"Tanto che l'aro amazo": Violence in Angelo Beolco's Plays and in His Associates' Lives.
In 1494, the probable year in which an illegitimate son was born to the Paduan branch of a wealthy but declining Milanese family of imperial affiliation and a servant likely of recent peasant origin, Charles VIII invaded Italy (Sambin, "Lazzaro" 38-40; Piovan, "Tre schede"). This was the first of multiple invasions of the peninsula by France, the Holy Roman Empire and Spain in an ongoing contest for its conquest that included the wars of the League of Cambrai (1509-1517), undeclared fighting in the early 1520s, and the war of the League of Cognac (1526-29) (Mallett and Hale 221-27). Simultaneously the Turkish Porte attacked Venice's maritime empire and the Italian coast.
The Cambrai wars opened in May of 1509 with the disastrous defeat of the Venetian army at Agnadello, which lay west of Crema on the edge of Venice's mainland dominion. As Venice's army fled eastward, towns refused entrance even to its high officials and Venetian governors. Free of Venetian rule, many mainland towns were returned by their former ruling class to the centuries-old fealty to the Holy Roman Empire reified in the nobles' feudal properties and titles (Preto). Among the most ardent were Paduan nobles. Many of them, while belonging to the faculty of the university and exercising professions, shared the goal of other imperialists to regain control of local government. They also aimed to recover the rich agricultural land with its assured income and prestige that they had increasingly been selling to Venetians, whose loss of maritime commerce prompted them to invest their liquid wealth in other sources of income and provisions. As soon as the Venetian governors of Padua had departed, a group of imperial nobles established their government of the city under podesta Conte Alvaroto. They soon welcomed Leonardo Trissino, who volunteered to serve as Maximilian I's governor. Among those involved in the movement were Beolco's uncles Zuan Jacopo and Melchiore, the latter of whom gave the name Imperio to a son born around this time; the brother of Beolco's stage partner Marc'Aurelio Alvaroto and other Alvaroto family members; Anton Francesco dei Dottori, a close friend of Beolco's father who was physician to Leo X; and Bernardino Speroni, father of Sperone; members of the Castegnola family (a Castegnola, probably Hironimo, would play Bilora in Beolco's later play) (Piovan, "Giovanni Francesco"; Bonardi; Menegazzo, "Ricerche" 252-57).
By July, Venice's leaders realized how much the loss of the mainland state was costing them in agricultural rents and other income (Costa). They focused on nearby Padua, which also served as the hub of their mainland defense (Polano, Concina), housed many industries, and provided their university. (2) A plan for Padua's reconquest was proposed to the Council of Ten by Alvise da Molin, Alvise di Prioli, Andrea Trevisan, Alvise Mocenigo, and Nicolo Bernardo (Sanuto 8: 507-08; Kaplan; Costa). Molin's son Marco was a member of the compagnia della calza Immortali, which in 1520 would host the first performance in which Ruzante was recorded by name in Venice. The compagnie della calza were troupes of young Venetian patricians who staged festive events and helped their members launch their careers and marriages. Alvise Priuli and Andrea Trevisan had kinsmen in the Immortali, while Trevisan and Mocenigo had kinsmen in the Ortolani, the compagnia that invited Ruzante to Venice most frequently. Bernardo's and Mocenigo's sons were members of the Triumphanti, the compagnia whose 1525 festivity rehearsal included a Ruzante comedy that drew so many government officials, among whom Nicolo Bernardo himself, that important government meetings had to be cancelled (Carroll, "Venetian Attitudes" and Commerce, chapter three).
On July 17, the Venetian army entered Padua's walls through a combination of ruse and force, led by Andrea Gritti and assisted by property-owning patricians with peasant forces that they had organized. Imperial partisans, after an initial effort at defense, were defeated. While some managed to escape, many were captured and sent to Venice. The leaders were imprisoned, including in the granary near Piazza San Marco where they were confined in cages. In December, four of the leaders were hanged in Piazza San Marco despite appeals for clemency and the declaration of one that he had been asked by Piero Pesaro, a prominent patrician, to remain in Padua and gather intelligence for Venice. The prisons' harsh conditions led to the deaths of others, especially those of advanced age. Rebels deemed less dangerous were allowed to live in the city but required to report frequently, many kept there for years. At the end of the war, the widow of leader Antonio Conte was still confined to Venice; when she dictated her will, members of many rebel families gathered around her bed, including Marc'Aurelio Alvaroto. (3) Most rebel families had their possessions confiscated, resulting in their long-term impoverishment. The Venetian government used some of their properties to reward condottieri but sold others, especially rich agricultural lands. The commission selling them was composed of the fathers of some of Beolco's closest patrician associates; these associates purchased most of the properties (Venturi; Carroll, "Venetian Attitudes"; Carroll, Commerce, chapter three; Del Torre 160-75). (4)
Several times over the course of the war, Venetian possession of Padua was again threatened and patricians volunteered themselves, their men, and their funds for its defense (e.g. Sanuto 9: 143-48, 204-11; 17: 247-59). Their number, beyond the five proposers of the 1509 plan, included a high proportion of patricians with personal or family connections to the compagnie inviting Beolco or attending his performances, many of whom also had valuable holdings in Padua and its territory. At the end of the war, the marble arch at Portello, the river port in Padua where boats departed for and arrived from Venice, was rebuilt in Roman style expressing Venice's renewed dominion. The project was supervised by the capitanio (military governor) of Padua, Marc'Antonio Loredan, father of Immortale Zuan Francesco Loredan (Carroll, "Per un itinerario").
The wars created the very real prospect of the Republic's demise through military conquest. They disturbed the Republic's social institutions and networks of authority and governance. Cowardly retreats and losses by Venetian forces in the battle of Agnadello and other battles subjected them to derision including by Machiavelli (Carroll, "Machiavelli's Veronese Prostitute"). Fighting disrupted income and provisioning from the mainland; Turkish aggression and the enmity of northern states truncated what maritime commerce remained in the face of Portuguese competition and cost Venice pieces of its stato da mar (maritime state). Most famously, the plot of the Calandria (1513) of Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena is set in motion by Venice's loss to the Turks of its first maritime colonies, Modon and Coron.
Portraits of the Pesaro family in Titian's Madonna di Ca' Pesaro (Venice, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari) communicate patrician reactions to the disastrous situation. While the doughty bishop Jacopo, who commissioned them in 1519, maintains an air of confidence that is a relic of his role as commander of the papal army fighting the Turk at the turn of the century, his brothers' faces are somber and marked with care. A young son, of the new generation whose entire lives were and would be conditioned by the losses, turns to the public a face pallid with anxiety as if to ask, "What will become of me?" (Carroll, Commerce, chapter one).
Venice's patrician class, which had never before experienced such humiliation, compensated for it with an increase in patrician privileges and a logic of violence and retribution in the treatment of non-patricians. During the reconquest of Padua, non-patricians who sacked the city after the order to stop were severely punished, while patricians were not. Similar episodes and differentiation would recur over the course of the war (Costa; da Corte fol. 96rv; Sanuto 8: 528-29). In the Friuli, the intersection of the war and Carnival permitted a bloody revolt against Venetian domination by peasant troops under the leadership of the noble Antonio Savorgnan. After it was put down, the Council of Ten had Savorgnan assassinated on the street (Muir, 133-40, 150-51, 187-88). However, even some patrician crimes were grave enough to warrant prosecution. The Republic's high commissions ordered the execution of the patrician Gasparo Valier in 1511 despite the pleas of his influential kinsmen (Sanuto 12: 137, 139, 186, 188-90). While he was charged with murder, potentially unjustifiably because the victim was an outlaw with a price on his head, Valier's connection to contraband and to the Council of Ten, together with his location in Treviso near the border with imperial territories and wearing of the German-style scufia (cap), hint that traffic with the enemy may have been the real reason.
Patrician affiliates of Beolco were involved in an unusually high proportion of violent acts. Occasional episodes had occurred already prior to the Cambrai war, such as the wounding of Zuan Foscarini by Zuan Francesco Bolani, the latter the kinsman of an Ortolano (Sanuto 4: 273). Instances increased during the war. In December of 1513, shortly after a prolonged volunteer defense stint in Padua, Zuan Batista Grimani qu. Hironimo, with relatives in the three compagnie discussed, assaulted a patrician official who was taking some prostitutes to prison. Unfortunately, the official died of his wounds. Zuan Batista was tried and found guilty, sentenced to either prison or a loan to the state. An uncle agreed to make the loan after the government offered a satisfactory repayment schedule. However, the real punishment was suffered by one of Zuan Batista's men: having taken on himself the blame for the homicide, he was banished from the Venetian dominion and all its ships (Sanuto 17: 336, 339, 381, 492; 18: 187, 191, 192, 196, 197, 198-99, 223, 228).
