1524 play by Niccolò Machavelli, translated by Robert Cohen

Macchiavelli’s Clizia is technically categorized as a commedia erudita, a theatre form that led directly to the masked commedia dell’arte, which, except for the masks, it closely resembles. As with most such erudita (or “learned”) plays, it is an Italian Renaissance adaptation of a work by the Roman author Plautus, which is itself an adaptation from the Greek author Diphilis. But the play’s classical heritage should not disguise the fact that Clizia is an explosively ribald sex comedy.

Premiered at the University of Maine. Performance rights available directly from the author at

Text sample

(From the PROLOGUE character, who has been introducing the play)

Oh, and one more thing: our author, Mr. Machiavelli, considers himself a very straightlaced sort of fellow, and will be most upset if you draw any unintended inferences or “doo-bull in-tenders” from what goes on up here. Not that there are any such things, of course. But just in case you think you hear any slanderous comments, or political wise-cracks, or dirty jokes, or any slime like that, you should excuse him and not call the censors – or the vice squad. Because it’s Mr. Machiavelli’s view that comedy should be morally-instructive as well as funny. Morally instructive because it shows us exactly who we really are: miserly old men, out-of-control lovers, lying servants, greedy hangers-on, ruthless capitalists, beguiling whores, and, what can I say, BASE, LYING, ROTTEN, SCUMBAGS! Now, that’s moral! But, hey, what’s a comedy without laughs too? Why, just a lot of moaning and groaning and high-falutin’ TALK! All work, no play! Well, I’m happy to tell you that Mr. M. thinks a comedy should be comic. Of course, you Florentines don’t make it easy for him. You only laugh at things that are silly, foul-mouthed, blasphemous, or about sex. The problem is, Mr. M. won’t be caught dead writing about people who are silly, or foul-mouthed, or blasphemous. So, I’m afraid, he’s been forced into writing about …(whispers loudly) SEX…! All the time! But ladies: You don’t have to worry about blushing: there’s absolutely no indecency in this play! None whatsoever! Or if there is, you wouldn’t understand it! Unless, of course, you have dirty minds! So, pay attention, everybody, and – what the hell – enjoy the play!

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