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260Comparative Drama Paola Ventrone. GIi araldi délia commedia: Teatro a Firenze nel Rinascimento. Ospedaletto (Pisa): Pacini Editore, 1993. Pp. 219. Paola Ventrone's volume on theater in Florence in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries constitutes one of the most significant and original recent contributions to the field. Based as it is not only on the author's many years of research in the archives, but also on her own firm view of theater as more than mere literature or simple script, it paints an extensive, complex, and at the same time wonderfully detailed picture of theatrical activity in the city. The author sees theater as a function of civic life and as a reflection of profound social or anthropological currents. As a result, theater and city become closely linked in her analysis, one serving the other's interests and contributing to each other's self-definition. In order to examine such conjunctions and symbiotic relationships, the author not only has examined a variety of archival and manuscript sources but also has re-examined well known documents so as to re-construct the context and the dynamics that gave life to theater in Florence. For example, the first chapter opens with an examination of "The myth of the princely patron" as it applies to Lorenzo de' Medici, only to conclude that the sporadic nature of his patronage of spectacle argues more against than in favor of the traditional view of his contribution to Florentine festivities. The "tradition" of Medicean jousts is then immediately exposed as an example of one such myth. Ventrone's volume is not, however, just revisionist history. It is also an excellent exploration of what constitutes theater in an early modern society. A few traditional concepts of "theater" as expressed and formulated by historians of literature fall by the wayside in such a process. As the author herself points out, the concept of "genres" gives way to a polymorphous "corn-presence" (compresenza) that functions dialectically between continuity and transformation to foster the development of "spectacle" (p. 9). In her view, not only jousts but also religious processions and even the narration of novelle in private gatherings or the recitation of cantan on the Piazza di San Martino become part of the tradition. In Ventrone's book the contributions made to the development of theater and spectacle by individuals such as the poet and philologist Angelo Poliziano or the ousted Florentine secretary Niccolö Machiavelli share the covers with those of lay religious confraternities or of carefree "compagnie di piacere." And, to add a new twist to an old story, an unexpected character has been allowed to slip in: the Herald of the Florentine Republic, whose duties were not only to represent the Republic in public embassies or events but also to entertain with songs and recitation the magistrates at banquet in the Palazzo della Signoria. With his entry into the cast of characters the title of the volume turns into a pun and the history of theater in Florence gains a new player. There are very few criticisms indeed to be levelled at the volume. Reviews261 Given the wealth of manuscript and printed sources cited or mentioned in the notes, a bibliography at the end of the volume would have been very informative and welcomed. Similarly, all long Latin quotes should have been translated into Italian (the days of general scholarly fluency in Latin are—alas—long gone, even in Italy). In spite of such observations , any other criticisms or regrets that could be levelled at this volume are truly overshadowed by the enormous contribution it makes to the history of theater and spectacle in Renaissance Florence. KONRAD EISENBICHLER Victoria College, University of Toronto Molly Smith. The Darker World Within: Evil in the Tragedies of Shakespeare and His Successors. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Pp. 193. $32.50. Cynthia Marshall. Last Things and Last Plays: Shakespearean Eschatology . Carbondale: South Illinois University Press, 1991. Pp. xv + 142. $24.50. The representation of humanity's seemingly endless capacity for nastiness, commonly known as evil in former times, is undoubtedly a dominant phenomenon in drama of the early Stuart period. Molly Smith's study centers quite strongly on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 260-261
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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