9. Jewish Women and Performance in Early Modern Mantua

Erith Jaffe-Berg

[print edition page number: 191]

Scholars working in the archives are always aware of the paradox that the more one looks for answers, the more one becomes aware of the omissions, lacunae, and silence of the archives. Claire Sponsler writes persuasively about the need for informed speculation in the archives: “[t]he history of performance scholarship is in some ways a history of the trying-on of various narratives that aim to make sense of evidence from the archive.”[1] Carol Symes poignantly considers the leads that she is likely missing in the archives: “how many times have I been caught out while browsing in the archives, unable to pick up signals that once were plain to everyone? How many times have I been left staring in bewilderment, my eyes fixed on the page, while something of significance passed by?”[2] I aim to write this essay with the same humility expressed by these two important scholars, a humility borne of the fact that I am very much aware of my own limitations at approaching an incomplete archive. The archive in question is that left to us by the Jewish community of Mantua. It is an important and rich collection of traces of a long-lived community’s life, not least of all because the Jewish community was so active in developing the performing arts for which early modern Mantua is famous. Under Gonzaga rule, beginning in the early sixteenth century and continuing well into the seventeenth, the small city of Mantua played host to a number of noted artists ranging from musicians to visual artist and actors. At the same time, Mantua generated art forms that reflected its own character and the tastes and proclivities of its most famous patrons, the Gonzaga. A combination of factors led the Jewish community to settle in this southern part of Lombardia, seeking safe haven in Mantua many centuries before the Spanish edict of expulsion in the late fifteenth century.[192]

By the late fifteenth century, perhaps in imitation of the professional artists around it, the Jewish community was producing musicians, dance masters, playwrights, and performers for the active theater scene in Mantua.[3] In another publication, I detail the ways in which the performances evolved from an act of tribute to the Gonzaga in the early sixteenth century to a compulsory “tax” that was expensive and punitive in the early seventeenth century.[4] I also allude to the fact that the performances in Mantua ended in the middle of the seventeenth century, after they had been forcibly stopped during the 1628–1630 War of Mantuan Succession, in which the sack of Mantua and the expulsion of its Jews for the first time since they had resided there sent convulsive shock waves through both Jewish and Christian residents of the city. While the performances resumed and continued sporadically after the return of the Jews to the city in 1630, they were never quite the same, and their annual regularity ended in 1649, apparently by consensus of both the Gonzaga and the Jews.

What I have not yet detailed are the wisps of an idea still embryonic and fragile that nevertheless is very telling in terms of the Jewish community of Mantua and the functioning of minority artistic communities in the Italian peninsula at the time. It is to that archival whisper which I now turn. What appears dim in passing belies a historical fact that is far more prominent than its barely existent archival trace lets on. Here I am guided by Sponsler and Symes’ attentiveness to the silences in the archives and to the importance of persisting to ponder on the faint echoes of traces left to me, as they attune my archival ear to important facts that call into question our thinking about the Jewish community and its relationship to theater at the time. The archival trace in the Jewish community archives of Mantua and in the State Archives of the Gonzaga in Mantua suggests that women, who are never mentioned in relation to the performances of the Jewish community of Mantua, played a role in theater when it has been assumed they did not. This evidence, which I will explore in greater detail in this essay, is relevant to our understanding of the theater produced by the Jewish community and to the ways in which the Jewish and Christian communities used theater as a means of exchange and a basis for interaction in a period in which restrictions on contact between the communities were becoming more and more palpable. If Jewish women participated in the theatrical performances — as audience members and also as collaborators in the creative process — then their involvement paralleled in part the ways in which women were becoming increasingly central in Mantua and other northern Italian cities as producers, performers, and consumers of theater. Therefore, theater must be considered as one more cultural form in which the Jewish community was influenced by the mainstream[193] Christian cultural context, and the Jewish community was one more venue in which women taking an active role.[5]