In those same days, May 27 to 29 of 1514, two other patricians were killed in jealous arguments over women (Sanuto 18: 223, 228). Courtesans and prostitutes occupied an important place in Venice at the time, many having arrived with the mainlanders fleeing the war and possibly accounting for the high number of unmarried women recorded in a census oriented toward the defense of the city (Carroll, rev. of Kerr). The favor they enjoyed is expressed in the burial in the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari of the courtesan Agnola Caga-in-calle in September 1514. In Ruzante's Betia, Nale and his wife Tamia recall that she worked for Agnola. (5)
A shocked Marin Sanudo recorded the large number of murders (ten) committed by patricians in 1515, complaining that the perpetrators were still living in Venice because the legal cases had been assembled but not prosecuted. The diarist had just detailed the murder of a Venetian government functionary while arresting a patrician in accordance with a sentence. The murderer was the arrested man's son, Alessandro Marcello di Lorenzo di Santa Marina, who was a professional soldier. Alessandro was prosecuted and banished with a large bounty on his head and execution as the penalty for violating the sentence (Sanuto 13: 508, 509-10; 20: 154). Frustration at wartime defeats may have played a role in Alessandro's lashing out. He had been among the Venetian forces failing to prevent the capture of Brescia by the enemy and his close relative, Alessandro Marcello di Zuan da Santa Marina, had been the governor of Maran, a critical Venetian stronghold on the coast of Friuli, when it was captured by imperial forces in 1513. The imperials gained access to the town because Marcello had allowed himself to be persuaded by a treacherous priest to open the town gate for him. The priest, soon caught and subjected to a grisly public execution, became a byword for infamy (Beolco, Moscheta IV, 3, 65455). (6)
The war's political elements may have underlain other violent acts, such as the 1515 murder of Bernardo Giustinian qu. Lorenzo by Anzolo Bragadin. Although the murderer was claimed to be jealous of Giustinian's liaison with a serving woman, the victim's perceived excessive connection with the enemy may have been involved. Giustinian, probably the brother of Ortolano Lunardo, had recently been addressed as "friend" by the former Spanish ambassador to Venice during the harvesting of grain by the Spanish forces that occupied Venice's mainland state, much of it from farms belonging to Venetians. Giustinian also wore the scufia potentially signalling imperial-Spanish partisanship. The serving woman worked for Nicolo Aurelio, a secretary of the Council of Ten, who in 1514 had married the daughter of a Paduan rebel executed in 1509; at the time of the marriage her uncle too was executed as a rebel. In 1524, the year in which Aurelio and his wife attended a comedy in Padua that was probably Beolco's, Aurelio himself would be tried for illicitly cancelling certain banishments. His sentence of exile was lifted in 1525 immediately after some Paduans who had been called to Venice on suspicion of subversive activities were allowed to return home (Sanuto 20: 345; 19: 170-71; 19: 246-47; 36: 403-4, 413, 414, 415, 418, 419, 421-22, 437, 441, 463-64; 37: 341, 377, 500, 504, 578; 39: 78-79; Carroll, "'I have'"). The complexities of the connections demonstrate how interwoven and treacherous personal and state relations could become.
At the war's conclusion, as often happens with one fought on home territory and with local partisans, violence that had officially ended on the battlefield continued sporadically in civil life. (7) Such intertwined roots are evident in the murder of Alvise Dona in 1517 in Piove di Sacco. For many years, the Dona, owners of extensive agricultural property and leases in the area, had used harsh methods to extract decime (tithes) and other income from the peasant leaseholders. In 1499, for example, the podesta of Padua had complained to the Collegio that Francesco and Alvise Dona exacted bribes and practiced usury with the peasants and would not yield their arms to him. (8) Although the matter was referred to the Ten, nothing happened. Then during the war, as Ruzante relates in the Anconitana, the peasants of the Piove region suffered repeated abuse at the hands of military forces of both the enemy side, who were reconnoitering there after failed sieges of Padua, and the Venetian side, who were assembling there in the defense effort. At the war's end, Dona family financial pressures may have reinforced their harshness in exacting rents from agricultural property still too damaged by the war to yield much. Alvise needed to repay his recently widowed mother's and his recently deceased wife's families their dowries, eventually accomplished with Dona land. His Polani brother-in-law had to pay compensation for the loss of his investment in a disastrous round of Alexandrian galleys. (9) In another sign of financial strain, his wife's brother-in-law, Sebastian Bolani, who was probably Alvise's nephew as well, was convicted of thievery, blasphemy, and falsification of coins. (10) The situation exploded in June when Piove peasants killed Alvise, probably the one complained about in 1499, and wounded a Bolani relative. (11)
The family had connections with Ruzante's world. Dona's father-in-law, Giacomo Polani, was a member of the wool guild of Padua, as were members of the Beolco family. Polani had extensive business dealings and property in Padua, including a home at the Santo adjacent to that of his fellow Venetian Alvise Cornaro, whose family in its eagerness for patrician status claimed descent from a murderous son of a doge. Cornaro, who himself owned extensive properties in the area south of Padua stretching toward Piove, would soon become Ruzante's patron. (12)
Contributing to the high level of violence after the war was the Republic's cashiering of most officers and soldiers as soon as it concluded, leaving fighting men idle and armed in mainland towns and the capital (Sanuto 23: 512-13, 56062; 24: 63-64, 84, 260-62). Particularly troublesome were the major noble condottiero families of the towns on the western edge of the dominion, who knew that their importance to defending the border required Venice to privilege them. A conflict between two such Brescian families erupted in early 1518 when the patriarch of the Martinengo family abducted an Averoldo girl; the legal consequences lasted for years, Martinengo absolved only after the death of his Averoldo adversary (Sanuto 24: 113, 415; 25: 363, 368, 417, 420, 493, 495-96, 522; 26: 40, 479; 27: 266-67, 284, 369, 509; 28: 12, 90, 91, 114, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 337). One of the leading families of Montagnana, a fortress town playing an important role in the defense of Venice's southwestern border, were the Guioti (Guidoti). Their lengthy and prestigious military service to the Republic included, in the Cambrai wars, the soldiering of Hironimo, the brother of Beolco's stepmother (Sanuto 8: 260, 261; 9: 326; 11: 267; 18: 103; 20: 410, 418, 427, 507; 21: 344; Piovan, "Giovanni Francesco Beolco e Antonio Francesco Dottori"). Although he killed two cousins in a fight in 1518 and harbored banished criminals in 1521, his service to the Republic was deemed so valuable that punishment was attenuated or neglected (Sanuto 15: 579; 23: 465; 24: 262, 317, 488; 25: 535; 26: 61, 122; 27: 337-38; 29: 12; 30: 287; 34: 261).
Carnival of 1518, beyond the usual entertainment (in Treviso the youthful governor sponsored a joust by the company of condottiero Mercurio Bua and the staging of Plautus's Amphitrion) and highjinks (in Venice a masker running along the rooftop of the Procuratie fell to his death), witnessed a patrician murder. Vincenzo Molin was killed by Marco Michiel, disguised in a Carnival costume, whose presence in Venice violated an order of banishment punishing a previous act of violence against a rival in love (Sanuto 25: 217-19, 248, 253). Some said that Michiel's assault was motivated by his jealousy of Vincenzo's cousin, others said it was revenge on Vincenzo for acting through his powerful father Alvise to have Michiel banished, and still others said that Michiel was retaliating against Alvise's failure to fulfill his promise to help Michiel get the ban lifted by providing funds for a loan to the state. Alvise Molin restrained his other son, Marco, a close associate of Ruzante's, from avenging the assault, and was praised by Venetian leaders for breaking the cycle of revenge. (13)
A visit of the French ambassador the following year gave rise to an ugly episode in Padua in which armed students sacked the homes of Jews to find gifts for him. Not coincidentally, the students were Mantuans, to whom Venice extended certain immunities to retain the favor of the strategically located neighboring state. When the capitanio of Padua went to calm the students, they attacked him. One was captured and was saved from hanging only by the ambassador's appeal. A patrician was dispatched to undertake a trial, which would also include the murder of a della Torre by fellow students. The students instead came to Venice to protest the capitanio's treatment of them. As Sanudo remarked, the University was in "gran combustion" (a great conflagration). Several student suspects were ordered to present themselves in Venice but apparently never did; as often happened, the case quietly disappeared (Sanuto 26: 461, 462-63; 27: 11, 22). By June of 1519, 120 murders having resulted in a single month from the number of men going about armed in Venice, the appropriate officials were called before the Signoria and instructed about arms, presumably to enforce the ban on them (Sanuto 27: 437-38).
