Comedy and politics

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This is a contribution from Journal of Language and Politics 10:2 © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company This electronic file may not be altered in any way. The author(s) of this article is/are permitted to use this PDF file to generate printed copies to be used by way of offprints, for their personal use only. Permission is granted by the publishers to post this file on a closed server which is accessible to members (students and staff) only of the author’s/s’ institute, it is not permitted to post this PDF on the open internet. For any other use of this material prior written permission should be obtained from the publishers or through the Copyright Clearance Center (for USA: Please contact [email protected] or consult our website: Tables of Contents, abstracts and guidelines are available at

Comedy and politics Machiavelli’s magical contemporary drama Line Joranger

Telemark University College

This article analyzes the relationship between two of Machiavelli’s political texts The Prince (1513) and the Discourses on Livy (1512–1517), and his popular comedy The Mandrake Root (La Mandragola) (1515). Through an examination of these works, I will show what influence his political ideas may have had on his comedy and, conversely, how key points in his comedy emerge as central ideas in his political texts. By demonstrating how his texts communicate with each other, I will show how he recycles established concepts and even changes their meaning. Keywords: intertextuality, strategy game, comedy, political and medical concepts, magic, astrology, Machiavelli, renaissance

1. Introduction Texts and ideas do not appear from nowhere; they do not live in isolation but are created in meetings between texts and contexts. This is the case with the texts and ideas of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) as well. Machiavelli worked with two of his main political texts, The Prince and the Discourses, before and after the publication of his comedy The Mandrake Root. His political theory and his short comedy have many similarities, and show his different ways of expressing his state’s theories in terms of strategy games. Despite the fact that The Mandrake Root represents a strategic game of love, The Prince a strategic game of innovation and the Discourses a strategic game of republican freedom, they represent common notions of strategy. In all of his games he recycles established concepts, like virtù, Fortuna and Occasions, and even changes their meaning. All of his work is influenced by contemporary notions of magic and astrology, however, as we shall see, the way in which a strategist can exploit such notions is presented differently in The Mandrake Root than in his political texts. In this article, I will show how Journal of Language and Politics 10:2 (2011), 270–286.  doi 10.1075/jlp.10.2.07jor issn 1569–2159 / e-issn 1569–9862 © John Benjamins Publishing Company

