What to muse on next… In the last decade of his life Machiavelli wrote satirical plays – a different side of him
The Medicis were suspicious of him during this time and kept him at the margins of government. Would you trust someone who wrote that infamous text of his? So maybe he was just trying to see the lighter side of life. Or perhaps make his thoughts more palatable.
His “realism” is in part a reaction to that Ficino from the other day’s other-worldliness. This is significant because Ficino was thee “Plato guy” of that time
Machiavelli certainly did something new, and I count myself among those who see in him the herald of a modernity that is profoundly at odds with the important tenets of Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval philosophy.
This to say that, like Virgil, he created his art with Plato’s criticisms firmly in mind.
Wut, this changes everything
Giuliano de’ Ricci, Machiavelli’s literary executor, claims to have seen among his uncle’s manuscripts–to paraphrase him–a damaged, imperfect draft of a ragionamento in a comic vein, reminiscent of The Clouds
That is Aristophanes’ parody of Socrates that many say was crucial in leading to his execution. We all know that taunting smirk of his, and this might help us understand that better.
“Devise” is such a machiavellian word
If you think of his ideal of blending both the lion and the fox, this genre is where he is most the fox.
It’s not a coincidence that I jump from Milton’s Satan to Machiavelli – there’s a similarity between them. The fox is the animal symbol of Prometheus. He isn’t really the “evil” one though, he just tries to make people aware of the natural evil state of human beings. In the prologue to the Clizia he says that such a satire is intended to delight the audience through revealing “the untrustworthiness of all men”. One might even retitle it as The Princess because in part, one of its themes is a woman, Sofronia’s, plotting about the untrustworthy men around her. There’s a Woody Allen figure who wants to sleep with his own adopted daughter and his wife tries to prevent him.
He summarizes his earlier political writing with this pretty concisely actually
Truly it is a great benefit to any man, and especially to youth, to know the avarice of an old man, the passion of a lover, the tricks of a servant, the gluttony of a parasite, the misery of a pauper, the ambition of one who’s rich, the flatteries of a whore, the untrustworthiness of all men.
I never see people mention these plays of his in the scholarship.
One might also infer that Machiavelli takes up the challenge of the Symposium (which he might have known through Ficino) presented by Socrates of the true poet being able to make one both laugh and cry. Because some of his other writings certainly could be considered “tragic”. So he’s a total human being in a way in writing these satires.