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Women and the politics of play in sixteenth-century Italy: Torquato Tasso's theory of games.


In his popular encyclopedia, La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo (1585), Tomaso Garzoni includes a chapter on "Game-Players" among his comprehensive catalogue of vocations and avocations. Surveying ancient public games, chess, cards, dice, all manner of contemporary children's games, tavern games, and the recent appearance of tarot and parlor games, his chapter opens with a definition of a game from Torquato Tasso's recent Il Gonzaga secondo overo del giuoco. (1) Thus Garzoni, sixteenth-century Italy's preeminent encyclopedist, recognized Tasso's dialogue on games as a signal theoretical treatment of play. This century saw the growth of game culture and game analysis in various settings: from the verse treatment of chess in Girolamo Vida's Scacchia ludus (1527), to Pietro Aretino's dialogue on Le carte parlanti (1543), Antonio Scaino's treatise on tennis in his Trattato del giuoco della palla (1555), and Girolamo Bargagli's discussion of parlor games in his Dialogo de'giuochi che nelle vegghie sanesi si usano di fare (1572). (2) And while some of these authors broached issues of the history, moral philosophy, and social structure of play, none attempted a comprehensive theory of the generic game as did Tasso. (3) In writing such a work, Tasso revealed the flowering of a new area of Renaissance cultural analysis, as he and other writers traced the classical origins of games, defended the utility of play, explained popular practices, and probed the social rituals of the ludic realm.

In regards to this last area, the conduct of games reflected certain social realities concerning the interaction of men and women, and might at times have been an experimental venue to challenge those realities. In general, as sixteenth-century writers themselves sometimes revealed and as modern scholars have noted, the world of play in the early modern period could serve various functions in relation to social hierarchies and cultural traditions. At one extreme, especially among the wellborn, it could simply mirror social formalities of deference and ceremony: that is, a game such as chess or cards might simply serve as an opportunity for overly defined, and overly refined, forms of social intercourse between unequal men and between men and (unequal) women. At another extreme, especially at the level of popular culture, the masquerades of Carnival and the antics of the "Abbeys of Misrule" could, as Natalie Davis has shown, offer temporary inversions of the power structure in which the young, the lowly, and the female ruled the day. (4) And somewhere in between these extremes fell the newly-minted parlor games that drew upon both of these extremes, incorporating them in the form of thematically defined games that acted out and mocked the ceremonies of high culture, or replicated and embraced the status inversions of popular culture. It was particularly in these parlor games that there emerged new opportunities for creativity, displays of wit, and intellectual distinction, as they constituted a versatile proving ground for ingegno--and for women a potential arena in which to compete truly with men outside the strictures of courtly formalism and the caricatures of carnivalesque inversion. In writing about these and other games of polite society, Cinquecento writers engaged the issue of the sexual rules of play. Tasso's Gonzago secondo represents a particularly revealing moment in this debate, one that sheds light on the early modern history of play and its bearing on the status and agency of women. I will examine the origins of Tasso's treatise in an earlier treatment of the topic, situate his work within the broader discourse on games and gender in sixteenth-century Italy, and relate it to the circumstances of his confinement in Ferrara's Sant'Anna.


Tasso's first treatment of games appeared in a short treatise entitled Il Romeo overo del giuoco, published in 1581. (5) This dialogue is set at the Este court in Ferrara during Carnival of 1579 on the occasion of Alfonso II's (1533-97) marriage to Margherita Gonzaga (1564-1618). At the festivities, according to the treatise's framework, the Ferrarese courtier Count Annibale Romei discussed games before the dignitaries at court; one attendee, Annibale Pocaterra, later reported the conversation to an unidentified Margherita while she watched her husband play the card game primiera. Their conversation, thus purporting to convey aspects of Romei's discourse, ranges over many issues, such as the types of games (those, like dice, in which luck is dominant, and those, like chess, in which skill prevails); the venues of games (fully public spectacles, fully private games in women's quarters, and the middle realm of polite play usually occurring in the home and sometimes in public); the goals of games (victory yielding a reward, an imitation of some aspect of everyday life); the role of fortune in play; and the delight derived from games. (6)

It is perhaps no accident that a theory of play would issue from the court of Alfonso II, which seems to have reveled in games of every sort. Alfonso himself was an avid tennis player, reported to have played five hours straight one late December in 1564, even as it snowed. (7) (In fact, Scaino wrote his treatise on tennis for the young Alfonso because of a scoring dispute.) (8) When Annibale Romei later published his Discorsi in 1585, he depicted a lively interest in recreation at Alfonso's court. In the preface to the first day of dialogues, he intimates that the prince had something of a personal philosophy of leisure, tempering his "business with pleasure" (negozii con gli ozii) and always carefully monitoring his time so that there was an excess of neither, and ordaining "for each season its own particular entertainments." (9) Recreation at court included Carnival masquerades, jousts, comedies, and music; falconry, swimming, fishing, and hunting (or, rather, staged slaughters); tennis and wrestling; and cards, chess, and parlor games. (10) Fittingly, the Este castle devoted a series of rooms to the theme of recreation. Alfonso had recently commissioned frescoes for these rooms, two of which--the Saletta dei Giuochi and the Salone dei Giuochi, painted in the mid-1570s--depicted various games: for instance, round-dance, hoop, ball-playing, discus-throwing, wrestling, boxing, swimming, and chariot-racing. (11) With the Este court so selfconsciously cultivating game culture, Tasso was well-situated in Ferrara to explore the generic theory of play. In fact, one wonders whether the new visual images of the rooms in part inspired Tasso to offer up a literary counterpart.

As for Tasso's tribute to Annibale Romei as the inspiration for his discussion, Romei was known to be a chess enthusiast at the Este court. A testimony of 1576 indicates that Alfonso's sister, Princess Leonora d'Este, was herself a chess player and enjoyed watching Romei and others play. (12) In Ferrara's Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea there is a treatise on chess ascribed to Romei and dedicated to Leonora. (13) This untitled, undated work--the terminus ad quem for which was Leonora's death in 1581-promises a "greater work" at a later time and praises chess as a game of "honest pleasure," recommending it to Leonora by citing other women of the day who play. (14) Aside from offering a brief history of the origin of chess, this treatise is a playbook of moves that will enable Leonora to play the game more effectively. As to whether or not this work is genuine, Tasso clearly identified Romei as one capable of teaching chess to women: one of the interlocutors in the Gonzaga secondo alludes to the possibility that Romei could teach Margherita Bentivoglio how to play. (15) Moreover, in presenting the various theories of the origin of chess, the author of the treatise says that his own investigation credits the invention to Pythagoras, who hoped through the game to teach "sciences, such as geometry, music, and arithmetic"--a topic the author promises to treat further in the longer work. (16) Toward the end of the Romeo, Pocaterra ends a discussion of the role of fortune in play by citing the school of Pythagoras as a source from which "to draw many secret causes of the remarkable effects of the game"--in this case, dice--and comments that he will "leave this whole matter to the speculation of Signor Count Annibale [Romei], who in that discussion he had with the three princesses only briefly referred to (rather than explained) this issue." (17) Tasso's allusion to Romei's interest in, and preliminary treatment of, Pythagoras would seem to tie Romei to this treatise. It is very likely that Romei was indeed the author, and that Tasso had seen the treatise (or knew of its content), and/or had heard Romei discuss Pythagoras at a gathering. (18) If in fact Tasso knew of the work, he perhaps saw himself as offering up the greater work promised in it. And just as the Ferrara manuscript was intended as a game manual for women, both the Romeo and the Gonzaga secondo treat the issue of female players. Whatever may be the influence of Romei and the questionable treatise, Tasso's Romeo certainly reaches beyond a discussion of chess as it attempts a broad outline of the theory of play. (19)

But this broad outline is rather brief, and Tasso soon revisits the topic, greatly expanding the Romeo in the Gonzaga secondo, published the following year in 1582. Though framed in the same context of Romei's discussion of games, this version adds a third interlocutor, Giulio Cesare Gonzaga (namesake of the treatise), who joins Pocaterra and Margherita, now fully identified as Margherita Bentivoglio, daughter of Alfonso's military commander, Cornelio Bentivoglio. This longer dialogue attempts to broaden the earlier treatment in several ways. For instance, the history of games--confined to a history of chess in the Romeo--swells into a survey of classical Greek and Roman public games, with comments on their origins (such as obsequies) and larger cultural functions (such as honoring the gods and reenacting war). (20) Similarly, the Gonzaga secondo delves more deeply into the psychology and moral philosophy of play. Explaining that recreation is a necessary relief from the rigors of both the active and contemplative life, Tasso explains that a trattenimento (entertainment) is literally a diversion that "ci trattiene da l'operazione" (detains us from work), returning us to our tasks more willingly. (21) Moreover, in discussing the archetypes of players, he treats in considerable detail not only the "avaricious player" and the "liberal player" (types adumbrated in the Romeo), but also the typical player (reflective of "the greater part of players"), who, far from the liberal player's Stoic detachment from the vicissitudes of the game, allows himself to be engulfed in the hope and delight of gain and the doubt and fear of loss. (22) This wallowing in the passions resulting from the game's turns of fortune is in fact what allows the time of leisure to magically pass. (23) This embrace of psychological unrest shows how far the escapism of Cinquecento game culture was from the moralism of, for instance, Petrarch, who envisioned a Stoic sage rising above "both kinds of fortune" and who was generally skeptical of play. (24)

In both treatises, one issue that arises in the discussion of the "liberal," or "moderate," pursuit of victory concerns the proper goals of men when playing with women. (25) Of particular interest in regard to this question of the gender politics of play are the changes between the first and second treatises. In the Romeo, when Pocaterra suggests that one should not play for monetary gain but for the honor of winning, Margherita counters that if it is not honorable to take money from friends, likewise it would not be honorable to feel superior to them. To this Pocaterra answers that the honor of victory is indeed appropriate when men are playing with men, but might be ill-advised or disadvantageous when playing with women: "He with whom you might play, gracious lady, would be able rightfully to place the victory in losing and artfully allowing [you] to win, as do some courteous men, who playing with women allow [them] to win on purpose. ... But as it is politeness and courtesy to allow women to win, so it would be foolish for him to willingly allow men to win, because everyone ought to strive to be superior to others in things honest and praiseworthy, but victory is the most honest and most praiseworthy." (26) Margherita objects that such behavior, which "by you is called politeness and courtesy, by me is considered deceit and artifice, because as you said a little before, they do not allow [women] to win except in order to win"--that is, in some other amatory way. (27) Pocaterra acknowledges that some might do this "out of love or some other motive, but many do it simply for politeness." (28) Margherita then explicitly confronts this social nicety, arguing that it is considered good manners to lose to women because true victory comes only in a true contest, and women cannot compete with men in fortune or skill. Pocaterra allows that a woman such as Margherita can compete in tests of skill, but acknowledges that she cannot compete with men in tests of fortune (presumably meaning in the circumstances of life). Margherita then asks why Fortune, though female and a goddess, does not favor women over men, and offers the remarkably blunt statement that such fortune is a fiction: "But perhaps this name Fortune is a vain one, to which nothing corresponds; whence, if we [women] cede to fortune, this happens because we cede by force, although we are equal in ability; and the violence of men is the maker of this fortune, which, even if it is anything (which I doubt), is nothing other than the result of their tyranny." (29) Female subordination is not simply fortuitous and circumstantial: it is premeditated and imposed by men. But if women lose in the fortunes of life, they do, Pocaterra affirms, seem to win in the fortunes of love. To Margherita's assertion that "the violence of men is the maker of [female] fortune," he counters that "the beauty of women would be the maker of the fortune of men, because if fortune has force in anything, it has it in the game and in love." (30) In explaining women's advantage in the fortunes of love, Pocaterra argues that as men rule in the marital world, so women rule in the amatory realm: "In the kingdom of Love, female fortune rules, because the woman, to the degree she is loved, is always superior to the lover, although to the degree she is wife, she is inferior to the husband." (31) When Margherita asks him to reconcile the contradiction between his contentions that women are inferior in fortune but superior in the fortune of love, Pocaterra flatly states his position: "In all the other offices of life they [women] are born inferior to men; only love is perhaps that which, equalizing their inequality, renders women equal to men." (32) In Margherita's resentment and in Pocaterra's condescension, these two interlocutors speak harsh truths about female subordination in the real world and about women's temporary and contrived superiority in the artificial world of love and polite play. Moreover, the Romeo, by linking game culture with amatory culture, depicts the game as a component of the duplicitous ritual of male seduction and conquest. (33)


By the time Tasso wrote the Gonzaga secondo (prior to Margherita Bentivoglio's death in September of 1581), the tone had changed significantly. (34) At first glance, one might think the prominence of women has been diminished, as Margherita, one of two interlocutors in the Romeo, is now merely one of three, her role eclipsed by the conversation between Pocaterra and Gonzaga. But there are other notable differences. The revised treatise excises some of the Romeo's harsh and belabored comments on the sexist conventions of society. Margherita's complaint that men intentionally lose to women remains, but her remark on men's violent mistreatment of women is gone, as are Pocaterra's assertions of female inequality in the larger scheme of life and his consolation that women do rule in the realm of love. Softening the indictment of male tyranny found in the Romeo, this version recasts the discussion of how women fare in the realms of fortuna and ingegno, as Gonzaga says to Margherita: "it seems to me that more readily you [women] ought to cede to men in fortune than in intelligence, since by the former there is not granted to you many opportunities to demonstrate the latter." (35) Tasso never explicitly states the argument that games represent a promising arena for women to test their intellectual mettle, but it might underlie the other major--indeed, the most important--change in the Gonzaga secondo, which concerns Margherita's particular interests in the discussion of play. At the start of the dialogue, when Gonzaga lays out various abstract questions on the nature and history of games, Margherita says that she has envisioned these same topics, but that he has left out one area that she also wants treated, namely, "how one who wants to win ought to play." (36) Appropriately, Margherita now comes to be seen by her male interlocutors as a player in pursuit of true victory, as Gonzaga comments, "I would well wish, if in any mode it would be possible, that we teach Lady Margherita to win, as she desires." (37) In fact, the last portion of the treatise is cast as a discussion of how, in the face of the uncertainties of fortune in a game such as primiera, Margherita can be taught to achieve true victory by making strategic, even "insidious," pacts (accordi) and by agreeing to proper divisions of the stakes. (38) The implication of this becomes clear toward the end of the dialogue, when Pocaterra, so condescending toward women in the Romeo, now advises that, when splitting the pot toward the end of a game, the same divisions (true "arithmetic" ones, not preferential "geometric" ones) should be used when playing with a woman as when playing with a merchant without respect to the "quality of persons." (39) This prompts Gonzaga's objection that "then little courteous, Signor Annibale, would be your player, little worthy of playing with genteel women." (40) Nonetheless, the dialogue ends with Margherita inviting Pocaterra to explain further his theory about mathematical odds.

