The playwright Antonia Pulci was born in 1452, most likely in Florence, to Jacopa de Roma and Francesco d’Antonio Tanini. Antonia was one of nine children. She received a classical and religious education and was familiar with the works of Petrarch and Dante. At eighteen she married Bernardo Pulci, whose brother Luigi wrote Il Morgante, a heroic poem based on thirteenth-century chivalrous sources. Both Antonia and Bernardo wrote sacred dramas for popular performances. The marriage produced no children, and Antonia helped care for her relatives. She dedicated her life to literature, religion, and the composition of sacred dramas. She eventually became an Augustinian tertiary. After her husband’s death in 1488, she established an Augustinian convent, Santa Maria della Misericordia, in Florence. Pulci was evidently ill for several months before she died at the end of September 1501.
At least four works (sacre rappresentazioni, or sacred plays) are directly attributable to Antonia Pulci: The Prodigal Son (date unknown), The Play of St. Guglielma (c.1500), The Play of St. Domitilla (1483), and The Play of St. Francis (date unknown). In their 1996 edition of English translations of Pulci’s plays, Florentine Drama for Convent and Festival, James Wyatt Cook and Barbara Collier Cook include several other plays that may be Pulci’s: The Play of Saint Anthony Abbot, The Play of Saint Theodora, and The Play and Festival of Rosana and the Second Part of the Festival of Ulimentus and Rosana. Asiscustomary for the genre, Pulci drew her plots from the Old Testament and hagiography. While in medieval religious drama, narrative interests prevailed over character depiction and dramatic conflict, Pulci’s plays focus on characters at crucial stages in their lives. Her saints are portrayed very realistically and humanly. Their petty foibles are not dismissed, and Pulci shows how their individ-