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Machiavelli’s different textual ideas point both backwards and forwards, and how references from his earlier works enter his comedy while the comedy contains textual fragments and speech acts which will find their way into future political texts. 2. Machiavelli and the Renaissance It is important to be aware of the fact that Machiavelli lived in the period between medieval and modern times, the Renaissance. They had just discovered that people in the pre-Christian antiquity had a completely different view of man and nature than in the Christian Middle Ages. The fact that the humanists and artists of this age saw themselves called to bring the glories of antiquity back to life has given the period its name; the French word ‘renaissance’ means ‘rebirth’ of ancient political, medical, and philosophical ideas. According to John Jeffries Martin (2003: 5), the humanists spoke more often of a renovation, or a renewal, than of a rebirth: a re-naissance; and it was they who first used the term medium aecum ‘the Middle Ages’, to describe the long stretch of time that reached from the world of ancient Greece and Rome down to their own day. Petrarch’s discovery of Cicero’s personal and rumour filled letters in a monastic library in northern Italy in the 1340’ led to a fundamental rethinking of the problem of personality as well as to a new sense of historical time (cf. Martin 2003: 5). Burckhardt was not the first writer then to look to the Italy of the Renaissance as an exceptionally creative era. Many of the Italian humanist and artist, as early as the fourteenth century, were themselves self-conscious about their endeavors to recover and even bring back to life the world of antiquity. Learned Florentine humanists, like Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), an astrologer and a reviver of Neoplatonism as well, represents the contemporary scholars who translated many of the ancient great works. In the ancient writings they found discussions of medicine, politics, astrology, astronomy, chemistry and alchemy — sciences which again would come to light. In this arena the Florentine writer Niccolò Machiavelli changed into the clothes of a courtier to study the art of government, the art of love, and the writings of the Roman historian Livy and other ancient authors. 2.1 Class struggle, conspiracy and revolution The political history of Florence has long been a subject of fascination to historians. It is, after all, a story of class struggle and factionalism, of conspiracy and revolution, of murder, exile and dramatic executions — and ultimaticaly, of the emergence of one family, the Medici, as the rulers of the city and the territories it had gradually conquered. It is no accident that this was the world that produced © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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Niccolò Machiavelli. Like most Renaissance thinkers he picks up his political ideals from the distant past and from the idealized system of government of the Roman Empire. It is clear to him that much can be learned from the past; present beliefs and actions have just led to chaos and anarchy. Effective understanding of how things can best be done in the present depends on a correct understanding of ideal performance in the past, and an accurate prediction of the future. Human activity can differ from region to region, according to la forma della educazione, but human nature should be regarded as constant; it will always seek more power and wealth (cf. Godman 1998: 267). This was certainly Machiavelli’s view, repeated throughout his body of work. Central to this view are the concepts of imitation and exemplification. Machiavelli shared the Renaissance world view, even though he did not seem to have had the same sense of classical Greek philosophy and human nature as other Renaissance humanists. He fervently believed that the quality of virtù had been lost in the modern world. He was not without strong grounds for this belief. He also believed that a willingness to behave courageously was one of the most obvious characteristics of a virtuoso people. He could hardly fail to conclude that his fellow countrymen were lacking in courage (cf. Machiavelli and Constantine 2008, cap. 24, Skinner in Tully 1988: 245). Machiavelli’s political theories address the problems of instability and social conflict. How can these evils be prevented? If politics be thought of as the art of dealing with contingent events, it is the art of dealing with fortuna as the force which directs such events that symbolizes pure, uncontrolled, and illegitimate contingency. The republic can dominate fortuna only by integrating its citizens in a self-sufficient universitas, but this in turn depends on the freely participating and morally assenting citizen. The decay of citizenship leads to the decline of the republican ascendancy of fortuna; when this is brought about by innovation and political action — the uncontrolled act having uncontrolled consequences in time. But the problem of fortuna is a problem of virtue as well. According to Pocock (1975: 157), every thinker in the Boethian tradition, virtus was that by which the good man imposed form on his fortuna. In the Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (2008) reflected the Christian theology of casus that the apparently random and often ruinous turns of Fortune’s Wheel are in fact both inevitable and providential, that even the most coincidental events are part of God’s hidden plan which one should not resist or try to change. Events, individual decisions, the influence of the stars (the astrology) were all merely vehicles of Divine Will. Civic humanism identifying the good man with the citizen politicized virtue and rendered it dependent on the virtues of others. If virtus would only exist where citizens associated in pursuit of a res publica, then the politeia or constitution, Aristotele’s functionally differentiated structure of participation, became practically identical to virtue itself. If the good man could practice his virtue only within a frame of citizenship, © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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the collapse of such a frame, whether through violent innovation or through the creeping dependence of some upon others, corrupted the virtue of the powerful as well as the powerless; the tyrant could not be a good man because he had no good fellow citizens (cf. Pocock 1975: 157). 3. Machiavelli’s political concepts In The Prince, more than any other place, Machavelli is reverting to the formal interpretation of the Roman definition by asking whether there is any virtù by which the ruler or the innovator, self-isolated from moral society, can impose form upon his fortuna and whether there will be any moral quality in such a virtù or in the political consequences which can be imagined as flowing from its exercise. Since the problem only exists as the result of innovation, which is a political act, its exploration must be conducted in terms of further political action. When Machiavelli (2008, cap. 7) treats the new prince, as ruler or as innovator, he considers him and those he rules as acting solely in their relations with fortuna. The confrontation of citizenship itself with fortuna is a topic reserved for the Discourses. In the Discourses the republic and polity had another structure of virtue which, according to Pocock (1975: 184), was related to the Savonarolan tradition: It was a structure in which every citizen’s ability to place the common good before his own was the precondition for saving every man’s virtue form that corrupting part of fortuna. The republic was therefore a structure whose organizing principle