English Samgha/Saggi/Teatro

Towards the catastrophe. Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola between lack of morality and adaptation

di Andrea Sartori*

 250px-MandragolaThe military and political events which upset Florence between the end of Quattrocento and the first decades of the sixteenth century, are part of Machiavelli’s motivation to write The Prince. Nonetheless, even his most celebrated theatrical work – the Mandragola – is deeply affected by the instability and the moral crisis of the time. The analysis of the text – beyond its comic surface – points out how Machiavelli is aware of the subversion of the values of the humanistic tradition, and of the ambiguous need of adaptation to a reality, which has lost any trace of the past ideality. Preliminary to the reading of the comedy, it is presented an outline of the historical context in which Machiavelli worked (1). The focus on one of the many sources of the Mandragola – the Calandria by Dovizi da Bibbiena (2) – allows then to give the right importance to the theme of the body and of its reckless manipulation, in a realm of usefulness dominated by greed and selfish behaviors (3). The prevalence of contradiction on moral integrity is a consequence of this scenario, reflected in the description of the characters (4). Following Giulio Ferroni’s reading, it seems that adaptation (an idea extrapolated from the Prince) is the only way to survive in a world, which is indeed approaching the catastrophe of the sack of Rome (5). On the other hand, the problematic features of the character of Lucrezia, along with the self-undermining presentations of the manly institutions embodied in the figures of Nicia, Timoteo and Ligurio, suggest the possibility of a critique of the suffocating immanence of the hopeless world portrayed by the Mandragola (6).

1.      Machiavelli and his time

Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469, son of a Florentine family descending from the small nobility.[1] Since he was very young, he started to study the Latin texts of Tito Livio (59 b. C. – 17 a. C.) – author of a monumental history of Rome – and later of the poet and philosopher Lucrezio (94 b. C. – 50 b. C.). These authors can be considered a source, respectively,  of Machiavelli’s interest in republican institutions and of his anthropological pessimism.

He started to work in the Chancery of Florence after that the Medici were driven away from the city (1494)[2], and just in the year the Dominican Gerolamo Savonarola was set on fire in Piazza della Signoria (1498). Two months after the death of Savonarola, Machiavelli was appointed Secretary of the Second Chancery and then Secretary of the Dieci di Balia – this was the name of the judiciary, of the legal system, which in Florence opposed the excessive power of the Medici family. Since then he is often sent in diplomatic mission to Forlì, Urbino, Rome, Pisa, Verona and to France. In 1502 he is ambassador in Urbino, at the court of Cesare Borgia, with Pier Soderini, who would have been elected Gonfaloniere della Repubblica.

One of the issue Machiavelli worked at, as politician and diplomat, was the creation of a republican militia, which released Florence from the engagement of a mercenary army, of soldiers of fortune. This point is developed in his work entitled Il Principe, written around 1513 and 1514.

In 1511, the position of Florence in the international political arena of the time is quite compromised: Florence is allied with the Niccolo's SmileFrench in the conflict which opposes France to Pope Giulio II and to Lega Santa. When Florence cannot anymore rely upon the defense of the French troops, which are moved to another frontline in the North, the city is at the mercy of the Spanish troops at the orders of Giovanni de’ Medici, allied with the Pope. The Medici therefore get back to the power, Pier Soderini is driven away from the city and Machiavelli loses his offices. It is the year 1512, from now onwards Machiavelli will be committed with an intense literary activity, as compensation of his diminished political role. In 1513 he is also accused of anti-medicean conspiracy, he is arrested and tortured. In 1514 he benefits an act of grace by Pope Leone X, another member of the Medici family.[3]

Between 1515 and 1518 he writes his Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio and his comedy Mandragola is performed in 1518 for the marriage of Lorenzo de’ Medici. After the death of the medicean patron (1519), although always under suspicion, he can rejoin some diplomatic activity – in this period he meets Francesco Guicciardini, governor of Modena. In 1520 he is in charge of the writing of a history of Florence, and five years later the eight books of his Istorie fiorentine are presented to Pope Clemente VII (Giulio de’ Medici).