Much of what we know about the Jewish theatrical output in Mantua comes to us from studies of its most important exponent: Leone de’ Sommi, also known as Leone Ebreo (Leone the Jew). De’ Sommi was prolific, leaving an immense footprint as community leader, playwright, and producer or director of numerous musical productions and plays. A century before the full flowering of the Baroque, he was very much the image Gianlorenzo Bernini would conjure in The Impresario (1642). Among his important ventures and publications is a document so ahead of his time that it serves as a touchstone for scholars of “directing” even though the concept of a director was many centuries in the making. Four Dialogues on the Art of Plays (Quattro dialoghi in materia di rappresentazioni sceniche) (ca. 1565) presents de Sommi’s ideas about how to stage, costume, and cast a play.[6] It also includes ideas about the progress of rehearsals and incorporating intermedi or musical interludes within the productions. In short, it is a rich source of information about how plays were staged in his day and how theater practitioners thought about the dilemmas of putting on a production. Because of its prominence, this document has been translated several times over the last century and has been reprinted in part or whole by English, American, and Italian scholars. Among the many issues de’ Sommi discusses is the place of women in terms of staging plays, the possibility of women as actors, and the limitations and permissions that should be granted to female actors on the stage.

The focus on women’s role in the theater is a recurrent question the dialoghi returns to, probably because sixteenth-century Italy witnessed a revolution in theater production signaled by the inclusion of female actresses for the first time in theater history.[7] The commedia dell’ arte (the profession of improvised theater), the most popular theater of the late sixteenth century to the early seventeenth, changed the course of theater history forever with its introduction of female actresses in 1565. Women were now able to act on stage, collaborate in[194] the creation of plays, and even lead as heads of troupes or capocomici. At a time when professional options for women were limited, the new opportunity offered considerable economic benefits and even the hope of a degree of upward mobility.[8] De’ Sommi himself was vocal about the non-participation of women while at the same time admitting that it was a female actress who came closest to achieving an ideal performance. For de’ Sommi, that was the Roman commedia dell’ arte actress known as Flaminia, who performed in Mantua in 1567.[9] He wrote about her in the Dialogues:

I have always thought and still think that the acting of a young Roman girl called Flaminia is the most extraordinary. Besides being gifted with many beauteous qualities, she is judged so unique in her profession that I do not believe the ancients ever saw or the moderns are likely to see a more brilliant actress. When she is on the stage the audience gets the impression not of a play composed and finished by an author, but rather of a series of real events taking shape before them. She so varies her gestures, tones, and moods in accordance with the diverse nature of her scenes that every one who sees her is moved to wonder and delighted admiration.[10]

What strikes de’ Sommi most, along with her beauty and grace, is Flaminia’s capacity to realistically portray a character and embody her writer’s words naturally. He notes her capacity to transport her audience, making them believe and be moved. Given this exhilaration about Flaminia, it is surprising to find in the same text that de’ Sommi is less than enthusiastic about the participation of women in theater, especially if they are “virgins,” which we can take to mean unmarried young women.

The ancients, therefore, did well in accepting the law that a virgin should not be permitted to appear in comedies lest by such an example citizens’ daughters, who ought to be bashful and retiring, might be induced to gad abroad and engage in public gossip. On the other hand, a prince’s daughter might be allowed to appear in public, for the reason that few would be so bold as to dare attack the honour of such a woman — where there is no hope love clearly can take no root. Love is universally recognized as arising from a certain equality between lover and object — equality in blood[195] or constellation or position; speaking generally, where there is inequality there can be no love. Daughters of princes, therefore, may go out and speak to others in the streets, both because their position makes them freer and, more particularly, because it is presumed that no one will violate their honour, there being few persons (and those far distant) of an equality with them. Such procedure is not allowed to citizens’ daughters because in the city there are thousands of their own class; going out of doors, therefore, brings to them much danger of evil happening. She who values her honour must avoid the chance of scandal, even if that be purely baseless. Comedy, therefore, which is designed to present good examples, ought not to permit anyone to say a word or to indulge in an action contrary to that person’s position and quality.[11]

