Note to the reader   

The main idea of my entire paper is to take a closer look at Machiavelli’s humor.  These comic moments offer a deeper understanding, if explored one finds an insight into his political philosophy.  Please take that into consideration as you examine this paper to make sure that this work is producing my goal above.  In addition this will be in the form of a web site, which explains why each portion is separated into titles.  Also each of the citations will be in the form of hypertext so that one can just click the number and a separate window will appear with the citation.  However here I will have them in the MLA form.

Thank You

Mandragola Section

Introduction Of Mandragola Page

            This play offers much to its audience.  First and foremost it clearly amuses the attendees of the play.  (work on the opening sentences)  Its peculiar plot puts forward ("creates" better?) comical situations that draw the viewer in.  However this play gives more than just humorous activities.  It provides as well a message beyond the actions.  There can be seen a deeper meaning to the play that is picked up by the audience.  Yet this is not a complex message, it was not the author’s intention to have this piece meant only for an intellectual elite.  It was widely performed during the time period, which suggest that the majority of the people held an appreciation for the work. (Rework the paragraph; I'm not sure that you have a clear idea what you want to say).

            As we see the plot is easy and simple to follow.  The play only calls for a careful eye to pick up the lessons given by the author.  Mandragola’s unique character resides in that quality.  Its humor causes one to pay close attention to the script.  Upon close examination by the audience they do pick up the philosophical beliefs the author is sharing.  Analyzing the characters reveals unique traits that offer up symbolic representations, which are used by the author to present his ideas.  What is being conveyed are the ideas that Machiavelli held in all of his works.  Not just politically philosophical beliefs but also personal maxims that each citizen should begin to realize.  This play offers a great amount to the audience but it presents it in a simple manner that opens the door to a vast portion of the population to gain an understanding of Niccolo Machiavelli’s viewpoint of the world.  

Your prose has too much passive voice and indefinite subjects.  E.g. "Its humor causes one to pay close attention to the script" could be changed to:  Machiavelli inserted humor into the play and forced his audience to grapple with the meanings underlying the wit.


AMUSE Comedy?

            The antics described throughout Mandragola clearly show that the author was trying to create a humorous atmosphere.  Critics like Prezzolini think that Mandragola is a witty satiric comic masterpiece.  (Prezzolini 121)  Machiavelli was trying to amuse his audience, making them laugh was important to the entire project.  Without the humorous entertainment no one would have sat in the seats of the playhouse.   The author makes a proposition in the prologue informing the audience that you will get some sort of enjoyment out of this play.  “If you find you’re not amused, he’ll stand you to a glass of wine.”  (Bondanella, Portable 434)  Some of his purposes behind amusing the audience are discussed in other areas of the site.  Yet here it is worth mentioning that the main purpose was to create a diversion from the trials of daily life.  Critic Maurizio Viroli held that the propose was “simply to arouse laughter.”  (Viroli 26) 

            Viroli felt that the play created a “machiavellian smile” which was a mask of laughter to cover over sighs of life.  (Viroli 26)  The troubles that people faced in life could be overlooked for a moment while attending the play being covered by laughter.  Even the writer gives this notion again in his prologue.  For “he is only trying with these little trifles to brighten up his miserable life.”  (Bondanella, Portable 434)  What draws people to this comedy or any comedy for that matter is that hardships occur and they do tend to bring people down.  However people do seek out opportunities to find comfort and amusement, this play offers that release.  Robert Ridolfi commented that this play was a “comic farce… to chase the sighs away.”  (Ridolfi 173)  From the bumblings of Nicia to the bizarre rantings of Callimaco when tortured in love the audience openly laughs at them throughout the play.  From Ligurio’s devious actions to the Friars shrewd behavior the crowd was able to relate and enjoy this piece. 

This paragraph is the first that really says something --- and you say a number of interesting things in it.  Each one of your points in this paragraph should be expanded by giving examples from Mandragola to prove your points.  You do this in a general way at the end of the paragraph but you should quote passages from the play.