Not only is Margherita now more the equal giocatrice (player) than unequal amata (beloved): she is generally depicted as wilier, more determined, and more forceful in the treatise. At the start of the dialogue, Tasso inserts an exchange in which Pocaterra praises Margherita in a way that implies that she is as adept in the art of the game as Hannibal was in the art of war. (41) When Margherita objects that by indirectly comparing her expertise in the "tricks of the game" to Hannibal's skill in the strategems of war he seems to have called her a great trickster, Pocaterra concedes that he was not referring to her engaging in such by "profession" or "practice," but was simply referring to her general capacity for judgment in all matters. (42) Thus, while Tasso does not explicitly hail Margherita as an accomplished game-player, this exchange plants the seeds of such a possibility; given the other changes in the Gonzaga secondo, and specifically Margherita's request to be taught how to win at games, this insertion represents something more than an idle exchange. She also at times is portrayed as a more focused discussant. At one point Pocaterra introduces an amatory example--in fact, an example of falling in love during a game--to explain the difference between events that happen "per se" and those that happen "per accidente." Margherita rather condescendingly acknowledges his preoccupation with love--as if to say "Men!" or, better, "Courtiers!"--and then directs attention back to the intellectual issue at hand. (43) Finally, and most importantly, in the discussion concerning women's capacity to contend with men in skill or fortune, Margherita deflects a compliment about her own qualities and cites several outstanding women of the day--Claudia Rangone, Barbara Sanseverino, Fulvia da Correggio, Felice della Rovere, and the Duchess of Ferrara herself, Margherita Gonzaga--who have proven their capacity for ingegno. (44) In the Romeo the first four of these women are not named, and instead Pocaterra (and not Margherita) refers generically to the women at the Este court, who were routinely named and praised at the start of the treatise; thus Margherita's naming of these particular women in the later version is significant. And even though Tasso took out the harsh complaint from the Romeo that female fortune is really just violence done to women by men, the insertion of these women provides a meaningful subtext concerning women who forcefully challenged male tyranny.


Who were these women? It is surely no coincidence that some of them had lived lives of unusual independence in the face of male control. Long unhappy in her marriage, in 1566 Claudia Rangone left her husband Giberto da Correggio, who in December of that year castigated her as a woman of "indomitable mind." (45) For her part, letters from preceding years reveal that Claudia found her life in Correggio intolerable. For instance, in 1561 she wrote to the Contessa of Novellara, "with good reason you judge my situation worthy of compassion and aid, because truly I do not know of any part of the world or Purgatory where I would not sooner be than in Correggio, subjected as I am every hour to a thousand affronts and a thousand dangers and to infinite reproach, without any hope of honor, profit, or quiet." (46) As for other reasons for Claudia's separation from Giberto, Girolamo Tiraboschi suggests the possible involvement of Cardinal Girolamo da Correggio, who seems to have had an inordinate affection for Claudia. However, Tiraboschi also cites a document from the Vatican Archives that he believes likely to have been written by Claudia, and which argues that Giberto mistreated her and that her appeal for help to her brother Count Fulvio Rangone went unanswered. In any event, she did escape Giberto and Correggio, and in 1567 secured an annulment from the pope. Moreover, three years later she sued her ex-husband (albeit unsuccessfully) to nullify their daughter's monachation. (47) Apparently, Claudia was seen as being too independent-minded, not only by her husband but also by the brother who reportedly ignored her pleas for help. In a letter written to him after she had moved to Rome, Claudia challenges his longheld opinion that she was too "proud" to live a traditional life, even one in a castle, presumably entailing the "customary satisfactions of husband and children" that other women would readily embrace. Claiming that in fact she has never experienced such domestic tranquility, she insists that it is not owing "to vice or pride" that she has chosen her present course, which at the moment involved eking out a living from a vineyard. (48)

There could have been reasons other than her lifestyle for Tasso's praise of Rangone. Her father, Count Claudio Rangone, had ties to Tasso's father Bernardo, who corresponded with Rangone and praised him in verse--and Bernardo was secretary to another member of the family, Count Guido Rangone. More immediately, in opening his list of women in the Gonzaga secondo with Claudia, Tasso may have been attempting to ingratiate himself with her brother Count Fulvio, to whom he wrote a letter entreating his patronage in April of 1581. (49) Given, however, Count Fulvio's apparent disapproval of his sister, this strategy may have been ill-advised. In any case, aside from Tasso's ties to the family and his appeal to Fulvio, Claudia's assertive behavior vis-a-vis her husband almost certainly was a compelling factor in Tasso's mention of her here as a woman of unusual ingegno.

Likewise, the second of these women, Fulvia da Correggio (ca. 1540-90), exemplified a life of female autonomy, and even defiance, at the threat of male domination. Fulvia was widowed in her mid-twenties upon the death in 1568 of her husband Lodovico II Pico della Mirandola, who worsened her situation by leaving no provisions in his will as to the control of Mirandola and the estate. With her four-year-old son as heir, Fulvia initially agreed to share power with two of her husband's brothers. Following the death of one of the brothers-in-law, she engaged in a power struggle with the other, Luigi Pico. Tensions grew so bad that when Luigi tried to return to Mirandola from the French court in 1573, she closed the city gates to him. Letters written on consecutive days in August of that year from Fulvia and Luigi to the Duke of Mantua reveal much about who had the stronger hand. Fulvia's letter announces that she is sending a representative to explain "the just reasons that have forced me to no longer desire Signor Luigi, my brother-in-law, as a partner in this government," whereas Luigi's letter complains to the duke that "I am not able to see again nor to come into the house where I was born" and that his sisters, made virtual prisoners by Fulvia, have joined him in retreat. (50) In any event, Fulvia won full control of the state, staved off other opposition by executing a would-be assassin, and earned praise for her rule from the likes of Francesco Sansovino and the poet Muzio Manfredi, who hailed her as a latter-day Dido and widow-ruler. In the dedication of a 1585 treatise on legal practice, Francesco Personali praises Fulvia as ruler of the city and as a model for other women, and claims that the French King Henry III put her in the company of his mother, Catherine de' Medici, and of Queen Elizabeth. (51)

A third woman, Barbara Sanseverino, the Countess of Sala, was the most illustrious personality of the figures named. Several princes--including the Duke of Parma, Duke Alfonso II, and Prince Vincenzo of Mantua--were apparently infatuated with her, and Tasso clashed with a competing poet at the Este court over her. Tasso first met her when he was in Rome from late 1572 to early 1573 and wrote a sonnet about her, but it was her visits to Ferrara in 1576 and 1577 that made a dramatic impression on observers. (52) Especially detailed are the accounts of her trip to the city in January 1577 to help with the delivery of the child of her stepdaughter, the Contessa of Scandiano, when Barbara proved to be the chief reveler at Carnival. The Florentine ambassador to Ferrara, Bernardo Canigiani, who had been charged with reporting closely on the affairs of the court, left detailed letters describing these events, and Barbara figures prominently in them. He claims that no one "of either sex could match the energy of the Contessa di Sala [Barbara] and the duke [Alfonso II] in banqueting twice a day and staying up until ten, continually chattering, playing, drinking, and dancing." (53) Moreover, when the court repaired to Comacchio for more merrymaking in order to indulge Barbara, it was she who, according to Canigiani, dominated the festivities. (54) With an implicitly critical tone, Canigiani remarks that among the women present Barbara was one of only four married women unaccompanied by their husbands. Furthermore, Barbara seems to have been the tyrannical taskmaster of the revelries: "But indeed the boss--and she who is the reason for the expenses and hardships of everyone--appears to be the Contessa di Sala: at the will of whom one goes, one stays, one rises, one eats, one plays, and so forth. I hear that she has organized there a game of calcio comprising eight women and sixteen men per side, and they have sent here for the balls." (55) Not only did the women play calcio, but Canigiani also records that there was to be a tournament involving women, with Barbara being listed as one of the "knights." (56)

Barbara's commanding presence also seems to have impressed authors at court. For the festivities at Comacchio in 1577, Tasso composed a lost prologue to--and likely staged himself--a commedia dell'arte play in which Barbara was cast in what was presumably the female lead as the "marriageable girl." (57) And it is not surprising that, years later in the second edition of his Discorsi, Romei replaced Lucrezia d'Este, to whom he had dedicated the work, with Barbara as the motive force behind the festivities. It is her room that is the gathering place of the ladies and courtiers, and it is she, identified as an "inventor of new and honorable amusements," who suggests (via a military analogy) that they choose by lot a leader to rule the group. (58) Barbara's starring roles in Tasso's lost play and in Romei's revised treatise certainly bespeak her reputation as a dominating presence in the recreational life of the Ferrara court.

Beyond her persona as an insatiable reveler, Barbara also apparently struck her contemporaries as one who pushed the boundaries with her willful independence. As we have seen, Canigiani identified her as one of only a few married women unaccompanied by their husbands at Comacchio in 1577-along with Lucrezia d'Este, who was separated from her husband. (59) Even more telling, however, is Canigiani's comment in his 11 March letter that Barbara was shameful in coming to Ferrara that year as dutiful mother-in-law but staying on as brazen queen of Carnival. He writes that he has heard that Duke Alfonso is finally going to move her along, and remarks that Barbara "had license for four days to come help with the childbirth of her stepdaughter Contessa di Scandiano, the birth coming shortly before her arrival; but even though her chore had 'expired,' so to speak, she stayed on for more than two months, intrepid and tirelessly partying, reveling, and entertaining, more beautiful and fresher than ever." (60) Thus, given license to come to Ferrara for four days--presumably by her husband, Giberto Sanvitale, her elder by thirty-five years--this intrepid character stayed two months. Like Claudia Rangone, Barbara thus does not seem to have been inhibited by the authority or expectations of men.

