John Florio

John Florio

English linguist, lexicographer, translator.
Country: Great Britain

John Florio: An English Linguist, Lexicographer, and Translator

John Florio was an English linguist, lexicographer, and translator. He was born to Michelangelo Florio, an Italian Protestant priest who fled religious persecution in Tuscany and sought refuge in England during the reign of Edward VI.
An Educated Upbringing

Growing up in England, John Florio was taught Italian by his father and learned English from his mother. His father also instructed him in French and German, and at the age of seven, he was sent to study under Pietro Paolo Vergerio in Tübingen.
Return to England and Teaching Career

Florio returned to England in the early 1570s during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He began teaching foreign languages and European manners to aristocrats, including Lady Jane Grey and the future Queen Elizabeth I. He was close friends with Giordano Bruno and Philip Sidney, and translated Bruno's conversations during his visit to Oxford. He also taught Italian and French at Oxford University.
Contributions to Language and Literature

Florio's main contribution to English language and literature was his translation of Michel de Montaigne's "Essays" (1603, reprinted in 1613). Both William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson owned copies of this book and had a friendly relationship with Florio. He also translated Giovanni Boccaccio's "Decameron" (published in 1620, although the authorship of the translation is disputed).
Tragic Ending

Florio died in poverty during a plague epidemic, without receiving his royal pension. His home was sold to pay off debts. Some researchers suggest that John Florio may have been the true identity behind the name "Shakespeare," and his traits can be found in various Shakespearean characters. A comprehensive biography of the lexicographer and translator was written by Frances Yates in 1934. The John Florio Society is active at Magdalen College, Oxford, celebrating his literary contributions.