The Comedy and Tragedy of Machiavelli


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 The Italian statesman and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, well known as the author of The Prince, wrote not only grave, cold-blooded political tracts but also comedies, poems, fables, and letters that are seemingly lighthearted. What are we to make of the two extremes in Machiavelli’s writings? This volume brings together outstanding scholars in the fields of literature, political science, and history to explore the meanings of Machiavelli’s literary works, the light as well as the dark. Contemplating the comic and tragic in Machiavelli, the contributors offer new perspectives on his obsessions, intentions, and capabilities and reveal through sometimes opposing visions of their subject much about his political-historical treatises as well.

The nine essays in the book consider nearly all of Machiavelli’s literary and dramatic works, including the lively and ribald comedy Mandragola, the comic play Clizia, the ambivalent poem “The Ass,” the symbolic Florentine Histories, and Machiavelli’s fascinating correspondence. The contributors to the volume—among them Harvey C. Mansfield, Arlene W. Saxonhouse, Franco Fido, and Ronald L. Martinez—do not always resolve their opposing visions of the essentially tragic or comic Machiavelli, yet none contests the weight of his insights into the world and especially into the actors on the great stage of politics.

Vickie B. Sullivan is associate professor of political science at Tufts University.

“This volume, shaped by the studied pursuit of interdisciplinary encounter, will be of significant interest to readers in several disciplines—political science, literature, history, and others.”—Albert R. Ascoli, University of California, Berkeley

“Opening up an important dimension of Machiavelli’s thought, this collection both humanizes Machiavelli and highlights the comic and tragic aspects of his writings.”—Steven B. Smith, author of Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity

“Most students of Niccolo Machiavelli know him primarily from his work The Prince and may be only generally aware that Machiavelli wrote plays and histories as well as political theory. This edited volume is designed to remedy that defect. . . . All of the essays are worth consideration . . . especially in view of the relative lack of discussion of Machiavelli’s wider works.”—Choice

“The collection provides stimulating and diverse assessments of Machiavelli’s writing that incorporate his political and moral philosophy.”—Daniel W. Hollis, History: Reviews of New Books

“This collection of nine interdisciplinary essays by nine senior scholars proposes to focus on the comedian and tragedian and the links between Machiavelli’s literary and political work. . . . The essays in this collection are uniformly well informed, perceptive, and clearly written. An important contribution to literary scholarship.”—Library Journal
ISBN: 9780300087970
Publication Date: August 11, 2000
272 pages, 6 x 9