The daughter of a prince, de’ Sommi argues, is so far above the average citizen that even if she speaks in public, there is no doubt that she is far above and beyond contact of an average male citizen. Being “off limits,” so to speak, the princess is safe in a way that an average female is not. A citizen’s daughter, differently from a prince’s daughter, is vulnerable because she is tangible, and therefore she must be protected even more than a prince’s daughter ought to be. That citizen’s daughter cannot perform publicly or speak within the public domain because male citizens watching may be lured by her performance and the suggestiveness of her words and may fall in love or lust with her, making it possible for her to fall prey to them. Acting is prohibited because it is a form of public speech and because public speech is dangerous for a woman to undertake. De’ Sommi’s argumentation is different from the usual anti-female polemic characteristic of the time and studied by feminist scholars over the last two decades.[12] His objection to women actors is rooted more in his mistrust of men than in his mistrust of women. In fact, within the querelle des femmes (the debate about women) he is a defender of women, as evidenced at least by the fact that he authored a bilingual poetic defense of women in Hebrew and Italian named “Magen Nashim, in difesa delle donne” [Protector of Women, A Defense of Women].[13]

Notwithstanding de’ Sommi’s defense of women, for reasons that he explains in his Dialogues, as we see, he does not advocate for female actresses in comedies. Therefore, based on de’ Sommi’s influence within his community and on the fact that there is no evidence to the contrary, it could be assumed that no Jewish women participated in theater. Considering that de’ Sommi was a leader within the Jewish community (known as a massaro) and repeatedly advocated on its behalf to Dukes Guglielmo and later Vincenzo, his opinions were[196] respected and, one assumes, accepted. In addition, Jewish female performers are rarely publicly known to us. The one big exception is Mme. Europa, a singer and sister of the famous composer Salamone de’ Rossi, who was active in Mantua at the same time as the commedia dell’ arte was in its golden age.[14] Another smaller exception is an archival trace of a singer known as Rachel, who apparently disobeyed the Venetian laws and sang for money in Venice. Rachel hebrea cantarina,” along with her father and brother, was given permission to leave the Venetian ghetto at night in order to visit the homes of Christians. “Subsequently, secret reports from allegedly reliable persons had revealed that, under pretext of going to sing in homes of ‘nobles, citizens, and other honorable persons,’ they were staying in homes of common persons, eating, drinking, and behaving dishonestly with Christians.”[15] We do not know if the accusations were founded, but either possibility — that she performed for the nobility or that she performed for plebeians — reveals the Jewish singer’s attractiveness to the broader Christian community. This beckons Ravid’s questions: “Why were the services of Jewish entertainers so sought after in Venice at the time? Did Christian Venice not have enough singers and musicians of its own? Did the Jews have different musical traditions or styles of performance that the Christians might have found attractive? Were the Jews held to be better singers or instrumentalists?”[16] Perhaps it was just a curiosity or a novelty to have Jews sing and dance and perform as entertainers? Other than these women, the record is silent. No female Jewish actresses, no female Jewish playwrights, no female audience members, no female interaction with the lively theater world of Mantua.

Except that, in recent visits to two important archives in Mantua — the State Archives (Archivio di Stato di Mantova, ASM), which hold the Gonzaga Archives (Archivio Gonzaga, AG), and the Jewish community archives (Archivi della communita ebraica a Mantova, ADCEM) — the evidence suggest a more complicated reality. Several notes found in the Jewish community archives indicate that women were active participants in the comedies that were staged by the Jews within the ghetto. The Jews of Mantua were forced to live in a ghetto in 1612, a relatively late date considering that the Venetian ghetto had been established a century earlier. A note from the ducal secretary Annibale Chieppo from 7 January 1641 forbade Jews from gambling (giochi) in the ghetto. The same document also prohibited Jewish women from going to comedies at night (“Come anche d’andar donne hebree di note a comedia”).[17]

