Poison Fruit is its own world, with its own history. For those who would like to know more about the worlds that inspire it, though, the works below are good starting points. Many of these are available for free download at Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org).
Plays About Italy
The major plot arcs in Poison Fruit are adapted from these plays so, while I recommend them highly, you might want to wait until the manga is done before reading them, to avoid spoilers:
Webster, John. The Duchess of Malfi.
Webster, John. The White Devil.
These three tragedies have a similar atmosphere to the Webster plays and are set in what I think of as the same world. They were inspirational for Poison Fruit but did not directly affect the plot:
Ford, John. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (a.k.a. Giuliano and Annabella).
Shakespeare, William. Othello.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
For those who still haven’t had enough, here is a further sampling of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays set in Italy:
Jonson, Ben. Volpone or The Fox.
Marston, John. Antonio and Mellida (Parts I and II).
Marston, John. The Malcontent.
Massinger, Phillip. The Great Duke of Florence.
Massinger, Phillip. The Maid of Honor.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing.
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespeare, William. The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The Palace of Pleasure was one of the most popular sources of story ideas for the playwrights. It is an anthology of early modern English translations of Italian and French stories, refered to as “novells” (though, by 21st century standards, most of them are closer to short story length). The plot of Webster’s Duchess of Malfi is taken directly from Volume 3, Novell 23. While it is purportedly a true story, it’s unlikely that the original author did any fact checking.
Painter, William. (1566). The Palace of Pleasure (3 Volumes).
Stendahl’s book is a translation of an eyewitness account of the events that inspired The White Devil. Webster himself probably got the story from another (now lost) novell.
Stendahl. (1837). Vittoria Accoramboni.
In addition, anyone who really wants to get a feel for the era would do well to read anything by Boccaccio, Dante, and Machiavelli. Dante and Boccacio wrote at the begginning of, or just before the rennaisance and their books remained best sellers right up to the end. Machiavelli wrote at the end of the period. His books are the quintesssential summation of Rennaisance thought, right at the turning point into what we think of as the “modern” age. The three most important works are:
Boccaccio, Giovanni. (c. 1350). The Decameron.
Alighieri, Dante. (1320). The Divine Comedy.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. (1532). The Prince.
There are far too many books on Renaissance Italy and early modern drama for me to try listing them all. A few that I’ve found particularly useful are:
Durant, Will. (1953). The Renaissance. Simon and Schuster.
Hill, Wayne F. & Örrchen, Cynthia J. (1991). Shakespeare’s Insults: Educating Your Witt. Mainsail Press.
“The Italy of the Elizabethan Dramatists”. In Lee, Vernon. (1882). Euphorion (Volume I).
Norway, Arthur H. (1901). Naples, Past and Present.
Staley, Edgcumbe. (1900). The Tragedies of the Medici.