was something far more complex and positive than custom. But not only was it a fact of experience and history that such structures of virtue could become corrupt and disintegrate; it was, by a terrible paradox, inherent in the very nature of republics that this should be so (cf. Pocock 1975: 184–185). Temporally if not spatially, it faced problems arising from the fact that it was in its own way an innovator; it was involved in a world of illegitimate power relationships. The structure of virtue inhabited the domain of fortuna, in part at least for the reason that its virtue was itself an innovation, and as a consequence it must possess its share of that virtù which imposed form on fortune (cf. Pocock 1975: 184–185). Corruption appears, initially, as a generalized process of moral decay whose beginnings are hard to foresee and its progress almost impossible to resist. Institutions are dependent on the moral climate and laws which work well when the people are not corrupt, but produce the reverse effects when they are. The Discourses certainly draw upon the same reservoir of language and concepts that fed The Prince, but the former treatise leads us to draw conclusions quite different from the latter. In particular, across the two works, Machiavelli consistently and clearly distinguishes between a minimal and a full concept of “political” © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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or “civil” order, and thus constructs a hierarchy of order within his general account of communal life. A minimal constitutional order is one in which subjects live securely (vivere sicuro), ruled by a strong government which holds in check the aspirations of both nobility and people, but is in turn balanced by legal and institutional mechanisms. In a fully constitutional regime, however, the goal of the political order is the freedom of the community (vivere libero), created by the active participation of, and agreement between, the nobility and the people. As Quentin Skinner (2002: 189–212) has argued, liberty forms a value that anchors Machiavelli’s political theory and guides his evaluations of the worthiness of different types of regimes. Only in a republic, for which Machiavelli (1997: book II, cap. 2) expresses a distinct preference, may this goal be attained. Even so, Machiavelli does not give us a real indication of how republics manage to identify and authorize the leaders whose qualities are suited to the circumstances. It is one thing to observe that changes has occurred within republics, quite another to demonstrate that this changes is a necessary or essential feature of the republican system. At best, then, Machiavelli offers us a kind of empirical generalization, the theoretical foundations of which he leaves unexplored. In the Discourses (1997: book III, cap. 9) he points out that republic’s have their own intrinsic limitations in regard to the flexibility of response needed to conquer fortune. Just as change is difficult for individual human beings, institutions in republics do not change with the times, but change very slowly as “it is necessary to wait until the whole republic is in a state of upheaval; so for this it is not enough that one man alone should change his own procedure” (cf. Machiavelli et al. 1997: book III, cap. 9). If the downfall of principalities is the fixed structure of human character, then the failing of republics is a devotion to the perpetuation of institutional arrangements whose time has passed. Whether it is any more plausible to hold out hope for the creation of more responsive republican institutions than to demand flexibility in the personal qualities of princes, is not directly examined in the Discourses. 4. Machiavelli recycles established concepts and changes their meaning Machiavelli’s political thoughts break with ancient and medieval thinking, which assumes a moral universe, constituted by the will of God and governed by His eternal laws. He posits a greatly weakened moral universe; there are no stable standards apart from political success and no institution lasts forever. In particular, Machiavelli employs the concept of virtù to refer to the range of personal qualities that the prince will find it necessary to acquire in order to “maintain his state” and to “achieve great things,” the two standard markers of power for him. This makes it brutally clear there can be no equivalence between the conventional virtues and © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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Machiavellian virtù. Machiavelli expects princes of the highest virtù to be capable, as the situation requires, of behaving in a completely evil fashion. The circumstances of political rule are such that moral viciousness can never be excluded from the realm of possible actions in which the prince may have to engage. Machiavelli’s sense of what it is to be a person of virtù can thus be summarized by his recommendation that the prince above all else must acquire a “flexible disposition.” That ruler best suited for office, on Machiavelli’s account (2008, cap. 8), is one who is capable of varying her/his conduct from good to evil and back again “as fortune and circumstances dictate”. It is not a coincidence that Machiavelli also uses the term virtù in his book The Art of War in order to describe the strategic prowess of the general who adapts to different battlefield conditions as the situation dictates. Machiavelli sees politics as a battlefield on a different scale. Hence, the prince just like the general needs to be in possession of virtù, that is, to know which strategies and techniques are appropriate to the particular circumstances. Thus, the ruler of virtù is bound to be competent in the application of power. To possess virtù is indeed to have mastered all the rules connected with the effective application of power. Virtù is to power politics what conventional virtue is to those who believe that moral goodness is sufficient to be a legitimate ruler: it is the touchstone of political success. In the Discourses Machiavelli evidently agrees with Cicero (1991: book I, nr. 34) that there are two ways to fight: with law and with power. Humans fight with law, while animals fight with power. It is when discussions no longer are effective that the state leader must be inspired by the animals (cf. Machiavelli et al., 1997: book 1, cap. 16, 37). The situation in Florence and the surrounding states was such that discussion ceased to be an instrument for peace and reconciliation early on; because of this, a competent state leader had to be human as well as animal. If one needs a good man to establish a long lasting government, one needs an evil man to seize the power, if he does not possess extraordinary virtue: “And since forming a republic out of a province well suited to be a kingdom, and a kingdom out of one well suited to be a republic, is a matter for a man who is rare in intelligence and authority, there have been many who have wished to do so but few who have known how to carry it out” (Machiavelli et al., 1997: book 1, cap. 55). “But a good man can speak to an intractable and unruly people and can easily lead them back down the right path; nobody can speak to an evil prince, nor is there any other remedy for him than the sword. From this, one can speculate about the importance of their respective maladies: that is, if words are enough to cure the malady of the people, and that of the prince requires a sword, there will never be anyone who will not judge that where there is greater need for a cure, there exist greater flaws. When a people is thoroughly unrestrained, neither its foolish actions nor the evil at hand need be feared, but rather the evil that may arise from them,

