Journal: Response to The Family in Renaissance Florence

Journal assignment completed for “The Self Before Selfies”

The Taming of the Shrew performed at Shakespeare’s Globe.

In “The Family in Renaissance Florence,” Giannozzo and Lionardo outline the family roles in the Renaissance, clearly defining the domestic and public spheres; women are to remain in the domestic and men in the public. These realms differentiate masculinity and femininity, asserting that it is a woman’s place to maintain the household and a man’s place to exude strength, competitiveness, and aggression. In either realm, one gender is excluded. Giannozzo emphasizes this when he speaks of secrecy and wanting to keep his valuables hidden from the household. While it is blamed on never being able to trust a woman, it emulates the exclusion both genders feel out of their respective realms.

Additionally, much of the dialog refers to women as girls, Giannozzo and Lionardo consistently mention obedient girls, silly girls, and young girls. While women wed at young ages, it is evident that infantilization is at play. When Giannozzo’s wife wears makeup and is a lively host, Lionardo asks how he scolded and reprimanded her, as though he were her father. The men further create a sense of authority when differentiating how to treat a wife and how to treat a slave, implying there is morality in how one treats either.

At one point, Giannozzo explains how “[his] wife turned into a perfect mother for his household… mainly it was due to [his] instruction.[1] This reminded me of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew where Petruchio is convinced that he domesticated Katerina, a woman no man dared to come near because she could not be controlled. Over the course of the play, Katerina becomes obedient, and Petruchio feels their banter has caused Katerina to see her true place in the household. However, the audience must decide whether Katerina is only acting.

[1] Battista Alberti, Leon. “The Family in Renaissance Florence,” in The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance, (University of Toronto Press, 2011), 126.

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