The book reconstructs the process by which the Italian memory of the Second World War was shaped. This memory was organised around two contrasting stereotypes: the ‘good Italian’ and the ‘bad German’. The image of the ruthless and cruel German soldier, capable of appalling crimes, was counterposed by that of the Italian soldier: peaceful, against the war, cordial and generous even when he was an occupier, an example of those humane virtues which had been evident in the rescue of thousands of Jews, saved from the Nazi death camps. There was a clear element of truth behind this counterposed representation, which had already been used in Allied propaganda. The Monarchist state apparatus in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of War, and then all the governments of anti-Fascist unity, used the stereotype, above all, as a diplomatic card to separate Italian responsibilities from those of her former Axis ally, a strategy designed to avoid a punitive peace following the armistice of September 1943. The national public memory of the war was organised around the exaltation of the anti-fascist and anti-Nazi Resistance from 1943 to 1945, and the consequent drastic reformulation of Italy’s responsibilities in the war of aggression fought alongside Germany from 1943 to 1945, considered as a war which the Italians had not wanted, and which had been imposed on them by Mussolini. The crimes committed by the Italian occupying forces, especially in the Balkans, were obscured by a focus on the humanitarian merits of the Italian soldiers, in contrast to the German war crimes. This narrative, elaborated by the political and cultural elite, permeated mass culture and produced a self-absolving memory which still exists today
‘I learned in Naples how to poison flowers’, says Lightborn in Marlowe’s Edward II, and it is in an orchard that Old Hamlet is poisoned. This essay will explore the uses of plants in Shakespeare’s last plays in order to argue that we are invited to perceive them as both potentially beneficial and potentially harmful, and that The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline in particular represent gardens which have become sources of poison because proper plant lore has been banished from Cymbeline’s England and Polixenes’s Bohemia in ways which are emblematic of the religious change which had befallen Shakespeare’s own England, where plant lore had traditionally been in the hands of monks. In Romeo and Juliet, there is a whole scene set in a garden during the course of which Friar Laurence offers a long meditation on plants (2.3.1–12, 19–20). The play’s floral imagery includes Lady Capulet’s figuring of Paris as a flower; herb paris is indeed a flower, and this chapter traces Shakespeare’s knowledge of it to the botanist and recusant Thomas Hesketh (1560–1613). Drawing on recent work suggesting that the early modern garden was a safe space for the cultivation of belief as well as of plants, the chapter argues that Perdita’s refusal to plant gillyflowers emblematises a climate of religious and horticultural uncertainty in which gardens, once places of healing, have now become potential sources of poison.