Machiavelli dies in 1527, the same year of the traumatic event of the sack of Rome, when the Lega of Cognac (Rome, Florence, Venice and France) is defeated by the troops at the orders of the emperor and king of Spain Carlo V d’Asburgo. The Medici family is again driven away from Florence and a republic is reinstituted.

2.      The Calandria as one of the sources: philology and content

Introducing his analysis of the Mandragola, Giorgio Inglese[4] describes the comedy with the same words utilized by Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena in the Prologue of the Calandria (staged for the first time in Urbino, during the Carnival of 1513): «Voi sarete oggi spettatori d’una nuova commedia intitulata Calandria: in prosa, non in versi, moderna, non antiqua; vulgare, non latina».[5] Not only the Mandragola is indeed a modern comedy, written in prose and in Italian as the Calandria, there is one more reason to argue in favor of the proximity between the two works.

Pasquale Stoppelli, proposing his critical edition of Machiavelli’s comedy,[6] points out a remarkable similarity between a passage in the second scene of the fourth act of the Mandragola, and some lines from the ninth scene of the second act of the Calandria. In the first case, Ligurio pushes Callimaco to alter the traits of his face, in order not to be recognized by Nicia, when he will be kidnapped and later brought to Lucrezia’s bed. Ligurio says: «io voglio che tu ti torca il viso, che tu apra, aguzi o digrigni la bocca, chiuggia un occhio» (Stoppelli, 227). In Bibbiena’s comedy, Fessenio, whose character is the analogue of Ligurio’s, urges Calandro to pretend to be dead, so that he can introduce himself in a coffer and have access to Santilla’s room. Fessenio here says: «Torci la bocca; più ancora; torci bene; per l’altro verso; più basso. Oh! Oh! Or muori a posta tua. Oh! Bene…».

In Stoppelli’s view, this similarity supports the idea that the chronological limit of 1513 is important to identify the range of years during which the Mandrake was composed. The indication cannot be but approximate, given that, in addition, Padoan proposes in his critical edition of Bibbiena’s work, that the composition of the Calandria could date back to 1512, being the 1513 the year of its staging, not of its composition. Be that as it may, Stoppelli persuasively manintains that «essendo inconcepibile una coincidenza poligenetica, o Machiavelli si è ispirato alla Calandra o il Bibbiena ha letto la Mandragola prima di scrivere la sua commedia. Siccome la seconda possibilità è praticamente nulla, non resta che la prima».[7] The historical-philological investigation of Stoppelli leads him to the conclusion that «la Mandragola ebbe, come il Principe e i Discorsi, una storia redazionale lunga, e non si può davvero escludere che sia stata concepita e cominciata a comporre ancora prima del 1513».[8] Furthermore, even if it is not possibile to say how its writing went on until the publication, «tra il gennaio e il febbraio del 1514 vi sono indizi rilevanti che Machiavelli vi stesse lavorando».[9]

The correspondence between Ligurio’s speech and Fessenio’s words is of interest not only in terms of philology, but also in terms of content. After that Lucrezia has been convinced by her mother Sostrata to have an intercourse with a man other than her husband, Ligurio indeed suggests (rather: orders) Callimaco not to wear a mask – «se tu portassi una maschera, egli [Nicia] li enterrebbe sospetto» (Stoppelli, 227). He tells Callimaco, then, to transform his appearance, through the alteration of his body, hence affecting directly his own physicality. Here, again, Machiavelli seems to follow an idea extrapolated from Bibbiena’s text – that is, the idea according to which the human body itself can be distorted and altered, as if it were an object among other objects. The comic effect apart, we reach here a peak in the play of the appearances, well beyond the cross-dressing, which on the other hand is one of the main narrative devices of the Calandria.