Subsequent events in Barbara's life, moreover, reveal that, like Fulvia Correggio, she was not afraid to oppose men even in dangerous political situations. That is, many years later in 1611 Barbara would be part of a conspiracy of nobles against Ranuccio I Farnese, the Duke of Parma. Barbara's problems with Ranuccio would stem from the conflict between the Farnese and her own family for control of Colorno. Following the death in 1585 of her husband Giberto, the Count of Sala (from whom shortly before she had sought a divorce), Barbara felt the need to counter her son's interests in claiming Sala by seeking a marriage with Orazio Simonetta in 1596--an act that only inflamed Ranuccio's suspicions of her political ambitions. Because of Ranuccio's designs on Colorno and his imperious treatment of other local lords, a plot to kill him was hatched in 1611 by Barbara's grandson. Barbara joined the conspiracy and drew in her husband as well. In fact, according to one contemporary account, it was she who, using the festive setting with "various artifices of private parties, banquets, evening discussions, and games, sought to gather in her palace relatives and friends, constituting herself almost as ringleader"; and it was she who at one meeting passed around a document swearing the conspirators to silence, signing it first herself. (61) When the plan was discovered, the conspirators confessed under torture; though her grandson was charged as the "first conspirator" in the "Summary of the Inquisition" publicly posted on 17 March 1612, Barbara was among the others named and was described as a "person of haughty and ambitious spirit and inclined to similar machinations [as her grandson]." (62) In fact, the sixty-year-old Barbara was the first of the conspirators to be beheaded in Parma's public square, followed by her husband, her grandson, her son, and three others. That Barbara's story persevered in local culture is borne out by Alfredo Zerbini's historical poem in the Parmesan dialect, "La congiura di feudatari" (1947), which features Barbara as the prime mover in the conspiracy. (63) Although all of this was in her future, her forceful, independent, and libertine spirit was apparently evident to Tasso in the 1570s and '80s, and she is a most apt exemplar for his list of women of notable ingegno in the Gonzaga secondo. (64)

As for the fourth woman, Felice della Rovere, this was likely not the famous Felice (daughter of Julius II) who died in 1536, but, like the other women named, was probably a contemporary: in this case, the illegitimate daughter of Guidobaldo II della Rovere. (65) This Felice was the half-sister of Francesco Maria II della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, and the wife of Guidobaldo del Monte, both of whom were schoolmates of Tasso's for a time at the court of Urbino in the late 1550s, the latter having attended the University of Padua with Tasso in the mid-1560s. (66) Furthermore, Tasso had more recently appealed to Guidobaldo for help in 1577, and in 1578 he wrote a solicitous letter concerning his travails to Francesco Maria. (67) By citing this Felice, who was half-sister and wife to these figures, the imprisoned Tasso may have been hoping to kill two birds with one stone, if he was trying to win their aid at the time he composed the Gonzaga secondo. Of Felice's personality we know nothing, as is the case with a fifth woman cited in a variant edition of the text. This woman, Ermelina Canigiani, was likely some relation to Bernardo Canigiani (the same Florentine ambassador cited above), who befriended Tasso, acquired a twenty-year privilege from the Medici grand duke for a revised edition of the Gerusalemme liberata, and attempted unsuccessfully to help Tasso move into the Medici circle in 1578. (68) This variant edition also includes one other significant comment. After naming the five women--Claudia Rangone, Barbara Sanseverino, Fulvia da Correggio, Felice della Rovere, and Ermelina Canigiani--Tasso's Margherita says, "these five women I have known [to be] of intelligence so quick and vivacious that I would have had greater fear of contending in speaking with any of them than in finding myself facing an armed knight." (69) Although the personalities of Felice and Ermelina remain unknown, those of Claudia, Fulvia, and Barbara certainly suggest that Tasso's list identifies women of formidable independence, if not defiance. And if in some instances--as in the cases of Claudia, Felice, and Ermelina--Tasso cites women whose mention might bolster his standing with certain men, this does not rule out the possibility that these women may also have been powerful personalities. Clearly, then, by including this list of women in the Gonzaga secondo, Tasso recasts his female interlocutor Margherita, like his argument in general, in more affirmative feminist terms. In so doing, he degenders game culture by moving it from an exclusively amatory and courtly realm to a more authentically competitive realm.


What was the larger context for Tasso's depiction of women's roles in the realm of play? Certainly, the identification of women as overseers of the ludic, or festive, realm was longstanding. Boccaccio's Pampinea was the prime mover and first queen in the circle of seven men and three women who retreated from Florence to tell the 100 tales of the Decameron. (70) And Castiglione's Courtier (written in 1513-14) is framed as a dialogue resulting from a parlor game set at the court of Urbino. At this gathering the Duchess Elisabetta Gonzaga and Emilia Pia are identified as the directors of ludic festivities--though in the Courtier they call for games to be proposed only by men, and when the game of defining an ideal courtier is suggested, they generally yield the floor to males, who control the conversation. (71) Later in the century a more active role for women in parlor games emerged in Innocenzio Ringhieri's Cento giuochi liberali et d'ingegno (1551). Written in Bologna and dedicated to Catherine de' Medici for use in her court, the Cento giuochi is, according to Ringhieri, a unique contribution to game culture. (72) Although allowing for men, these games are primarily addressed to educated polite women; aside from comic diversion, their function is to convey and test knowledge, offer moral advice, and provide opportunities for intellectual distinction. The games consist of players reciting some lore--for example, the animal and instrument associated with a certain classical god--or keeping track of a fluctuating order of terms in rounds. Failure to do so, or failure to refrain from laughing, results in the payment of pegno (forfeit), which players can redeem by declaiming on one of the debate topics appended to each of the games. These debate topics, Ringhieri suggests in his dedication, offer the opportunity for players to "acquire immortality." (73) The ruler of each game must mete out these topics according to the abilities of the players, who are classified by intellect and learning across both genders: the scholarly male, the unlearned male, the "clever woman," and the "matter-of-fact woman of little intellect." (74)

Aside from thus equating the intellectual variations within both genders, Ringhieri more than once in this book explicitly trumpets the capacities of women against their detractors. In the first game, the Game of the Knight, players must be able to explicate the symbolism of the knight's emblem, motto, and colors. Ringhieri claims that women are good for this challenge, because they are "modern women, almost all very shrewd (both by nature and by having read much), not a little wise, and perhaps not too inferior to those famous ancient women praised by writers." (75) In his Game of Celestial Figures, Ringhieri includes several questions--for example, on the nature of fate--that are rather philosophical, and he addresses potential criticism that he has presented topics too lofty for women. Such critics, he argues, "do a great injustice to the female sex, if they do not believe that among them can be found some who are very ingenious, expert, and suited to clarify ... difficult matters." (76) Ringhieri thus sees his liberal games, and especially his debate topics, as opportunities for women to challenge and activate their ingegno and their learning. His Cento giuochi shifts the earlier ludic model--in which women are largely passive figures, merely organizing games and discussions and listening to men debate--to one in which they are active participants who might win a measure of immortality through their efforts.

In the following decade another parlor-game book emerged from the fun-loving activities of the Academy of the Intronati in Siena. Whereas Ringhieri's book poses a rather sedate ideal of game-playing, Girolamo Bargagli's Dialogue Concerning the Games Customarily Played at Sienese Soirees depicts the reality of playing games, especially during the bawdy Carnival season. (77) And whereas Ringhieri's games generally sought to control female sexual behavior (as in the Game of Chastity) or to sublimate it (as in the Game of the Bawd), the 130 games of the lntronati largely reflect the potential of games to unleash female and male sexuality in clever games of flirtation and seduction. But even in this racier setting, the Sienese games fostered an assertive and sometimes intellectual involvement on the part of women. Bargagli's dialogue expressly prescribes that women should not shrink from fully participating in games out of a false sense of propriety, that they not be aloof or remain silent merely relying on their beauty; but instead that they, like men, should truly engage the games with a "boldness of mind." (78) (Such "boldness" [baldanza], it is worth noting, was one of seventeen "enemies" of proper female behavior listed in Francesco da Barberino's early fourteenth-century conduct book for women, the Reggimento e costuma di donna.) (79) In some instances, the opportunities for women to be in control are, of course, simply comical, like many such carnivalesque inversions of power: in the Game of the Ship, for example, a woman must choose which of two men accompanying her in a storm-tossed ship she will throw overboard and which one she will save, and must give the reasons for her decision. (80) But in other parts of the dialogue Bargagli describes situations in which the games allow women the chance to show literary and intellectual dominance, as in the case in which a woman has meted out as a penalty to some men the task of explicating incidents from the multivolume Spanish novel Amadis de Gaula. At this gathering, a member of the Intronati later confessed his humiliation at not having any knowledge of these books and looking like a "complete ignoramus": he asked a male colleague if he could borrow copies of them. (81) The games, then, could become venues for women to demonstrate their literary knowledge (albeit of popular literature) vis-a-vis their male contemporaries, most of whom had the chance to display their Latin learning in the university.

Finally, the games of the Intronati realized a goal envisioned by Ringhieri: that play could become a vehicle for fame. Bargagli reveals that certain women--whom he and other Intronati prompted prior to games played before some visiting dignitaries--performed with great aplomb. Naming names, he says that these women became famous in their own right: "And from these first aids they began to make a habit such that--impromptu and at every occasion--miraculous discourses, witticisms, and arguments were heard to come from them, whence Ladies Aurelia and Giulia Petrucci, Lady Frasia Venturi, the Saracina, the Forteguerra [Laudomia Forteguerri], the Toscana, and some others acquired eternal fame." (82) Games became a setting for women to assume a quasi-public presence in an intellectually competitive situation. The cultural opportunity afforded by parlor games was also emphasized in a book written by Girolamo Bargagli's brother Scipione, whose I trattenimenti was likely composed in the mid-1560s, shortly after Girolamo's. (83) In the preamble to the second part of his book, which is a depiction of such gatherings fully played out in dialogue, Scipione suggests that these "respectable gatherings" are potentially both "serious ... and festive schools" that could appeal to the senses and to the intellect. (84) Moreover, he laments that women as a rule are "fully prevented or in great part at least impeded from walking through many and diverse honored paths through which, in the same manner as men, they would be able in great strides to show of what keenness the intellect and of what valor and frankness might be the mind that resides within them." (85) And whereas men have the opportunity for distinction in letters and arms, women do not have such opportunities to win distinction and fame; the exchanges in such gatherings not only give them a needed venue for amusement but also an arena to show their "remarkable intellect." (86) That games might win women some measure of immortality was confirmed a century later in Isidoro Ugurgieri Azzolini's Le pompe sanesi, o' vero relazione delli huomini, e donne illustri di Siena, e suo stato (1649). In his profile of 108 "Illustrious and Memorable Sienese Women," the author cites the dedicatee of Scipione's book and several women named in Girolamo Bargagli's book as having won reputations as distinguished players. (87) The parlor-game books of both Ringhieri and the Bargagli brothers, then, show how men envisioned, promoted, and immortalized women as intelligent and spirited players.

Despite the emergence of such protofeminist currents in game culture, traditionally sexist views of the structure of polite play continued to endure in the Cinquecento. The prominent Paduan literary figure Sperone Speroni (1500-88), one of Tasso's advisors for the revision of his Gerusalemme liberata, wrote a Dialogo di Panico, e Bichi, in which Jeronimo Panico and Annibale Bichi discuss Panico's dice game with a woman he favors in the context of courtship ritual. (88) Bichi suggests that Panico's beloved cleverly lost on purpose as a female ruse, and he counsels Panico to make his winnings a gift to her to obligate her to him. (89) A woman's intentional loss and a man's forfeiture of winnings are thus cast as strategems in the social game of courting, rather than as the playing of a true game itself. (90) Objections to the intrusion of such artificiality into the game realm can be found prior to Tasso's treatises in a parlor-game book by Ascanio de' Mori. (91) In his Giuoco piacevole (written in 1575), Mori depicts a party of women and men engaged in a challenging game of extemporaneous storytelling, in which players must fashion tales about a city, inn, innkeeper, garden, tree, and animal (with a motto) all beginning with an assigned letter of the alphabet. This game, in contrast to Castiglione's parlor game of defining an ideal courtier, is designed not by a male participant but by a female player, Beatrice Gambara, who, against the protestations of an initially weaker foil Isabella, insists that women are capable of greater "valor" than they think. (92) In the course of the game, even Isabella reflects increasingly feminist attitudes. When she has to give up various tokens because of slips she makes, an admiring male player at one point gallantly provides one for her. Her reaction is a swift rebuke, as she chides him that any amatory gain he thus hopes to make with her he has in fact lost "with this courtesy of excessive generosity." (93) When others argue that she earlier escaped another penalty for a slip, she appeals this judgment, proving that she had not erred, and rejects any condescending relaxation of the rules of the game, saying "I do not wish to triumph without victory." (94) Mori's character Isabella thus prefigures Tasso's character Margherita, who similarly resents women being deprived of true victory through condescension and courtesy. (95)


And this brings us back to Tasso. The two versions of his game book address this issue of the sexist rules of play: the Romeo states the problem but leaves it largely unresolved, whereas the Gonzaga secondo makes an effort to transform Margherita from embittered victim to assertive player. Why did Tasso make this change? The excision of the especially harsh comments on men's mistreatment of women might have been necessitated by his now clearly identifying the interlocutor as Margherita Bentivoglio. (96) But what about the changed assumptions of Pocaterra and the more generalized attempt to address Margherita's desire to be a true player? Speculations on Tasso's thinking and his motives in the early 1580s must necessarily be seen as somewhat tentative, as he was incarcerated, or forcibly hospitalized, in Sant'Anna during these years for instability and bouts with madness. (97) Still, I would like to offer several possibilities. First, at a more general level, in introducing Giulio Cesare Gonzaga and renaming the treatise for him, Tasso may have been attempting to strengthen ties to members of the Gonzaga family as possible intercessors who might aid in winning his release from Sant'Anna. (98) In the same year that Tasso published the Gonzaga secondo he also published a Discorso della virtu feminile e donnesca, dedicated to the Duchess of Mantua, Leonora of Austria (1534-94), wife of Guglielmo Gonzaga and mother of Margherita Gonzaga. (99) This work lays out the debate as to whether women have a more private and less "heroic" virtue than men, citing the affirmative position of Thucydides (following Aristotle), and the opposing negative stance of Plutarch (following Plato). (100) As for his own position in the treatise, Tasso is able to have his cake and eat it too, in that he argues that ordinary women might hew to the retiring, private type of "feminine virtue," but that regal, courtly, and heroic women--such as his dedicatee Leonora--can display a "womanly virtue" in which there is not found "any distinction of works and offices between them and heroic men." (101) This last passage rebuts the comment in Romeo in which Pocaterra proclaims that, aside from their upper hand in the realm of love, "in all the other offices of life [women] are born inferior to men." (102) Indeed, the Discorso della virtu feminile e donnesca argues for the agency of women in the public sphere, and might even have been intended to encourage the possibility of such women interceding on behalf of an imprisoned poet. In any case, in 1582 Tasso published both of these works emphasizing female agency. In the Gonzaga secondo he names notable women other than Margherita Bentivoglio herself and the duchess and ladies of the Este court--including Lucrezia the Duchess of Urbino, of whom he adds fulsome praise in this treatise (103)--some of whom he perhaps hoped would plead his case.

As for the intercession of the Mantuan court, by November 1584 Angelo Grillo wrote Tasso a letter mentioning his hope that Duchess Leonora and her son Vincenzo, along with Duchess Lucrezia of Urbino, might aid in Tasso's release--and Tasso's first three letters back to him all emphasized Leonora. (104) Most notably, in the letter of 18 January 1585, Tasso writes, "Consider, then, if it is possible once again with the same or other means to move the mind of the most serene Duchess of Mantua more effectively to concede this grace, which I would wish to entreat through every way; and I would wish that by her or through her [my freedom] might be pled to all those by whom it can be conceded." (105) His stress here on Leonora was presumably owing to a letter Leonora may have sent to Alfonso concerning Tasso's situation, for Tasso forwarded to Grillo a letter to be delivered to Leonora in which he thanks her for writing on his behalf. (106) As Alfonso's current mother-in-law and former sister-in-law (via his second marriage to Barbara of Austria), Leonora was doubly connected to Alfonso II--as Tasso himself reminds her in a letter--and thus ideally situated to be an advocate. (107) Certainly Tasso continued to apply pressure. By February 1585 he had completed a poem in honor of Leonora's sister Barbara, who had died thirteen years earlier. That this work was calculated to cement her support is confirmed in a letter of March 1585, in which Tasso tells Grillo to persevere in his efforts to win the intervention of either Leonora or the emperor--a tellingly implicit equation of female with male power--though emphasizing the duchess, whom he hopes will be won over by his tribute to Barbara. (108) About a week later he wrote Grillo again, saying that "from whatever quarter it comes, awaited news of my freedom would be welcome; but most welcome, if it would be sent me by the most serene Duchess of Mantua, because such an event would confirm the judgment that I made the first day that I was imprisoned. I therefore beg Your Paternity that you renew your efforts so that she write one more time to the most serene duke [Alfonso II] and the duchess his wife." (109) Finally, hedging his bets yet further, in May and June of that year Tasso composed and dedicated to Leonora a dialogue entitled Il Ghirlinzone overo l'epitafio, which largely consisted of a funeral oration for Barbara. (110) In any event, by July 1586 Tasso was finally freed through the efforts of the young prince Vincenzo Gonzaga, and left for Mantua. (111) How much of a role did Vincenzo's mother Leonora play in the rescue of Tasso? Was his freedom partly achieved by the influence of a prominent woman asserting her prerogatives in the public sphere, albeit through her son? Had Tasso's feminist arguments in the Discorso and his overtures to Leonora hit their mark?


A second explanation for the more feminist tone of the Gonzaga secondo is found in Tasso's increasing skepticism concerning the artificial, and even oppressive, nature of courtly life and courtesy. That is, the excision of much of the false courtesies of play in the revised treatise can be seen as part of a larger pattern of views expressed during his confinement at Sant' Anna. In 1579, the year in which his detention began, he wrote a dialogue entitled Il Beltramo overo de la cortesia, in which he engaged the issue of courtesy and its relation to justice and injustice. (112) In this dialogue, Count Ottavio Tassone, who is an expert on liberality, and an abbot (possibly Ambrogio Beltramini), who is an expert on justice, debate whether courtesy is a form of liberality or justice. Significantly, the topic arises when the figure of Tasso is pressured not to leave a gathering and is courteously detained. And although this autobiographical character sides with courtesy over justice, Tasso does have a religious figure critique courtesy as a "species of injustice." (113) Moreover, part of the dialogue deals with game culture, not in the context of unequal men and women, but in that of the unequally deserving male contestants in the games of the Aeneid 5, in which Aeneas justly rewards some (Euryalus and Diores), but courteously rewards others (Salius, Nisus, Acestes) who had not truly won. (114) Of course, Aeneas's courteous injustice was in the service of Roman collectivism, but it parallels the intrusion of social custom into the realm of games in Tasso when men lose to women out of deference--also a type of courteous injustice.

Later in his confinement, from 1584 to 1585, Tasso composed two dialogues that reflect a somewhat jaded outlook about the life of the courtier and court life generally. One of these, the Malpiglio overo de la corte, likely grew out of an exchange he had with Curzio Ardizio, who had requested from him some disparaging verse on court life. (115) Though for obvious reasons Tasso was reluctant to be too critical, in two letters of June 1584 he reflects on the limitations--for example, on truthfulness, criticism, and the display of talent--that a courtier faces relative to an unencumbered philosopher, orator, or writer. (116) Expanding upon such a theme, the Malpiglio depicts a young man considering court life as a vocation--with his skeptical father in tow--engaging the Tasso figure on the qualities necessary for a courtier. In particular, the youth wants to know how to be simultaneously favored by the prince but not envied by the other courtiers. (117) The upshot of Tasso's advice is a realistic counterpoint to Castiglione's idealistic portrait, which Tasso cites. The shrewd courtier must know when to conceal his superior talent and learning must be willing to subordinate himself, and must be a master of dissimulation (l'infinger), identified as "one of the greatest virtues" of the day. (118) Tasso soon returned to the theme of literal dissimulation at court in a dialogue entitled Gianluca overo de la maschera, in which he depicts himself as the only one not masked in Ferrara at Carnival and yet as the only one confined--the implication being that he suffers this fate even as he is the only authentic person in a city of false persons. Perhaps with an eye toward further critiquing the modern custom of masking, Tasso's inter-locutors also remark on the inversion of masking from the classical stage, in which the performers wore masks, to modern Carnival, in which "the spectators are masked, and the actors unmasked." (119) Moreover, in the course of the dialogue Tasso's courtier figure Ippolito Gianluca--identified in another treatise as a trusted figure in Alfonso's court (120)--admits that the staged jousts and tournaments at Carnival reveal Duke Alfonso's propagandistic desire to display his glory, if not in real battles, then in fake ones. (121) Framed by these three dialogues on courtesy, courtiers, and masquerades, the critique of the false courtesies of play in the Romeo, and the partial resolution of such in the Gonzaga secondo, can be seen as part of a larger assault on court life and its attendant rituals, a courtly culture that worked against Tasso's interests during his confinement by Alfonso II.


Finally, there is the third possibility that in his revision Tasso wanted to free game culture from the confinements of the amatory realm. In this interpretation, he simply expands and universalizes play as a human endeavor that transcends gender and courtship rituals. Thus, just as he greatly expands his classical history of games and more fully develops the moral theory of play, he has his male interlocutors teach Margherita--now as a player rather than as a woman--the strategy and mathematics of successful card-playing. (122) By degendering game theory, he elevates play--and not simply in an ironic, burlesque way--as an authentic arena of ingegno, and he promotes the discourse on play as a legitimate topic of philosophical debate. (123) Of course, Tasso's motives could have embraced all three of these possibilities, as his desire to win release from courtly captivity does not necessarily vitiate his theoretical concerns. Rather, his personal situation may have offered a tangible opportunity for an intersection of interests, in which the potential for female agency in the ludic realm converged with the potential for female agency in the public, political realm. A more assertive Margherita Bentivoglio could truly win at primiera, just as an assertive female mediator could (and possibly did) win his release from house arrest. And, given that Tasso later appealed to Margherita's father Cornelio for help, he may even have envisioned her as a potential advocate and mediator via her father. (124)

Moreover, the depiction of a more assertive Margherita, determined to combat the fortune of the game, might reflect Tasso's own desire to assert himself more forcefully in the game of court life. (125) It is likely no accident that when Pocaterra defines a game in the Gonzaga secondo as a "contest of fortune and skill among two or more" and Gonzaga extends this notion to various arenas of real life, the first realm he cites is that of the court: "But do we believe, Signor Annibale, that at court courtiers contend in fortune and skill?" (126) Pocaterra affirms this, and they then apply this template of the game to philosophers in the schools and soldiers on the battlefield, to the pursuits of all the arts, and finally to life itself. (127) Furthermore, a personal allusion to Tasso's own situation in the game of life occurs in the dedication of the treatise to Annibale's father Alessandro Pocaterra, himself a courtier and another potential ally for Tasso: "I gladly send you, Signor Alessandro, this little dialogue in which is discussed the game--an operation the more artfully done, the less it submits to the whim of fortune--so that with your prudence you may advise me in such a way that I may submit no action of this life, which is almost a game, to fortune." (128) For the imprisoned Tasso the game of life was largely synonymous with the maddening game of courtly life, one in which fortune currently had the best of him and one for which he, like Margherita in primiera, needed to muster every bit of ingegno and guile. Tasso, the victimized court poet, makes common cause with Margherita, the victimized court woman.

Between the Romeo and the Gonzaga secondo, Tasso goes far in resolving a problem that existed in both the ludic and the real world. By questioning and correcting the gendered conventions of play, his two treatises suggest that game culture might have provided a fertile ground for challenging the gender conventions of society in the early modern era. As Tasso's contemporaneous Discorso della virtu feminile e donnesca suggests, this debate within game culture should be seen in the larger context of the late medieval and early modern querelle des femmes, in which both men and women writers debated the capacities of women for virtue, learning, and autonomy. (129) What is interesting here, however, is that Tasso's solution in the Gonzaga secondo locates the debate not in the realm of intellectual and political elites, such as learned women humanists and queens, but among a somewhat wider range of women. Even his Discorso remains moored to a traditional view that ordinary women are suited only for a private, domestic, feminine virtue and that only regal and well-placed women are capable of a heroic womanly virtue equal to that of men. The exemplars he names in this work include such highborn and well-known figures as the dedicatee, Duchess Leonora of Mantua, as well as Queen Elizabeth, Catherine de' Medici, Renata of Ferrara, Isabella d'Este, Lucrezia Borgia, and Vittoria Colonna. (130) Similarly, in the Gerusalemme liberata Tasso's prominent women all fit into some archetypal category of the females that frequent the epic tradition: Sofronia the Christian martyr, Clorinda the Amazon warrior maiden, Armida the underworld seductress, and Erminia the smitten lover. (131) By contrast, the women of ingegno whom Margherita Bentivoglio names in the Gonzaga secondo belong fully to none of these categories. Claudia Rangone, Barbara Sanseverino, Fulvia da Correggio, and Felice della Rovere are neither royalty nor epic heroines--although they are certainly aristocratic--but women who in some cases had certainly shown their capacity for autonomy and even defiance in a male world. (132) More forbidding than an armed knight, these women were identified by Tasso as individuals who could compete. So, too, Tasso apparently decided, was Margherita Bentivoglio, who should be taught how truly to win at primiera. Was the Margherita of the Romeo anonymous because of this unwomanly challenge to tradition? Was, in fact, the chess book of strategy written for Leonora left unpublished, or perhaps even suppressed, for a similar reason? Certainly by the point at which he wrote the Gonzaga secondo, Tasso had decided that it was time to identify women as true players, whose agency might even rescue him.



The dedication is in a different style (and possibly in a different hand) from the treatise, and an initial name at the end is crossed out, with "Annibale Romei" appearing beneath it (as it also appears lightly written at the top of the dedicatory address). The crossed-out name is indeed suspicious: it is not in Annibale's hand (based on comparision with other signatures in BCA, ms., CL.1., 482), nor follows his usual spellings elsewhere in the codex (either "Anibal" or "Annibal," though the first three letters of the canceled name also appear to be "Ann"). Solerti, 1891, cxxvi-vii, accepts this work as Romei's; Prandi, 1990, 12-13, (unconvincingly) does not. Because of the sketchy details of Romei's career, internal evidence in the dedication and treatise--such as the author's claim that the Duke of Urbino is his patron--neither confirms nor disproves Romei's authorship. Given, however, the 1576 letter indicating Leonora's interest in watching Romei play chess, the comment in the Gonzaga secondo that Romei could teach Margherita Bentivoglio to play, and the treatise's emphasis on Pythagoras (alluded to in Tasso's Romeo), Romei is indeed a logical candidate to have written such a chess book. Finally, similarities between the closing of the dedication of this treatise and that of the dedication of Romei's Discorsi (to Leonora's sister Lucrezia) of 1585 strongly suggest the same author. While some of this language was very common--such as the "bacio le mani," a frequent closing--compare the similar coupling of this latter endearment with the phrase "con ogni riverenza" in the last lines of the two dedications: in the chess treatise the author ends with "con ogni dovuta riverenza le bacio le mani supplicandola della sua grazia" (BCA, ms., CL. I, 482 ["All' Illustrissima," f. 3 (v)]); in his Discorsi (Solerti, 1891, 3), Romei ends with "con ogni riverenza umilmente baciando le onerate mani, vengo a supplicar dal Cielo felicissima vita". Also, in terms of other language patterns, compare in both dedications the use of versions of the phrase "far conoscere al mondo" (BCA, ms., CL. I, 482 ["All' Illustrissima," f. 1]; Solerti, 1891, 3). As for the dating of the treatise, Grana's 1576 letter would suggest that year to be the likely period of the work's composition.