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since a tyrant may arise amid so much confusion” (Machiavelli et al., 1997: book 1, cap. 58).

With regards to traditional religious knowledge, everything concerning human nature was to be honored for the good of man. Man could achieve his ultimate salvation in community with God through Jesus Christ. However, because of the fall of man, man was weak and turned his gaze away from God towards worldly things. Through sin, man changed from a rational animal to a brutal creature, from angel to devil, from master to slave. Only through prayer and forgiveness could one be forgiven and saved (cf. Parel 1992: 55). No doubt there is a God in Machiavelli’s political theories. However, Machiavelli’s God does not appear to be concerned about forgiveness. Machiavelli’s God is most concerned with political affairs, which is the state’s affair. In the same way as the physician treats a sick man’s body, the state leader must treat the sick body of society: “cure the malady of the people”. But the physician and the state leader have different rules for action. The art of medicine involved knowledge about the good life of the body and was closely linked to ethical rules of action. Proper knowledge could foster what was good and help individuals back to harmony and balance. Ethics, the study of why we should act in certain ways, was part of medical knowledge and implicit in both medical and political analyses. What was functionally necessary was also good.1 Machiavelli is one of the first thinkers, if not the first, who attempted to create an abstract concept of the state (lo stato) (cf. Pocock 1975, Brenna 1943). However, in order to understand him, we must be aware of the specific historical context in which his concept of the state was developed. We must not assume that his understanding is identical to a modern one. Machiavelli did not view the state as a legally constituted entity; this was a concept that only became established in the following century. What Machiavelli saw was the chaos of contemporary Italy, a collection of small, unstable city-states, dependent on the personalities of the individuals who ruled them. In Machiavelli’s time, the state was a personification of the character of the person or persons who possessed state power, such as the Prince or popularly elected leaders. What these various rulers had in common was a monopoly of violence; they were able to control the citizens in various ways. These features of Machiavelli’s political ideas are also present in his comedy The Mandrake Root.

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5. Comedy, medicine and politics — the Mandrake Root Machiavelli published The Mandrake Root two years after he was forced into exile in 1512, for attempting a coup d’état. He had his official duties in the glory years of 1494 to 1512 and started to write in his period of exile, which lasted from 1512 until his death in 1527. His comedy was very popular, and, somewhat unusually, performed several times, both in Florence (1518 or 1519) and Venice (1520, 1522). It was uncommon for comedies to be performed more than once. Callimaco has a central role in the play. He is an amorous young man who has fallen in love with a beautiful, but married young woman. Callimaco’s greatest desire is to get into a position where he can seduce the young wife and, if possible, be her lover. He pretends he is a famous physician from Paris, because someone has told him that the wife suffers from infertility. In this way he will be sure to come into contact with the lady. Callimaco’s nose for strategies and calculations enables him to direct a game where the other actors become puppets, drawn by his strings. Like Machiavelli’s Prince and legislator he possesses extraordinary strategic skills that make him unbeatable in every power play. When Machiavelli allows Callimaco to imagine that he is a famous physician from Paris, he must have known that there was a recognized medical faculty in Paris, and that there were many who, like Callimaco, pretended to be trained physicians. Because of the number of medical faculties and the circulation of medical knowledge, facilitated by the art of printing, no one group of university-trained physicians had any monopoly of their subject (cf. Siraisi 1990: 34).2 Thus, many pretended to be trained physicians. This is maybe why Machiavelli did not let the lady’s husband be so easily persuaded that Callimaco really is who he says he is. In fact, in the Renaissance it might have been rather difficult for genuine physicians to establish their credentials; the presence of bogus practitioners was a threat to the profession’s status. Another explanation for contemporary scepticism might be the fact that for centuries Roman law had put a price label on slaves who were trained as physicians. In Rome in 49 BC Julius Caesar had promised Roman citizenship to all practicing physicians. A decade later he granted all physicians immunity (cf. Nutton 2005: 164). According to Nutton (2005: 164), in 23 BC, while the Emperor Augustus was undergoing critical medical treatment from his ex-slave doctor Antonius Musa, it was said that in his excitement he had promised free taxes for all who practiced medicine. We cannot be certain how many medical immigrants came to Rome in this period and how their medical status was authenticated; however, it is not inconceivable that the physicians’ privileges led to jealousy and anger amongst taxpayers. This development had major consequences for medical practice in Rome and elsewhere in the Latin world, since it established an image of medicine as being essentially non-Roman. Medicine was a © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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Greek pursuit. It was the province of immigrants, foreigners, slaves and ex-slaves (cf. Nutton 2005: 164). Because of developments in printing, closer connections between medicine, politics and culture were established in the Renaissance. These connections are apparent in the texts of Machiavelli. The humanists’ eagerness to revive the ancient books and wisdom, and to correct Arab and Medieval Latin editions, bestowed a certain dignity on the medical profession. This is why it was said that the work of Renaissance humanists benefitted physicians more than their patients (cf. Porter 1999: 169–170). Playwrights loved to make fun of the bloated, expensive and useless physician. For example, Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens complains: “Do not trust the doctor, his medicine is poison”. In spite of such ridicule, the physicians continued to enjoy their status and this would have further irritated their detractors and rivals. Machiavelli, himself a humanist, perhaps even played a part in dispelling some of the negative stereotypes that were held about medical practitioners. He states in The Discourses: “(…) after the people had realized their mistake and saw that the cause of the disease was the fever and not the physician, they reestablished the magistracy of the Ten” (Machiavelli et al. 1997: book I, cap. 39). Shakespeare mocked physicians and even the great Petrach (1304–74) had his doubts: “I have never believed in doctors and I will never do it” (cf. Porter 1999: 163–164). However according to Siraisi (1990: 65), 15th century universitytrained physicians and professors of medicine, enjoyed great fame and intellectual prestige At several educational institutions in Northern Italy, Medicine was second only to Law in popularity. Criticism of medical practice was not primarily dissatisfaction with doctors; it was rather related to religious traditions’ understandings of miraculous events and the belief that the soul must be healed before the body (cf. Siraisi1990: 46–47). Let us return to Machiavelli’s comedy and Callimaco’s deception. The fraudulent suitor manages, with invincible force and with help of more-or-less fictional Latin words, to convince the lady’s husband that he is a famous physician from Paris. Callimaco carefully examines the lady’s urine. It was a common diagnostic technique to analyze urine in order to localize any imbalance in bodily fluids. According to Siraisi (1990: 123–132) artists would often use urine bottles to symbolize the diagnostic work of physicians. It appears that Callimaco is examining his patient; however, unlike a real doctor his intentions are evil. Rather than treat the lady for infertility, he is only interested in satisfying his own carnal desires. He chooses to administer a potion made from mandrake; this can lead to dramatic consequences since it was said that the mandrake cried with a human voice when it was drawn up by the root, and whoever pulled it up would immediately die (cf. Siraisi1990:151).3 Although such therapeutic magic was considered a threat to religion and therefore viewed with great suspicion by Jews and Christians, the © 2011. John Benjamins Publishing Company All rights reserved

