This article gives an instance of the translation process involving the Italian novella in Renaissance Europe. It focuses on a meaningful case study, comparing one of Matteo Bandello’s novellas (I. 42) with its French, English, and Spanish rewritings by Pierre Boaistuau, William Painter, and Vicente de Millis Godínez. It is argued that these three translators changed the Italian plot in order to make the story acceptable from a moralistic point of view, specifically by re-characterising the female protagonist. The article examines Painter’s rewriting in particular: it suggests that the Elizabethan writer drew directly on both the Italian text and its French translation, but chose to follow Boaistuau’s changes on specific literary and cultural grounds. Indeed, the French model showed Painter a way to endow his work with moral rectitude, while preserving the violent and tragic narrative events that would satisfy his readers’ tastes.
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