The comic in Machiavelli's political and historical works

Matteo Favaretto

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The aim of this research is to study the comic forms present in Machiavelli’s main political and historical works: 'Il principe', 'Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio' and 'Istorie fiorentine', extending the analysis to 'L’arte della guerra' as well as to 'La vita di Castruccio Castracani' and the other minor writings when appropriate. Since it would be anachronistic and inconsistent to use modern theories to explain literary phenomena of the sixteenth century, an analysis of Renaissance treatises on the comic is provided firstly together with an investigation of the Florentine cultural discussions in relation to such a subject.
The core of the thesis concerns the author’s employment of 'facezie', irony and comedy, which are examined in three different chapters. The choice of these forms is derived partly from the relevant critical review and partly from a careful reading of Machiavelli’s works. Two lists of jokes are included in the biographies of Castruccio Castracani and Cosimo de’ Medici but other isolated witticisms are scattered throughout all the texts. A considerable selection of 'facezie' is exemplified in order to define their features and rhetorical function. The research on forms of irony and sarcasm offers a transversal analysis of relevant passages through a thematic approach. Rather than concentrating on specific objects of derision, it examines key points in the author’s thought: gratitude, military ambition as well as faith in institutions and people. The final chapter is dedicated exclusively to the 'Istorie fiorentine', in which the presence of humorous aspects seems to characterize the historical narration in a comic way. In particular, the negative examples provided can be compared to similar occurrences in classical comedies. Nonetheless, whereas in the plays the representation of comic episodes and characters serves as a moral model, in the 'Istorie' they are used with an intention of political warning.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Everson, Jane, Supervisor
  • Jossa, Stefano, Advisor
Award date1 Jun 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Machiavelli

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