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mandrake was widely used in Renaissance medicine. The fact that mandrake was regarded with such distrust by Christians would also have suited Machiavelli’s satirical purposes, since he could then mockingly address their concerns. In his play he altered the myth of fatality associated with mandrake; instead of the plant causing the death of the person who tore it out of the ground, the unlucky victim would be the first man to have intercourse with the lady who had taken it. Callimaco explains the effects of mandrake to the husband. At the same time he says that he can find a suitable man to be the first to have intercourse with the wife after she has ingested the potion. Thus, the husband will be protected from certain death. The suitable man is, of course, Callimaco himself. In this way he can seduce the lady. The creation of such a scenario also enables Machiavelli to let his audience know that he himself does not believe in the legend of the mandrake. If he had not been sceptical he would hardly have let Callimaco, “The Prince”, be the lady’s first post-mandrake lover. Machiavelli probably knew that infertility was difficult to heal, and that physicians had great difficulties in prescribing proper treatment. If the doctors had no other options, magicians and astrologers might be called upon. These could have an essential role to play because they were in possession of medical ingredients such as plants, herbs, animals and stones. Machiavelli’s use of the mandrake shows us that his worldview cannot be reduced to a mere empirical rationalism. He had other ‘non-rational’ concerns: the struggle between good and evil and the vision of the state as a body that could be ravaged by illness and disease. The play has a number of references to occultism. Not only does Machiavelli have Callimaco talk about occult medical formulas, he also makes him administer the mandrake at the favourable astrological time: “In the evening after supper, because the moon is right and in perfect time” (The Mandrake Root: Act 2, Scene 6). This line demonstrates that Machiavelli was aware of the importance of personal horoscopes in medical practice in the Florence of his time. Even the destiny of Giovanni de ‘Medici (Leo X), one of the most powerful contemporary Florentine statesmen, was predicted by the reading of his horoscope by the esteemed scholar Ficino (cf. Parel 1998: 15). Machiavelli is certainly influenced by contemporary ideas and does not hesitate to use astrological concepts in his comedy and political theory. The heading of Chapter 9 in the Discourses book III, states: How one must change with the times, if he wants to have good fortune always. In this chapter he writes: “I have considered on many occasions that the cause of the bad and good fortune of men lies in how well their mode of conduct fits the times. Because it is evident that in their works some men proceed with impetuosity, others with care and caution; and because either of these methods may exceed the proper limits, being unable to follow the true path, one may err in employing either one. But an individual comes to make fewer mistakes and to enjoy a favourable fortune, as I have said,

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when his methods fit the times, and he always proceeds as nature compels him” (Machiavelli et al. 1997).

