Archive for Gypsies

Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted in References with tags , , , , on 2010/01/24 by mattermind

I’m Hungarian by birth, and gypsy by disposition. So I was amazed and enlightened by a passage from Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare regarding The Winter’s Tale.

I only read up to the parts I’ve covered on my own, in case you’re wondering. His commentary is more background than literary analysis, anyway, but I find that it adds greater richness to the experience, as evidenced by this passage:

Shortly after 1400, bands of strange people reached central Europe. They were swarthy-skinned nomads, who spoke a language that was not like any in Europe. Some Europeans thought they came from Egypt and they were called “gypsies” in consequence. (They are still called that in the United States, but their real origin may have been India.)

When the gypsies reached Paris in 1427, the French knew only that they had come from central Europe. There were reports that they had come from Bohemia, and so the French called them Bohemians (and still do).

The gypsy life seemed gay and vagabondish and must have been attractive to those bound to heavy labor or dull routine. The term “Bohemian” therefore came to be applied to artists, writers, show people, and others living an unconentional and apparently vagabondish life. Bohemia came to be an imaginary story land of romance.

Consider me enlightened. Mr. Asimov strikes again!