By Albert Russell Ascoli, Victoria Kahn

ISBN-10: 080142870X

ISBN-13: 9780801428708

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No one else is mentioned; no one at the time had displayed such great abilities that a young Machiavelli could (I do not even say should) have taken note of him, with the exceptions of Beni­ vieni and Cei. Cei deserves particular mention, for although he has not attracted much attention in modern times (as far as I know), accurate informa­ tion about him was brought to light in his own time by the excellent scholar Guglielmo Volpi (1471 -1505). Volpi was just a little younger than Machiavelli; he published his collection Sonecti, capituli, canzone, sextine, stanze, e strambocti in laude di Clitia in 1503 .

In the Specchio of his old age, Verrazzano shows off his theological, astrological-scientific, and mythological learning, just as he had in his youthful Specchietto (Little Mirror), written for Beatrice d' Aragona. The titles themselves, Specchio and Specchietto, reflect a prehumanist Scho­ lastic tradition that was already anachronistic in Italy. It was still alive elsewhere, but it could not be considered "popular" in any case. What strikes one right away is the older Verrazzano's continuous care to disguise and conceal reality by means of a complicated allegory (al­ most as if he thought that this alone was the secret key to historical interpretation), compared with the young Machiavelli's concreteness, incisiveness, and political engagement in the Decennale.

Considering the qualifications of Alessandro Braccesi, his immediate predecessor in the post of secre­ tary, as well as those of his superior, the chancellor of Florence, Mar­ cello Virgilio, we might suppose that Machiavelli was appointed pri­ marily because he had already distinguished himself as a man with a good humanistic education and potential literary ability. And if we were obliged to skip from 1498 directly to 1 5 1 3, and to wait for the moment when Machiavelli, expelled from his post and reduced to impotence and desperation, should suddenly, in his forced inactivity, become a writer, finding comfort and ultimately vindication in litera­ ture, we would have to content ourselves with this cautious hypothe­ sis.

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Machiavelli and the Discourse of Literature by Albert Russell Ascoli, Victoria Kahn


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