As observed by Silvia Ruffo-Fiore this critical social comedy mirrors the ridiculousness of urban life.  (Ruffo-Fiore 114)  It is an urban life that can easily be understood by the audience of this play.   Mandragola was performed across Italy were it was greatly received by crowds and its popularity grew to even catch the attention of the Pope at the time.  People could relate to this “True to life” play and allowed for such a wonderful response from the audience.  (Ruffo-Fiore 113)  In a letter written from Giovanni Manettie to Niccolo` on the 28 of February 1526 he spoke of how the competing play being performed in town that night was a “dead thing” compared to Machiavelli’s play.  (Atkinson 379)  It is essential to make note of the amusing character  of this play.  (you have told us that the play is amusing a number of times --- now you must show HOW the play is amusing with examples) Comedy as stated above has a way of affecting people’s lives.  Laughter seems to soften people’s faces and is always welcomed by an audience.  It is through this medium, the comedy, that Machiavelli’s teachings were transmitted. 


            Machiavelli reached his audience through an old literary tactic.  The ideas that Machiavelli wished to convey were sent this way to allow a greater appreciation.  Mandragola in fact was the one piece popularly received during his lifetime and it had to do with his means of transportation of his teachings.  When Mandragola is seen as a comedic parable the lessons of Machiavelli begin to rise from the humorous prose.  This was the perfect manner to reach the masses of Italy.  This play is a transmission of his political ideas in a manner that allowed the people across Italy to understand issues pertaining to government.  (Sumberg 320)  Those issues will be brought up with in another location of the site. What needs to be explained here is how his political ideas found a wonderful expression in the form of this play.

            As mentioned above people found the play very amusing.  It was through this amusement that Machiavelli was able to transmit his beliefs.  Robert Ridolfi notes that comedy has a far greater chance of making people think than just laugh alone.  (Ridolfi 172)  People open up their mind to be entertained and that is the precise moment that Machiavelli’s ideas begin to seep in.  One can gather from the prologue that he is now turning to a new manner of transmitting his ideas and it will allow possibly for a greater understanding.  “There is no other thing that he can turn to for it has been impossible to show his worth in other arts.”  (Bondanella, Portable 434) Cranes Lord states in his essay “On Machiavelli’s Mandragola” how the allegorical character this play holds was received even more so for a person living in Florence at the time than any reader since could understand.  (Lord 808)  The lessons that are sent can be picked up easily by a person of the time period where one could understand the local color presented in the play.  For instance how the shrewd Friars at that time period behaved or how doctors at times even seem like impostors.  Yet even today lessons are found.  This play is a parable that is teaching the viewer something more than a simple story of adultery.  This is the genius and talent of Machiavelli; he was able to connect humor with his teachings, which presented them in a manner that would offer a new understanding to the audience.  People wish to laugh and will listen as close as possible to understand the entirety of the joke.  When that comic situation is coupled with a lesson, a deeper understanding occurs within the student.  Machiavelli was not just trying to make people laugh but there was also an ulterior motive involved as well.  Should we expect anything less from a man who spent his life dealing with conspiracies?


 Character Examination:

            There are unique characteristics of each member of the cast.  Some have theorized that each individual character represents certain people that actually did serve in the Florentine government.  However there is great debate on which Character describes which real life person.  Yet there are traits that each character exhibits and can be examined on a general level.  Also each comical character serves as a tool to display the symbolic message Machiavelli is sending.  The focus of this examination will be of the main characters of the Play, Callimaco, Ligurio, Messer Nicia, Brother Timoteo, and Lucrezia.  The following describes each of the characters traits and then symbolic representation. 



            He is the hero of this comedy but also represents the hero for the people.  Callimaco is the young brash high flier that bested the older settled Messer Nicia.  He represents the new vision that youth offers.  He embodies the new learned man that is stepping in to replace the old.  (Matters 82).  Machiavelli created him to be the complete man by spending time studying, enjoying life and taking up endeavors in business.  His youthful vigor is what Machiavelli is looking for to replace what Nicia stands for, old stagnant traditions.  His goal is to seduce Lucrezia to fall for him.