Despite the fact that Machiavelli in all his works, refers to astrology and magic he is also aware of objections to these practices: In the Discourses he writes: “Nor did this means of taking the auspices serve any purpose other than sending the soldiers confidently into battle, for from such confidence victory almost always results” (Machiavelli et al. 1997: book I: cap.14). We see here an example of Machiavelli’s strategic thinking and use of various contemporary astrological notions. His state theories and his comedy are demonstrably controlled by the same ideas. We can see a clear parallel between the conduct of Callimaco and Machiavelli’s Prince. In his strategic conquest, the artful seducer covers up his intentions, in order to get quickly to his target; this behaviour reminds us of the way in which the clever Prince acts. When the husband thanks him for helping to cure his wife’s infertility, Callimaco remarks: “e non our son a Parigi affaticato tanti anni per imparare, per altro se non per potere sevire a ‘pari vostri”: (“and not have I spent so many years of my life in Paris to learn medicine, if it hadn’t been for serving you and your kind”) (The Mandrake: Act 2, scene 2). These lines tell us that Machiavelli is aware of the expected piety the physician is supposed to possess, and his duty to put patients’ needs before his own. The Hippocratic Oath, or sacred promise, was a medical ethic that not only set the rules for medical treatment and practice, but also served as a tool for evaluating medical risk and social considerations; it is consistent with Christian moral philosophy. The medical oath considered care: “According to my own ability and assessment I am going to use diet for the patient’s best and refrain from harming or doing injustice” and “I will not give any deadly medicine to anyone or give advice on something like that”, or “In every house I visit, I will come for the patient’s best, and any deliberate injustice or injury shall be my distant” (cf. Hippocrates 2005). In his treatment the physician had to carefully balance the advantages and disadvantages and never choose solutions where the dangers were greater than the benefits, even though this might be what he thought was the correct treatment. Because of uncertainty and because several physicians took very high fees, it was common for sick people to treat themselves at spas or make pilgrimages to religious shrines. Callimaco’s mockery of the physician’s piety demonstrates Machiavelli’s political ideas in a different manner than in The Prince and the Discourses. If ‘the good’ for a physician was a human body in balance, ‘the good’ for a state leader was a balanced state body. However, the state leader did not, like the physician, give a governmental oath, or at least one that he had to keep. Unlike the physician’s normative sacred promise the state leader should not, according to Machiavelli, give promises to anyone other than himself and the State; such promises should merely

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serve the purpose of seizing and holding on to power. Thus, both the state leader and the physician must always have stability and equilibrium as a goal, whenever a sign of disease occurs. However, the methods they will use to create equilibrium will differ. Machiavelli thought that Christian moral philosophy was a hypocritical praxis, used to steal people’s loyalty and trust. In the Discourses he distinguishes between the religion’s important unifying function and the judgmental hypocrisy of Christianity. As usual, he makes use of historical sources in examining ancient Roman religious beliefs, and the institution of laws that worked to unify the people. Machiavelli cites the Roman historian Livy (59 BC — AD 17), who remarks on the power of the ancient religion: “there was as yet no sign of our modern scepticism which interprets solemn compacts, such as those embodied in an oath or law, to suit its own convenience” (Machiavelli et al. 1997: book I, cap.13). In Machiavelli’s comedy and in his political theory religion plays a minor role. However, ordinary individuals are bound by their time, which indicate their astrological fate, Fortuna. Only those with superior strength can break Fortuna’s plans and seize the opportunity (‘l’occasione’) which is given them. When that happens, we are told the true legislator owes nothing to fortuna except the occasione; (…) “his virtù is all within himself, and we are left with the image of extraordinary personal creativity imprinting itself on circumstance as on a tabula rasa, so that the contingent world becomes the inert matter on which virtù imposes form” (cf. Pocock 1975: 174). In The Mandrake Root Machiavelli describes the force of Callimaco’s ruthlessly successful sexual conquest. In The Prince and the Discourses he explores historical sources and declares that individuals such as Pope Julius II, Hannibal, Scipio, Lorenzo de Medici, Giovanni Bentivoglio, Severus and Francesco Sforza were able to break Fortuna’s plans and take the opportunity (‘l’occasione’) that was given them. Both Fortuna and Occasion are female forces, and therefore unpredictable. Fortuna seems to be particularly challenging: “Fortuna Blinds Men’s Minds When She Does Not Wish Them to Oppose Her Plans. (…) When she wants to accomplish great deeds, she selects a man with such spirit and such exceptional ability that he recognizes those occasions that she offers him” (Machiavelli et al. 1997: book II, cap. 29). La Occasion is not much different; in a separate poem he describes L’Occation in this way: “Who are you? Mortal woman is less sweet; The Heavens have richly decked and dowered you! Why so restless? Why these wings upon your feet?” “Few know me, opportunity am I. The reason that I never can be still Is because on a wheel my foot does lie; Unto my course no flight but matches ill, Because, all are so dazzled as I run, Wings on my feet I have maintained; I spill My tresses forward that they flow as spun veil covering over face and bosom, so In passing I be recognized by none; Behind my head no single hair does grow, So that he gazes vainly when maybe

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I hasten by or look back as I go.” “Tell me, who is it that does accompany you?” “She is called Penitence: O take good care, He does keep her who cannot capture me! And you who chattering does waste time so rare, Immersed in matters vain and manifold, Alas, have you not seen, nor are aware That I meanwhile have slipped out of your hold!” (Niccolò Machiavelli, in Capitolo dell’Occasions)

