The exegesis of Vitruvius and the creation of theatrical spaces in Renaissance Ferrara

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Abstract

Under the rule of Ercole I d'Este (1471–1505), Ferrara experienced an unprecedented revival of classical Roman comedy. For the first time, the plays of Plautus and Terence began to be staged in vernacular Italian. This essay focuses on the temporary theatre buildings that hosted these productions and discusses the instrumental role played by the short treatise Spectacula, written by Ercole's courtier, Pellegrino Prisciani (c. 1435–1510). It argues that the planning of theatre spaces was informed by the humanist interpretation of Vitruvian principles. Furthermore, it evaluates the weight of contemporary iconography and the illustrative tradition of Terence, which was disseminated through the first printed editions, on the planning of theatre spaces. The modernization of set design and the creation of theatre spaces that reinterpreted Vitruvian principles along with the adaptation of classical dramatic texts represents the first modern example of reception of ancient comedy.

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