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This discovery of so vast a country seems to be of very great consideration.I cannot be sure, that hereafter there may not be another, so many wiser men than we having been deceived in this.
At the time, I had no idea of the significance of this book to a Shakespeare library.
Researching for A Level displays last year, I found that whilst The Tempest is one of the few plays not to be strongly linked to any particular historical or contemporary narrative, one of the few proven sources is Montaigne’s essay “Des Cannibales”.
Last month, I conducted stack tours for interview candidates for the post of Library and Archive Assistant.
This set me thinking about a snowy November day five years ago, when I was taken on a similar tour, little knowing that I would get the job and enjoy it so much I’d still be here now!
By labeling the outsiders as the “self” and accepting their formalities as the norm, he undermines the Europeans as the “other” and uses the Barbarians to examine the civilized with an untainted perspective, enabling close scrutiny and analysis of both societies.
It is through this definition that Montaigne is initially able to offer criticism of the ignorance of European arrogance and assumed superiority over the Barbarians.I am afraid our eyes are bigger than our bellies, and that we have more curiosity than capacity; for we grasp at all, but catch nothing but wind.Plato brings in Solon,—[In Timaeus.]—telling a story that he had heard from the priests of Sais in Egypt, that of old, and before the Deluge, there was a great island called Atlantis, situate directly at the mouth of the straits of Gibraltar, which contained more countries than both Africa and Asia put together; and that the kings of that country, who not only possessed that Isle, but extended their dominion so far into the continent that they had a country of Africa as far as Egypt, and extending in Europe to Tuscany, attempted to encroach even upon Asia, and to subjugate all the nations that border upon the Mediterranean Sea, as far as the Black Sea; and to that effect overran all Spain, the Gauls, and Italy, so far as to penetrate into Greece, where the Athenians stopped them: but that some time after, both the Athenians, and they and their island, were swallowed by the Flood.It is also interesting to reflect on the extent to which a writer is themselves present in their own work.Montaigne makes no secret of the fact that he himself is the subject of his essays: , whilst recognising that this very self is constantly evolving.In Montaigne’s essay On the Cannibals, the critical analysis of European and Brazilian societies through the scope of the “other” establishes the distinction between the two worlds.However, the definitions of “self” and “other” quickly become blurred as Montaigne connected more synonymous aspects in governance and functioning of the two groups of people.How dissonant would hee finde his imaginarie common-wealth from this perfection? the Essays of Montaigne Done into English, 1603, page 258GONZALOShakespeare, William. (New Penguin Edition, 1996, page 88)Both employ a similar emphatic, spare style to outline the characteristics and merits of a kind of Utopian society, rich in natural abundance and with no need of artificial constructs, even down to word for word correspondence between the two texts.Re-reading sections of Montaigne made me see other similarities between the two writers in that both could be considered somewhat timeless and indeed ahead of their time.(Thinking about this is almost setting me off on some kind of Montaigne like self-reflection on how a single day or event can change the course of your life…)The one item that stood out for me that day was John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s Essais (Volumes I and II published in 1580, Volume III in 1588).Not perhaps the most obvious item to be excited by, but having studied French literature at university, this really impressed me and I had to stop myself from taking it off the shelf to have a quick flick through it.