Cecchi and the Reconciliation of Theatrical Traditions


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Giovan Maria Cecchi (1518-1587) proved to be the most prolific playwright of sixteenth-century Italy. A notary by profession, this Florentine author completed twenty-one full-length erudite comedies, numerous secular farces, religious dramas, and intermezzi. The public to whom Cecchi addressed his dramatic works consisted of the professional and semi-professional Florentine classes of lawyers, notaries, merchants, clerics and nuns who all looked to the theatre as a source of entertainment and instruction. In the development of his personal artistry Cecchi fused various learned and popular literary traditions to produce a body of dramatic works which reflect all the facets of Cinquecento comic theatre: emulation of the ancient Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, the influence of the Italian novellistic tradition with its themes of love as a natural right and fortune as the arbiter of human destiny, the sacra rappresentazione with its stress on satirizing the vicious tendencies of everyday life, and the Tuscan dialectal farce with its puns and salacious play of words. Performance of Cecchi's plays by companies of amateur actors would highlight the festivities of carnival seasons, contribute to the gaiety of state weddings by members of the reigning Medici family, and relieve the monotony of life in convents. Through his comic works Giovan Maria Cecchi intended to present his society with a mirror portrait of its daily existence, pointing out the ridiculous excesses and the follies of the morally blind while offering hope of a happy outcome to those who recognize their own foolishness.

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