Belphagor by Niccolo Machiavelli
Selected and Edited with Introduction and Critical Comments by Maximilian J. Rudwin
Translated by Barnabe Riche
This story of the devil Belphagor, who was sent by his infernal chief Pluto up to earth, where he married an earthly wife, but finally left her in disgust to go back to hell, is also of mediaeval origin. It was first printed by Giovanni Brevio in 1545, and appeared for the second time with the name of Machiavelli in 1549, twenty-two years after the death of the diabolical statesman. The two authors did not borrow from each other, but had a common source in a mediaeval Latin manuscript, which seems to have first fallen into the hands of Italians, but was later brought to France where it has been lost. The tale of the marriage of the devil appeared in several other Italian versions during the sixteenth century. Among the Italian novelists, who retold it for the benefit of their married friends, may be mentioned Giovan-Francesco Straparola, Francesco Sansovino, and Gabriel Chappuys. In England this story was no less popular. Barnabe Riche inserted it in his collection of narratives in 1581, and we meet it again later in the following plays: Grim, the Collier of Croydon, ascribed to Ulpian Fulwell (1599); The Devil and his Dame by P. M. Houghton (1600); Machiavel and the Devil by Daborne and Henslowe (1613); The Devil is an Ass by Ben Jonson (1616); and Belphagor, or the Marriage of the Devil (1690). In France the story was treated in verse by La Fontaine (1694), and in Germany it served the Nuremberg poet Hans Sachs as the subject for a farce (1557).