Antonfrancesco Grazzini («Il Lasca»), Two Plays

«The Friar» and «The Bawd» – Translated with an Introduction by Marino D’Orazio

by Marino D’Orazio (Author)
©2016 Monographs XVIII, 106 Pages
Series: Studies in Italian Culture , Volume 23


Antonfrancesco Grazzini, known as Il Lasca (The Roach), was born and lived in Florence at the height of the Renaissance. He wrote prolifically in most genres, including novelle, burlesque poetry, and comedies. As a playwright he was, in his time, more popular than even Machiavelli. The Friar is a farce in three acts which satirizes, in the manner of Boccaccio, lustful men of the cloth and their willing female victims. The Bawd subverts stock classical comedy characters and situations while placing them in contemporary Florence. The result is the usual mayhem involving gullible fools, lustful young people, corrupt scheming servants, and a bit of black magic. The rise and subsequent popularity of the commedia dell’arte owes much to the likes of Il Lasca.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Note on the translation
  • The Friar
  • The Bawd
  • Bibliography

← viii | ix →


Antonfrancesco Grazzini (II Lasca) was born in 1503 and lived in Florence until his death in 1584. As a member of the Accademia degli Umidi (the damp ones) he took on the name Il Lasca (The Roach) and it seems to have stuck. He was a prolific writer in different genres including novelle, poetry, and popular comedies. Some of these have been lost but seven survive: La Pinzochera (The Bawd), La Gelosia, La Spiritata, La Strega, La Sibilla. I Parentadi, L’Arzigogolo, and a so-called farce, Il Frate (The Friar).1

Grazzini touted himself throughout his life as a defender of modern comedy. In the prologues to his plays he tells us that he wants to be a modern writer in whose comedies will be found neither the usual ancient devices—such as long-lost children, disguises, worn-out recognition scenes, and the like—nor ← ix | x → the usual stock character types common to ancient comedies. In the prologue to Il Frate he lists the elements necessary for writing modern comedy:

In truth neither the rules nor philosophy with all seven liberal arts can teach you how to write comedies. Instead, good judgment, natural instinct, invention, sound knowledge of arrangement, appropriate dialogue, experience of different people, a familiarity with the poets, especially with the first and most honored writers of comedies, indicate to others the true and straight road to a praiseworthy and happy end.

We’ll see later that in reality Grazzini did not always practice what he preached, especially with his use of well known character types taken from Roman comedy. But in keeping with his defence of the modern, Grazzini’s comedies do have a very local flavor. The action always takes always in contemporary Florence, their characters are the locals, and they speak the local language and jargon very familiar to his audience.2

Like every other popular playwright of his time Grazzini also mined Boccaccio’s Decameron for characters and storylines. The influence of the Decameron on Florentine comedy cannot be overstated. Many critics have written about the fundamental importance of Boccaccio’s work in the context of the Renaissance stage. Mario Apollonio for example sees the Decameron as the source of the world picture of Florentine comedy, the whole human repertory constantly dipped into by Cinquecento dramatists.3

The central plot situation of The Friar is lifted from Decameron, III. 6, where Catella is tricked into making love with her husband’s friend. In Boccacio’s story Ricciardo, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain Catella’s love, convinces the extremely jealous woman that her husband has arranged a rendezvous in a bagno with Ricciardo’s own wife. He convinces Catella to substitute herself for Ricciardo’s wife in order to surprise and upbraid her husband. Ricciardo, of course, gets to the darkened bedroom first (a room he’s rented from a prostitute) and there, under the covers, he greets Catella. After the lovemaking, and on learning his identity, Catella feels outrage, bursts out crying, and swears to take vengeance. But Ricciardo eventually convinces her of his love for her, and Catella is finally made to realize that the kisses of her lover are indeed better than those of her husband. ← x | xi →


XVIII, 106
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (November)
The roach Machiavelli florence
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XVIII, 106 pp.

Biographical notes

Marino D’Orazio (Author)

Marino D’Orazio has a PhD. in comparative literature from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with a specialty in Italian literature. He has been a college professor of both English and Italian, and has translated fiction and nonfiction books. He has also had a long career as a trial attorney, from which he deems himself «semi-retired». His proudest achievements are his long marriage to his wife Mary Sue and the three phenomenal children they’ve had together.


Title: Antonfrancesco Grazzini («Il Lasca»), Two Plays
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126 pages