It is not difficult to understand why a man such as a Prince or a Callimaco had to be in possession of unusual abilities in order to counter the providential power and to capture the occasion. In The Mandrake, as well as in The Prince and the Discourses, Machiavelli shows that virtue and fortitude, manifested through creativity, intelligence, cunning, dynamism and social awareness, are necessary in order to achieve this feat. Etymologically, ‘virtue’ derives from the Latin word virtus, which corresponds to the Italian virtu, and the Greek arete. It can also be understood as implying manliness and decisiveness, qualities that contrast with feminine characteristics of shallowness and instability, like Fortuna and L’Occation: “What will make the prince contemptible is for him to be perceived as undependable, frivolous, effeminate, pusillanimous and irresolute, against which a prince must guard himself as from the plague”, wrote Machiavelli in The Prince. He continues: “He must do his utmost so that his actions will be perceived as imbued with greatness, courage, dignity and power. And as for the private affairs of his subjects, he must be adamant that his decisions are irrevocable. He must maintain a standing, such that no man would venture to cheat or deceive him” (Machiavelli and Constantine 2008, cap. 19).

Machiavelli is not alone in using women in his political propaganda. Throughout history, biblical authority and ancient wisdom have been used as instruments in the creation of political and social directives. The female body has aroused much patriarchal concern within both church and state. Astrology was used, together with biblical interpretation, to strengthen the political and social directives that women were weak, unstable, and inferior to men. Physicians warned women against activities such as mathematics, reading and using men’s clothes because such activities could lead to great instability, disease and even death (cf. Dixon et al. 2004: 13). Astrological medicine placed women under the phlegmatic moon, which controlled the female menstrual cycle. The moon’s natural instability, as it waxed and waned, influenced all who came in its way, and was the main cause of women’s mental instability (la Luna). When Machiavelli describes Fortuna’s quirkiness, he shows that he is influenced by the contemporary views of women. By contrasting female characteristics to those of virtue and manliness, Machiavelli had a good chance of being understood and accepted by his contemporaries. In The Prince he writes:

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“In my view, however, it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortune is a woman, and if you wish to dominate her you must beat and batter her. It is clear that she will let herself be won by men who are impetuous rather than by those who step cautiously. Therefore, like a woman, she is more partial to young men, because they are less cautious, wilder, and command her with greater audacity” (Machiavelli and Constantine, 2008: cap. 25).

Machiavelli thought he had such a nature and was made of such virtue that he was able to win the game of political strategy. In his preface to the Discourses he writes about his intentions: “Wishing then to extricate men from this error, I have deemed it necessary to write about all those books by Livy that have not been taken from us by the hostility of time, what, according to my understanding of ancient and modern affairs, I judge necessary for a greater understanding of them, so that those who will read these discourses of mine may more easily derive from them that practical knowledge one must seek from a familiarity with the histories. And although this undertaking may be difficult, nevertheless, assisted by those who have encouraged me to assume this burden, I believe I can carry it forward in such a manner that only a short path will remain for another to bring it to its destined goal” (Machiavelli et al. 1997: book I).

In his comedy Machiavelli makes all his characters both victims and executioners. However, like the Prince, Callimaco has the right qualities, and will get what he wants. He deceives the lady’s husband and becomes his wife’s lover. In spite of this immoral act Machiavelli lets all of the play’s characters, in one way or another, experience that they have ‘won the game’ and their “freedom”; even the cuckolded husband, who is delighted to have survived the mandrake’s magical power. In other words, the only ‘character’ which suffers a deep and comprehensive breakdown in this play is Morality. Machiavelli has made his political point. 6. Conclusion Machiavelli’s political theory and his short comedy The Mandrake Root have many similarities, and show Machiavelli’s different ways of expressing his state’s theories in terms of strategy games. Despite the fact that The Mandrake Root represents a strategic game of love, The Prince a strategic game of innovation and the Discourses a strategic game of republican freedom they represent common notions of strategy. In all of his games he recycles established concepts and even changes their meaning. Both Fortuna and Occasions are unpredictable; this is a common notion. But Machiavelli breaks with ancient and medieval thinking, which assumes