Another piece of evidence in the Jewish archives details a similar prohibition only briefly mentioned by historian Shlomo Simonsohn and never studied by theater scholars.[18] The prohibition was issued during Carnival of 1649, which just happened to be the year of the last annual performance by the Università. It prohibited Jews from playing games or gambling (“divieto gli ebrei di dedicarsi al gioco”), and it specifically prohibited Jewish women from helping with comedies at night: “Jewish women are forbidden from attending comedies at night” (“Divieto [. . .] alle donne ebree di assitere alle commedie di notte”).[19] We have countless receipts for costumes and props bought and borrowed to be used in performances by the Jews of Mantua. Among these, we have a receipt for payment to a seamstress for her work on a performance.[20] This is the first time, other than the well-documented participation of Salamone de Rossi’s sister, Madama Europa, that we hear of women’s explicit connection to the plays performed by the Jews of Mantua. This “whisper” from the archive is clamorous in what it suggests: Jewish women took an active part in making the comedies for Carnival. Natasha Korda has reframed the ways in which we consider theatrical production and made visible the presence of female contributors to theatre making through costume and prop making for Shakespeare’s stage. These arguments are equally compelling for Jewish theatre in Mantua.[21]

Furthermore, we have evidence of another restriction that comes from a later date, 1651, and is found in a more formal document called a pragmatica. Jewish and Christian communities were regulated by ecclesiastical and secular authorities alike, especially in matters related to dress, gambling, games, and performances; the regulations were published as ordinances and called pompe or pragmatica.[22] The Jewish community exercised its own form of self-governance in the Middle Ages, and similar forms of governance continued in the early modern period. Jewish communities in Forlì in 1418 issued a prohibition on gambling, and a series of pragmatiche were issued in Mantua in 1599, 1619, 1635, and 1651.[23] The pragmatiche would be drafted in Hebrew within the Jewish community, the draft would be translated into Italian and shown and approved[198] by the duke, and it would be published in Hebrew.[24] According to the pragmatica of 1651 and 1652, women are “forbidden to attend theatrical performances.”[25] The recurrent mention of this prohibition suggests, of course, that even though it was not permitted, women did, in fact, attend the theater, and for that reason needed to be reminded that it was forbidden to do so. The recurrence of ordinances and pragmatiche forbidding women from participating in or attending comedies reveals that by the seventeenth century, and increasingly by the middle of that century, women were active participants — audience members and perhaps collaborators — in the producing of plays. While these productions were internal to the Jewish community and took place within the ghetto, the active role of women should not be separated from the restrictions on theatrical performances that were soon to follow.

Writing about this period, Simonsohn reflects a prevailing attitude about the environment occasioned by the Counter Reformation and ghettoization. From his point of view, ghettoization was synonymous with an oppressive restrictiveness.

From the mid-seventeenth century, the publication of bans against gambling, and various kinds of pragmatiche became more and more frequent. They forbade the wearing of masks during the carnival and the Feast of Purim, as well as the use of fireworks and rattles. These last prohibitions testify to a fundamental change in Jewish customs as they had existed in previous years [. . .] The influence of the ghetto spirit can be felt here, as it conquered and repressed the simple joys of life.[26]

Simonsohn views the ghettos as repressing festivities and altering the “centuries old” habits of Jews in Mantua. His viewpoint is common in historians writing after the Second World War, when the horrors of Nazi ghettoization and extermination camps were too present in the minds of those writing about early modern ghettos. David Nirenberg has written about this historiographical tendency, and contemporary historians such as David Bonfil and Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin are seeking to nuance the way in which we look at the Counter Reformation period and even ghettoization.[27] In the theatrical context as well, Simonsohn’s reading of the middle of the seventeenth century as a repressive one for Jewish[199] theatrical activities does not take into account the fact that, at least for Jewish women, this period was one of relative permissiveness in undertaking theatrical activities. Furthermore, it may have been the very exposure to Christian society (paradoxical because of the creation of the separation barrier of the ghetto) that encouraged among Jews more activities common to Christian society, including female participation in theater. For the Jewish community, as Raz-Krakotzkin has persuasively argued, contact with Hebraists and other Christians interested in exchange and study with members of the Jewish community may have meant that the rabbis and other community leaders were losing their influence over the very community they were charged with protecting.[28] A fact even Simonsohn concedes in part when he writes: “As for the frequency of the publication of bans and pragmatiche — it is hard to know whether this demonstrates the multiplicity of offences, or the increasing concern of the community’s leaders and rabbis.”[29] Consequently, it may have been the openness and contact with Christian ways (including theater), rather than the repressive hand of Christian rulers, which eventually led to the internal clamp-down on these very activities. Indeed, when the theatrical activities of the Jews ended, they ended by mutual consensus and after repeated attempts by Duke Carlo II to persuade the Jews to stage yet one more play.

