The five plays chosen for this volume represent some of the finest, and most influential, works from the first wave of the classicizing revival of comic theater in 16th-century Italy, which would then make itself felt throughout Europe: in the England of Shakespeare and the Spain of Lope. They stand among the extraordinary accomplishments of the 'High Italian Renaissance,' comparable to the art of Michelangelo and Raphael, the political and historical thought of Machiavelli and Guicciardini, the courtly dialogue of Castiglione, the romance-epic of Ariosto, and so on. The combined skills of Giannetti and Ruggiero, a talented literary scholar and a leading cultural historian, have blended perfectly in producing lucid, appealing translations that both respect the artistry of the texts—especially their wickedly carnivalesque humor—and reveal their dual function of reproducing and travestying fundamental aspects of the 'social world' of early modern Italy. Readers will find the long introduction especially illuminating about the ways in which Machiavelli, Bibbiena, Aretino, and the others transform the classical models of Plautus and Terence as they superimpose upon them the political preoccupations, normative family relations, sexual practices, and gender and age roles of their own brilliant and traumatic epoch.
Albert Russell Ascoli, Terrill Distinguished Professor of Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley