Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Monica Calabritto

Committee Members

Paolo Fasoli

Clare Carroll

Subject Categories

Italian Language and Literature | Italian Literature


Italian Literature, Magic, Renaissance Theatre, Heresy, History of Magic


My dissertation investigates theatrical and historical sources that deal with early modern magic, in order to re-evaluate its role in Italian society between the 16th and the mid-17th century. During this period, many were the attempts carried out by the Catholic Church to avoid the spread of heretical beliefs among people. By the middle of the 16th century, the battle against heresy focused on magic, which was considered a dangerous practice. Despite the Inquisition’s prohibition of books of magic and the condemnation of magic rituals, magic still survived in literary works, especially theatrical. Many performances brought magic on the Italian stage. By examining several Italian plays written between 1520 and 1650, I argue that many of the ironical representations through which magic was brought on stage allowed playwrights to conceal their real attitude towards it. I demonstrate how theatrical performances offered ambivalent interpretations of magic and, in several instances, contributed to its spreading in early modern society.