Motherhood And The Identity Formation Of Masculinities In Sixteenth-Century “Erudite Comedy”
The commedia erudita (erudite comedy) is a five-act drama that is written in the vernacular and regulated by unity of time and place. It was conceived and reached its mature form in Italy during the first half of the sixteenth century. Erudite comedies were composed for audiences from the elite classes and performed in private settings. Since the plots dramatized the lives of contemporary, sixteenth-century urban dwellers, this genre of drama reflects many of the issues that preoccupied the elite classes during this period: the art of identity formation, the nature, attributes, and legitimacy of those who claim the authority to rule, and the relationship between power and gender, age, and experience. The dissertation analyzes five comedies: Ludovico Ariosto’s I suppositi (1509), Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola (1518) and Clizia (1525), Antonio Landi’s Il commodo (1539), and Giovan Maria Cecchi’s La stiava (1546). These plays represent and critique idealized visions of patriarchal masculinity among the elite of Renaissance Italy through an engagement with the problems that maternity and mothering present to patriarchal ideology and identity. By unpacking the ways in which patriarchal masculinity is articulated in response to the challenges of maternal femininity, this dissertation gives a rich account of the gender order and the ways in which it was being problematized during the Italian Renaissance. This dissertation offers a series of interrelated analyses that employ motherhood as an analytical category, examining how the anxieties of the Renaissance male elite about emasculation and male impotence pervaded the ideological assumptions underlying the identity formation of the gendered individual. It argues that, in order to resolve these anxieties, femininity, masculinity, motherhood, and fatherhood are constructed in these plays as intersecting categories of identity.
dissertation or thesis