This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this volume, which is about Italian language learning in England during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It demonstrates how the impetus for the fruitful engagement with Italian materials in English poetry and drama at the turn of the seventeenth century can be traced to the very processes by which the same authors encountered the language and its literature in the first place. It investigates how students developed a sound reading knowledge of the target language, as it was not strictly necessary to speak a language accurately in order to understand it sufficiently well to engage with its literature. This volume also traces how John Florio's influence, both personal and by means of his Italian instruction manuals, was disseminated among a number of contemporary poets and playwrights.
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