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This review is from: Mandragola (Paperback)
In preparing myself for a class I shall be attending next semester on Niccolò Machiavelli, I stumbled upon this play by Machiavelli entitled Mandragola (or Mandrake, as in the herb, in English).
I had already read The Prince some years back, and have just started on Discourses on Livy. These two are, of course, the two one must read if one wants to have a decent sense of Machiavelli's contributions to political theory. However, since so much of his stuff can seem heavy at times, reading something more lighthearted by Machiavelli has been a lot of fun.
Mandragola is a comedy that takes place in Florence in the early sixteenth century. The characters are all humorous. The main character, Callimaco, is something of a rakehell, but a nice enough fellow. The play begins with him back at home in Florence after just finishing his studies in Paris. We learn that Callimaco has returned to Florence because of the reputation of one supposedly comely-looking girl, who is married to an older rich gentleman. Callimaco hatches a plan with his servant on how to turn the older husband into a cuckold. Essentially, this play is about Callimaco trying to get laid with some other man's wife. The comedy behind the play is in all the misadventures in which Callimaco and his team of licentious buddies involve themselves whilst accomplishing that goal.
More than a few good lines pop up in the dialogue, but my favorite scene is probably the last one, where, after the exciting deed has been done, everyone goes to church to make repentance--some more than others.
From a political theory perspective, Machiavelli's diction become important. Favorite words of his (like virtue, fortune, others...) are peppered throughout the dialogue, but on first read I found myself loosing myself in the story too much to pay attention to what any of this might mean in comparison to Machiavelli's larger body of political work. Doubtlessly, I shall be rereading this short play later in the coming months to work out these larger issues, assuming that they are there.
For those less interested in the political theory aspect, Mandragola still makes for a funny read. I hope I can see it some day performed on stage. It would be interesting to see how a director might flesh out the scenes and characters.