3.      The role of the body and the realm of usefulness

In the Mandragola the human body – in all its materiality and concreteness – takes a role, that marks a meaningful distance from the neo-platonic conception, according to which it has to be understood exclusively in its relationship to the soul. This is evident not only from the passage inspired by Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena. A further clue of the inversion in the hierarchy of the values inherited from the Middle Age, is present in the dreadful words through which Ligurio tries (successfully) to convince friar Timoteo to take part to a fictitious abortion (fourth scene, third act). Here, without any relationship to a principle which can give it a dignity, the human body is made equal to an inanimate object: «E da l’altro canto voi non offendete altro che un pezzo di carne non nata, senza senso, che in mille modi si può sperdere» (Stoppelli, 211).

Through the reduction of the human body to a piece of meaningless flesh, Machiavelli opens the way to the possibility of a manipulation, potentially endless, of reality, truth and human beings as well. This perspective can be appreciated if the reader goes beyond the appearance with which the Mandragola presents itself as a commedia amorosa. To the contrary, the words of the seventeenth chapter of the Principe, revealing the anthropological view that underlies this conception of the body, fit perfectly the scenario of the comedy: «Degli uomini si può dire questo, generalmente, che sieno ingrati, volubili, simulatori e dissimulatori, fuggitori de’ pericoli, cupidi di guadagno».[10]

Profit and greed move indeed Timoteo’s actions, whose concept of religion is definitively mercantile, related to commerce: «E poiché debbono venire a trovarmi a casa, io non voglio star più qui, ma aspettargli alla chiesa, dove la mia mercanzia varrà più» (Stoppelli, 43, third scene, fifth act).

Usefulness, as principle of manipulation, is at the basis even of procreation. Callimaco, in the first scene of the first act, says to the servant Siro that Nicia’s and Lucrezia’s desire of having children is tied to social and patrimonial reasons: «ne hanno, sendo ricchissimi, un desiderio che muoiono» (Stoppelli, 182). Sostrata, speaking with her daughter Lucrezia, insists on this same aspect: «Lasciati persuadere, figliuola mia. Non vedi tu che una donna che non ha figliuoli non ha casa? Muorsi el marito, resta come una bestia abbandonata da ognuno» (eleventh scene, third act, Stoppelli, 218).

These observations should have already remarked that despite its surface, the Mandragola is a comedy deeply linked to the worries and the to the instabilities of its time. The idea of manipulation, in particular, is relevant to understand the context Machiavelli had worked within, which was present to his mind also after he left an active political role, due to the return of the Medici in Florence. A further analysis of the text better underscores the implications of the comedy, which do not result obvious at a first glance.

Sack_of_Rome_15274. When the contradiction is a rule 

An important aspect of the Mandrake, stemming out from the very beginning of it, from the verses of its Prologue, is that its main characters are defined in contradictory terms. Callimaco, first of all, exhibits the signs and ways of a gentleman worthy of honor (Stoppelli, 174). He seems to be the typical courtly lover. Nonetheless, in the following verses, he is defined a slavish lover un amante meschino», Stoppelli, ibidem). Similarly, Lucrezia is described as a shrewd young woman («una giovane accorta», Stoppelli, ibidem), who – just because of this, of her intelligence – has been deceived by that gentleman worthy of honor: «Una giovane accorta / fu da lui molto amata, / e per questo ingannata / fu» (Stoppelli, ibidem).

On the other hand, introducing the characters, Machiavelli explicitly addresses a female audience, pointing out that deceit, if not manipulation, is his goal: « (…) e io vorrei / che voi fussi ingannate come lei» (Stoppelli, ibidem). In this Prologue, Machiavelli refers also to another kind of contradiction, the one between the apparently light theme of the comedy, and the personality of the author, who is usually considered wise and profound. In the following self-presentation, we should keep in mind that in 1512 Machiavelli was banished from public life and that his political carrier in Florence was interrupted:

«E se questa materia non è degna, / per esser pur leggieri, / d’unn- uom che voglia parer saggio e grave, / scusatelo con questo: che s’ingegna / con questi van pensieri / fare el suo tristo tempo più suave, / perchè altrove non have / dove voltar el viso, / chè gli è stato interciso / mostrar con altre imprese altra virtute, / non sendo premio alle fatiche sue» (Stoppelli, ibidem).

