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  • Published: 15 April 2014
  • ISBN: 9781590177228
  • Imprint: NY Review Books
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $32.99

Shakespeare's Montaigne

The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection



An NYRB Classics Original

Shakespeare, Nietzsche wrote, was Montaigne’s best reader—a typically brilliant Nietzschean insight, capturing the intimate relationship between Montaigne’s ever-changing record of the self and Shakespeare’s kaleidoscopic register of human character. And there is no doubt that Shakespeare read Montaigne—though how extensively remains a matter of debate—and that the translation he read him in was that of John Florio, a fascinating polymath, man-about-town, and dazzlingly inventive writer himself.

Florio’s Montaigne is in fact one of the masterpieces of English prose, with a stylistic range and felicity and passages of deep lingering music that make it comparable to Sir Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. This new edition of this seminal work, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Peter G. Platt, features an adroitly modernized text, an essay in which Greenblatt discusses both the resemblances and real tensions between Montaigne’s and Shakespeare’s visions of the world, and Platt’s introduction to the life and times of the extraordinary Florio. Altogether, this book provides a remarkable new experience of not just two but three great writers who ushered in the modern world.

  • Published: 15 April 2014
  • ISBN: 9781590177228
  • Imprint: NY Review Books
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Michel de Montaigne

Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne, was born in 1533, the son and heir of Pierre, Seigneur de Montaigne (two previous children dying soon after birth). He was brought up to speak Latin as his mother tongue and always retained a Latin turn of mind; though he knew Greek, he preferred to use translations. After studying law he eventually became counselor to the Parlement of Bordeaux. He married in 1565. In 1569 he published his French version of the Natural Theology of Raymond Sebond; his Apology is only partly a defense of Sebond and sets skeptical limits to human reasoning about God, man and nature.

He retired in 1571 to his lands at Montaigne, devoting himself to reading and reflection and to composing his Essays (first version, 1580). He loathed the fanaticism and cruelties of the religious wars of the period, but sided with Catholic orthodoxy and legitimate monarchy. He was twice elected Mayor of Bordeaux (1581 and 1583), a post he held for four years. He died at Montaigne (1592) while preparing the final, and richest, edition of his Essays.

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Praise for Shakespeare's Montaigne

“He was the first who had the courage to say as an author what he felt as a man.” —William Hazlitt
 
“That such a man wrote has truly augmented the joy of living on Earth.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
 
“Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
“I defy any reader of Montaigne not to put down the book at some point and say with incredulity: ‘How did he know all that about me?’ ” —Bernard Levin, The Times (London)
 
“So much have I made him my own, that it seems he is my very self.” —André Gide
 
“Here is a ‘you’ in which ‘I’ is reflected; here is where all distance is abolished.” —Stefan Zweig
 
“Don’t read him as children do, for amusement, nor as the ambitious do, to be instructed. No, read him in order to live.” —Gustave Flaubert
 
“It is not in Montaigne but in myself that I find everything I see there.” —Blaise Pascal
 
“Upon his version of Montaigne’s Essays [Florio] exhausted his gifts and lavished his temperament. ...Turn where you will in his translation, and you will find flowers of speech.” —The Cambridge History of English and American Literature
 
“Like Montaigne, [Florio] wrote by exuding ever more complex thoughts as a spider exudes silk. But while Montaigne always moves forward, Florio winds back on himself and scrunches his sentences in a puff of syntax. The real magic happens when the two writers meet. Montaigne’s earthiness holds Florio’s convolutions in check, while Florio gives Montaigne an Elizabethan English quality, as well as a lot of sheer fun.” —Sara Bakewell, How to Live, or, A Life of Montaigne

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