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a moral universe, constituted by the will of God and governed by His eternal laws. Present day and history had shown him that it is not enough to play a moral game. In this game one must also possess a virtù which sets one apart from others, a virtù that makes one able to sneak in on heaven’s providence like a ‘fox in the hen house’ and by that conquer the unpredictable forces. As already shown, Machiavelli employs the concept of virtù to refer to the range of personal qualities that the man will find it necessary to acquire in order to maintain his state and to achieve great things, his two standard markers of power. It is clear that there can be no equivalence between the conventional virtues and Machiavellian virtù. Machiavelli expects a man; a prince, a legislator or a lover of the highest virtù to be capable, as the situation requires, of behaving in a completely evil fashion. The circumstances of political rule are such that moral viciousness can never be excluded from the realm of possible actions in which the right man may have to engage. Even though he breaks with the common thinking, he uses, like the other humanist of his time history, to imitate and exemplify his thoughts. In creative ways he explains his beliefs and his political theories even in his verse, plays, and short prose. In the Mandrake Root Callimaco shows, through his magnificent conquest of the young wife, that he is in possession of the same virtù that a true statesman possesses when he conquers and preserves a State. Both Machiavelli’s political theory and his comedy The Mandrake Root are based on scientific ideals which cannot ignore empirical data. Simultaneously, however, they appeal to cultural notions of magical and astrological forces. A physician’s object of study lends itself more easily to empirical investigation than that of the state leader — Callimaco gets his sample of urine quite easily whereas the state leader has to consider less tangible phenomena such as external dangers and hidden intrigue. However, both Callimaco and the State leader have the same goal in the Machiavellian strategy game. And they share the same morality. To win the game one has to master the strategy, the magic and the astrology. The goal is to control the other players as in The Prince, and to create the feeling of freedom as in the Discourses. The man with extraordinary gifts of strategy will manage to win the game, the lady and the entire kingdom and become the legislator of the game. If he manages to stay in the game as long as he wants, he will be a true superhuman who owes nothing to fortuna except the occasione; his virtù is all within himself.

Notes 1.  See Platon’s Timaios and The Hippocratic Corpus. 2.  According to Siraisi (1990: 55), the most famous universities were located in Bologna, Padua, Paris and Montpellier.

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3.  In the Old Testament, the value of mandrake as an aphrodisiac and as an aid to conception is espoused in Genesis 30:14–17: And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.” And she said unto her, “Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? And wouldst thou take away my son’s mandrakes also?” And Rachel said, “Therefore he shall lie with thee tonight for thy son’s mandrakes.” And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, “Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night. And God harkened unto Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob the fifth son. Today we best know about the mandrake through Joanne K. Rowlins famous books about Harry Potter. The mandrake is the screaming root that the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft use in their elixir.

References Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus. 2008. The consolation of philosophy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Brenna, Arne. 1943. Machiavellis politiske teori. Oslo: Aschehoug. Cicero, Marcus Tullius, Griffin, Miriam T. and Atkins, E. M. 1991. On duties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dixon, Laurinda S. and Weisberg, Gabroeø P. (ed.). 2004. In sickness and in health: disease as metaphor in art and popular wisdom. Newark: University of Deleware Press. Godman, Peter. 1998. From Poliziano to Machiavelli: Florentine humanism in the high Renaissance. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Hippocrates and Schiefsky, Mark John. 2005. On ancient medicine. Leiden: Brill. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1954/1991. La Mandragola. Belfagor lettere, con uno scritto di piero Gobetti. Italia: Mondadori Printing. Machiavelli, Niccolò, Bondanella, Peter E. and Bondanella, Julia Conaway. 1997. Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio. New York: Oxford University Press. Machiavelli, Niccolò, Corrado Vivanti 2000. Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Toto Livio. Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore. Machiavelli, Niccolò . 2004. Il principe. Milano: Bur, i classici blu. Machiavelli, Niccolò and Constantine, Peter. 2008. The prince. London: Vintage books. Martin, John Jeffries. 2003. The renaissance: Italy and abroad. London: Routledge. Nutton, Vivian. 2004. Ancient medicine. Series of antiquity. London, New York: Routledge. Parel, Anthony J. 1992. The Machiavellian Cosmos, New Haven: Yale University Pocock, John Greville Agard. 1975. The Machiavellian moment: Florentine political thought and the Atlantic republican tradition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Porter, Roy. 1999. The Greatest benefit to mankind: a medical history of humanity from antiquity to the present. London: Fontana Press. Siraisi, G Nancy. 1990. Medieval and early Renaissance medicine: an introduction to Knowledge and practice. London: The University of Chicago Press. Skinner, Quentin. 2002. Visions of politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tully, James. 1988. Meaning and context: Quentin Skinner and his critics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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Author’s address Line Joranger Telemark University College Faculty of Health and Social Science Kjølnes Ring 56, 3914 Porsgrunn Norway [email protected]

About the author Line Joranger has MS degrees in political science and history of ideas, and has studied social anthropology, public relations consulting and language in Norway, France and Italia. Currently, she is a Associate Professor at Faculty of Health and Social Science at the Telemark University College (Norway). Apart from thesis on Individual freedom and knowledge in modern democracy and Machiavelli’s medical metaphors, she has written articles about Machiavelli political ideas and metaphors and about Michel Foucault’s psychiatric and sociological concepts. At the moment she is working on a thesis analysing Foucault’s psychiatric and philosophical notions in his texts from 1954. The project has been partly supported by University of Oslo; Faculty of Humanities; Musicology, Theatre studies, Aesthetics and History of Art and Ideas, Norwegian Research Council, University of Paris and Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris.

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