Why does Machiavelli seem to adopt the contradiction as main feature of his comedy? Here the contradiction has not so much to do with his interior life, as it occurred in Petrarch – neither with any struggle towards God – rather with concerns of different sign, of different meaning.

5.      The adaptation to the external reality

Giulio Ferroni has convincingly explained the choice of Machiavelli to deal with contradictions: «the affirmation of the equal dignity of the serious and the comic» – Ferroni writes – «of the validity of their coexistence in human behavior (…), refers to a central nexus of Machiavelli’s thought: that is, to the discovery of the necessity for an accord or “adaptation” between the internal nature of the individual (…) and the external nature (which is manifested to the individual through the continuous “variation” of Fortune».[11]  History, society and fortune – that is, fate – represent the external nature the character of Lucrezia, in particular, is at the mercy of. In this perspective, the conspiracy and the intrigues set up by Ligurio stay for the requests and the imperatives of society, which needs the individuals adapt themselves to its commands.

Furthermore, if we compare the figures of Callimaco and Lucrezia – who in different ways adapt themselves to a mobile reality, under the directions of Ligurio – to the figure of Nicia, a difference must be noticed. In the second scene of the first act, Ligurio blames Nicia because he has never moved outside Florence: «voi non sète uso a perder la Cupola [Firenze] di veduta» (Stoppelli, p. 185). Actually, the immobility of Nicia could result in an obstacle to the plan of deceiving him. Nicia, with his stupidity, on the one hand is a simple man who can be easily misled, but on the other hand  he is encapsulated, as Ferroni writes, «in his static condition (…), in his passive irrationality inscribed in bourgeois norms and conventions»[12]. Bourgeois norms and conventions are here summarized by his blind desire of having a child, beyond any caution dictated by reason. Nicia is the only character of the comedy, who is not able to transform himself, to achieve an adaptation to the contingent and mutable conditions of reality – behind which we can guess the social and political changes Machiavelli knew very well.

In his Principe (chapter eighteenth, on the way the princes have to maintain their fede), the Florentine Secretary underscores that a ruler has to be able to use both the law and the mere force: «a uno principe è necessario saper ebene usare la bestia e l’uomo».[13] If men were all good, this advice would not be necessary, but given his negative anthropology, Machiavelli considers that the faithfulness to the principles of goodness, can easily result in  dangerous consequences. Nonetheless, in Machiavelli’s view – and consistently with the emerging civilization of the appearances, described by Baldassarre Castiglione in his Courtier – it is important the prince seems to have moral qualities: «A uno principe, adunque, non è necessario avere tutte le soprascritte qualità, ma è bene necessario parere di averle».[14] In this way, Machiavelli introduces his idea of dissimulation and mutazione in politics, adopted by Ferroni in the reading of the Mandragola. « È necessario questa natura saperla bene colorire»,Machiavelli writes, «et essere gran simulatore e dissimulatore», so that a prince can appear moral (tied to the idea of fede) just when it is useful, always prompt to change condition when it is required by the external reality: «bisognando non essere, tu possa e sappi mutare el contrario».[15]

Lucrezia, on the other hand, in the Mandragola is defined «accorta», a synonym for savia (sage), and this definition cannot but remind again of the Prince. Il savio, indeed, is the man who can displace himself into different situations, according to the changing conflicts incorporated in reality, always maintaining the control over them. Lucrezia, accepting the destiny of having Callimaco as lover, adapts herself to a transformation imposed by the course of the events.

Could we then say, with Ferroni, that «Lucrezia realizes the ambition of the sage to be transformed, disposing herself to “become of another nature”, yielding to the corruption of her own goodness, passing from one who is “perfectly good” to one who is “honorably wicked”, thus achieving a happy adaptation to Fortune»?[16] The figure of Lucrezia is quite enigmatic – also because she is absent from the stage for the most part of the time – but it is not sure that the interpretation of Ferroni succeeds in solving her mystery. Indeed: it is true that in the fourth scene of the last act, the fifth, Callimaco reports the words of Lucrezia, according to which it seems she has taken an autonomous decision and she is determined to state her will: «io ti prendo per signore, patrone, guida: tu mio padre, tu mio defensore e tu voglio che sia ogni mio bene. E quell che mio marito ha volute per una sera, voglio ch’egli abbia sempre» (Stoppelli, p. 244).