French arrogance set off another episode of violence in the summer of 1520 that involved mainland peasants. A Frenchman who had stopped at a tavern on the way to Padua wounded a peasant for accidentally knocking his hat off and another who defended him. A skirmish ensued in which the Frenchman was killed and his companions assailed. Several peasant suspects were arrested and confined to the cages in Venice, some soon released for lack of evidence. Although a trial was held, all of the peasants sentenced were among those who had escaped arrest, much to the anger of the French ambassador (Sanuto 28: 583, 593, 601, 673; 29: 66, 145, 146, 180, 199, 205, 259, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283; 33: 351). It seems that, given the waning of the three-year peace signed in 1518, Venetian officials were cognizant that they would soon be calling again upon the peasants, especially of that locale, to preserve their mainland state.
Religious and financial motives joined in a violent episode of the spring of 1521, again involving the Dona family and having at its heart the practice of turning the priesthood into a sinecure supported by tithes and enriched by various forms of gainful activity. The victim was the priest Alvise Dona qu. Hironimo qu. Alvise, who lived in Piove di Sacco where he enjoyed numerous benefices and managed the properties of the family and of other patricians. He was murdered for his large amount of cash by a son of his son-in-law. (14) The assassin's identity reveals that the victim was one of those priests called out by Ruzante in his Prima oratione for impregnating peasant women, with one of whom he was living at the time and who was also killed along with her (their) daughter. Dona's benefices were reassigned to the youthful Cardinal Francesco Pisani, whose brother was a member of the Immortali and at whose sister's wedding Ruzante would give his only performance in the Ducal Palace.
The religious direction of the lives of patrician women seems to lie at the root of another crime. On the day that the trial of the peasants accused of killing the Frenchman began, the bishop of Torcello complained to the government that Arseni Diedo's sons had entered his house to kill him because of his plans to reform a convent where two of their sisters were nuns. Patrician nuns, frequently pressured to enter the convent by their families to avoid marital dowries, claimed independence and sometimes pleasures of the flesh within convent walls as compensation. (15) Although the case was turned over to the Heads of the Ten, no further action was recorded by Sanudo.
Perhaps the Diedo sisters were jealous of a beautiful, wealthy in-law whose secular enjoyments a few months later would include dancing with the Prince of Sanseverino at a Carnival festivity given by the Ortolani, hosted by Piero Pesaro, and featuring a comedy by Ruzante and Menato (Sanuto 29: 537, 567). Swords were drawn at a connected party, celebrating the marriage of Ortolano Agustin Contarini qu. Marc'Antonio with the daughter of Alvise Corner qu. Donado, because of injurious words. Involved were the Prince of Sanseverino; the men of Count Antonio Martinengo, a condottiero for the Republic and also inducted into the Ortolani; and other members of the compagnia. Martinengo was a Brescian noble enfeuded to the empire, while the compagnia was composed of those patricians most inclined to favorable relations with the empire. At the time, Venice was poised between an alliance with Francis I and one with the new and powerful emperor Charles V. During the following Carnival the bride's sister would publicly defile the reputations of the wives of several patricians, possibly because they did not follow Ortolano Marco Grimani's abandonment of a pro-imperial stance for a turn toward France (Carroll, Commerce, chapter two). The injurious words of 1521 may have involved similar questions of loyalty.
War Again Looms
As undeclared fighting increased in the Lombard theater in the early 1520s, Alessandro Marcello achieved pardon for his crime through acts of soldierly valor. Further, he was entrusted with the leadership of an important detachment of stradioti (swift light cavalry) when its condottiero Jacomo Vicoaro was captured by the enemy (Sanuto 32: 441-42; 33: 394). The government sent him on numerous dangerous missions, especially the defense of Cremona, the most western and exposed of Venice's mainland towns. (16) As the emperor and the pope intensified pressure on the Republic to abandon France and join forces with them, armed soldiers again frequented Venice, fighting and wounding one another (Sanuto 32: 425). Although the many homicides prompted government officials to reiterate the ban on weapons, the holiday season saw the wounding of a patrician by two Carnival maskers (Sanuto 33: 415, 549-50). Condemning masking, Sanudo pointed out that all maskers were armed, implying that the custom was used to circumvent the arms prohibition. Other violent acts included robberies of patricians by fellow patricians (Sanuto 35: 391-92). Even after Carnival, the violence continued, with Ruzante's fellow comic Zuan Polo arrested for murder (Sanuto 34: 20).
At Carnival of 1524, shortly after the Republic was pressured into the imperial-papal alliance and their forces captured Milan, the Ortolani processed through Venice (Sanuto 35: 393). Dressed in velvet robes with ducal sleeves, they were accompanied by servants and an entourage costumed as peasants whose number included Zuan Polo and Ruzante and who wielded farm implements and sang country songs. The revelers saluted Doge Andrea Gritti and Marco da Molin, by then a Procuratore di S. Marco, before retiring to a tavern for supper. Ruzante's short performance piece Lettera all'amorosa is commonly associated with the festivity. The Lettera concludes with a winking greeting to Francesco Dona; he was not the one complained about in 1499, by then deceased, but most likely the future doge, recently returned from service as capitanio and vice-podesta of Padua (Sanuto 35: 197; Padoan 110-12). In that office he had gained the love of Padua's citizens, especially for providing them with grain. (17) Beolco had a deep personal connection to him: Dona's father-inlaw Antonio Giustinian, an investor in a troubled round of Flanders galleys assisted by Beolco's Milanese financier family, had sold a farm to Angelo's great-uncle Antonio da Pernumia. (18)
Days after the festive procession, imperial and Venetian forces, including Alessandro Marcello, participated in capturing Cremona from the French, who subsequently withdrew from Italy. (19)
Desperately searching for funds to pay for the approaching war, the Venetian government devised a means of profiting from homicides. Murderers who rendered a monetary gift to the state would be granted a salvacondotto (a safe conduct allowing a banished criminal to return to the Venetian state) (Sanuto 34: 297). Moreover, the banishment could be lifted if the criminal provided evidence that he had killed another criminal (Cozzi). As was predictable, the number of murders rose. In 1524, they stood at 22 in a month, along with attempts at murder including one within the Martinengo family, another over prostitutes, and one by a member of the clergy (Sanuto 36: 405, 438, 470-71, 534; 37: 165). In such an atmosphere, crime in general increased. There was even an organized gang of young patricians known as the "white shirt" criminals who concealed their weapons under white shirts as they went around at night causing trouble. Their leader, Girolamo Paradiso, of a tiny and dying clan, was caught and imprisoned (Sanuto 36: 258, 262, 519, 522; 37: 214, 255, 556).
