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Violence Against Women In The Mandrake By Niccoli Machiavelli

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    The Mandrake also is known as the La Mandragola is a satirical play, written by Niccoli Machiavelli and published in the year 1524. The play is set in 1504 during the period of Florentine Republic, has five acts, and takes place in the span of one day. The mandrake, a popular plant during this time period, was said to treat ailments, induce love, and bring wealth. The Mandrake tells the story of Callimaco, a nobleman who lived in Paris for some years but now has returned to Italy. His return is fueled by the incredibly beautiful Lucrezia, and he becomes Infatuated by her beauty. Callimaco decides to return to see for himself and immediately lusts for her. The problem is she’s married and he knows she won’t step out on her husband, Nicia.

    Another problem is Lucrezia and Nicia are childless and long for a baby. Therefore, Callimaco and his friend Ligurio come up with a plan to pretend to be a doctor and propose a magic potion that can cure infertility. However, Callimaco then reveals to Lucrezia’s husband that the first man she has sex with after she has taken the potion will be poisoned and die, so they need a random man. The husband agrees to the plan but Lucrezia doesn’t want any parts until her mother convinces her that killing a man to have a baby is worth it. Eventually, the two do have sex, and Camillaco informs her that he’s going to have his way with her regardless.

    The power that men had over women was very common during the Renaissance era. An event that is most similar to Machaevelli’s play, The Mandrake, is The Rape of Lucretia. It marked the beginning of the Roman Empire and was one of the most significant acts of violence against women. Rape was also accepted and taken lightly in the event of The Rape of Sabine Women. Men were encouraged to abduct and rape the neighboring Sabine women due to a lack of Romans. In the days of the Renaissance Era, rape and sexual criminality were seen as minor offenses against victims in different cities throughout Italy, especially in Venice. Therefore, based on the governmental structure of European countries during the Renaissance Era, Lucrezia’s rape in The Mandrake was seen as a normal consensual act, and men of this time had great power over women, which can even be seen today through art and sculptures.

    The Rape of Lucretia was a very significant event which changed the Roman society and inspired the play, The Mandrake. Sextus, the youngest son of the king of Rome, travels to the city of Collatia for military services and stays with his cousin Collatinus and his wife, Lucretia. While he is there he grows fond of Lucretia and decides to seduce her. One night while Lucretia is asleep, Sextus decides to sneak into her room, sword in hand, threatening her to let him have his way. Furthermore, when Sextus enters he gives Lucretia two options: She can agree to his sexual advances, become his wife, and later his queen or she, and one of her slaves will be killed and accused of having an affair. With no choice, Lucretia decides to go with the first option. In The Mandrake, men also act on sexual desires without regard to the emotional outcomes of the women involved. The next day she visits her father, eventually breaking down to inform him of the rape. After being informed, the men tried to ease Lucretia’s pain and sorrow, by telling her what had happened was not her fault. However, before they can figure out what to do concerning it, Lucretia stabs herself in the heart with a dagger and dies in her husband’s arms.

    ****The death of Lucretia, led to a Roman Revolution and the overthrow of the Roman Monarchy. Resulting in the Roman Kingdom transitioning into the Roman Republic, where the affairs of Rome would be decided by the people moving forward. Sextus was a tyrant and could do whatever he *****

    The founding of Rome also involved rape and violence against women. The city was founded in 753 BC by the twins Romulus and Remus. Which were a result of their mother Rhea being raped by Mars, the God of War, and making them half-gods. Eventually, the two go into an argument so Romulus killed Remus and became the new ruler of Roma, also known as Rome. Romulus invited men from all over to come to Rome no matter the background, and it grew very quickly. To the point, there was a plethora of men and a shortage of women. Romulus even went to the extent of sending people to neighboring tribes to gain alliances and wives for all the men of Rome. However, because of the men of Rome’s backgrounds (slaves & ex-criminals), a lot of women from the neighboring tribes declined the requests of marriage.

    When that didn’t work Romulus decided to invite the surrounding tribes to the Consualia Festival (religious) on August 18th and use violence to abduct the Sabine Women. As in The Mandrake, Callimaco is so infatuated with Lucrezia that he will use various methods of manipulation and force to carry out his wishes. During the festival, there were horses with flowers and chariot races were even held. However, soon after the festival started Romulus gave a signal to the Romans to capture the women and fight off the Sabine Men. About thirty women were abducted during this event and they were all said to be virgins. Three years later, the Sabine Men and the Romans go to war but the brave women stand between them forcing them to compromise. Which led to them being placed under a peace treaty.

    This event is known as The Rape of Sabine Women today. Many Scholars had different views on the motivation of the abduction but Publius Ovidius Naso supports that men had uttermost control over women. Ovid saw the abduction as a way for the men of Rome to fulfill their sexual desires as opposed to increasing the population.

    Furthermore, during the earlier days of the Renaissance Era and founding of Rome rape was rare and wasn’t seen as unlawful until after The Rape of Sabine Women and Lucretia. In Machiavelli’s play, The Mandrake, Lucrezia’s mom supports the events that are happening and shows it is an accepted part of the culture. After these events, rape was condemned and was considered one of the worst capital crimes you could do. No matter what type of rape it was. Roman law (rape-raptus-ratio) was looked at as kidnapping or abduction, but due to those events it could be considered seduction or forced sex as well. This was very common during this day and age and has also been represented heavily through Art and Sculptures over time.

    The sexual seduction and the acting on sexual desires by men, became a major theme in the Italian Renaissance Art and Literature, especially stories like The Mandrake. Some other works include Tarquin and Lucretia (1571), The Story of Lucretia (1504), etc. Artists depicted this act during her last moments before suicide, the act of the rape itself, or even Sextus just sneaking into her room. However, all pieces of Art depicting this event show the grief, and what women of this time occasionally had to deal with.

    In Conclusion, after the event of The Rape of Lucretia and The Rape of Sabine Women, Rome’s governmental structure would never be the same, and neither would the people. However, without these events, the artwork, poems, and play like The Mandrake would not exist. The Rape of Lucretia’s was more than an act of violence against women and the consequences, it gave you view on how misogynistic men were during this period, but also how the government is set up plays a major role in your society. The act emphasized the tyrannical power presented in Rome and a push for change was needed. 

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