Nevertheless, here Lucrezia is not on the stage and, above all, does not speak with her own voice, rather through the words of her imposed lover. An ideology, typically patriarchal, seems to the contrary having deprived her of the right to express herself. The downplay of Lucrezia’s will is even more clear from a passage of the second scene of the fourth act, when the initiatives of Lucrezia’s mother Sostrata – triggered by Ligurio and supported by friar Timoteo – are by Ligurio himself so summarized: «la non restò mai di pregare, comandare, infestare Lucrezia, tanto che ella la condusse al frate, e quivi operò in modo che la li consentì» (Stoppelli, p. 225).

6.   In Lucrezia’s shoes

If we change the point of view of our analysis, and we take into consideration the institutions implicitly present in the comedy, we could even argue – against the thesis of Ferroni regarding the “happiness” of Lucrezia – that Machiavelli develops a harsh criticism of the ideology of patriarchy. Yael Manes has spoken, in this sense, of failed patriarchs.[17]

In Florence, three were the institutions (ordini) which represented the backbone of the civic realm – always perceived as the realm of men: law, religion and arms. As Manes reminds, Nicia is a lawyer, a representative of the judicial order, and he is completely foolish. Fra’ Timoteo, in addition, is a representative of religion, but he is evidently corrupted. Ligurio and Callimaco have the proof of his corruptibility, in the third act, when they manage to make him believe that they want him to convince a young woman to have an abortion. Here, as we have seen, Machiavelli, through the words of Ligurio, deprives the human body of any value, and it is precisely this idea of potentially endless manipulation, that the “religious” Timoteo is prompt to adopt. Furthermore, the entire episode of the false kidnapping, through which the men (Ligurio, Callimaco, Timoteo, Siro) want Nicia to believe they are capturing an innocent who will die after having been in intimacy with Lucrezia, is the parody of a military strategy. Ligurio says, in the ninth scene of the fourth act: «Io voglio esser el capitano e ordinare l’exercito per la giornata: al destro corno sia preposto Callimaco, al sinistro io; in tra le due corna starà qui el dottore; Siro fia retroguardo, per dar sussidio a quella banda che inclinassi. El nome sia “San Cuccù”»! (Stoppelli, p. 235).

Conclusion: the comic façade of the catastrophe

Whether or not we have here a criticism of patriarchy, through the staging of three typologies of failed patriarchs, it is clear that the Mandragola is a key-work of Renaissance, because of the historical and anthropological awareness it displays. It succeeds in going well beyond an entirely positive conception of human nature, grounded in the ideals of the humanistic tradition. The sack of Rome, in 1527, would have put an end – even in the imaginary of the contemporaries – to that period of disinterested cultivation. «Il comico machiavelliano», Asor Rosa accordingly argues, «disegna un mondo i cui orizzonti morali non comprendono più valore positivo alcuno. È come se la tanto conclamata solarità rinascimentale fosse arrivata a toccare un confine inesplorato, al di là del quale scurità e amarezza prevalgono (…). Questa, forse, potrebbe essere definita la faccia comica della catastrofe incombente».[18]


Primary texts

 – B. Dovizi da Bibbiena, La Calandra, a cura di G. Padoan (Padova: Antenore, 1985).

– N. Machiavelli, Lettere a Francesco Vettori e Francesco Guicciardini, a cura di G. Inglese (Milano: Rizzoli, 1989).

– N. Machiavelli, Il Principe, a cura di G. Lisio, con una nuova presentazione di F. Chiappelli (Firenze: Sansoni, 1900).

– M. Martelli, I Ghiribizzi a Giovan Battista Soderini, «Rinascimento», 9, 1969, 147-180.