The cessation of the performances was consonant with the Jewish community’s state. Simonsohn writes that from the sources it appears that the performance had become a burden (נּטּלּ) for the community and no longer something done willingly.[30] Soon after, Jews stopped performing at all in Mantua, and the function of staging became forbidden for Jews in the community, who were forbidden from attending theater or performing at the Jewish holiday of Purim, during which Jews traditionally were encouraged to put on plays.[31] Thus the cessation of theater appears to be reciprocal. The community communicated to the ruler that they no longer wanted to perform for him, and at the same time they prohibited performances within the community itself. The separateness from which Jews had emerged returned by the middle of the seventeenth century, ushering in again an insularity for the community. Even when rebellious younger[200] members of the community petitioned their community elders to be allowed to produce plays, their desire was quickly and absolutely thwarted.[32]

During the War of Mantuan Succession (1628–1630), the siege, plague, and exile of the Jews and their diminished state upon being permitted to return in 1630 had made the financial burden of the performances impossible. Furthermore, internal tensions within the community meant the increasing enforcements of restrictions on the performances. As restrictions grew, and when the performance was a mere imposition, it ended. However, in the period of waning public performances by the Jews for the Christian community, and paradoxically under ghettoization, a new participant population was added to the performances for the brief time that they still took place: that of Jewish women. Precisely in the years of Jewish ghettoization, and even in the period following the traumatic expulsion of the Jews from Mantua during the War of Mantuan Succession, Jewish women participated in and attended Jewish theatrical events within the ghetto, asserting their own place within the long chapter of Jewish theatrical activity in Mantua.


Primary Documents

ADCEM Filza (file) 26 and Cartella (document) 33. The document is found on the digital archive of the Jewish community of Mantua (“communita ebraica Mantova” under the “sezione Antica”).

ADCEM Filza (file) 29 Cartella (document) 37.

Pragmatica. 24 December 1651. Filza 30 Document 34.

Pragmatica. 29 December, 1652. Filza 30 Document 54.

Secondary Works

Barasch, Frances K. “Italian Actresses in Shakespeare’s World: Vittoria and Isabella,” Shakespeare Bulletin 19, no. 3 (Summer 2001): 5–9.

———. “Italian Actresses in Shakespeare’s World: Flaminia and Vicenza.” Shakespeare Bulletin 18, no. 4 (Fall 2000): 17–21.

Bonfil, Robert. Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy. Translated by Anthony Oldcorn ([Italian original, Gli Ebrei in Italia nell’ epoca del Rinascimento (Florence: Sansoni, 1991)]. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

De’ Sommi, Leone. Four Dialogues on Stage Affairs Translated by Allardyce Nicoll, “The Dialogues of Leone di Somi.” Appendix B in The Development of the Theatre: A Study of Theatrical Art from the Beginning to the Present Day, 252–78. 5th ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1966.

———. Quattro dialoghi in material di rappresentazioni sceniche. Edited by Ferruccio Marotti. Milan: Il Polifilo, 1968.

Detenbeck, Laurie. “Women and the Management of Dramaturgy in La Calandria.” In Donna: Women in Italian Culture, ed. Ada Testaferri, 245–62. University of Toronto Italian Studies 7. Toronto: Dovehouse, 1989.

Günsberg, Maggie. Gender and the Italian Stage: From the Renaissance to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Harrán, Don. “Madama Europa, Jewish Singer in Late Renaissance Mantua.” In Festa Musicologica: Essays in Honor of George J. Buelow, ed. Thomas J. Mathiesen and Benito V. Rivera, 197–231. New York: Pendragon, 1995.

———. Salamone Rossi: Jewish Musician in the Late Renaissance Mantua. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Henke, Robert. Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell’ Arte. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Jaffe-Berg, Erith. “Leone De’ Sommi, ‘Magen Nashim, In difesa delle donne.’”Testuale: critica della poesia contemporanea 42 (2007): 40–50.

