Friday, February 3, 2012

2012.02.03 — Mandragola a Play by Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli
New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, (originally published in 1957).
ISBN 0672602318.


This was a fun read, but not a great read. The 'high' farcical comedy of this style is entertaining, but not challenging.

The premise aligns with Machiavelli's concerns about morality and power. A
young man with some wealth lusts after a beautiful married women. In fact, as he closes in on her, he expresses his fear of failure:

… anybody who says waiting is a hard thing is telling the truth. I'm losing ten pounds every hour thinning of where I am now and of where I may be two hours from now, fearing that something may suddenly happen to upset my whole plan: if that should happen this would be the last night of my life, for I'll either throw myself in the Arno, or I'll hang myself, or I'll fling myself out of those windows, or I'll stab myself on her doorstep. Something or other like that I'm bound to do, to end it all… (4.4.).
And the writing is very easy to read. And I might have given it another star if the Machiavelli had honoured the object of the lusting protagonist, who was frequently cited by the various characters as being intelligent and moral. Instead he has her capitulate to the young lover and the morals of her family and church and embrace being a lover.

I guess I'm getting old, because I just don't quite believe the credibility of the characters' behaviours. But then if this is high farce — which this most certainly is — then the characters are given the freedom to be incredible. However, if that belief doesn't work, then the incredible behaviours fail.

The book brought more than one smile to my face, and there was an snippet of an economic comment that I may well find excellent to include in my economics course. That, and very easy writing, earns it 4 stars. However, the failure of Machiavelli to fully honour Lucrezia's intelligence docks it one star.