Love & Death in Renaissance Italy

Love & Death in Renaissance Italy

Thomas V. Cohen

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226112589

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Before there was digital cable or reality television, there was Renaissance Italy and the courts in which Italian magistrates meted out justice to the vicious and the villainous, the scabrous and the scandalous. This book retells six episodes from the Italian court just after 1550, as the Renaissance gave way to an era of Catholic reformation. Each of the chapters in this history chronicles a domestic drama around which the lives of ordinary Romans are suddenly and violently altered. You might read the gruesome murder that opens the book—when an Italian noble takes revenge on his wife and her bastard lover as he catches them in delicto flagrante—as straight from the pages of Boccaccio. But this tale, like the other stories the book recalls here, is true, and its recounting in this work is based on research in court proceedings kept in the state archives in Rome. The book contains stories of a forbidden love for an orphan nun, of brothers who cruelly exact a will from their dying teenage sister, and of a malicious papal prosecutor who not only rapes a band of sisters, but turns their shambling father into a pimp.