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Topic 4: Renaissance Theatre (Term 2, weeks 5-10)

This section of the module aims to provide students with an overview of Italian drama in the Renaissance, with a particular focus on Niccolò Machiavelli’s La Mandragola. The comedy will be read and discussed paying attention to issues such as literary genre, cultural and political context, fortune of the work in the Renaissance and beyond.


Core text

Machiavelli, Niccolò. La Mandragola, ed. by Pasquale Stoppelli (Milan: Mondadori, 2006).

Students will be asked to read and discuss the text in Italian. A very good and reliable English translation by Nerida Newbigin – especially useful for beginners – is available through this link: (PDF Document)


Week 5 Introduction to Renaissance Theatre: Preliminary Remarks on La Mandragola

Week 7 La Mandragola: Prologue and Act I; class handout

Week 8 La Mandragola: Act 2 & 3

Week 9 La Mandragola: Act 4 & 5

Week 10 La Mandragola after Machiavelli

Suggested Readings

Other editions of La Mandragola with helpful annotations:

Machiavelli, Niccolò. La Mandragola, ed. by Antonio Stauble (Florence: Cesati, 2004) – Warwick Library PQ 4627.M2

Machiavelli, Niccolò. La Mandragola, ed. by Giorgio Inglese (Bologna: il Mulino, 1994) – Warwick Library PQ 4627.M2

Of particular interest the volume by Pasquale Stoppelli, La “Mandragola”: storia e filologia. Con l’edizione critica del testo secondo il Laurenziano Redi 129 (Rome: Bulzoni, 2005), that includes a rich introduction to the comedy.

Other secondary sources

The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli, ed. by John M. Najemy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010). See, in particular, the chapters by Virginia Cox (Rhetoric and Ethics in Machiavelli, 173-189), Albert Russell Ascoli & Angela Matilde Capodivacca (Machiavelli and Poetry, 190-205), Ronald L. Martinez (Comedian, tragedian: Machiavelli and traditions of Renaissance theater, 206-222), Barbara Spackman (Machiavelli and Gender, 223-238) – Warwick Library (available on-line)

The Comedy and Tragedy of Machiavelli, ed. by Vickie B. Sullivan (New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2000) – Warwick Library PQ 4627.M204

Bernard, John. ‘Writing and the Paradox of the Self: Machiavelli’s Literary Vocation’, Renaissance Quarterly, 59 (2006), 59–89.

Brand, Peter. ‘Machiavelli and Florence’, in A History of Italian Theatre, ed. by Joseph Farrell and Paolo Puppa (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006), 51–57 – Warwick Library PN 2671.H4

Clubb, Louise George. Italian Drama in Shakespeare’s Time (New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 1989) – Warwick Library PQ 4139.C5

Clubb, Louise George. ‘Italian Renaissance Theater’, in The Oxford Illustrated History of Theatre, ed. by John Russell Brown (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995), 107–141 – Warwick Library PN 2221.O9

Dionisotti, Carlo. ‘Appunti sulla Mandragola’, Belfagor, 1984, 621-644.

Mansfield, Harvey C. ‘The Cuckold in Machiavelli’s Mandragola’, in Sullivan, Comedy and Tragedy, pp. 1–29.

Montanile, Milena (ed.). La favola Mandragola si chiama. Machiavelli e il teatro comico del Cinquecento (Salerno: Edisud, 2002).

Ruggiero, Guido. ‘Machiavelli in Love: the Self-Presentation of an Aging Lover’, in Guido Ruggiero, Machiavelli in Love: Sex, Self, and Society in the Italian Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007), 108–162 – Warwick Library HC 8725.R84