Friday, April 11, 2014

Tuscany Now uses authorship as marketing tool

Paladian Villa Zamboninal near Verona, Italy, photo courtesy Tuscany Now

by Linda Theil

A London-based, Italian-villa-rental company called Tuscany Now recently chose to highlight the Shakespeare authorship question in a recent post titled “Shakespeare in Italy”. (At last viewing, readers must link direct to the blog because there is as yet no link to blog posts from the Tuscany Now homepage.)

Content creator Phoebe Ryan tied Italian sites to Shakespeare’s work, interviewed principals in the authorship debate, and referred to the work of Richard Paul Roe in his lifework, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy (Harper, 2011) in her "Shakespeare in Italy" post. She said:
In Romeo and Juliet, we see the warring Montagues and Capulets against the backdrop of Verona, then Romeo’s solitude in Mantua. Famous for Juliet’s balcony as well as its inspiring Roman arena, Verona has monopolized on Romeo and Juliet. In Verona’s countryside at a beautiful Palladian villa like Villa Zambonina, you can almost imagine throwing the Capulet ball yourself. Neighbouring Palladio’s own villa, Zambonina’s original owners were closely acquainted with the architect. This is the Italy Shakespeare’s plays conjure. 
Although few suggest that Juliet’s balcony is the real balcony envisaged by the playwright, Richard Paul Roe’ s 2011 book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy does suggest that the bard may have had intimate knowledge of the region.
Ryan agreed to tell us about her work:

Oberon: What does a content and online, public relations person actually do?

Phoebe Ryan: We hope to drive traffic to our site by creating interesting content. 

Oberon: Could you tell me what made you think the authorship question would drive customers to your client?

Phoebe Ryan: We believe that content is of the utmost importance – no one wants to read an advertorial blog, something along the lines of ‘look at the new villa we have on our books’. Well, okay, I might hunger over an Italian holiday, but other than a little envy I’m unlikely to be interested. So I proposed the Shakespeare piece. 

Oberon: How did you become aware of the topic of Shakespeare in Italy, yourself?

Phoebe Ryan: I am interested because I studied English lit and actually spent an ERASMUS year at Ca Foscari University, Venice – the best year of my life, I would say! I think the authorship question is such a weird one, because no scholars that I’ve been taught by give one second’s credence to the idea it might not have been Shakespeare who wrote these pieces. Why? I do agree that fiction could be fiction, but I can’t see how they don’t want to investigate these geographical and linguistic accuracies in Shakespeare’s [work]!

The first notice I took of the authorship question after university was the Anonymous film, which I have to say, I thought was rather poor. There is so much better evidence/hints at de Vere’s hand than the film illustrated. I know it was a good way to get the populus interested – but I do think it was a bit of a string to the bow of the Stratfordian debate.

I personally adore Shakespeare, and I think he is becoming more and more accessible – whether by films as mentioned above, or more modern dramatic versions of the plays, or indeed popular renditions of the tale. Gnomeo and Juliet, for example! The plays are, for me, completely relevant to this day, and so rich and beautiful.  I wanted to contribute to keeping discussion and debate alive, and also wanted to spend my time on something I love writing about!

Oberon: We, at Oberon Shakespeare Study Group, are interested in documenting changes in the population's general awareness of the authorship question, so the interest of a marketing company using the topic to drive sales is of particular interest to us.

Phoebe Ryan: The proof for my clients will be traffic to the blog, links to the site, and the amount of time people stay on the piece. I’m just hoping [the “Shakespeare in Italy” post] generates enough interest to keep interesting options like this open in the future, as it has been a joy spending a couple of weeks writing this piece.