Violence knit together city and country life, as in two episodes of late 1525. In Venice, a pregnant woman and her two small children were brutally murdered during a robbery. The patrician in whose home she and her husband were servants, the Immortale Marchio Michiel, came to the Maggior Consiglio to request a safe conduct for a banished peasant to allow him to identify the culprits, also peasants, to Venetian magistrates. The safe conduct was granted and a bill to arrest the malefactors, already brought to Venice, was passed. Arrested and tortured, they confessed that when Michiel went to his farm in their village, Campo Nogara, they came to Venice to steal the savings of his servant, a friend of theirs. The victim's wife having recognized them, they killed her. Although the peasants who had testified appealed for compensation, including the lifting of a banishment, the only bills placed concerned the malefactors' public execution. (20) Other robbers, the following month, broke into an osteria in Fosson. The locale, near Campo Nogara, was favored by hunters including Alvise Cornaro, who had a lodge there where a few years later Beolco's Dialogo facetissimo would be performed. Stefano Querini, the other Immortale inductee celebrated in 1520, was lodging there on his way from his holding at Le Papozze and carrying a large amount of cash. Several malefactors tried to gain entrance to rob him and the owner. The owner having locked them out that night, they returned the following night and killed him and two women. Eventually caught, they were executed by the Venetian governor of Chioggia with the exception of one who, as a priest, was under ecclesiastical jurisdiction. (21)
A New League and a New War
Francis I returned to Italy in 1524 at the head of his army, only to be captured by Charles V's forces at Pavia in February 1525. A year later, after agreeing to Charles's conditions, he was freed and formed the League of Cognac to conquer Italy. Venice announced its participation in June. Supported by Clement VII, the League would eventually extend to Milan, Mantua and Ferrara, all states to which Paduan (and other) imperialists had fled after their city was retaken by Venice in 1509. Their rebellion had thus led them to the painful situation that they were obliged in the 1520s by the heads of their new states to support precisely those enemies from whom they had rebelled almost twenty years before. One prominent example will serve for all, a cousin of Beolco's stage partner: Giacomo Alvaroto qu. Conte, who had seen his father die of exposure in the cruel and debasing cages and subsequently been required by Venice to pay a large fine and accept disadvantageous conditions to be granted access to his lands in the padovano (Paduan territory). He entered the service of Alfonso d'Este, often serving as the duke's ambassador to Venice. (22) When Alfonso finally joined the league in late 1527, he chose Alvaroto to handle the matter, sending him first to the pope and then to Venice (Predelli and Bosmin 196 [entry] 63; Sanuto 38: 66; 46: 319).
On June 2, 1526 the official documents of the League signed by Francis arrived in Venice and the Senate wrote secretly to Piero Pesaro the provedador zeneral (civilian overseer of the army) in Lombardy to prepare for war. On that same day, Beolco purchased an expensive horse from Zuan Corner, son of Immortale Fantin and future son-in-law of Alvise Cornaro, giving the latter a procura (power of attorney) to pay for it from the tiny legacy that he had extracted from his father's estate. (23) While the act is often interpreted as another sign of the playwright's passion for horses, Emilio Menegazzo--noting that the title strenuus (soldier) prefixed to Beolco's name in the document was applied solely to soldiers, that Beolco was absent from documents for the succeeding two years, and that his account of war in his texts seemed to reflect actual experience--advanced the plausible hypothesis that he had joined the Venetian forces (Menegazzo, "Stato" 330 n. 76). The document yields the further clue of the feudal form of Beolco's surname and title ("dominus Angelus de Beulco"), which held the potential double value of garnering him respect on the mainland and signaling a tie to the empire.
If Beolco did indeed join Venetian forces in the League headed by France, what could have induced him, a member of a network of relatives and associates with deep imperial ties, to do so? The answer may lie in a confluence of other loyalties and of personal characteristics. For Venice, the war was one in defense of its mainland state and Beolco had connections to numerous Venetian officials associated with the defense effort. Pesaro had both hosted his 1521 performance for Antonio Martinengo's induction and possessed a family connection that stretched back fifty years, as he was the son of a principal investor in the Flanders galleys assisted by the Beolco. (24) It is likely that the two also had some contact in the fortified town of Este, where Pesaro, Alvise Cornaro and the Speroni-Alvaroti all owned property and Beolco witnessed a document for Cornaro. (25) One of the military companies defending the western border near Crema under Pesaro's direction was Antonio Martinengo's, which he had passed to his kinsman Marc'Antonio early in the year (Sanuto 42: 118, 120). Also telling is that a member of Jacomo Vicoaro's company, by then returned to Vicoaro's leadership, was the principal in the notarial document preceding Beolco's and of the same date (Sanuto 40: 163, 588; 42: 151). He too purchased a horse, in this case from Alvise Cornaro's brother-in-law (Sambin, "Testamenti," 126-27 n. 16). Other connections between Beolco and mainland defense were the Venetian governors of Padua. The podesta, Sebastian Giustinian, had been the Venetian governor of Brescia at the time of the defeat at Agnadello, and was the first to send word of it to Venice. He was also the father of the Ortolano Marin, a close associate of Beolco's from whom Beolco probably learned of Thomas More's Utopia, which he is the first known author to have used as inspiration in another literary work (Sanuto 8: 247-48; Carroll, "Ruzante's Early Adaptations; Carroll, "Utopia"). The capitanio, Hironimo Loredan qu. Lunardo, was the brother of Lorenzo, one of three members of the Council of Ten who had led government officials to Beolco's play the year before (Sanuto 37: 559).
Beolco's personal situation may also have influenced his choice. As an illegitimate son who could not inherit and a writer whose works did not support him, Beolco needed the backing of a patron. The need was perhaps felt more acutely after Carnival of 1526, when he gave his final performance in Venice at a scandalous festivity. The relationship with Cornaro, a jealous man whose household Beolco had by then joined, did not allow alternatives for his art. The Lombard war, however, may have provided a different opportunity. One of the tasks that the Senate enumerated for Pesaro was the raising of fanti or foot soldiers, the cernide praised by Machiavelli drawn largely from the peasant population (Lenci; Gullino; Canton; Franzin; Pezzolo; Pieri 525-35). Beolco demonstrated his capabilities in similar endeavors in a scene of Betia (IV, vv. 1260, 359-77) in which Zilio (Beolco's character) and Nale (Alvaroto's character) organize their associates to battle for possession of the eponymous heroine. While the play's first version was probably early, Beolco continued to rewrite it during the 1520s.
One of the League of Cognac's first objectives was the retaking of Milan, which had passed into imperial hands early in 1526; League members hoped to bring with it as much Lombard territory as possible, specifically Cremona and Lodi. Unfortunately, Pesaro's plans to do so failed, having been based on advisors' rosy promises; moreover, the campaign resulted in the death of Marc'Antonio Martinengo. Pesaro avenged him with a redoubled attack on the enemy that unfortunately resulted in the deaths of further important Venetian army commanders including Julio Manfron (another condottiero member of the Ortolani) and Alessandro Marcello. Alarmed by this and other problems including Pesaro's perceived self-indulgence and his conflicts with military experts, Alvise Pisani exhorted the Senate to elect a proveditore generale to oversee the army. He himself was chosen and under his direction Cremona was finally taken. (26) In the meanwhile, the Martinengo company, with Vicoaro's assistance, took various locales in the cremonese, and in late June Venetian forces took Lodi (Sanuto 42: 225-27, 298, 483, 525; 43: 153; 44: 159-60; 45: 404, 516, 519).
Pavia, captured by League forces in October of 1527, came under imperial assault in early 1528. Vicoaro's company was among the reinforcements sent to assist Roberto da Sanseverino in the city's defense but their efforts were insufficient. The city was lost and many leaders of the Venetian army, including Vicoaro, were killed and others captured. While some condottieri were allowed to ransom themselves, the Venetians were not. (27) Reports held that the imperial forces had been admitted to the town by a guardian of the city's gates who had been hired away from the imperial command in Milan. The loss of a city of such great symbolic and material importance and reportedly through treachery drew great concern in Venice's governing councils. Called before the Senate, the putative traitor denied everything. In the end, the Senate placed blame on the ill will of the locals and the negligence of the soldiers. However, the possible voluntary cession of the city continued to shadow the episode, as did other reports of complicity with the empire during the entire war.
That service in the army of a Venice allied with France would have put Beolco in the painfully conflicted situation of fighting against the empire and against exiles at Charles's court or in an imperial-aligned Italian state would go a long way to explaining the tension and sense of the absurd in the plays of this period (Reduce, Bilora, Moscheta) (Pazzaglia). It would also motivate the prominence that the theme of exile assumes in them (discussed below). The situation could be even more complicated if the feudal form of Beolco's name and the hints of treachery in the plays reflect Beolco's intent to effect an underlying loyalty to the empire on the Lombard front. The fight over Pavia provided a plausible opportunity, and perhaps not only to Beolco. Accusations of financial treachery were made at the time against the patrician Corner family. A Head of the Council of Ten predicted that the 26,000 ducats given at the time by the family to Clement VII to acquire a cardinalate for Francesco would contribute to the ransom that the pope paid to the Spanish, who in turn would use the funds to fight Venice. Events soon proved him accurate, the timing of the payment such that that some of the money likely supported the Spanish capture of Pavia (Sanuto, 46: 25, 421, 468-69, 579-80, 615; 47: 336, 463, 480, 516, 532; 48: 34, 43, 44-49; 49: 137, 192, 369-70).