– P. Stoppelli, La Mandragola: storia e filologia. Con l’edizione critica del testo secondo il Laurenziano Redi 129 (Roma: Bulzoni, 2005).

 Critical references             

– A. Asor Rosa, Storia europea della letteratura italiana, vol. I, Le origini e il Rinascimento (Torino: Einaudi, 2009).

– G. Brucker, Civic Traditions in Premodern Italy, in The Italian Renaissance, edited by P. Findlen (see below), 47-63.

– G. Ferroni, «Mutazione» e «riscontro» nel teatro di Machiavelli e altri saggi sulla commedia del Cinquecento (Roma: Bulzoni, 1972).

– P. Findlen, edited by, The Italian Renaissance. The Essential Readings (Malden-Oxford-Carlton-Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002).

– G. Inglese, Mandragola di Niccolò Machiavelli, in Letteratura italiana. Le Opere, a cura di A. Asor Rosa, vol. I, Dalle Origini al Cinquecento (Torino: Einaudi, 1992), 1009-1031.

– C. Klapisch-Zuber, “Kin, Friends, and Neighbors”: The Urban Territory of a Merchant Family in 1400, in The Italian Renaissance, edited by P. Findlen (see above), 97-123.

-R. Ridolfi, Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli, (Firenze: Sansoni, 1978).

–  G. Sasso, Niccolo Machiavelli (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1993).

-M. Viroli, Il sorriso di Niccolò, storia di Machiavelli (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1998).

-Y. Manes, What is a Mother’s Worth? The Negotiation of Motherhood and Virtù in Machiavelli’s La Mandragola (1518), in Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy (Farnham-Burlington: Ashgate, 2011), 13-42.

[1] On Machiavelli’s life, and the historical framework he worked within, see R. Ridolfi, Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli, (Firenze: Sansoni, 1978); G. Sasso, Niccolo Machiavelli (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1993); M. Viroli, Il sorriso di Niccolò, storia di Machiavelli (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1998).

[2] The Medici held the power in Florence both before and after Machiavelli’s commitment with the Florentine Republic. Gene Brucker has pointed out that Medici’s success was due also to their ability in constructing, around them, a valid network of collaborators and interests – a network to which the same Machiavelli wants later to belong to. As for the first period of its domination, the Medici family, Brucker writes, «was able to create a party or faction composed of kinfolk, neighbors, friends and clients that governed Florence for sixty years (1434 to 1494)», G. Brucker, Civic Traditions in Premodern Italy, in The Italian Renaissance. The Essential Readings, edited by P. Findlen (Malden-Oxford-Carlton-Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002), 47-63, here 51. On the role of the network in determining success and wealth of the merchant families, see C. Klapisch-Zuber, “Kin, Friends, and Neighbors”: The Urban Territory of a Merchant Family in 1400, in The Italian Renaissance, edited by P. Findlen, 97-123.

[3] On the ambiguous power of the Church, during the years of Machiavelli’s life, see A. Asor Rosa, Storia europea della letteratura italiana, vol. I, Le origini e il Rinascimento (Torino: Einaudi, 2009), 423-424, in the seventh chapter, Il Rinascimento e la grande catastrofe italiana (1492-1530), 419-596.

[4] G. Inglese, Mandragola di Niccolò Machiavelli, in Letteratura italiana. Le Opere, a cura di A. Asor Rosa, vol. I, Dalle Origini al Cinquecento (Torino: Einaudi, 1992), 1012.

[5] B. Dovizi da Bibbiena, La Calandra, a cura di G. Padoan (Padova: Antenore, 1985), 61.

[6] P. Stoppelli, La Mandragola: storia e filologia. Con l’edizione critica del testo secondo il Laurenziano Redi 129 (Roma: Bulzoni, 2005). The quotations from the comedy will be followed, directly in the text and in parenthesis, by the name of Stoppelli and the indication of the page.

[7] P. Stoppelli, La composizione del testo, in La Mandragola: storia e filologia, 80.

