evidence of the term “hand-and-a-half” having been used during the Middle Ages when the sword saw its heyday in popularity and there’s no reference to hand and a half sword either in English or other languages before the 16th century. But the term does show up during the life of William Shakespeare. Why is that term appearing at this moment to describe a weapon that never went by that name when the weapon was popular? It seems that fencing language, and indeed the English language’s description of weapons overall, was influenced heavily by a man whose greatness is often eclipsed by that of Shakespeare and Jonson--that man is John Florio.

Words like “hand and a half sword” are just one example of the power Florio’s contributions are to both the English language, and it seems, to early modern plays themselves. Credited in print by Jonson personally, as well as praised and sponsored by by people like Salviolo, Henry Wriothesley, Philip Sydney, and other prominent figures from the 16th century, John Florio operated at the highest levels of English society.

Here this week to share with us the unique and often overlooked life of John Florio, how he came to be in England, and the unlikely friendship he seems to have had with Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare, is our guest Marianna Iannaconne.

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