In June of 1528, Francesco Corner came to Venice to receive his cardinal's hat, remaining until early the following year. During his sojourn, Ruzante addressed the Seconda oratione to him, describing the terrible sufferings that famine had inflicted on the peasants and that had been worsened by the confiscation of the grain that they grew to feed the cities. Noting that the peasants, unlike city dwellers, have no law protecting them, Ruzante calls on the cardinal to create one law that will apply to all and be fair and equal. He too will benefit, Ruzante points out, because it will prevent the peasants from turning to Luther and sacking Rome again.
Imperial adherents of the mainland towns fell under suspicion again during the Cognac wars. In 1528 and 1529, the Heads of the Council of Ten called in from Padua and its territory the sons of Bernardino Speroni, including Sperone; Zuan Antonio Zaccarotto, probably the cousin of the Giacomo who was a character in the Dialogo facetissimo; Francesco Alvarotto, probably the cousin of Marc'Aurelio; Stefano dei Dottori; and Beolco's step-uncle Hironimo Guioti (Bonardi 607-12; Menegazzo, "Ricerche" 242-57; Sambin, "Briciole" 108).
During this war too, the conduct of some patricians, including Beolco affines, mirrored its violence and upheaval. Although Girolamo Paradiso of the "white shirt" criminals had been allowed to purchase a pardon, his return to society did not last long. In 1527 his brother-in-law Antonio Grimani di Vincenzo qu. Antonio, at whose 1523 wedding banquet Ruzante performed for the only time in the Ducal Palace, died at his hand and Paradiso was again exiled (Sanuto 40: 646; 46: 21; 54: 439). Antonio Martinengo was murdered in 1528 in his chamber with a young girl and a young boy (Sanuto 47: 273, 274-75, 276). As Sanudo sternly pronounced, such a death was merited by Martinengo's murder of his first wife. In 1529, Piero Sanudo di Zuan Batista was arrested for murder and other misdeeds in Mestre, although his later sentencing was for interfering with a public official. Despite exile to Famagosta, he attended the coronation of Charles V in Bologna a few months later, a political affiliation irksome to a Venice finally brought to heel by the emperor. He continued to defy his banishment with visits to his properties in Ravenna. From his residence in Ferrara, he petitioned to be allowed to manage his properties, having no one else to do so; not surprisingly, his petition was denied (Sanuto 50: 324, 343; 52: 86-87; 54: 94; 58: 456).
Some formerly scapegrace patricians, by contrast, took advantage of the need for public servants created by the war to achieve respectability. The Immortale Francesco Sanudo, who had wounded Jacomo Armer in 1521, made his peace with him in 1525 and saw a daughter into the convent. He was subsequently elected governador di le entrade (governor of revenue) on a loan to the state of 2,000 ducats. A widower, he made a good second marriage. There were limits, though; his offer of valuable cloth and his farm as the prerequisite loan for candidacy for a procuratorship was not accepted (Sanuto 31: 183-84, 199; 32: 340, 447, 450, 458; 33: 92; 38: 45; 41: 374-75; 42: 148, 263, 264; 45: 359; 46: 329, 355; 50: 45-46, 182).
After the failed 1528 French-led siege of Naples, in which ardent patrician leaders including Alvise Pisani and Piero Pesaro died, the war trailed to an end in 1529. The participants' mutual accusations of each seeking a separate peace merely continued their unreliable performance of their obligations to each other during the war. The government again imposed internal order, evident in alcune condanation fate nel illustrissimo Conseio di X a di 11 di l'instante contra alcuni zentilhomeni andati piu volte con arme per la terra con armadi, facendo insulti, insolentie et male operation contra li ministri publici et altri. (Sanuto 52: 86-87)
(several sentences imposed by the most illustrious Council of Ten on the eleventh of this month [October, 1529] upon several patricians who on numerous occasions went about the city armed and with an armed entourage, committing insults, acts of insolence, and misdeeds against public officials and others.)
Again, as with the Cambrai wars, some personal violence spilled into the first postwar period. Most notable was the murder, in the presence of her small son, of Marc'Antonio Venier's wife, who had been publicly accused of adultery some years before. Although Venier himself was suspected, blame was finally assigned to two servants, one of his and another of the Nogarola of Verona. Venier shared feudal lordship of the castle of Sanguane, located south of Verona; it had been defended in the war as a bulwark of the border with Mantua. The Nogarola were among the few non-Paduan mainland families whose rebellion against Venice in 1509 had cost them the permanent appropriation of property, their feud at Bagnolo which the Venetian state sold to the Pisani. Moreover, some Nogarola family members suffered permanent exile, including Hironimo, who found refuge at the Aragonese court in Naples. During the Cognac war, Marc'Antonio Venier had been kept apprised of events both near his castle and in Naples. His wife was a member of the Zorzi family, which owned extensive property in areas contested with the papacy. The cluster of factors raises the question of whether political elements were involved in his wife's murder, a question that the sources do not answer (Sanuto 55: 128-29, 134, 135, 190, 196, 210, 248, 282-83; Carroll, Commerce 86-88).
Hironimo Guioti too proved unable to control his criminal behavior. When he was banished in 1531 and sentenced, he made a secret financial deal with public officials to have the confiscation of his property nullified. When the arrangement came to light, it was invalidated by the councils, although two years later they struck an official deal (Sanuto 54: 611; 55: 274, 276-78, 324, 668; 58: 232, 265-66). The money that Hironimo used for a loan to diminish his sentence was lent to him from his sister's estate and thus Beolco's half-brothers. When one of them, Ludovico, gave Beolco his procura for the division of the inheritance in 1536 that took that loan into account, he did so from the preson forte (fortified prison) of the Ducal Palace. It is not known at what time and for what crime he was confined there. (28)
Bagnolo would become the site of the first known villa built for a Venetian patron by Palladio (Cooper 4). The architect's search for calm and orderly structure, so appealing to the Venetian patriciate as it set down roots in the mainland dominion at the end of the Cognac war, may have been inspired by his birth in Padua at the outset of the Cambrai Wars (Puppi 13-20). While the imperial template of Palladio's forms is often read as reflecting the humanistic norms with which his mentor Gian Giorgio Trissino familiarized him, it is important to remember that Trissino also had affiliations with the contemporary empire. Having departed Vicenza in 1509 together with Maximilian and other rebel nobles, he resided at Maximilian's court as an exile from Venetian territory; his kinsman Lunardo was imperial governor of Padua until Venice retook it. With the election of Leo X, Gian Giorgio moved to Rome and was soon named by Leo as his ambassador to Germany (Dionisotti; Faggin; Olivieri 175-77; Barbieri). His leadership of the noble faction seeking a modus vivendi with the empire extended to a full-blown embrace of it in writings that cast the emperor as the savior of Italy from its ills. Thus a classical style, especially one connected with Gian Giorgio, could also have been interpreted by contemporaries as manifestly connecting with the Holy Roman Empire that, with the 1529 Peace of Bologna and coronation of Charles V, established its domination of the peninsula (Lewis). Whatever preference of international alliance Venetian patricians held in their hearts, most understood that detente with the empire would promote the blossoming of the agriculture that their villas anchored and that would substitute their lost commerce as a source of personal wealth and of personal and public provisions.
Violence in Beolco's Plays
Violence, an almost constant presence in Beolco's plays, exists in an intricate relationship with his core theme of equality. The early Pastoral's coarse but shrewd Ruzante, who achieves parity with the refined Arcadian shepherds by saving one of them, wants to skin his imperious father alive (Scene 19, 122-23) and celebrates his sudden death (Scene 21, 130-31). The Prima oratione concludes with laws to equalize priests and laymen in support of offspring by requiring priests either to be castrated or to marry. The oration's hunting scene, often praised for its warm depiction of the relationship between hunter and hound, also depicts their ruthless killing of prey. The same scene of Betia in which Zilio and Nale ready the fighting force contains the first expression of concern about exile (IV, vv. 48-94, 361-65). After sending Zilio out to recruit their acquaintances, the married Nale, who is pursuing Betia as her second husband, turns to the public and vows that even if it means exile he will fight the forces organized by Betia's mother to prevent the marriage. It seems more than chance that the character played by Alvaroto, upon whose family exile had imposed so much suffering, first raised the issue. When Tacio, the degan (village mayor) pleads with Nale for peace, he cites the "undoing" that results from banishment; for a similar reason Betia's mother relinquishes her urge to gut Zilio (IV,vv. 233-34, 375; vv. 406-7, 387), while relishing the prospect of Zilio being hanged. She thus accepts the advantages of an effective state system of justice despite its limits on her personal revenge. Zilio does not: upon grasping that Nale seriously intends to be Betia's second husband, he knifes him (V, vv. 431-32, 440-41). The two settle their conflict with a pact of open marriage to which each will contribute equally through the participation of both wives. However, the lover that Nale's wife took while he was pretending to be dead lurks on the outside, threatening to insert himself into the arrangement despite his lack of a wife to maintain equality (V, vv. 1449-1465, 506-09).
