London, Mar 25 : For decades, scholars have thought that William Shakespeare described Venice so vividly in his plays thanks to information he gleaned from Italian merchants visiting London on business. Now however, Italian academics have challenged this notion.
Shaul Bassi, a lecturer at Venice University, and the writer Alberto Toso Fei have penned a new book 'Shakespeare in Venice' in which they argue that the Bard's information was based on a first hand account - his own.
"Most scholars believe that what Shakespeare knew about Venice must have been the fruit of wide reading and his contact with Italians," Times Online quoted Mr Bassi, as saying.
"But the local references -- implicit as well as explicit -- are so numerous they point to an alternative hypothesis: what if he did come here after all?"
About a third of Shakespeare's works are based in Italy, or have specific references to events and locations in the country which was a global centre in the 16th century.
As there is no concrete proof that the Bard ever travelled outside England, scholars usually agree that his source of information were the traders who came to London.
They also believe that Shakespeare had a working knowledge of Italian, and that one of his friends was the Anglo-Italian translator and lexicographer John Florio, who lived from 1553 to 1625.
Though they agree that some references in his plays did not prove that Shakespeare had visited Italy, others like giving the name "Gobbo" to Shylock's in 'The Merchant of Venice' - a reference to the carved figure of a hunchback (Il Gobbo di Rialto) on the Rialto Bridge - would not be known outside the city.
Such references, they say, can also be seen in other plays like 'Othello' in which Shakespeare uses local words such as gondola and gondolier.