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* A version of this paper was presented at the 2006 annual conference of The Renaissance Society of America in San Francisco, and I am grateful for the ensuing comments, especially those of Caroline Murphy. I am also indebted to Renaissance Quarterly's anonymous readers for their many helpful suggestions. All translations are my own, unless otherwise noted. The Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea in Ferrara will be abbreviated BCA.

(1) Garzoni, 903: "The game, which by Torquato Tasso in his Gonzaga is defined as being a contest of fortune and skill among two or more." Another reason Garzoni may have cited Tasso here could be that Tasso's patron, Alfonso II d'Este, was the dedicatee of the Piazza. In the annotations to the Piazza (ibid., 910) that he added in his second edition, Garzoni also includes a depiction of the card tricks of Alfonso's engineer, Abramo Colorni.

(2) Vida offers a mythological origin of chess; Aretino simulates a self-defense offered by playing cards to their creator (whom they also console and praise for his vocation). Though this dialogue is obviously quite burlesque in places, Aretino at times rather persuasively asserts the intellectual and moral dimensions of card-playing and defiantly proclaims the authenticity of popular against high culture.

(3) On the theory of play, see Huizinga; Caillois; Turner; Sutton-Smith. On leisure, see Veblen; De Grazia. On play and games in the Renaissance, see the wideranging conference proceedings in Les jeux a la Renaissance and in Passare il tempo.

(4) See Davis, 97-151.

(5) Solerti, 1895, 1:323, dates the composition of the work to the second half of 1580.

(6) It is this usually private, sometimes public, middle realm of polite play, "which often takes place in household rooms, although sometimes occurs in public" (T. Tasso, 1996, 46), on which my discussion will focus.

(7) On recreation at the Este court, see Solerti, 1891, lii-lv.

(8) See Scaino, 5, 40--45.

(9) Solerti, 1891, 5: "Queste Principe, veramente in ogni sua azione riguardevole, tempra cosi i negozii con gli ozii, e il tempo con tant'ordine misura e dispensa, che ne da soverchio peso di cose serie snervare, ne da troppo leggierezza di giocose illanguidir si lascia. E pero Sua Altezza a ciascuna stagione ha dato i suoi proprii e particolari trattenimenti, si come al carnasciale le mascare, le giostre, i tornei, le feste, le comedie, le musiche e simili altre piacevolezze." On Romei, see ibid., especially cxxv-cxxxi; Prandi, 1990. As for Romei's Discourses, Gundersheimer examines the first and second editions in light of a tension he sees between a physical, male, aristocratic, and public form of play, and a more intellectual, female, bourgeois, and private type (for example, in parlor-game discussions depicted in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier and Romei's Discorsi). He focuses on the deletion from the second edition of an incident involving a mock attack on women by corsairs, representing the crude first type of play, and the debate on the last day concerning the relative dignity of military and literary lives, representing the two polarities of the male-physical and the female-intellectual. On the Discorsi, see also Crane, 219-39.

(10) See Romei's preface to day 1 (Solerti, 1891, 5-7) and the preface to day 4 (ibid., 129); see also ibid., lii-lv, 33, 78-79, 128, n. 1. As for musical performances, it is worth noting that in 1580 Alfonso inaugurated the concerto delle donne, which included professional female singers: see Newcomb, 1:7-28.

(11) The iconography of the rooms was designed in the early 1570s by Alfonso's court antiquarian Pirro Ligorio, who in this same period designed illustrations for the second edition of Girolamo Mercuriale's De arte gymnastica, libri sex (1573). Cavicchi, 140, suggests that Alfonso likely chose the theme of the games of mankind from youth to adulthood. He also argues that the original scheme of the Sala dell'Aurora envisioned allegories of Felicitas, Fortutudo, Laetitia, and Immortalitas (probably to illustrate the benefits of play), but was changed in the final design. Coffin, 178, 181-82, speculates (on somewhat weak evidence) that in his preliminary design Ligorio seems to have envisioned including putti engaged in types of work common to the months but that this was dropped, and the putti in the frescoes either play or are borne by seahorses. Thus the theme of play, as opposed to the traditional theme of work in medieval calendars, seems to have won out. The rooms were painted principally by Ludovico Settevecchi and Bastianino (Sebastiano Filippi): see Cavicchi; Spezzaferro; Fioravanti Baraldi, 1960-, 704. For precedents for such depictions of games, see Fioravanti Baraldi. 1985, for a discussion of the Giochi di Putti on tapestries at Milan (from a design attributed to Giulio Romano).

(12) Solerti, 1891, cxxvi-vii (letter from a Mons. Grana to Cardinal Luigi d'Este); see also Prandi, 1990, 16. For another testimony (from 1580) of her chess-playing, see Campori and Solerti, 117.

(13) BCA, ms., Classe I, 482. The work is found at the end of a codex that includes other works by Romei. The dedication to Leonora d'Este is unpaginated, as is the treatise itself. I will assign separate folio numbers to each work based on the incipits of the dedication ("All'Illustrissima") and the treatise itself ("Havendo a trattare del gioco delli scacchi"). For more on the work, see the Appendix below, p. 787.

(14) In the dedication the author apologizes that these "poche fatiche" will have to suffice until "saro libero da miei studi far vedere V. E. d'opera maggiore et di perfecto compimento intorno a questo gioco": BCA, ms., CI. I, 482 ("All"Illustrissima, "f. 3 (r-v)). He praises "questa sottissima inventione d'giuoco che quanto sia honesto piacere et non disconvegna a V. E. ne possono far fede d'altre molte signore che di questo si dilettano. et fra d'altre la Signora B. Geronima Colonna la cui virtudi sono tanto note e sparse per il mondo <e> le Contessa di S. Agnolo Spirito": ibid., f. l (v). The author goes on to hail chess's currency in Spain and Italy--citing, in the latter case, Vida's treatise and a work by Baldassare Rangone that claims chess to be the fitting activity for the "perfect courtier" and, in the former case, the 1561 treatise on chess by Ruy Lopez de Segura: ibid., f. 1 (v) -2. He also cites his patron, the Duke of Urbino as a chess player: ibid., f. 3.

(15) When discussing the possibility of teaching Margherita to win at a game (which, in the Gonzaga secondo, is primiera) Giulio Cesare Gonzaga comments that "one can easily teach Signora Margherita how to win, just as Signor Annibale Romeo could teach her to win at chess": T. Tasso, 1959, 250.

(16) BCA, ms., CL. I, 482, "Havendo a trattare del gioco delli scacchi," f. 1 (v). The author's brief history of the alternate origins of the game at the start of the treatise is revealing in light of his dedication of this work to a woman. He surveys various theories of the game's origin: for example, that Palamedes, wanting his soldiers to be "trained with this pleasing representation of battle" (ibid., f. 1), invented it during the siege of Troy; that two brothers created it to pass the time during a period of hunger; and that a Chaldean philosopher named Xerxes invented it as a lesson in proper political rule to instruct tyrants: ibid., f. 1 (r-v); Vergil, 278-79 [De inventoribus rerum 2.13.11]). The author himself, however, favors a purely intellectual origin, claiming Pythagoras invented the game to teach "le scienzie, come di Geometria, musica, et Arithmetica a i Romani, et ad altri," and observing that he did so "nell'antichissima citta di Cortone patria mia" (BCA, ms., CL. I, 482, f. 1 (v) ), either transposing letters to create "Cortone" out of "Crotone," or possibly conflating Pythagoras's Italian base, which was Crotone in southern Italy, with Cortona in Tuscany. Romei suggests (ibid., f. 1 (v)-2) that his ultimate goal is to provide the rudiments of the game for "alcuno spirito nobile," who can learn from it the named sciences. For the author, then, the game has both an intellectual origin and benefit--one that could apply not only to men, as its military and political origins would suggest, but to women as well.

(17) T. Tasso, 1996, 53: "Ma pure, perch'io sono srato su l'uscio delle scuole di Pitagora, se ben a dentro non son penetrato, direi che dalla ragion de' numeri, con la quale egli era solito di filosofare, si potrebbon forse trarre molte secrete cagioni de gli effetti mirabili giuoco: voglio nondimeno che mi giovi di lasciare tutta questa parte alla speculazione del signor conte Annibale, la qual fu da lui in quel ragionamento che ebbe con le tre principesse piu tosto accennata che dichiarata."

(18) Although Renaissance dialogues should generally be seen as fictional, or at least highly embellished, exchanges, an additional comment in the Romeo (ibid., 46) suggests that Tasso is truly attempting to credit Romei as a source. Toward the beginning of the dialogue Pocaterra remarks that any wisdom he has about games comes from others, such as the ladies of the Este court, Margherita Gonzaga and Alfonso's sisters Lucrezia and Leonora, and in particular from his discussion of games with Romei, concerning whom he claims that "anything that I might say now that might appear worthy to you, ought to be credited to him."

(19) Given the possibility that Tasso actually did hear Romei discuss games, it is of course conceivable that Romei himself laid out the terms of this larger discussion of games.

(20) T. Tasso. 1996, 44-45; T. Tasso, 1959, 222-24, 232-33. This discussion of the origin of chess, which appears in both treatises, demonstrates Tasso's skepticism of theories that date chess's invention to the era of the Trojan War. He has Margherita (based on her reading of Homer in translation) challenge anachronisms that would place Palamedes and the Amazons at Troy in the same period, and that would suggest that rooks--as symbols of elephants, which were not used during the war--were introduced into the game in that period. From the vantage point of gender, it is worth noting that the discussion of the Amazons (T. Tasso, 1996, 44) occurs when Margherita asks why the queen has so much power in the game and the king so little; see also Yalom, who ties this development to the reign of Queen Isabella of Spain.

(21) T. Tasso, 1959, 235-36.

(22) T. Tasso, 1996, 47; T. Tasso, 1959, 243.

(23) Cf. T. Tasso, 1996, 47; T. Tasso, 1959, 237-43.

(24) Petrarca in the De remediis utriusque fortune not only counsels stoic remove from the spes and gaudium of good fortune and the metus and dolor of bad (see also McClure, 1991, 46-72), but also (ibid., [De rem. 1, chaps. 25-27, 29]) reveals a general skepticism concerning games--such as ball-playing, dice and board games, gambling, and wrestling--that lead to any loss of control and that emphasize too much the physical over the intellectual. He even rejects play as an antidote for work, suggesting that classical exemplars--such as Quintus Mucius Scaevola and Augustus--who played dice and board games to relax should not be emulated. The only game he seems to approve is a cerebral one, his own moral adaptation of a logic game drawn from Gellius, 3:341-42 (Attic Nights 18.13), in which intellectuals gamble to fund their dinner by posing competing bon mots: see Petrarca, 1:78-83, 85-90, 2:141-42; Huizinga, 196.

(25) In the Gonzaga secondo, T. Tasso, 1959, 225, 242, ties this issue to a related question of whether a player should allow himself to be deceived by a woman.

(26) T. Tasso, 1996, 47-48: "Chi con esso voi giocasse, graziosa signora, potrebbe ragionevolmente por la vittoria nel perdere e a bell'arte lasciarsi vincere, come fanno alcuni cortesi, i quali, giuocando con le dame, si lasciano vincere a bello studio. ... Ma si come e creanza e cortesia il lasciarsi vincere dalle donne, cosi sciocchezza sarebbe quella di colui che da gli uomini volontariamente vincer si lasciasse, perche ciascuno dee procurare d'esser altrui superiore ne le cose oneste e lodevoli; ma onestissima e lodevolissima e la vittoria."

(27) Ibid., 48: "da voi e chiamata creanza e cortesia, da me e stimata inganno et artificio: perche, come poco anzi diceste, non [si] lascian vincere se non per vincere."

(28) Ibid.: "Non nego ch'alcuni non ce ne siano che per disegno si lascin vincere o d'amore o d'altro che si sia; ma molti ancora il fanno semplicemente per creanza."

(29) Ibid.: "Ma forse questo nome di fortuna e un nome vano, a cui niuna cosa corrisponde; onde, se noi cediamo di fortuna, questo avviene perche cediamo di forze, tutto che d'ingegno siamo eguali: e la violenza de gli uomini e fabricatrice di questa fortuna, che, se pur alcuna cosa e (ch'io ne dubito), altro non e ch'effetto della lor tirannide."