Revenge, justice, and their reconciliation take center stage in the following plays. Menego, of the early 1528 Dialogo facetissimo, plans to avenge Nale's theft of his wife by committing suicide such that Nale will appear to have murdered him and be punished with exile (Scene 5, pars. 79-81, 707-09). (29) In the Seconda oratione, probably delivered in the late summer of that year, Ruzante calls for one law that will be equal for both the peasants and the city people. He warns Cardinal Francesco Cornaro that he and the Church must take care of the famine-scourged peasants if Rome is to be spared another brutal sacking by them and their defection to Lutheranism (pars. 12, 15-23, 1212-19). The Reduce opens with a depiction of the violence of the Lombard battlefield and closes with the beating of Ruzante by his wife's new boyfriend (Scene 1, pars. 2-3, 516-17).
Bilora (Weasel), played not by Beolco but by a member of the Castegnola family and named for the killer of barnyard birds, takes violence in the service of justice to its extreme. Impoverished and cruel, Bilora loses his wife to the elderly Venetian broker Andronico, who makes her queen of his comfortable household. Bilora, while recognizing his defects as a husband, cannot abide the loss and the blow to his pride. He goes to Venice seeking her, bullying an acquaintance into helping him by boasting of his banishment for multiple murders (Scene 7, par. 64, 567; Scene 10, par. 84, 573-75). After Andronico rejects Bilora's husbandly rights (Scene 8, par. 70, 569), Bilora in a lonely and terrifying reprise of the actor's profession rehearses how he will attack Andronico "tanto che l'aro amazo" (until I have killed him) and depart on a swift horse (Scene 11, 574-77). This time there is no stopping him. As he approaches Andronico's house, the old man steps onto the street and is knifed to death in the only on-stage murder in Italian Renaissance comedy (Davico Bonino 7-11). Rather than ending with Bilora's flight, the play closes with his succinct enunciation of the issues:
Dame mo la mia femena. Te la divi lagar stare. Poh, moa, a' cherzo che '1 sea morto, mi. Mo no '1 sbate pi ne pe' ne gamba. Poh, l'ha tiro i lachiti, elo. Miedio, bondi! L'ha cago le graspe, elo ... Te l'hegi dito. (Scene 12, par. 99, 578-79)
"Give me my woman, now. You should have left her be. Oh, wow, I think he's dead, I do. Now he's not shaking either his leg or his foot. Wow, he's kicked the bucket, he has. Oh, my God, good night. He's shat his grapestalks, he has. I told you so.)
Bilora iterates the social compact of the husband's right to his wife, Andronico's violation of it, his fair warning to Andronico, Andronico's ignoring of it, and Bilora's rightful revenge. Given the parallels between family and state, recognized perhaps most articulately by Aristotle in his Politics and implicitly alluded to both in the Tyrannicide of Lucian of Samosata on which Bilora is modeled and in Bilora itself, is the issue of whether it was ever justifiable for a member of the body politic to kill the body's ruler (Carroll, "Nontheistic" 88990; Greenblatt). A basic consideration regarding such an act is that it puts a member of a society on the same level as its highest authority, in whom the power to execute is normally vested. It is noteworthy that Beolco pressed his case for equality to its zenith in a period in which Venetian patricians, treated like peasants by both their unreliable Cognac allies and their imperial foes, fought alongside their peasant fanti on the same battlefields to save the mainland state that supported them both.
The imposition of imperial power on the peninsula through the Peace of Bologna and Charles's coronation by Clement (1529) incited the patriciate to compensate their losses by imposing their own power within their state. (30) Beolco, back from the battlefield and with no patronage in Venice, took up residence again with Cornaro, while performing occasionally in Padua and Ferrara and managing the rural properties of Paduan and Venetian religious individuals and institutions. The plays of the period reflect this changed dynamic. In the Dialogo facetissimo, Menego's wife is restored to him and peace is established by the priest of Diana (recognized as representing Alvise Cornaro). Menato first instigates and then resolves the love triangles of the Moscheta: after his attempts to reclaim Ruzante's wife produce a war of words, thievery, and sexual encounters that include the soldier Tonin, Menato directs the couple into a menage a trois, which Ruzante this time accepts.
Such dual tendencies bookend Fiorina (ca. 1530). In the Prologue Ruzante, dressed as a servant, apologizes for servants who speak ill of their masters, widely interpreted as an apology to Cornaro for the murder of his double, Andronico. The plot is set in motion by Ruzante's kidnapping of Fiore from her intended Marchioro but the conflict is resolved by the fathers of Fiore and Ruzante, who arrange for the pair to marry and for Marchioro to marry Ruzante's sister. By the late Plautine plays (Piovana, Vaccaria), the search for love partners by the unmarried lower-class male characters is much diminished; concomitantly, violence and references to exile taper off. In Piovana (1532), the only act of violence is the storming of the church that Garbugio, the Beolco character, claims has been commandeered by some Lutherans but where in fact the captured Nina and Ghetta are being held by a pimp (III, 4, 944-49). Ghetta tells Garbugio that he will be banished from the market as bad merchandise and Garbugio and his master strategize to avoid banishment while capturing some malefactors (II, 4 par. 65, 916-17; III, 4, pars. 102, 103, 946-47). Vaccaria's father uses no other force but his authority to exact the first night with the courtesan whom his son loves and with whom he has contracted for a year with money that he and the servants obtained from his wealthy wife through multiple ruses (IV, 8 and 10, 1144-47, 1148-53). It is not clear if the father is serious about his plan or the mother about hers to avenge her husband's betrayal by allowing the son to marry the courtesan (V, 6, 1164-67).
Violence is resolutely excluded from the final plays, though it casts its shadow upon them. (31) In Anconitana (1534?), violence is remembered and a personalized equality voluntarily achieved. One of the women characters is taken by a soldier as a child, while paternal violence causes the other, her sister, to run away from home. She is captured, along with two men, by pirates, sold by a Moor, and ransomed by a Venetian merchant (IV, 2, 840-45). Dressed as a man, she attracts the love of the first sister; once they discover their true identities, they propose an open marriage with the second sister's two male fellow travelers (IV, 4, 858-61; V, 1, 868-71). Ruzante departs for a country sojourn with his master, his master's courtesan lover and her maid, presumably to form another foursome, while his master's wife, left behind, awaits the arrival of her lover (V, 4, 874-81). The dream world of the Lettera all'Alvaroto (1536) centers on the farm of Lady Mirth; its fence, guarded by an alert patrol, keeps out all bad forces including Love (Amore, Cupid) and Jealousy (pars. 36-41, 1238-43), forces that caused so much inequality and consequent violence in the other plays.
Possible Purposes and Goals of the Plays for Beolco and His Supporters A question logically arising from considerations of the unique level of violence in Beolco's plays concerns the purpose(s), beyond simple entertainment, that he and his Venetian supporters might have accomplished through his invited performances in Venice. Before an answer is attempted, it is important to note that the surviving plays likely to have been staged in Venice are restricted to the Pastoral, the Prima oratione, Betia, and the very short Lettera giocosa; in other words, the least violent. The most violent plays would have been performed in Padua and/or its countryside (for private audiences) and in Ferrara to audiences who suffered from even greater turmoil and had their reasons to resent Venice (Carroll, "'Fools'").
A second consideration is the clear temporal delineation of the Venetian performance arc from 1520 to 1526, i.e., from immediately after Charles's election as Holy Roman Emperor until shortly before Venice's definitive alliance with France. (If the hypothesis that the Prima oratione was performed there in the late summer of 1518 is correct, it still remains within these parameters, as Venice received word then that Maximilian had contracted with a majority of imperial electors to elect his grandson his successor.) During that period, leading patricians understood the need to find a modus vivendi with the empire for two important financial reasons. Charles controlled most of the litoral along which their lucrative Flanders galleys had only recently resumed movement after the eight-year war hiatus, and much of the lengthy border of the mainland state that Venice had confiscated from the empire and that Charles aimed to retake flanked imperial territory or states in imperial fealty.
