The Review of Politics

Research Article

Machiavelli's Mandragola: A Day and a Night in the Life of a Citizen

Mark Hulliung


Machiavelli, one of the most famous of political writers, wrote a play which many critics regard as one of the best comedies of the Italian Renaissance. The question which inevitably arises is whether there is a connection between the serious and the comic works of Machiavelli, whether the Mandragola stands alone, a tribute pure and simple to the versatility of Machiavelli's mind, or whether the themes of the Mandragola are an extension of the themes found in the bulk of his writings. Is there, in short, a political message, cleverly disguised, in the Mandragola? Some of Machiavelli's commentators think so, but they flatly contradict one another. Alessandro Parronchi regards the Mandragola as an “allegoria del ritorno dei Medici in Firenze,” while Theodore Sumberg interprets the play as a call to overthrow the Medici. Not surprisingly, then, the literary critic is apt to insist that students of politics should mind their own business: literary studies should be left to literary critics, political studies to political critics.