This essay is the story of the crimes, pursuit, and eventual arrest in Venice of an eighteenth- century imposter named Tomaso Gerachi. His principal charge was having "falsified his essence" by wearing the noble toga and assuming noble titles in order to gamble with patricians. Among the court documents is a 54-page self-defense dictated by Gerachi that provides a rare glimpse into the mind of the imposter. The extraordinary efforts to arrest, convict, and punish him suggest that the case involved more than a commoner dressing out of station. Its many layers, revealed over the course of his pursuit and interrogation, expose a range of sensitive issues for eighteenth-century Venice, including noble identity, the mingling of classes under the cover of masks, and an emergent view of identity that rejected social roles for a more malleable, "sincere" self.


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pp. 399-415
Launched on MUSE
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