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Modernity and Its DiscontentsMaking and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Bellow$
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Steven B. Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198393

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198393.001.0001

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Machiavelli’s Mandragola and the Protean Self

Machiavelli’s Mandragola and the Protean Self

(p.27) Chapter 2 Machiavelli’s Mandragola and the Protean Self
Modernity and Its Discontents

Steven B. Smith

Yale University Press

Machiavelli is often described as the founder of modernity for his claim to have discovered a new kind of politics. Yet what is most characteristic of the great Florentine was his creation of a new “protean” image of human nature as infinitely malleable and adaptive to new and changing circumstances. This concept of free individuality is given vivid expression in Machiavelli’s play Mandragola, a satire on family life in which he applies the same methods of innovation, novelty, and audacity to private life as he does to the founding of states. Despite the play’s seemingly innocuous exterior, it presents the overthrow of the traditional family and the creation of a new domestic order. The play represents nothing less than the founding of Machiavelli’s new family values.

Keywords:   Conspiracy, Fantasia, Livy, Lucretia, Lucrezia, Machiavelli, Rape

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