(30) Ibid.: "Io crederei piu tosto che la bellezza della donna fosse fabricatrice della fortuna de gli uomini, perche, s'in alcuna cosa ha forza la fortuna, I'ha ella nel giuoco e nell'amore."

(31) Ibid.: "Ma nel regno d'Amore signoreggia la fortuna feminile: percioche la donna, in quanto amata, e sempre superiore all'amante, se bene, in quanto moglie, e inferiore al marito."

(32) Ibid., 49: "In tutti gli altri uffici della vita nascono all'uomo inferiori: solo amor e forse quel ch'agguagliando le lor disagguaglianze, rende le donne eguali a gli uomini." The conversation then turns to an abstract discussion of fortune's sway in human affairs, arts, and games.

(33) Even at the end of the dialogue (ibid., 54), Pocaterra compares the hopes and fears that players have awaiting the outcome of a game to those experienced by lovers, arguing that "successful players may resemble successful lovers who, cheerfully serving their ladies, are nonetheless not able to ask themselves whether they are happy until they possess their desired end."

(34) On Margherita's death, see C. Ossola and S. Prandi in T. Tasso, 1996, 34.

(35) T. Tasso, 1959, 245: "si ch'a me pare che piu tosto di fortuna che d'ingegno voi debbiate cedere a gli uomini, poiche da la vostra <fortuna?> non v'e conceduto molte fiate dimostrar il vostro ingegno."

(36) Ibid., 225: "una sola ne avete lasciata a dietro, come debba giuocare chi desidera di vincere."

(37) Ibid., 252: "ben vorrei, se in alcun modo possibile fosse, ch'insegnassimo a la signora Margherita di vincere, com'ella desidera." More precisely, Gonzaga proposes that "if we are not able to teach Signora Margherita to win assuredly, let us at least try to teach her how she can aspire to victory by making some pacts."

(38) For example, ibid., 254-55, relates a specific scenario from primera that Tasso constructs in which Margherita "might have 39 of clubs without any hope of a new point, and Signor Giulio Cesare holding 35 of diamonds and cups and can win with two cards, and I, bidding primiera, can win with only one card." On primiera, see Dossena, 2:948-50; Ore, 113-18, 172-76, 206-14.

(39) T. Tasso, 1959, 255. When Gonzaga questions, "ought then the player not consider in any way the quality of the person in the distributions?" and Pocaterra says no, Gonzaga presses the point: "And the same distribution ought to be made to a woman with whom he plays as would be made to a merchant, if he played with a merchant?" To which Pocaterra answers, "The same." For the notion of preferential treatment, see S. Bargagli, 70-71, on favoring "lovers in geometric proportions."

(40) Ibid., 255: "Poco cortese dunque sara, o signor Annibale, questo vostro giuocatore, e poco meritevole di giuocare con le donne gentili."

(41) Ibid., 219. Pocaterra comments, "however, if I should hold forth on something in which I have never made profession, and discuss it in the presence of Signora Margherita, I would resemble that philosopher or sophist (whichever it was), who reasoned on the art of war so ardently in the presence of Hannibal." See also E. Mazzali's comment at ibid., n. 3.

(42) Ibid., 220: "la professione" "I essercizio." Pocaterra continues: "If you think that I would be in the art of the game what he was in that war, you would seem to make me into a trickster in a certain way, because if he was a master of military frauds, then I must equally be master of the deceits of the game."

(43) Ibid, 246: Margherita somewhat chidingly says, "Conveniently enough, Signor Annibal finds the occasion to mix discussions of love in this proposition." Thus, the one vestige of amatory culture in this dialogue (in comparison with the Romeo) is introduced only to be mocked.

(44) Ibid., 244-45.

(45) Rombaldi, 146; see ibid., 146-50, for Giberto's comment ("cervello indomito") and for a very helpful account of Claudia's marriage and separation, including some of her unedited letters. See also Tiraboschi, 4:260-77, on her life (including some of her letters).

(46) Rombaldi, 146: "Con molta ragione giudica V. S. il mio stato degno di compassione e d'aiuto, perchc veramente io non so in qual altra parte del mondo o del Purgatorio io non volesse esser piu tosto che a Correggio, sottoposta ogni hora a mille affronti et a mille pericoli et a infinito biasmo, senza alcuna speranza ne d'honore, ne di utile, ne di quiete." And she adds: "in fact, this is a life too miserable for me, nor do I know whether I have the strength to endure it much longer, so much so that, as Your Ladyship says, I fear the bad and am frightened of the worse."

(47) See Tiraboschi, 4:263-66.

(48) Rombaldi, 148-50: "Bene mi fa V. S. non poco torto continuando nella sua antica opinione di reputarmi tanto superba ch'io non sapessi accomodarmi a vivere in un castello come Spilimberto non solo in questa eta ma quando ancho ero nel fiore della mia gioventu, sempre che fosse stato con le satisfationi solite di marito e figli che tengono l'altre donne volentieri in simil loco, anzi, in un bosco bisognando; ma chi e privo di questo, come posso dir io d'esserne stata sempre, non e dubbio che in me non fa da esser reputato a vitio o superbia il viver piu volentieri in loco comodo di tutte le cose che in un loco solitario quando, come ho detto, la necessita non mi astringe. ... Non ho altro a questo mondo che una vigna sola, la quale, considerato un anno per l'altro mi stanno 4 denari a 15 per cento; ma perche e di maggior occupatione di quello ch'io pensavo, voglio quest'altro anno procurar d'unscirne per viver questi pochi anni che mi avanzano con meno."

(49) See T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:115-16; Tiraboschi, 4:277-79. Tasso wrote Claudia a letter in 1563, asking her help in locating a suitcase (Solerti, 1895, 2:95), and in another place spoke of his conversations with her when passing through Correggio (ibid, 1:81-82). Tasso had praised Claudia Rangone (along with her brother Fulvio Rangone and various other notables) earlier in 1562: see T. Tasso, 1990, 205 (Rinaldo, 8:13); see also Solerti, 1895, 1:60. On the praise of Claudia by writers other than Tasso (such as Francesco Sansovino), see Tiraboschi, 4:261-62.

(50) Ceretti, 200: "ho ordinato nuovamente al cavalier Urbani presente che dia conto a V. Eccellenza delle giuste cagioni che mi hanno sforzata di non voler piu il Signor Luigi mio cognato per compagno in questo governo"; ibid., 201: "la detta contessa non ha fatto se non per impedire, ch'io non possa rivedere ne venire nella casa dove son nato, er quello che maggiormente m'aggrava e, che Madama di Randan et la Signora Livia mie sorelle poco ha mancato che non siano state ritenute come prigioniere, le quali per fuggir il pericolo, si sono ridotte qui." When Fulvia suspected one of Luigi's sisters of trying to incite a revolt, she barred her from her own castle: ibid., 172. The letters of 20 and 21 August 1573 are edited in ibid., whose biography of Fulvia I rely upon here; see also Ghidini.

(51) On these tributes to Fulvia, see Ceretti, 189-94, who cites at length from Personali's Quaestiones non minus utiles quam universis forum praticantibus necessariae.

(52) For this discussion of Barbara Sanseverino I am indebted to Solerti, 1891, cxi-cxxv, which includes lengthy excerpts from Canigiani's letters; on Tasso and Barbara, see Solerti, 1895, 1:180, 221, 256-57.

(53) Solerti, 1891, cxx: "perche non ci resta persona utriusque sexus che possa resistere all lena della signora Contessa di Sala e del Duca in banchettare due volte il di e vegliare sempre sino a dieci ore, cianciando, giuocando, bevendo e ballando continuamente." Cf. Newcomb, 1:8-9.

(54) Canigiani suggests (Solerti, 1891, cxx) that the trip to Comacchio was largely driven by the duke's desire to amuse Barbara. He writes on 25 February: "And tomorrow or the next day he will go to Comacchio with sixteen or eighteen women to provide entertainment ... to the Contessa di Sala, whom the duke has undertaken the most extraordinary expenses in serving, entertaining, wining, and dining." See also ibid., cxxv.

(55) Ibid., cxxi: "Ma la padrona infatti, e quella che e cagione delle spese e dei disagi di tutti, si vede che e la Contessa di Sala: a posta della quale si va, si sta, si leva, si mangia, si giuoca, e sic de singulis. Sento che vi si fa un calcio di otto dame e sedici uomini per banda e hanno mandato qui per i palloni." This game, presumably a version of calcio storico fiorentino, was a game combining features of both modern soccer and rugby: for a description, see Scaino, 197-200.

(56) Solerti, 1891, cxxii-cxxiv: "cavalieri venturieri."

(57) Ibid., cxxii: Canigiani appends a list of the characters of this play to his 11 March letter describing the activities at Comacchio (cited above, n. 55), identifying Tasso as "creator and performer of the prologue" and listing (aside from Barbara as "giovane da marito") other players, including, for instance, Duke Alfonso as "innkeeper's helper," the Count and Countess of Scardiano, and Cornelio Bentivoglio (father of Marghertia Bentivolgio, Tasso's interlocutor in the Gonzaga secondo).

(58) Ibid., 8-9. It is a measure of others' perception of Barbara that Romei attributes to her the use of a (rather male) military analogy: namely, her argument that the group needs a leader just as "soldiers would be ill capable of guarding their encampments without a leader." She was, after all, identified as one of the knights in the festivities at Comacchio in 1577.

(59) On Lucrezia's disastrous marriage to Francesco Maria della Rovere, who was less than half her age, and their separation in 1578, see Campori and Solerti, 38-59; see also Solerti, 1891, cxix, n. 2.

(60) Solerti, 1891, cxxii: "ma sento ch'e non sara cosi dolce da lasciarsi ritardare com'e stata la signora Contessa, che ebbe licenza per quattro giorni di venire al parto della figliastra Contessa di Scandiano, ed essendo un poco prima del suo arrivo seguito il parto, e spirata, come dire, la sua faccenda, si e tardata piu di due mesi intrepida ed indefessamente e veglia e festeggia e trattiene piu bella e piu fresca che mai." See Gordon, 8, n. 22, for Barbara's general reputation as a femme fatale: she is said to be one of the "ungrateful women" (alluded to in the passage "O Barbara fierezza") who refuse their lovers in Monteverdi and Ottavio Rinuccini's Il ballo delle ingrate, composed for the wedding of Francesco Gonzaga and Margherita da Savoy in Mantua in 1608.

(61) Odorici, 25, n. 2 (unpublished contemporary account of Vittorio Siri, "Della congiura dei cavalieri di Parma contro il loro Principe, di lui famiglia e Stato"): "La quale con varie artefici di conversazione famigliari, di banchetti, di veglie di discorsi, di giuochi, procurava di tenere nel suo palazzo Parenti et Amici, constituendosi quasi principale ministra." See ibid., 26, for the detail of Barbara signing the pact; ibid., 71, rejects the view that Ranuccio fabricated the conspiracy to warrant crushing t he local aristocracy and absorbing their lands. On the conspiracy, see ibid.; Bazzi and Benassi, 199-210.

(62) Odorici, 118: "la Contessa Barbera Sanseverina sua [Gianfrancesco's] Ava, Persona d'animo altiero et ambitioso et a simili Machinamenti procliva." See ibid., 116-17, on Gianfrancesco as "primo conspiratore."

(63) Zerbini, 12, comments that "The conspiracy was headed by Barbara Sanseverino Sanvitale, Countess of Sala and Marchioness of Colorno, one of the most beautiful, cultivated, and vivacious ladies of her time, idol of all the courts, inspiration of illustrious poets, among whom was Torquato Tasso, who celebrated her spirit and charm in diverse and passionate sonnets." However, he also goes on to acknowledge (ibid., 13) that some scholars have doubted whether this was a "true and actual conspiracy." Moreover, in 1951, a few years after Zerbini's poem, Ildebrando Pizzetti put to music some of the stanzas dealing with Barbara's execution: ibid., 14. It is also plausibly argued that Barbara was partly the model for the "lively and frank" Gina del Donga in Stendhal's Charterhouse of Parma--a character who first became the Countess Pietanera at a young age and later, after her husband's death, became the Duchess Sanseverina by virtue of an unscrupulous second marriage to a much older man arranged by her adulterous lover: Stendhal, 9; Antoine Adam's introduction in ibid., xxxi-xxxiii.

(64) And, in fact, we might ask how much Barbara's assertive ludic persona at the 1577 Carnival may have provided a template for her role as "quasi principale ministra" of the plot, given that she is accused of having orchestrated conspiratorial discussions in the setting of soirees and games (Odorici, 25), and that, having been once deputed a "knight" in a proposed Carnival tournament in 1577, she is said to have lamented in one fiery outburst to the other conspirators that she was unable herself (being a woman) to take up arms against Ranuccio. On this last point, see ibid., who presumably draws it from Siri's account.