In this context, it is plausible to hypothesize that Beolco's patrician hosts viewed the public presence of an imperial affiliate on the stage as helpful in constructing positive relations both with the empire itself and with mainland imperial nobles. It has long been known that the playwright's circle in Padua centered around the latter. In addition, it has been plausibly hypothesized recently by Angela Caracciolo Arico that Beolco accompanied the Vicentine noble Federico Da Porto to Venice and visited Sanudo's library. Da Porto was faithful to Venice but his brother-in-law Antonio da Tiene was among the exiles, a connection through which Da Porto received information about them that he apparently communicated to Venice (Caracciolo Arico "Inattesi incontri" and "Il terzo visitatore"). Sanudo records a visit of Da Porto to Venice in September, 1518, very near the time that I have hypothesized that Ruzante gave a private recitation of the Prima oratione there. Da Porto's purpose was a modification of the Estimo tax that would be less harsh on the rural territory, a goal in line with Ruzante's oration. (32) It is likely that Da Porto's (and Beolco's) visit to Sanudo's home occurred at that time. It is known too that the playwright entertained the Prince of Sanseverino in Venice in 1521 while the prince was in transit from Charles's court to his feudal property in the kingdom of Naples.
Such contacts may have enabled patrician supporters both to gather information from and communicate information to supporters of the empire, and even Charles's court. It is possible that Beolco's Venetian supporters, through him, also renewed their business connections to the Beolco family in Milan, connections that the playwright's father himself renewed in 1523. (33) If Beolco did repair to the front in 1526 after Venice's alliance with France made his public appearance taboo, his patrician supporters could have continued to benefit from his functioning in a covert way there through his connections to Lombard nobles.
Less difficult to answer is the question of what Angelo accomplished through his Venetian performances, although there too some hitherto neglected considerations seem warranted. There were potential satisfactions in both the material and the moral spheres. The former may have included payment for performances, of which there is now documentation, and management of peasants in both agriculture and warfare (Carroll "'(El) ge sa bon laorare'"; ["'She has a taste for work'"]). Moral satisfactions are communicated in his texts. Profiting from the current of anxiety and soul-searching in which Venetians were caught up after the defeat of Agnadello and that was nourished by a Gospel-oriented religious renewal, Beolco used his works to draw the attention of his Venetian audiences to their hypocrisy on the importance of money and the superficial adherence to increasingly strict norms of deportment in erotic matters. The issues were ones that affected his own life deeply because of his misfortune in belonging to the first generation fully excluded by the new barriers against those without money and of illegitimate birth. His stage partner's greater fortune in the plays corresponded to his greater fortune in these matters. Although Alvaroto's grandfather had been a priest and a canon and his father likely the product of his liaison with a household servant, at that time the imperial nobility to which they belonged followed his father's acceptance of him as his son. As a consequence, the legitimately born Marc'Aurelio suffered no ill effects from his father's status and even enjoyed his home in enfiteusi (leasehold) from the bishopric of Padua, as the family long had. Even Angelo's illegitimate uncle Melchiore, while excluded from a proportional share of the patrimony, was able to hold public office and other formal positions of trust in Padua. In the short time between his birth and Angelo's, illegitimate sons were barred from doing so. Such formalized distinctions were being imposed in Venice too, as Victor Crescenzi's research amply details, although some of those connected with Beolco seem to have escaped them. (34)
Beolco's denunciation of the valuing of money and power over a common humanity occurs in his first known play, the Pastoral (Scene 10, 54-57). In a heartfelt soliloquy, an Arcadian shepherd decries the contrast between the humanistic values espoused by many patricians, according to which virtue is accorded the highest status, and their cheating of impoverished friends and toleration of every vice. It is not the Arcadian's high-minded friends who help him but the rude peasant Ruzante with his real-life skills. The playwright goes further with the laws, concluding the Prima oratione, that abolish the effects of greed joined with power, while revealing the hypocrisy under which they are frequently hidden. The Seconda oratione calls out the hypocrisy of ecclesiastics who pronounce the words of the Gospel about attending to the poor while spending enormous sums to garner the unearned income of benefices.
Erotic greed is denounced by Beolco in his plays as well. On both financial and erotic greed his peasant characters come in for their share of criticism. In Betia Nale tries to cheat his friend out of his bride and is knifed; when he tests his own wife by pretending to be dead, she immediately takes a lover. When Reduce's Ruzante departs for the battlefield to earn some cash, Gnua finds someone who can support her immediately, as does the Gnua of the Dialogo facetissimo. Bilora's wife Dina prefers the comfort and power that the elderly man gives her, and is willing to put up with his disgusting advances as their price. In the Moscheta both the wife and the husband are hypocrites in the service of financial comfort. She acts demure in her pursuit of the small-time prostitution with which she supports herself in a new city life, while her husband Ruzante closes an eye to the source of the income to accept its comforts without earning them. He similarly accepts the renewed affair of his friend Menato with her because of his dependence on both of them. In the Anconitana, the maid servant Bessa denounces the conduct of the four upper-class characters who, while lauding virtue and Petrarchan love norms, display homosexual, incestuous desire and devise an open marriage (Ruzante III, 2, pars. 37-40, 830-33; Bessa IV, 2, pars. 27, 29, 844-45). By contrast, Bessa and Ruzante, both self-supporting, enjoy a healthy love freely given.
Both the Piovana and the Vaccaria are riddled with devious plots by or on behalf of the upper-class characters to cheat others or steal money from them as a means of affording pleasures that are out of financial reach, plots in which the servant characters, urbanized peasants, gleefully participate. Paternal concern for a son's happiness is revealed in the Vaccaria to mask the ugly goal of the father to appropriate the first night with the prostituted girl whose services he has purchased for his besotted son. Servant characters allow themselves to be satisfied with the abundant food of the wedding banquet; only one dreams of marriage and a modest farm, which is granted by the wealthy padrona.
A final, virtuous yet infantile, happiness is achieved on the farm of Lady Mirth. It produces sufficient foodstuffs for the inhabitants, who amuse themselves by singing and telling tales around the fire. Love is banished; want and money are excluded even from mention.
Written in a period afflicted by a loss of control over life conditions and numerous hardships (war, famine, plague, shrinking finances, rising population) that personally affected to an unusual degree their author and his affiliates including his hosts, Beolco's plays reflect more candidly than their contemporaries the conflicts for resources and frustration of dreams, as well as the violence that such hardships produced. Both Beolco and many of his Venetian associates found themselves in the vanguard of those shut out of previously available privileges and powers, with a resulting frustration of their dreams and desires that erupted into violence real or imagined.
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(1) "Until I have killed him": uttered by the character Bilora as he practices slaying the elderly Andronico who has persuaded Bilora's wife to come away with him. Angelo Beolco (Il Ruzante), Bilora in Teatro, ed. Zorzi 548-79, 577.
(2) The two cities' deep and strong economic interconnectedness, preserved in such documents as the Estimo (record of real estate holdings for tax purposes) and notarial records, has attracted the attention of scholars. Seminal are Ventura and Baratto. See the extensive bibliography cited in Beolco, La prima oratione; Carroll, "'Leonardus pictor florentinus.'"
(3) Padua, Archivio di Stato (hereafter ASPd), Notarile, busta 3969, fols. 330v-31r.
(4) For the original records of the sale, see Venice, Archivio di Stato (hereafter ASVe), Ufficiali ale Raxon Vecchie, reg. 48.
(5) Beolco, Betia, in Teatro, V, v. 791, 1120. All further citations will be made in the text and to this edition unless otherwise noted.
(6) Padua, Biblioteca Universitaria Centrale, ms. 874, Cronaca di Venezia dalle origini fino all'a. 1552, 3 vols, 3: 13r, 50r-v, 54v-55r; Padua, Biblioteca Universitaria Centrale, ms. 392, Raccolta di notizie storiche Venete dall'anno 1498-1553, fols. 18v-19r; Sanuto, 17: 377-78, 381; 18: 25, 37-38, 45, 47-48.
(7) For the post-World War II period, Carlo Cassola's La ragazza di Bube provides an excellent example.
(8) ASVe, Archivio Gradenigo Rio Marin (hereafter AGRM), busta 79, fasc. 5; ASPd, Estimo 1418, filza 427, fols. 67r, 103v, 130v, 138r, 146r; ASPd, Notarile, busta 2679, fol. 58r; busta 1334, fols. 176r, 231v, 362r, 363v; busta 1531, fols.15r-v, 342v-43r, 348r-v, 413v; busta 2733, fols. 148r-50r.
