The city in Italian Renaissance comedy

Date of Completion

January 1996


Literature, Romance|Theater




Italian Renaissance comedy represents the city in its materialized presence on stage, and as a complex cultural context. The urban landscape is not a static background in comedies, but a dynamic environment reflecting the heterogeneity of the urban community. Based on classical models, medieval sources and civic humanistic projects, the comic scene appears at once as a realistic representation and an ideal image. In comic plots, the perfect model of the humanistic peaceful city becomes a space filled with imperfect people, where different actions interlace, in a variety of intrigues that involve both public and private life. Individual differences and common civic identity of the characters-citizens are juxtaposed in an effort to achieve a reconciliation of points of view.^ Combining historical and literary perspectives, this study focuses on selected works, from (1) Ariosto's Cassaria to (2) Bibbiena's Calandria, and from (3) Machiavelli's Mandragola to (4) Giordano Bruno's Candelaio. These comedies express, in different ways, the idea of urban conviviality in their themes and structures. Comic action, in fact, is finalized to reestablish an equilibrium easily interrupted by human passions. The city is considered as an integral part of Italian Renaissance comedy, because its image pursues the harmony between virtue and pleasure (the two symbols of civitas), expressing the synthesis of ideal and real, order and disorder, art and life. ^