            This represents various different issues towards Machiavelli’s teachings.  First Callimaco has the upbringing of the perfect leader.  Then through his youthful spirit he is able and willing to take any measure to obtain his goal, “something grandiose or dangerous, ruinous or infamous.”  (Bondanella, Portable 441)  There is no fear of consequences, which is a quality that allows him to take whatever risks are necessary.  The goal is Lucrezia but also she represents the body politic that the new youthful regime is taking from the old barren regime. 

            In the actions of Callimaco there is a political struggle occurring, one with life or death consequences.  For if he does not obtain the goal he will then “throw (himself) out of those windows or even cut (his) own throat in her doorway.” (Bondanella, Portable 467)  The goal of obtaining what represents the body politic is a goal that requires the extreme action of disarming a state, an undertaking that no homebody would be able to do.  (Sumberg 323)  Machiavelli created a man with a perfect will to do what ever the situation called for in order to obtain the prize. 


Messer Nicia:

            The older bumbling cuckold represents the absentminded traditions of an old style of rule.  Nicia is the fool that was created by Machiavelli to represent the old traditions that keep a state from moving forward.  (Masters 82)  A homebody mentality will not allow for any risk to be taken for greater return. 

            Within the story he is unable to have a child with his wife.  He is made out to be the one at fault, completely impotent, unable to bring about any sort of production from his wife.  (Lord 820)  Lucrezia is seen as the goal of these two leaders and under the rule of Nicia little progress is being made.  Not only is he unable to produce children with his wife but also his is unable to realize that practically every other character in the play is manipulating him. 

            This man has either lost the heart or never had the ability to rule Lucrezia.  Nicia is the embodiment of the impotent ruler, a prince or elected leader that cannot drive his city towards a more fruitful end.  All that existed under his control was a wasteful system where the family consumed its fortune but never produced any security and prospects for the future. 



            The Madonna Lucrezia is the focal point that all action revolves around within this play.  It is her famed virtuous character and striking beauty that causes Callimaco to begin this entire ordeal.  Machiavelli has created within her very unique characteristics that set her apart from the rest of the people within the play.  As Ligurio points out she posses qualities that are “fit to govern a kingdom.”  (Bondanella, Portable 441)

            Lucrezia is the person that Machiavelli wishes all citizens to be.  She possesses a “machiavellian awareness” enabling her to make clear decisions towards the best outcome of her unique situation.  (Bondanella 113)  This ability allows her to realize that siding with Callimaco at the end of the play is the most productive choice for her to make.  She completely avoids the middle of the road throughout the play.  (Bondanella 114)  Though going from one extreme to the other she remains virtuous in the eyes of the writer because she is able to keep a clear mined view that allows her to make the best decisions.  Machiavelli shows how much he values some one who avoids the middle of the road by portraying Lucrezia with the reputation of being virtuous at the beginning because of her conviction to virtue.  Also at the end he rewards her with the prize of Callimaco and a more enjoyable future.

            This may have been an attempt of Machiavelli to show the Florentine people the perfect citizen.  Lucrezia represents the Florentine citizenry that Callimaco gains from his youthful direct nature.  She represents a new republic that is able to keep a clear and objective head on her shoulders.  Her surrender to a new order is a realization on her part to give into the seduction of Callimaco.  (Ruffo-Fiore 119)  He is understood to be the more cunning mate to lead her.  The representation of her as the body politic is a hope of Machiavelli that the people of Florence will posses this Machiavellian awareness that will enable them to choose the best suitor to lead them.  The people will be able to accept this new leader as “lord, master, and guide” and accept this new type of leader as “father and defender.”  (Bondanella, Portable 477)


Brother Timoteo:

            This shrewd character offers the play a religious blessing by being included.  One could not create a play that symbolizes living in Florence or Italy at that time and not include the church.  This friar is included to convince Lucrezia to follow through with the plan and then aids in its execution and blessing at the end. 

