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Clizia by Niccolò Machiavelli

Translated by Robert Cohen


A rollicking, farcical comedy, Niccolò Machiavelli’s Clizia (1524) is an important step in theatre history. Based on Casina, by the Roman dramatist Plautus, Clizia is an example of the theatrical genre known as commedia erudita, a precursor to its famous successor, commedia dell’arte.

The story centers on old Nicomaco (a play on the author’s name), who has raised an adopted daughter from childhood and now in his dotage has fallen in love—or lust—with her. His son Cleandro also loves Clizia, who loves him in return. Father and son scheme to marry the girl off to favorite servants, who, it’s understood, will share her with their masters. Meanwhile, Sofronia—mater familias and the play’s moral center—sets in motion her own game of deception and trickery.

As in classical theatre, the play is divided into five acts, with all action taking place within a single day. The setting is a city street. Characters come and go from home to church to marketplace, telegraphing their intentions with direct asides to the audience and underscoring them with bawdy jokes and puns. Machiavelli has added a prologue, an epilogue, and songs to the classical format, but he has borrowed the traditional deus ex machina ending. Just when you think the lovers Cleandro and Clizia will be thwarted, as her unknown parentage precludes marriage, a gentleman from Naples appears on the scene and changes everything.

In this new translation, Robert Cohen has preserved the original’s idiomatic conversational style and energetic sound. By adding stage directions, he has produced a delightful, stage-ready script for this too-often overlooked play.


Classics/Drama  ISBN: 978-1-935238-36-2
$8.95 USD
eISBN: 9781935238362

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