[8] Ibidem, 89.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] N. Machiavelli,  Il Principe, a cura di G. Lisio, con una nuova presentazione di F. Chiappelli (Firenze: Sansoni, 1900), 98.

[11] Ferroni extrapolates from the works of the Florentine secretary – in particular from the letters and from The Prince (chapter XVIII) – the concepts of «transformation» (mutazione) and «adaptation» (riscontro), applying them to the interpretation of the comedy. In the Ghiribizzi to G. B. Soderini (September 13th-21st, 1506), Machiavelli indeed writes, using the terminology highlighted by Ferroni: «et quello è felice che riscontra el modo del procedere suo con el tempo (…). Donde può molto bene essere che dua, diversamente operando, habbino uno medesimo fine, perché ciascuno di loro può conformarsi con el riscontro suo (…). Ma perché e tempi et le cose universalmente et particularmente si mutano spesso, et li huomini non mutono le loro fantasie né e loro modi di procedere, adcade che uno ha un tempo buona fortuna et uno tempo trista», see M. Martelli, I Ghiribizzi a Giovan Battista Soderini, «Rinascimento», 9, 1969, 147-180. For the quotation in the text, see G. Ferroni, «Mutazione» e «riscontro» nel teatro di Machiavelli e altri saggi sulla commedia del Cinquecento (Roma: Bulzoni, 1972). Transl. by Ronald L. Martinez.

[12] Ibidem.

[13]  N. Machiavelli, Il Principe, 102.

[14] Ibidem, 104.

[15] Ibidem.

[16] G. Ferroni, «Mutazione» e «riscontro» nel teatro di Machiavelli e altri saggi sulla commedia del Cinquecento (Roma: Bulzoni, 1972). Transl. by Ronald L. Martinez.

[17] Y. Manes, What is a Mother’s Worth? The Negotiation of Motherhood and Virtù in Machiavelli’s La Mandragola (1518), in Motherhood and Patriarchal Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Italian Comedy (Farnham-Burlington: Ashgate, 2011), 13-42.

[18] A. Asor Rosa, Storia europea della letteratura italiana, vol. I, Le origini e il Rinascimento, 464.


Andrea*Andrea Sartori was born in Fiorenzuola d’Arda (Italy). He is PhD Fellow in Italian Studies at Brown University. He earned a laurea in Philosophy from Ca’ Foscari University (Venice, 1999), an MA in Digital Communication for the Humanities from the State University of Milan (2000) and an MA in Italian Studies from Florida State University (Tallahassee, 2015). He also studied in Regensburg and at the Ludwig-Albert Universitaet of Freiburg in Breisgau (Germany), with a DAAD Scholarship (1995). Andrea has published articles and translations on Hegel and Raphael, on the Frankfurt School and on the philosophical anthropology for the book Gloria dell’Assente. La Madonna per San Sisto di Piacenza, edited by E. Gazzola and F. Milana (Vicolo del Pavone, 2004), and for reviews like Fenomenologia e societàLa società degli individui, Teoria and Quaderni di teoria sociale. He has published contributions and reviews on the Italian  contemporary literature for the Florentine journal Il Ponte, for Italian Quarterly (Rutgers University), Altrelettere (University of Zürich) and Annali d’Italianistica (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). An article on the Italian writer Antonio Barolini (1910-1971) has been published in Antonio Barolini. Cronistoria di un’anima, edited by T. Barolini (Società Editrice Fiorentina, 2015). He is author of a novel (Scompenso, Rome 2010, finalist at the prize Perelà), of short-stories and articles for  UlisseLa Poesia e lo SpiritoIl Primo AmoreAlfabeta2Rolling StonesSamgha, Il Lavoro CulturaleTorno Giovedì,. Edizioni Mimesis (Milan, 2013) has published his translation of Terry Pinkard’s book Hegel’s Phenomenology. The Sociality of Reason (originally edited by Cambridge University Press, 1994).

One thought on “Towards the catastrophe. Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola between lack of morality and adaptation

  1. Pingback: QUOTATION: Niccolo Machiavelli: He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss. | euzicasa


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