Matteo Bandello (1480 – 1560)
Bandello, a Lombard noble by birth, is, next to Boccaccio, the most celebrated of the Italian story-tellers, and he, like his predecessor, furnished Shakespeare with plots and ideas. He resided both in Milan and Mantua, as a member of an ecclesiastical order and later was made a Bishop by Henry II of France, in which country he spent the latter part of his life.
His adventurous life is, in Symonds’ words, an exciting novela in itself. The Novelle, a collection of stories placed in a fictious framework, is characterized by what appears to the Anglo- Saxon a certain exaggerated violence. Many of his stories are discreditable anecdotes about the church, and were used with considerable effect as weapons by the leaders of the Reformation.
A King in Disguise is characteristic of Bandello’s art, if not of his violence. The story has been traced to Oriental sources, and has, since Bandello wrote it, been used by several other writers.
The present version is translated by Thomas Roscoe and reprinted from his Italian Novelists, London, no date. The story has no title in the original.
A King in Disguise
It is really superfluous, my noble friends and patrons, to use so many kind entreaties, when a single word from you would be enough, by’ way of command, to induce me, as you seem to wish, to give you some account of my most remarkable adventures, in addition to what you have already heard of my travels in Africa.
With the manners and customs of the people, as well as with their peculiar religious opinions, I believe you are now pretty well acquainted, insomuch that I no longer need to dwell upon these. You are aware that I have been a traveler from the time I was a boy of fifteen, when I set out from my native city of Genoa, in company with Messer Niccolo Gattanio, whose extensive mercantile connections induced him to visit various parts of Barbary.
With him I first arrived at the city of Orano, situated on the shores of the Mediterranean, and belonging to the kingdom of the same name. Numbers of the Genoese were accustomed to resort thither, and there is a large place of traffic named from that circumstance the Lodge of the Genoese. My friend Cattanio was highly respected there, and even in great credit with the king; so much so as to have obtained various privileges from him, in consideration of the able and beneficial manner in which he promoted the commerce of his subjects.