            The shrewd friar can be seen as using Religion as a tool to serve his own ends.  When he was convincing Lucrezia to support the plan he used passages from the bible describing how Lot’s Daughters committed no sin in their adultery.  By convincing her to follow the plan he was able to ensure that his payment was secure from Nicia.  Later while waiting for the receipt of that payment he comments, “I will wait for them in church, where my services bring a higher price.”  (Bondanella, Portable 476)  The church serves him in his business endeavors to bring him higher returns in his work.  This could be understood by people of Florence during the early 1500’s and even can be seen today, how many use religious backgrounds to legitimatize their actions and use their faith to serve them greater returns in life. 

            However Timoteo never accepts that he is ever in the wrong during this entire endeavor.  “Timoteo’s description of himself as “too credulous or good,” and of his co-conspirators as “bad company” is not meant to be humorous.  He really believes that he is an innocent victim.”  (Bondanella 120)  He feels himself to be in the right at all times and is completely justified in tricking the entire lot of them to bring him higher profits.  For when he states to himself, “God knows that I never intended to hurt anyone,” (Bondanella, Portable 468) we can see that he personally believes that intentions are the source of sin.  Since he feels his intentions are noble then his actions are in no way sinful. 

            Timoteo symbolically represents the Church in Italy.  His actions and beliefs are those that mimic the churches during that time.  (Masters 82)  Religion was just a tool to legitimatize any action taken by the Papacy in Italy.  One could practically see a pope during that time period when the Papacy was expanding its land throughout Italy saying,  “if there’s a profit here somewhere, I’ll be shrewder than they are.” (Bondanella, Portable 456)  His actions seem to mimic those of the churches during that time.  The Catholic religion is a tool used by the Pope to take political actions that are needed.  Even within the piece we see a political representation of the church blessing the new union of Callimaco and Lucrezia at the end of the play.  The churches blessing serves to legitimatize the new order that Callimaco will bring about on Lucrezia and symbolically on the new body politic.  (Sumberg 456) The church during Machiavelli’s life was a tremendously powerful political force that had to always be reckoned with, just as how in the play Timoteo is needed to secure and bless the new union with Lucrezia the symbolic body politic.  The Papacy must be involved in actions concerning Italy because its power not only physically in terms of strength but also spiritually in terms of control over the common citizen was vast and could never be overlooked.



            The idea of Children that Nicia was looking to have also has symbolic meaning as well.  Children meant that they had an heir to their wealth, offering security and a future of their family.  Sostrata makes it clear, when convincing Lucrezia to commit to the plan, that “ a childless woman has no security.” (Bondanella, Portable 460)  Children represent something more than just an heir to the play but something that Machiavelli fought his entire life for.  Cranes Lord explains it best in his article “On Machiavelli’s Mandragola.”

            He holds that Children represent the military strength that did not exist in Florence during Machiavelli’s lifetime.  Blame resides on the prince for its lack of armed forces. (Discourses I.21 229) Lord puts forward that Machiavelli places fault on Nicia for being impotent and not producing an heir and therefore should be conquered by Callimaco.  In the same light any prince who does not have the security of armed forces is to blame for being conquered by an opposing force.  Machiavelli is trying to make the point in his play, as he did throughout his lifetime, a citizen militia is vital to a states security and future just as how Lucrezia’s child will provide her with a future and security.  This is yet again another example of how Lucrezia is a symbolic representation of the Florentine people.  Only in production of a son will she grasp security of her future.



