Black Skin in Renaissance Italian Literature

The History of Titus Andronicus, the Renowned Roman General (16th-17th c.), anonymous trans. (London: C. Dicey, ca. 1760):

The history of titus andronicus, the renowned roman general. Who…was murder'd by the Empress's Sons and a bloody Moor….With the miderale Death he put the wicked Moor to. (title)

She had a Moor as revengefull as herself, whom she trusted in many great Affairs and was usually privy to her Secrets, so far that from private Dalliances she grew pregnant, and brought forth a Blackmoor Child: This grived the Emperor extreamly, but she allayed his Anger, by telling him it was conceived by the Force of Imagination, and brought many suborned Women and Physicians to testify the like had often happened. This made the Emperor send the Moor into Banishment, upon pain of Death never to return to Rome (III)

Laying his Hand on a Block, he gave the wicked Moor his Sword, who immediately struck it off, and inwardly laugh’d at the Villainy. (IV)

It was plotted between her, the Moor, and her two Sons, that they should invite him to hunt in the great Forest, on the Banks of the River Tyber, and there murder him. (III)

She shunned all company, retiring to woods and groves to utter her piteous complaints and cries to the senseless trees, when one day, being watched thither by the Moor, he gave notice of it to the Queen’s two sons. (V)

Calling the Moor to them, they asked his advice, who wickedly counseled them to make all sure, seeing they had gone thus far, by cutting out her tongue to hinder her telling tales, and her hands off to prevent her writing a discovery. (V)

Seizing on the wicked Moor, the fearful villain fell on his knees, promising to discover all; but when he had told how he had killed the Prince, betrayed the three sons of Andronicus by false accusation, and counseled the abuse to the fair Lavinia, they scarce knew what torments sufficient to devise for him; but at last, digging a hole, they set him in the ground to the middle alive, smeared him over with honey, and so, between the stinging of bees and wasps and starving, he miserably ended his wretched days. (VI)

Giraldi Cinthio, Hecatommithi (1565), trans. Geoffrey Bullough, in vol. 7 of Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1973):

There was once in Venice a Moor, a very gallant man, who, because he was personally valiant and had given proof in warfare of great prudence and skilful energy, was very dear to the Signoria, who in rewarding virtuous actions ever advance the interests of the Republic. It happened that a virtuous Lady of wonderous beauty called Disdemona, impelled not by female appetite but by the Moor’s good qualities, fell in love with him, and he, vanquished by the Lady’s beauty and noble mind, likewise was enamoured of her. So propitious was their mutual love that, although the Lady’s relatives did all they could to make her take another husband, they were united in marriage.

The Ensign, intent on injuring this unfortunate lady, after pretending not to wish to say anything that might displease the Moor, appeared to be overcome by his entreaties and said: ‘I must confess that it grieves me greatly to have to tell you something that must be in the highest degree painful to you; but since you wish me to tell you, and the regard that I have of your honour as my master spurs me on, I shall not fail in my duty to answer your request. You must know therefore that it is hard for your Lady to see the Corporal in disgrace for the simple reason that she takes her pleasure with him whenever he comes to your house. The woman has come to dislike your blackness.’ (Decade 7, novella 7)