———. “‘Magen Nashim’: An Early-Modern Defense of Women.” Metamorphoses 16, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 105–28.

———. “Performance as Exchange: Taxation and Jewish Theatre in Early Modern Italy.” Theatre Survey 54, no. 3 (September 2013): 389–418.

Katritzky, M. A. “Reading the Actress in Commedia Imagery.” In Women Players in England, 1500–1660: Beyond the All-Male Stage, ed. Pamela Allen Brown and Peter Parolin, 109–44. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005.

Kerr, Rosalind. The Rise of the Diva on the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell’ Arte Stage. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

Korda, Natasha. “Women’s Theatrical Properties.” In Staged Properties in Early Modern English Drama, eds. Jonathan Gil Harris and Natasha Korda. 202–29. Cambridge: Cambridge UP: 2002.

MacNeil, Anne. Music and Women of the Commedia dell’ Arte in the Late Sixteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

McGill, Kathleen. “Women and Performance: The Development of Improvisation by the Sixteenth-Century Commedia dell’ Arte.” Theatre Journal 43 (1991): 59–69.

Nirenberg, David. Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Patuzzi, Stefano. Una Tavola Apparecchiata: Il ‘mangiare degli ebrei’ e il caso di Mantova. Mantua: Publi Paolini, 2013.

Ravid, Benjamin. “Curfew Time in the Ghetto of Venice.” In Medieval and Renaissance Venice, ed. Ellen E. Kittell and Thomas F. Madden, 237–75. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Raz-Krakotzkin, Amnon. The Censor, the Editor, and the Text: The Catholic Church and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century. Translated by Jackie Feldman [Hebrew original, Ha-Tsensor, ha-orech, vehatext (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2005)]. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Scott, Virginia. “La Virtu et la volupté: Models for the Actress in Early Modern Italy and France.” Theatre Research International 23, no. 2 (1998): 152–58.

Simonsohn, Shlomo. “Lehakat ha-Teatron Shel Yehudei Mantova” [The Theatre Troupe of the Jews of Mantua]. In Pargod: Bamah Le-Enyane Sifrut ve-Tiatron [Pargod: Theatre Art and Literature], ed. Arieh Mark, 13–17. Jerusalem: Halakah Ha-Deramatit Misrad Dikan Ha-Studentim Ha-Universitah Ha-Ivrit Be-Yerushalayim, 1963.

———. History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua. Jerusalem: Kiryath Sepher, 1977.

Sponsler, Claire. “Writing the Unwritten: Morris Dance and Theatre History.” In Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography, ed. Charlotte M. Canning and Thomas Postlewait, 84–113. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010.

Symes, Carol. “Out in the Open, in Arras: Sightlines, Soundscapes, and the Shaping of a Medieval Public Space.” In Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400–1500 Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space, ed. Caroline Goodson, Anne E. Lester, and Carol Symes, 279–302. Surrey, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

