La Mirtilla: A Pastoral

La Mirtilla: A Pastoral

La Mirtilla: A Pastoral

La Mirtilla: A Pastoral

Excerpt

The developments of the commedia dell’arte and the commedia erudita have been well documented by scholars of Italian Renaissance drama and literature. One figure whose work flourished during the height of both these styles’ popularity is Isabella Andreini (1562–1604), an actress, poet, playwright, and member of the prestigious academy, the Intenti of Pavia. While her fame as one of the greatest innamorate in the history of Italian comedy has been frequently noted, as has her co-direction with her husband Francesco Andreini of the celebrated company, the Gelosi, her texts have yet to be widely considered with regard to their place in women’s literary history and in the canon of Renaissance literature. Increasing interest in Renaissance women writers in general, and the rise of new Andreini scholarship by such writers as Anne MacNeil, Louise George Clubb, and Maria Luisa Doglio in particular, suggest that the time is right for English translations of Andreini’s literary endeavors. A popular success, La Mir-

K. M. Lea notes that “with the exception of an appearance among the Confidenti in Genova [in] 1589 and among the Uniti in 1601, Isabella was the ‘prima donna’ of the Gelosi” {Italian Popular Comedy, 2 vols. [New York: Russell and Russell, 1962], 499). For an overview of the major companies of this period, including the Gelosi, see Kenneth and Laura Richards, The Commedia dell’Arte: A Documentary History (Oxford: Basil BlackwellShakespeare Head Press, 1990), 55–69.

For more references to scholarship on Andreini and La Mirtilla, see the Nota bibliografica in Maria Luisa Doglio’s introduction to Isabella Andreini, La Mirtilla (Lucca: Fazzi, 1995), 20; Laura Anna Stortoni and Mary Prentice Lillie, Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance (New York: Italica, 1997), 224–25; and Anne Elizabeth MacNeil, “Music and the Life and Work of Isabella Andreini: Humanistic Attitudes toward Music, Poetry, and Theater During the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1994), 462–86. Further new commentary on the Andreini will be available in MacNeil’s book on the Andreini family and music in the commedia dell’arte, which is slated for publication by Oxford University Press in 2002.

Stortoni and Lillie have included translated excerpts from Andreini’s poetry, prose, and drama in their anthology Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance, but no complete English translation of her comic masterpiece La Mirtilla has previously been available. In addition to La Mirtilla, Andreini wrote her Rime (1601), around five hundred lyric poems and a few pastoral eclogues; her contrasti scenici, the dialogues which she wrote and co-wrote with Francesco, published in Fragmenti di alcune scritture della Signora Isabella Andreini

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