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The Renaissance of Marriage in Fifteenth-Century Italy.

Anthony Francis D'Elia. The Renaissance of Marriage in Fifteenth-Century Italy.

Harvard Historical Studies 146. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press The Harvard University Press is a publishing house, a division of Harvard University, that is highly respected in academic publishing. It was established on January 13, 1913. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. , 2004. xii + 262 pp. index. append To add to the end of an existing structure. . $49.95. ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number

ISBN International Standard Book Number

ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 
: 0-674-01552-5.

The institution of marriage, due to its central place in social relations and in governance, continues to attract historical study, and this book is a fine and scholarly addition to the burgeoning literature on marriage in Renaissance Italy. More and more types of objects and documents connected to weddings are constantly coming to light, and here another genre of writing associated with weddings is introduced and examined. Although its title gives very little away, the book in fact addresses the previously unexplored corpus of over 330 Latin wedding orations (mainly extant in manuscript) composed by humanists who were generated by fifteenth-century Italian court culture. Over 100 of these are anonymous, and the names of a substantial number of the couples getting married are also unknown, so the texts themselves, rather than their authors or their subjects, form the fixed point. The orations had a comparatively brief period of being in vogue, and were already being transformed at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

The heart of the book, containing five chapters, is relatively short. The first and last chapters are more generally on marriage--and contain already-known material as well as making a further, rather interesting, case for humanists as the forerunners of the Protestant reformers, this time on account of their views on celibacy--whereas the three central ones focus predominantly on the classically formulated orations (or epithalamia) and discuss previously neglected or overlooked texts. The author concentrates upon discussions of their classical precedents, their function as rhetorically precise court propaganda, and their role as purveyors of statements about elite, courtly marriage, perceived here as a relationship offering a notional equality to women, and the possibility of sexual pleasure to both sexes. In these pages is much material of great interest to historians of women, the family, and sexuality as well as to Neo--Latin scholars; and assuredly parts of the book will become standard reading on courses on Italian Renaissance women.

D'Elia categorizes these orations as examples of "nuptial nup·tial  
1. Of or relating to marriage or the wedding ceremony.

2. Of, relating to, or occurring during the mating season: the nuptial plumage of male birds.

 speech," stressing that they are, for the most part, unlike marriage sermons: wedding orations are laudatory laud·a·to·ry  
Expressing or conferring praise: a laudatory review of the new play.


(of speech or writing) expressing praise

, secular, and personal while marriage sermons are hortatory hor·ta·to·ry  
Marked by exhortation or strong urging: a hortatory speech.

[Late Latin hort
, biblical, and universal. But the fluidity of terminology and the influence of humanism meant that by the beginning of the fifteenth century the two genres sometimes seemed effectively to elide e·lide  
tr.v. e·lid·ed, e·lid·ing, e·lides
a. To omit or slur over (a syllable, for example) in pronunciation.

b. To strike out (something written).

, and the speeches could be labeled "oratio sive sermo" or even "sermo sive oratio" (it is not clear whether these titles were fifteenth-century ones, or had been assigned at a later date). While D'Elia's skill as a Latinist is everywhere evident, historical questions are sometimes not pursued to a conclusion. For example, these epideictic Ep`i`deic´tic

a. 1. Serving to show forth, explain, or exhibit; - applied by the Greeks to a kind of oratory, which, by full amplification, seeks to persuade.

Adj. 1.
 orations appear to have flourished only in an Italian court setting, such as Naples or Ferrara. Virtually no examples of orations survive from the "republics" of Venice or Florence, and a lone example is known from Rome, yet why this should have been the case is not discussed (epideictic funeral orations were regularly delivered in Rome). On pages 69-71, D'Elia reveals that one of the most prolific writers of wedding orations, Ludovico Carbone, was capable of writing in praise of the Turks in one oration and against them in another, but the implications of this fascinating insight for the trustworthiness of the content of these humanist writings are not explored.

The book is written in a clear and very accessible fashion, with short and pithy pith·y  
adj. pith·i·er, pith·i·est
1. Precisely meaningful; forceful and brief: a pithy comment.

2. Consisting of or resembling pith.
 sentences, but there is considerable repetition of information (presumably pre·sum·a·ble  
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster.
 this recapping is for the benefit of the nonspecialist reader, to whom all this would be unfamiliar). It would have been very interesting if D'Elia had been able to include a few examples (and translations) of the orations, but he has been limited to including sentences and sections of the Latin in his footnotes. However, he has been able to include a finding-list of Italian Renaissance wedding orations, which is surely one of the most useful aspects of the book for those in the field, and interested parties will be able to benefit greatly from his thoroughness.

KATE LOWE LOWE Lowell National Historic Park (US National Park Service)  

Queen Mary, University of London It is a research-based university, with a strong international reputation, and with twenty-four percent of its students coming from abroad.[4] Queen Mary incorporates several leading international research units such as the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, the  
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Author:Lowe, Kate
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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