Shakespeare's Italianate villains

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1961

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The desire to share in the new ideas that were being conceived in Italy led English scholars to go to that country to study. They returned to England; and through their efforts, the desire for knowledge spread. The education of a young gentleman was incomplete until he had traveled to Italy and studied at her institutions. Some of these young men returned to England, imitating Italian manners. Their tales of vice and corruption in Italy, plus a misinterpretation of Machiavelli's Prince, led to the concept of the Italianate villain. The Elizabethans soon identified the Italianate villain with driving ambition, intense desire for revenge, artistry in deception, intolerable atheism, and sheer joy in creating evil. The guiding philosophy of the man whose master was Machiavelli was that the end justifies the means. [...]

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