(65) As Murphy demonstrates, the first Felice would have perfectly fit the profile of an independent woman, as she resisted one or more of her father's marriage matches for her, bought an estate in her own name from which she developed a lucrative grain trade, served as an influential mediator at the papal court, and oversaw the Orsini estate for almost twenty years, after the death of her husband. On Guidobaldo II, see ibid., 313-14. I thank Caroline Murphy for suggesting that I pursue this other Felice.

(66) Solerti, 1895, 1:30-31.

(67) Ibid., 257-58, 289-91.

(68) See Troncarelli, 86-89.

(69) T. Tasso, 1958, 485, n. 2. In his critical edition of the Gonzaga secondo, Ezio Raimondi includes in his technical apparatus the variant reading that lists Ermelina Canigiana and includes Margherita's comment, "Ie quali cinque signore ho io conosciute d'ingegno cosi pronto e vivace che maggior timore avrei avuto di contendere parlando con alcuna di loro che di trovarmi incontra un cavaliero con la lancia in resta."

(70) See Boccaccio, 15-23.

(71) See Castiglione, 18-24. On parlor games and the Courtier, see Greene.

(72) Distinguishing them from other types of games--for example, ancient gladiatorial and funeral games, modern jousts, soccer, masquerads, and even board games--Ringhieri, 157 (v), lays claim to originality in his project by suggesting that he has no real model for creating such "liberal" games, "worthy of whatever rare and elevated intellect." Following the 1551 princeps edition, the Cento giuochi was reprinted in Venice in 1553 and in Bologna in 1580, and it appeared in a French translation in Lyons in 1555. On Ringheiri, see Crane, 285-90; McClure, 2004, 51-60.

(73) Ringhieri, unpaginated dedicatio: "Poi mille dubbi v'aggiunsi, dieci per Giuoco, non per altra ragione, sol perche i pellegrini ingegni potessero a mille belle intelligenze salire; & quindi disputando l'immortalita acquistarsi."

(74) Ibid., 2 (r-v): "donna d'ingegno" and "donna positiva, & di picciolo intelletto." This the intelligent woman might declaim on the topic of whether the knight should want "the praise of the few but wise, the people, or women," and the simple woman might discuss the more pedestrian question of "how many lances would be needed (for breaking) in a joust."

(75) Ibid., 1 (v): "Donne moderne, quasi tutte accortissime, & per Natura, & per havere molto letto, non poco savie, & forse non di troppo inferiori a quelle poche famose, & antiche, che piu furono da gli scrittori commendate."

(76) Ibid., 9 (v): "fanno gran torto al sesso Femminile se tra loro non credono ritrovarsene della molto ingeniose, & intendenti, & atte a sciogliere altre difficultadi che hora per me proporre se le possino." See Leclercle, 194-95, for a different view that discusses the limitations of Ringhieri's feminism. Sorel suggests that Ringhieri's book was in fact viewed as presupposing a highly intellectual potential in women. Sorel, whose collection draws on several Italian writers--Boccaccio, Castiglione, Ringhieri, G. Bargagli, and Stefano Guazzo--refers obliquely to Ringhieri's collection in his "Avertissement aux Lecteurs" when he complains that among the Italians some have relied "too much on scientific or poetic terms to be retained by those who are not learned. That [kind of game] is presented too pedantically to be used among men at court and among women, without whom this amusement would be insipid and conversations badly suited" (Sorel, sig. a7 (v)). Elsewhere (ibid., iv) Sorel expressly mentions Ringhieri, remarking that the "majority of ... the games of Ringhieri are meant only for individuals who are somewhat learned, instead of the games ordinarily played among young people (whether they be of the court or the village), who in short are people of the world and of unrefined conversation and without great exposure to learning."

(77) See G. Bargagli, 48, n. 16, for Patrizia D'Incalci Ermini's comments on the likely dating of the composition of the Dialogo to the summer of 1563. The princeps edition appeared in 1572 in Siena and by 1609 there were seven more printings, one in Mantua and the rest from Venetian presses (see ibid., 233-36). Although women participated in various events sponsored by the Intronati, the records suggest that they were rarely actual members: one woman, Laura Battiferri, is listed in the membership records of 1557, and a second woman appears only much later in the list of 1690 (see Sbaragli, 183, 194, 211). On G. Bargagli and the Intronati, see also Crane, 263-85, 297-308; Maylender, 3:350-62; Iacometti; Cochrane, 3, 31; R. Bruscagli's "Introduzione: nel salotto degli Intronati" in G. Bargagli, 9-39; Seragnoli; McClure, 2004, 52, 60-69.

(78) G. Bargagli, 142: "e pensano che da purita d'animo proceda il non saper favellare tra gli uomini, ponendo all dappocaggine il nome di onesta, quasi niuna donna si trovi onesta se non colei che parla solamente con la fante e con la fornaia. Egli e ben vero, ch'io non percio intendo che le donne diventino scotte, ne gli uomini buffoni, ma desidero che una certa baldanza d'animo vadano mostrando, o maggiore o minore, secondo che piu o meno sieno stati naturalmente al riso prodotti."

(79) Barbarino, 92, draws this list from a work by a Monas d'Egitto (who was possibly the early thirteenth-century Provencal woman Gidas di Mondas). On dating the final version of this treatise to 1314-16, see ibid., 300; Berard, 505.

(80) G. Bargagli, 104.

(81) Ibid., 102: "grande ignorante."

(82) Ibid., 92: "E da questi primi aiuti cominciarono a fare un abito tale, che all'improvviso e in ogni occasione discorsi, motti e ragionamenti miracolosi si sentivano uscir da loro, donde madonna Aurelia e madonna Giulia Petrucci, madonna Frasia Ventura, le Saracina, la Forteguerra, la Toscana e alcune altre s'acquistarono eterno grido." These last three women were obviously so well known as to be identified by their last name or nickname only: on the significance of female nicknames, see Davis, 71. On Forteguerri, see Robin, 124-59.

(83) See S. Bargagli, lxxx, for the likely dating of the work to 1564-65, with revisions until its publication in 1587.

(84) Ibid., 262: "oneste brigate" and "grave fossero e insieme festevoli scuole, dove per mirabil maniera si sentano e s'apparin cose che rechino in un medesimo tempo a' sensi e allo ntelletto inespicabil piacere e contento."

(85) Ibid., 263-64: "Con cio sia cosa ch'alle donne, non so per qual cagione, venga del tutto vietato, od in gran parte almeno impedito, lo 'ncaminarsi per tante e cosi diverse onorate strade, per le quali, nella stessa maniera che gli uomini fanno, elle potrebbono a gran passi mostrare di che argutezza lo ingegno e di qual valore e francezza sia l'animo che reisiede ne' petti loro."

(86) Ibid., 265-66, where Scipione argues that, in contrast with men, who have various recreational outlets, young women are unfairly constrained by gender and family: "either because of their sex or, rather, perhaps because of the harsh control gravely exercised over them by their relatives and husbands, very rarely, not to say ever, is leave given [to young women] to enjoy themselves--instead of standing by to watch others--even in some of these honorably conducted amusements and pleasures [enjoyed by men]. Through the setting, then, only of the above-mentioned discussions ... pursued in magnificent cities and in delightful villas by respectable gatherings is there given to virtuous ladies the worthy opportunity of making known to others the beauty of their remarkable intellect and to reveal that of their most delicate bodies as more lovely and graceful."

(87) For example, see Ugurgieri Azzolini, 2:397, for comments on Girolama Petrucci (also briefly cited in the Dialogo [G. Bargagli, 158-59]): "she was of rare spirit and singular beauty, and she also had her glory in virtuous gatherings, being full of ingenious proposals and charming responses, which, accompanied by a most beautiful grace, rendered her marvelous to everyone." See also Ugurgieri Azzolini, 2:398-99, 401, 430-31. He also praises "nostre moderne Gentil Donne" of the time of his writing (1648), including among their qualities not only their literary abilities, their facility with idioms, and their moral virtues, but also their being "vivacissime ne' nostri giuochi spiritosi" (ibid., 431). Clearly spirited game-playing had become a hallmark of personal accomplishment and reputation.

(88) Tasso spent time with Speroni while a student at padua; later, when Tasso again came in contact with Speroni in Rome in 1575, he read him his Gerusalemme liberata. Speroni offered his criticism and advice and became one of Tasso's many consultants for his revision of the work: Solerti, 1895, 1:53, 55-56, 166, n. 2, 205-06, n. 3, 216, 227-28.

(89) Speroni, 1:257-65. Speroni also wrote several other short pieces on games: see ibid., 3:474 ("Avvertimenti a messer Ascanio Bolognetti"), in which he discusses various types of games, warns against gambling, and cautions that his friend should not defeat superiors in age or rank out of courtesy, but "take care that it is known that you yield to them through courtesy, not through unworthiness or impotence." Thus he illustrates how the etiquette of winning and losing extends to men of unequal standing. In the brief "Del gioco" in his Trattatelli di vario argumento (ibid., 5:44 1-42), Speroni praises ball games and chess, but is quite censorious of cardplaying, which he calls a "diabolical invention." In an unfinished work, "Delia fortuna: sogno" (ibid., 3:351-55), cards are depicted more favorably, as Fortuna, an angel of God, explains that cardplaying is perhaps the only legitimate vehicle for gaining or losing the goods of fortune. Whatever his position on cards, Speroni is praised as a model cardplayer by Aretino, 242, who with the customary dash of burlesque asserts that "he who wishes to hear and see Plato in the colloquy, observe and listen to Speroni at play."

(90) On the intersection of courtship and chess playing, see Yalom, 123-47; on the relationship between board games and women rulers, such as Leonora of France or Mary of Hungary (who were themselves sometimes depicted on game pieces), see Wilson-Chevalier.

(91) After being freed from Sant'Anna in late 1586, Tasso came into contact with Mori upon arriving in Mantua: T. Tasso, 1978, 255, n. 3. Mori gave Tasso a copy of his Giuoco piacevole ca. 1586 (which Tasso acknowledges in ibid., 1852-55, 3:20), and Tasso wrote consolatory sonnets for Mori on the death of his son in 1586 (Solerti, 1895, 1:502-04; T. Tasso, 1852-55, 3:27-28) and addressed numerous letters to him in the course of that same year: see, aside from those cited above, T. Tasso, 1852-55, 3:32-34, 36-39, 41, 57, 60, 75-76, 79-80.

(92) Mori, 71: "Conosco ben'io--soggiunse la signora Beatrice--il valore della signora Isabella e di tutte queste signore."

(93) Ibid., 139.

(94) Ibid., 140: "ne voglio trionfare senza vittoria."

(95) There is, of course, the possibility that Mori's treatise, dated to 1575 in its dedication, was influential on Tasso's Romeo of 1581, and on the Gonzaga secondo of 1582 or its revision in 1587: see Solerti, 1895, 1:521-22.

(96) In turn, softening the portrait of Margherita may have been calculated to cultivate further her help and that of her father, Cornelio, to whom Tasso later appealed for help in early 1585: see Solerti, 1895, 1:393; T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:306-07.

(97) On Tasso's service at the Este court--first under Cardinal Luigi d'Este and then under Alfonso II--his fragile mental condition, his doubts about his religious orthodoxy, his knife attack on a servant of the duchess, and, finally, his rages at his patrons in March 1579 that led to his subsequent confinement in the hospital of Sant'Anna until 1586, see Solerti, 1895, 1:103-495; Brand, 11-26. As for Tasso's own perception of his mental condition, his comments in a letter to Maurizio Cataneo in 1581, the same year in which the Romeo was published, are dramatically illustrative: he complains of "human and diabolical" disturbances, including the "cries of man and particularly women and children, laughter full of scorn, and various voices of animals that are stirred up by men for my distress and the noise of inanimate things that are prompted by the hands of men" (T. Tasso, 1959, 888). He then discusses (ibid., 889) how some of his writings are produced in a troubled state: "Not only letters written by me, but other compositions as well have been written with the same mental disturbance." However, see Manso, 112-21, on Tasso's comment in another letter that he feigned madness as a ploy to return to Alfonso's good graces: on dissimulation in Tasso, see Cavallo, 225-28.

(98) Giulio Cesare and his brother, the future Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga and one of Tasso's consultants on the revision of the Gerusalemme liberata (see T. Tasso, 1959, 763, n. 1), were two of the children of Carlo, the Marchese of Gazzuolo, and Emilia Cauzzi. When their father died in 1555, they and their brothers were entrusted to the care of, among others, Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga and his nephew Duke Guglielmo of the Mantuan court. Giulio Cesare took control of the Mantuan territory of Pomponesco in 1578, and Scipione was elevated to cardinal in 1587: see Tamalio, 787; Benzoni, 843, 852.