(9) For repayment ASPd, Estimo1518, busta 352, fols. 223r-224r. For galleys, Sanuto, vols. 20-24 s.v. galee di Alessandria; Polani, Piero; for their context: Carroll "Dating"; Carroll, Commerce, Introduction and Chapter Three.
(10) Alvise's wife Zuana Polani was the sister of Hironimo Polani, whose wife was Andriana Bolani, sister of Sebastian; the Bolani siblings' mother was probably Maria Dona, Alvise's sister. I am grateful to Jan-Christoph Rossler for this last hypothesis. Sanuto 16: 414, 676; 17: 7; 18: 339; 24: 64. Marriages of multiple relatives of two families were becoming increasingly common in the patriciate of the time especially among the less wealthy whose small real estate holdings would thus be consolidated rather than fragmented. A month after Alvise's murder, Sebastian, imprisoned in Venice, gave a procura to Alvise's mother Lucia Dona to collect money owed him, likely from property in Piove: ASVe, AGRM, busta 200, fasc. 1; ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 352, fol. 186r. Lucia had given Sebastian her procura for a division of property in 1512: ASVe, AGRM, busta 357, unnumbered pergamena.
(11) Sanuto 2: 1093; while Sanudo terms Alvise the brother of Francesco qu. Alvise, no sources report a brother by that name but they do report a son Alvise, who was the sonin-law of Giacomo Polani qu. Alvise and brother-in-law of Sebastian Bolani. The Francesco Dona of this episode is unlikely to have been the future doge but instead the homonymous kinsman who was the consuocero of Giacomo Polani: ASVe, Misc. Codici I, Storia Veneta 17, Marco Barbaro, Arbori dei patritii veneti, copied by Tommaso Corner and Antonio Maria Tasca (1743), vol. 3, 317, 335; ASVe, Avogaria di Comun, Balla d'Oro, vol. 163 III, fol. 189v; ASVe, AGRM, busta 62, fasc. 25; busta 44, fasc. 8; Sanuto, 24: 409.
(12) Padua, Biblioteca Civica, B.P. 801 V Memorie di famiglie nobili di Padova descritte nel Collegio dell'arte della lana e di famiglie nobili applicate all'esercizio di banchiere e cambista, raccolte dal c. Giovanni Lazara, unnumbered folio, 1485; ASPd, Notarile, busta 2678, fol. 480r; busta 2138, fol. 267r; busta 247, fol. 196; busta 250, fols. 37v-38r; busta 255, fols. 271v, 477r; busta 1057, fols. 177r-v, 257r-v; busta 1290, fol. 303r; busta 1759, fol. 453r; busta 1389, fol. 605; Menegazzo, "Ricerche" 233; Menegazzo, "Alvise Cornaro" 429-35.
(13) Egnazio, De exemplis 104, 115-16. I am grateful to the Newberry Library for a Shortterm Fellowship (1986) that allowed me to read this work.
(14) Sanuto 30: 55, 69, 76-77; ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 126, fol. 176r; busta 352, fols. 149r-50v; busta 354, fols. 107r, 9v; busta 341, fol. 122r; ASVe, AGRM, busta 79, fasc. 5; ASPd, Notarile, busta 1334, fols. 176r, 231v, 362r, 363v; busta 1531, fols. 15r-v, 342v43r, 413v; busta 2733, fols. 148r-50r, 318r-v, 350-53, 372v-73r, 409r-10v.
(15) Sanuto 29: 145; see the typical case of the heavily indebted Sebastiano Contarini, whose daughter decided to enter the convent after the family began to alienate their agricultural land to provide a marital dowry: ASVe, AGRM, busta 222, unnumbered fascicle "Informazione de' beni Mestre e Mestrina e loro Esenzioni"; see in general Sperling.
(16) Sanuto vols. 34, 35, 36, 37 s.v. Marcello, Alessandro di Lorenzo (misidentified in vol. 33 as 'di Lunardo').
(17) Padua, Biblioteca del Seminario, Sezione Antica, cod. 555, Antonio Monterosso, Reggimenti di Padova dal 1459 sino 1533, vol. 4, fasc. XI, fol. 6r.
(18) ASPd, Notarile, busta 1760, fols. 106r-107r; for the galleys: Carroll, Commerce, Introduction.
(19) See the numerous entries in Sanuto, vols. 34, 35, s.v. Marcello, Alessandro.
(20) Sanuto 39: 420; 40: 337-38, 351-52, 361, 375-76; ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 356, fol. 147r.
(21) Sanuto 40: 417, 418, 807. Clerical violence created special problems for both the state and the religious community, as clerics and the Church claimed that only the Church, and not civil authority, had jurisdiction. For this reason, some took holy orders to be able to commit crimes with relative impunity. The treatment of the entire religious community by the state and lay people could be negatively influenced by clerical crime: see, inter alia, Gios 106, 164, 233-34.
(22) Sanuto 12: 117-18; 18: 232, 381; 31: 78-79, 82, 84, 397; 38: 66l; 46: 319; ASVe, Consiglio dei Dieci, Parti Miste, reg. 37, fols. 65r, 81r-v; ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 6, fol. 127r-v; busta 144, fol. 3v.
(23) ASVe, Senato, Secreta, reg. 51, 41r-42v; Sanuto 41: 437-38, 442-46; Sambin, "Altre testimonianze" 61-62, 78; ASPd, Notarile, busta 5031, fols. 201r-202v.
(24) ASVe, AGRM, busta 250, second vacchetta, fols. 18v, 23v, 24r, 30r, 31r, 33r, 43v, 55r; Carroll, Commerce, Introduction.
(25) ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 352, fol. 303r-v; ASPd, Notai d'Este, busta 648; busta 649, esp. fol. 242r, which is transcribed in Menegazzo, "Ricerche" 263-64; ASPd, Estimo 1518, busta 6, fols. 30r-33v, 70v; Beolco, Lettera all'Alvaroto, par. 6, 1229.
(26) Padua, Biblioteca del Seminario, Sezione Antica, ms. 609, fols. 138r-47r; Padua, Biblioteca universitaria centrale, ms. 874, Cronaca di Venezia, 3: 103v-104r; ASVe, Senato, Secreta, reg. 51, fols. 92r-93v.
(27) Sanuto, 46: 172-73; 47: 302, 315, 355, 445, 447, 478, 548; 49: 54, 203-6; ASVe, Senato, Secreta, reg. 53, fols. 63v-64r, 64v-65v, 73v-74r, 74r-v, 78r-v.
(28) Lovarini, "Notizie" 22-23; ASPd, Archivio dell'Ospitale, Archivio della Scuola della Carita, busta 232, fols. 14r-v, 79r.
(29) The uniqueness of the character's name may indicate that this Ruzante-like role was played by another actor during Beolco's absence.
(30) Vermes 3-8, 169-224; Ventura; Olivieri.
(31) Various elements too complex to discuss here suggest that each of these works had a very early version.
(32) Sanuto 26: 40, 56. Caracciolo Arico identifies the second visitor as Alvise Trevisan but joins two homonymous figures, the humanist Alvise who died in 1528 and is buried in S. Zanipolo (see Nardi 79-80) and Alvise who as podesta-capitanio of Cividale in 1529-30 achieved an agreement on the estimo there and who later served as proveditore in Brescia (Sanuto 24: 504; 25: 76; 26: 499; 51: 52, 123, 231, 569; 56: 476, 477, 597, 797, 953; 58: 332). The visitor was likely the latter, the son of Domenego cavalier procurator, for whom Ruzante gave a private performance two years later while in Venice for the Immortale festivity. Domenego was the grandson of a non-noble Paduan woman, for whom he acted as procurator in Padua in 1461 (ASPd, Notarile, busta 2907, fol. 125r). Finally, the Ca' Trevisan on the Giudecca at which Ruzante gave his 1526 performance did not belong to Domenego ("Il terzo visitatore" 388) but to Marchio Trevisan and his descendants, including his son the Ortolano Marin (Sanuto 19: 434; 33: 576).
(33) Sambin, "Lazzaro" 26; ASPd, Notarile, busta 1052, fols. 102r-103r.
(34) Crescenzi; for the ambiguous case of Stefano Magno, see Carroll, Commerce, Chapter Two.
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