In a letter dated 1608, the Venetian ambassador Giorgio Giustinian asked John Florio to use his powers of rhetorical amplification for Queen Anna of Denmark.

“…May she, by your words, remain fully admired…”

It was 1608, and John Florio was working as private secretary to Queen Anna of Denmark and as Groom of the privy chamber. On August 5, he received a letter by the Venetian ambassador Giustinian, in which he asked the Anglo-Italian to use his powers of rhetorical amplification for the Queen.

Florio’s rhetorical vigour and his joyous wordplay are hard to miss in his works. In A World of Words (1598) they are visible in the use of alliteration (scardassare: “to beate, to bumbaste, bange, touze, or bumfeagle. Also, to backbite, to detract or raile at one behind his backe”), in Montaigne’s Essays (1604) they are his inherent instinct and at the bottom of the most obvious characteristic of his superbe translation. The charm of his works were also due to their quaintness, that for Frances Yates “the reason for this is that the translator was a quaint person”.

Florio’s desire to produce a shock of delighted surprise and his rhetorical flourishes, were not mere characteristics of his writing style, but also the product of the author’s personality. He had the same attitude in real life, in his daily tasks at court, or when he conversed with his colleagues and friends.

John Donne, Florio’s contemporary, described him as an eccentric man with an extreme refinement in speaking, which led him to use terms which he liked but were often rare and complicated. 1


John Florio’s obvious delight in exuberant wit and verbal ostentation are also evoked in a letter dated 1608 by Giorgio Giustinian, Venetian ambassador in London after Nicolò Molin from 1605. There are several dispatches that prove John Florio frequently dealt with Italian ambassadors, and had a major and confidential role with the Queen at court. 2 They were mostly Venetian or Florentine ambassadors, emissaries and secretaries who had to deal with John Florio before they could hope for an audience with the Queen.

One of them, Giorgio Giustinian, wrote several letters to John Florio during his stay in London as Venetian ambassador. In a letter written in Italian dated August 5 1608 3 Giustinian writes that he is honoured and happy to receive a “box full of many precious preserves for my health” 4 sent to him with a letter written by Florio on behalf of the Queen.

john florio ambassador
– TNA SP 99/5/388. Giorgio Giustinian’s letter to John Florio, dated August 5, 1608. –
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

Giustinian feels he will never be able to return the many favors that John Florio and Queen Anne did to him:

“[…] mi ritrovo per esso infinitamente più lieto e consolato, io non so mai come potere in parte alcuna soddisfare a questa et ad altre infinite obbligationi c’hio devo a così grande Regina..” 5

From the letter we also know that John Florio suggested him to write a letter to thank the Queen and express his gratitude toward her. But ambassador Giustinian admits he is not able to express with words the gratefulness toward Queen Anna of Denmark that he holds within himself:

“[…] ho accettato il consiglio datomi da V.S. et preso l’ardire di scrivere alla maestà sua la lettera ma non so renderle quelle gratie che me le sento tenuto..” 6

So he asks John Florio a favor. Giustinian writes:

“[..] Prego V.S. quanto più posso a contentarmi” 7

Ambassador Giustinian asks John Florio to use his powers of rhetorical amplification by editing his letter and shows “the great devotion of my soul toward her” 8, turning Giustinian’s words into gold with “that amplification and efficient way that you show.” 9

– The letter Giorgio Giustinian wrote to John Florio, Page 1/3. TNA SP 99/5/388. –
[Licensing and Reproduction: This document is copyrighted by The National Archives and it cannot be downloaded, shared or resold without their permission.]

Giorgio Giustinian also asks Florio to edit his short letter so that the Queen “can remain fully admired and satisfied” by his words:

“[…] della debita brevità possa dalle sue parole almeno restar pienamente ammirata, che di questo suo favore io ne conserverò perpetua et obbligatissima memoria.” 10

Ambassador Giustinian hopes that despite his own reverential brevity the Queen may rest admired from John Florio’s powers of rhetorical amplification, and be assured that Giustinian is eternally grateful for the favor he has received.

Once again, John Florio, the excellent editor and creative writer, was the “Ayde of his Muses.”


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John Florio's Powers of Rhetorical Amplifications by Iannaccone Marianna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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How to cite this entry:

Iannaccone Marianna, “John Florio’s powers of rhetorical amplifications”, “Resolute John Florio”; URL=”

  1. For further details about how John Donne described John Florio and his personality, read 3.1 John Donne, in Portrait & Personality
  2. For further details about John Florio’s role as private secretary to Queen Anne and Groom of the Privy Chamber, read Chapter “Groom of The Privy Chamber“.
  3. TNA, SP 99/5/388
  4. “scrigno pieno di tante et preciose conserve per la mia salute”
  5. “I find myself infinitely more pleased and consoled by it, I never know how I can partly be able to satisfy this and other infinite obligations I owe to such a great Queen.”
  6. “I accepted the advice given me by your lord and dared to write to her majesty the letter but I cannot give her that gratitude that I hold within me.”
  7. “I beg your lord as much as I can to please me.”
  8. “molto più la devotione del mio animo verso di lei”
  9. “rappresentandogliela in quella più ampia et efficace maniera che poni.”
  10. “May she, by your words, remain fully admired, and I shall preserve everlasting and most obligated memory of your favor.”
Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

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