(99) Doglio, 505, 513, dates the composition of this work between September and November 1580, around the same period in which Tasso wrote the patriarchal Il padre di famiglia, which he sent to Scipione Gonzaga in late September. He argues in this work that men and women have distinctly different virtues--men cultivating prudenza, fortezza, and liberalita; women modestia and pudicizia--that women are meant to obey men, and that women are subordinate to men in the same way that cupidity is to intellect: T. Tasso, 1998, 409. It is unclear whether Tasso composed the more feminist Discorso before or after Il padre, though I would guess it was after, since its dual argument is more compatible with Il padre than the latter's strictly patriarchal argument, if appearing later, would be with the Discorso. If, as is likely, it was written between the Romeo (dated by Solerti, 1895, 1:322-23, to the summer or fall of 1580) and the more feminist Gonzaga secondo (written in 1581 prior to Margherita's death on 18 September), it may have laid the groundwork for the changed assumptions in the latter; see also T. Tasso, 1996, 34. It is worth noting that Giulio Cesare and Scipione themselves witnessed the vulnerability of widows in the case of their own mother, Emilia Cauzzi, who after the death of her husband lost control of Commessaggio, owing to the aggression of her late husband's cousin Vespasiano Gonzaga, a conflict Scipione describes in his Commmtarii: see Gonzaga, 107, 109-11, 115; Benzoni, 844.

(100) T. Tasso, 1997, 54-67. See Thucydides, 1:341 (2.45) for an account of Pericles' funeral oration, in which Pericles states that the greatest virtue of a woman is that she not be spoken of pubicly (positively or negatively); see Plutarch, 3:475-581 (Moralia 242e-63c), for an explicit refutation of this position in his Bravery of Women. See Plato, 690-705, 772 (Republic 5. 451d-66d and 7.540c) for the view that women can have the same qualities and virtues as men; see Aristotle, 1984, 52-54 (Politics 1.13 [1259b-60a]); Pseudo-Aristotle. 1935, 333 (Economics 1.3 [1344a]), for differing views. On Tasso's Discorso, see Doglio; Kelso, 276-78. As for arguments for the equality of women, in the fifth day of discussions in his Discorsi, Romei examines women in terms of the day's topic "On Nobility." Here, against the Greek scholar Antonio Barisano, who asserts the inferiority of women (drawing upon Aristotle), he has Ercole Varano come to their defense (drawing upon Plato and Plutarch): Solerti, 1891, 224-33.

(101) T. Tasso, 1997, 67: "alla virtu donnesca ritornando, dico ch'ella nelle donne eroiche e virtu eroica che con la virtu eroica dell'uomo contende, e delle donne dotate di questa virtu non piu la pudicizia che la fortezza o che la prudenza e propria. Ne alcuna distinzione d'opere e d'uffici fra loro e gli uomini eroici si ritrova."

(102) T. Tasso, 1996, 49.

(103) After Margherita presents her list of women of ingegno, Gonzaga praises the ladies at court and singles out Lucrezia, known not only for her beauty but also for her "accortezza," "gravita," and "modestia": T. Tasso, 1959, 245.

(104) In his letter Grillo remarks, "Concerning your liberation I have already glimpsed daybreak in the comments of the Duchess of Urbino. I will hope to see the full light of day in the deeds of the Duchess of Mantua, and of the prince her son": Solerti, 1895, 2:206. See also ibid., 1:392.

(105) T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:310: "Consideri, dunque, se puo di nuovo co'medesimi o con altri mezzi muover l'animo de la serenissima signora duchessa di Mantova piu efficacemente a conceder questa grazia, la quale io vorrei impetrar per tutte le vie; e vorrei che da lei o per lei fosse dimandata a tutti coloro, da'quali puo esser conceduta." Aside from this letter of 18 January 1585, see also Tasso's earlier letters to Grillo of 24 November (presumably his reply to Grillo's letter of the same month) and 24 December 1584, in which he mentions Leonora, and an undated letter to him in which he reveals his desire to enter her service (ibid., 2:303-04, 586): "I hope that by now the more serene Duchess of Mantua has given the response that fulfills my desire, which more than anything is to serve Her Highness." Vincenzo had visited Tasso early in his confinement (either in mid-1579 or in April of 1580), and Tasso had written him a poem lamenting his plight, dedicating his dialogue Il messaggiero (1580) to him and entreating his help in the dedication: see T. Tasso, 1998, 309-10; Pittorru, 238-39, 241, 259-60, 270. On Tasso's last years in confinement, and Grillo's role in helping to free him--including Tasso's request that he also appeal to the emperor and the pope--see Manso, 126-35; Pittorru, 257-308.

(106) T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:311: "I give infinite thanks to your most serene Highness for the courteous letter that you deigned to write on my behalf, and although I have not seen any result of it as yet, I know that it has done more than others have thought." Solerti, 1895, 1:393, commenting on the absence of such a letter (or reply) in any collection, acknowledges the possibility that Tasso was simply told that Leonora had made such an appeal in order to pacify him; on Solerti's suspicion that such a letter--or any others from the Mantuan court--ever existed, see also ibid., 492, n. 2. On the other hand, the nonsurvival of such a letter does not constitute proof of its never having existed, perhaps especially given that the subject was a delicate one that might have implied Alfonso's ongoing mistreatment of Tasso.

(107) See T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:348-49, for his undated letter to her, in which he refers to Alfonso II as "suo genero, e prima suo cognate."

(108) Ibid., 351-52.

(109) Ibid., 358-59: "Da qualunque parte venga l'aspettata novella de la mia liberta, mi sara grata; ma gratissima, se mi sara mandata da la serenissima signora duchessa di Mantova, perche l'avvenimento confermera quel giudicio ch'io feci il primo giorno che fui imprigionato. Prego dunque Vostra Paternita che rinovi gli uffici, accio che scriva un'altra volta al serenissimo signor duca ed a la signora duchesse su moglie."

(110) For this dialogue, see T. Tasso, 1998, 783-804; see also Pittorru, 280, 285. Though I disagree with Pittorru's assertion that cultivating Leonora must have been Grillo's idea, given that Tasso dedicated his Discorso della virtu feminile e donnesca to her years earlier in 1582; that he readily singled her out in response to Grillo's letter of November 1584, mentioning her and her son, along with Lucrezia d'Este, as figures concerned with Tasso's plight; and that Tasso predicted from the first day of his imprisonment that she would be his deliverer.

(111) Solerti, 1895, 1:492-94.

(112) See T. Tasso, 1998, 61, 183, for the dating of the work to 1579 and its revision to 1584-85.

(113) Ibid., 186: "specie d'ingiustizia."

(114) Virgil, 465-69, 477-81 (Aeneid 5:286-361, 485-544).

(115) T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:280: Tasso comments, "In vain, then, your Lordship invites me to censure courts."

(116) Ibid., 278-88; on the link between these letters and the Malpiglio, see Badesi, 115-20.

(117) T. Tasso, 1998, 602.

(118) Ibid., 613. The Tasso figure's closing bit of advice suggests that what is necessary for a gentleman at court is less "excellence in letters as the prudence and shrewdness to know when to manifest it": ibid., 618. For the dating of this work between the summer of 1584 and January 1585, see G. Baffetti's comments at ibid., 597.

(119) T. Tasso, 1998, 735: "or son mutate I'usanze, e gli ascoltatori son mascherati, e smascherati gli istrioni." As for Carnival in Ferrara, in 1526 the humanist protonotary Celio Calcagnino dedicated a defense of Carnival, his Apologus cui titulus personati, to Alfonso I d'Este, a work that Tomaso Garzoni summarizes and generally rebuts in his chapter on masquerades in his Piazza universale (dedicated to Alfonso II d'Este); Garzoni cites the disorder occasioned by Carnival, a disorder that, ironically, he himself partly replicates in his Piazza. See Calcagnino, 616-21; Garzoni, 1033-37; McClure, 2004, 93-96. Tasso expressed conflicting attitudes toward Carnival. The same year he wrote the grumpy Gianluca, he also wrote a letter to Alfonso saying "the masks and other such sights are the alleviation of my [ill] humor": T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:307.

(120) In T. Tasso, 1998, 485 (De la dignita), Gianluca is identified as a "Ferrarese gentleman, worthy of this honor through long and faithful service ... to Duke Alfonso." This insider status perhaps makes his comment on the political motives of Carnival in Ferrara even more incriminating. Moreover, Gianluca was Tasso's keeper during the Carnival of 1585, when the Duchess of Urbino granted him some freedom of movement: Solerti, 1895, 1:394-95. On Tasso's gratitude to Gianluca as the one person who "alone frees me sometimes from prison," see T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:572; Manso, 132.

(121) Gianluca comments (T. Tasso, 1998, 741) that "the duke does not miss any occasion to manifest his granduer and valor; and when real battles are not present, he shows us the image of them." On the use of such festivities to assert political power, see Sutton-Smith, 93-94. Smith, 93-94.

(122) On the mathematics of gambling, see Ore, 120, 143-77, for a discussion and translation of Girolamo Cardano's Liber de ludo aliae.

(123) On earlier, more burlesque, treatments, see Berni, 205-64; Aretino, who often complements the burlesque with touches of the serious. On Berni's treatise, see Ore, 115.

(124) Alternativley, Tasso could have featured Margherita in the dialogue to flatter her father and, thereby, directly enlist his support. For Tasso's appeal to Cornelio Bentivoglio in 1585, see T. Tasso, 1852-55, 2:306; Manso, 97, 113.

(125) Although he does not treat the Gonzaga secondo in his study, Pittorru, 279, does perceptively allude to Tasso's and Grillo's concerted effort to free him in terms of a "team sport" ("gioco di squadra"). Also cf. T. Tasso, 1961, 476 (Gerusalemme liberata 20.73:6-8), concerning "the harsh tragedy of the human condition / the various assaults and cruel horror of death / and the great games of chance and fate"; cf. Gallinaro, 181-82.

(126) T. Tasso, 1959, 225-26: "Ma crediam noi, o signor Annibale, che ne la corte di fortuna e d'ingegno si contenda fra' cortegiani?"

(127) On the extension of the agonal contest to non-ludic realms, see Huizinga, 46-75; Sutton-Smith, 78-79.

(128) T. Tasso, 1959, 217: "Questo picciolo dialogo nel quale si discorre del giuoco, operazione che tanto piu artificiosamente si fa quanto meno a l'arbitrio de la fortuna soggiace, io dono assai volentieri a voi, signor Alessandro, accio che con la vostra prudenza mi consigliate in modo ch'io niuna azione di questa vita, ch'e quasi un giuoco, a la fortuna sottoponga." Tasso's emphasis on the agency of skill and prudence in the face of fortune--both in regard to himself and to Margherita Bentivoglio--can also be tied to the larger movement Prandi finds in Tasso's thought, in which Tasso, partly for religious reasons, increasingly deemphasized a classical deification of, and submission to, fortune in favor of a Christian embrace of providence, and affirmed a greater role for virtue and prudence, as oppposed to fortune, in human affairs. See Prandi, 1997 and 1999.

(129) See King, 176-239; Kelso. In fact, Tasso's treatise provoked a response from a female participant in the querelle. In a second (1601) edition of her La nobilta et eccellenza delle donne, et mancamenti de gli uomini (originally published in 1600), Lucrezia Marinella added sections rebutting various male writers in addition to her initial target, Giuseppe Passi, who wrote a Donneschi difetti in 1599. In a section on Tasso she charges him with restricting nongendered virtue "to queens, princesses, and those whom he calls heroic ladies": Marinella, 139; Benedetti, 456. If Tasso disappointed Marinella in his equivocal postion, this is perhaps partly because she saw the glass as half-empty rather than as half-full, given Tasso's emphasis on, and list of, prominent women in the treatise. That others saw Tasso to have presented a flattering view of women in the treatise is suggested by his cousin Ercole, who wrote a dialogue on marriage Dell'ammogliarsi: Piacevole contesa fra i due moderni Tassi, Hercole, cioe, e Torquato (E. Tasso), in which Torquato defends women and the estate of marriage against Ercole's attack. In a rebuttal of Ercole's treatise, Marinella, 132-36, 139-41, addresses only Ercole's attack on women, not Torquato's defense of them--just as she largely ignores Tasso's more positive comments on heroic women in his Discorso and his Stanze in difesa de le donne, the latter a response to Antonio de' Pazzi's verse attack on them; see also Doglio, 520-21.

(130) See T. Tasso, 1997, 62, 67-69.

(131) See T. Tasso, 1961.

(132) As for Tasso's depiction of women in the Gerusalemme liberata, McLucas, 52, argues that, compared to the portrayals of women in Castiglione and Ariosto, Tasso's major female characters (Clorinda, Erminia, and Arminia) in the end are all submissive, and that it is "futile ... to seek feminist sensibility in so nervously misogynist a poet as Tasso." (For a reaction to this view, see Migiel, 5-7.) McLucas attributes this to the repressive Counter-Reformation climate in which Tasso wrote, and whereas he would see Armida's eventual union with Rinaldo as an example of submission, Cavallo, 186-228, sees this ending, which defiantly legitimizes a Circe-like temptress, as part of Tasso's literary revolt against Counter-Reformation constraints. In any case, Tasso's prose writings need to be more fully integrated with his epics to assess his changing attitude toward female agency.
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Author:McClure, George W.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
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Date:Sep 22, 2008
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