            The clever counselor that is presented in the play is the most intriguing character that Machiavelli created.  He is the mastermind behind the entire conspiracy.  Ligurio is the one who is able to manipulate the entire cast so that his friend’s goal is gained.  Callimaco is not the perfect leader until Ligurio arrives.  It is only then that a perfect leader exists when one has a perfect counselor.  (Sumberg 332)  He offers Callimaco the best advice throughout the play.  First he advises against going to the baths for it might not lead to the best end.  Then he creates a new plan that will ensure obtaining Lucrezia.  He was the perfect schemer controlling each character in a sense.  He manipulated the Friar when testing his moral limits with the abortion story.  He easily controlled with Nicia by tricking him into paying for the entire conspiracy upon their meeting with Timoteo.  He also enjoyed playing jokes on Nicia by slipping him the bitter aloes later on in the play.  He was even the puppet master of the hero Callimaco’s actions through the entire play.  He conceived of everything from the beginning.  He was a perfect judge of character that allowed him the insight needed to manipulate each person. 

            Ligurio was the perfect advisor that led figuratively speaking his prince to victory.  The symbolic representation of Ligurio has been disputed, but the majority of people involved in discussing Mandragola hold that he represents the author himself.  “There can be little doubt, I think, that Ligurio is Machiavelli’s self portrait.” (Lord 817)  Machiavelli created the perfect advisor, which he felt he himself was.  It has been explained that the union of Callimaco and Lucrezia is symbolic to a political union. Early on in the play we learn that Ligurio was a marriage broker, which symbolically states that he dealt in political affairs advising political actions just as Machiavelli did.  Ligurio had perfect insight into each of the characters.  Friar’s shrewd behavior was observed even before meeting Timoteo.  Sostrata’s past actions were also known to Ligurio allowing him to know what she was capable of.  Also it was Ligurio who admired the Machiavellian qualities of Lucrezia in the beginning of the play.  “He’s has got a good wife who is wise, has good manners, and is fit to govern a kingdom.”  (Bondanella, Portable 441)  Theodore A. Sumberg in his article “La Mandragola: an Interpretation” put it best when he said.

            “It must often occur to the careful reader of the play that Machiavelli and Ligurio are brothers under the skin.  Both are astute counselors of princes; both are content to serve the fame of others, or are content to seem content; and both are superior to the men they serve.  There is only the small difference that Ligurio is a counselor rewarded in his time while Machiavelli is not, and the large difference that while Ligurio served one conspiracy, Machiavelli serves many.  His play will keep Machiavelli conspiring for all time.” (Sumberg 338)


            The last line will be taken up in greater detail in the conclusion portion of this section.  However what is clear is that Machiavelli created the perfect advisor for people to model after.  One who held the strings of each person involved.  Ligurio served as the link to all the characters and bound the story together. (Masters 83)  He was the personification of Machiavelli and continues represent him each time the play is performed. 



Works Cited



Atkinson, James B, and David Sices. Machiavelli and His Friends. Ed. James B Atkinson, and David Sices. Trans. James B Atkinson, and David Sices. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press,1996.


Bondanella, Peter, and Mark Musa. The Portable Machiavelli. Ed. Peter Bondanella, and Mark Musa. Trans. Peter Bondanella, and Mark Musa. New York: Penguin Books, 1979.


Bondanella, Peter E. Machiavelli and the Art of Renaissance History. Detroit: Wayne State University, 1973.


Lord, Cranes. "On Machiavelli's Mandragola." The Journal of Politics 41.3 (1979): 806-827. 4 Apr. 2000 <>.


Masters, Roger D. Machiavelli, Leonardo, and the Science of Power. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996.


Prezzonlini, Guiseppe. Machiavelli. Rexdale, Ontario: Ambassador Books, 1967.


Ridolfi, Roberto. The Life of Machiavelli. Trans. Cecil Grayson. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963.


Ruffo-Fiore, Silvia. Niccolo` Machiavelli. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.


Sumberg, Theodore A. "La Mandragola: An Interpretation." The Journal of Politics 23.2 (1961): 320-340. 3 Apr. 2000 <>.


Viroli, Maurizio. Machiavelli. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998.



There is a final section to be completed in relation to Mandragola and it contains my conclusion of this section, which includes the lessons and maxims that Machiavelli inserted into the play.  I will be writing the conclusion after I have received your feedback and then also writing each of the conclusions together with my other sections to hopefully keep my theme running through each of them.

            Thank you for your time.