  1. Sponsler, “Writing the Unwritten,” 98. An earlier version of this essay appeared as “Writing the Unwritten: Morris Dance and the Study of Medieval Theatre,” Theatre Survey 38, no. 1 (May 1997): 73–95. 
  2. Symes, “Out in the Open, in Arras.” 
  3. For more on the vast amount of theatrical activities happening in Italy see Henke, Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell’arte
  4. See Jaffe-Berg, “Performance as Exchange.” 
  5. The mutual influences between the communities have been studied by Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy; and Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text. Recently, scholarship by Stefano Patuzzi has focused on the ways in which Jewish culture has left a lasting influence on Mantuan cultural life. See, for example, Patuzzi, Una Tavola Apparecchiata
  6. De’Sommi, Quattro dialoghi in materia di rappresentazioni sceniche; De’Sommi, Four Dialogues on Stage Affairs (English trans. Nicoll, “The Dialogues of Leone di Somi”). Nicoll notes that parts of the Dialogues were published by Luigi Rasi in I Comici italiani (1905) and in Alessandro D’Ancona’s magisterial Origini del teatro italiano (1891). In English, portions were translated by Winifred Smith in The Commedia dell’ Arte (1912) and Kathleen M. Lea in Italian Popular Comedy (1934). 
  7. For work about women in the commedia dell’ arte, see Kerr, The Rise of the Diva. Also see Scott, “La Virtu et la volupté.” Foundational work on the actresses was done by MacNeil in Music and Women of the Commedia dell’ Arte
  8. Many important works have been dedicated to the contribution of women as professional actors in the commedia dell’ arte. As examples, see Barasch, “Italian Actresses in Shakespeare’s World: Vittoria and Isabella”; Barasch, “Italian Actresses in Shakespeare’s World: Flaminia and Vicenza”; Detenbeck, “Women and the Management of Dramaturgy in La Calandria”; MacNeil, Music and Women of the Commedia dell’ Arte; Henke, Performance and Literature in the Commedia dell’ Arte; Katritzky, “Reading the Actress in Commedia Imagery”; and McGill, “Women and Performance.” 
  9. De’ Sommi, Dialogues, trans. Nicoll, 252. 
  10. De’ Sommi, Dialogues, trans. Nicoll, 268. 
  11. De’ Sommi, Dialogues, trans. Nicoll, 258. 
  12. See the work of Joan Kelly and Margaret King. See also Günsberg, Gender and the Italian Stage
  13. See my publication and explication of this poem in Italian: Jaffe-Berg, “Leone De’ Sommi, ‘Magen Nashim, In difesa delle donne.” In English, see my “‘Magen Nashim,’” 
  14. Harrán, Salamone Rossi; Harrán, “Madama Europa.” 
  15. Ravid, “Curfew Time in the Ghetto of Venice,” 247. 
  16. Ravid, “Curfew Time in the Ghetto of Venice,” 214. 
  17. [197] ADCEM filza 26 doc. 33. The document is found on the digital archive of the Jewish community of Mantua (“communita ebraica Mantova” under the “sezione Antica”). I was fortunate to have the privilege of visiting the Jewish community of Mantua’s archives, currently under the supervision of Dottore Emanuele Colorni. Dottore Colorni was kind enough to show me the original copy of this document and allow me to view the entire archive, which is a wealth of information. It was under the supervision of Prof. Vittore Colorni, Emanuele Colorni’s father, that Shlomo Simonsohn pursued his research at the archive several decades ago.
  18. Much research on Mantua is indebted to the meticulous work of Shlomo Simonsohn in his History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua; see 536. However, in his interpretation, he writes of women attending, rather than assisting at the events. 
  19. ADCEM Filza (file) 29 Cartella (document) 37. 
  20. Simonsohn, 665, f.n. 311. 
  21. Korda, “Women’s Theatrical Properties,” 22. 
  22. Simonsohn, History of the Jews, 530. 
  23. Simonsohn, History of the Jews, 530–36. 
  24. Simonsohn, History of the Jews, 531. 
  25. Filza 30 document 34 for the 24 Dec 1651 pragmatica. Filza 30 Cartella 54 for the 29 Dec, 1652 pragmatica
  26. Filza 30 document 34, 537. 
  27. David Nirenberg (Communities of Violence, 4–5) writes: “Regardless of their different periodizations, all these quests for the origins of European intolerance have much in common. All take the long view, seeking to establish a continuity between the hatreds of long ago and those of the here and now. This focus on the long durée means that events are read less within their local contexts than according to a teleological leading, more or less explicitly to the Holocaust.” See Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text, 2–3, 183–84; and Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy
  28. Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text, 2–3. 
  29. Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text, 2–3. 
  30. Simonsohn, “Lehakat ha-Teatron Shel Yehudei Mantova,” 16. Simonsohn takes this information again from the Jewish archival sources in Mantua. Also noted in Simonsohn, History of the Jews, 667–68.
  31. Simonsohn, “Lehakat ha-Teatron Shel Yehudei Mantova,” 16.
  32. Simonsohn (“Lehakat ha-Teatron Shel Yehudei Mantova,” 16) recounts attempts to perform plays in 1729, 1757, and 1779. The community resisted these petitions but was forced to perform them in 1729 and 1757. However, the 1757 performance was allowed on condition that only Jewish community members be allowed to see it. 

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