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Theater and its Social Uses: Machiavellis Mandragola and the Spectacle of Infamy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Jane Tylus*
University of Wisconsin, Madison


Long seen as a play that celebrates the new-found freedom of its female protagonist, Mandragola may in fact question the very possibility of theatrical "liberation. "Drawing on the foundational myth central to Renaissance thinking about theater, the abduction of the Sabine women, this essay shows how Machiavelli endeavored to make his play a discomfitting experience for characters and audience alike. This conception of comedy as social trap both challenged humanistic notions of the ideal relationship between theater and the city, and accentuated the surveillant norms inherent in humanists'understanding of the role of the stage in society.

Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2000

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This essay has benefitted enormously from the comments of Teodolinda Barolini, Clare Cavanagh, Stephanie Jed, William Klein, Laura Levine, Ronald L. Martinez, and the two anonymous readers for Renaissance Quarterly, my thanks to them for their help.


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