In the early 1580s, Torquato Tasso (1544–95), hospitalized (or imprisoned) in Ferrara's Sant'Anna, wrote two versions of a dialogue on the theory of games in which a female interlocutor complains that men commonly lose to women out of an artificial sense of courtesy. In the second and much longer version, the Gonzaga secondo overo del giuoco (1582), he shifts the direction of his response to this condescending mannerism, offering a vision of women with the determination and potential to be true players. This article examines how Tasso made this change and speculates as to why, tying his treatment to the larger discourse on gender and play in sixteenth-century Italy and proposing that his solution represents a timely intersection of the theory of games, the agency of women, and the plight of a captive poet in Renaissance Italy.


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pp. 750-791
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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