Mandragora: A Ribald and Irreverent Tale from the Italian Renaissance
Niccolo Machiavelli, Renaissance author of The Prince and father of political science, also wrote comedies such as La Mandragola (The Mandrake). His satire has endured into this century in the original five-act play form, including a New York stage production in 1979 with Tom Hanks. At least four operas or musical adaptations have also been made of his work, as well as the 1965 film The Mandrake Root. But can it be adapted into book form? And do you have to know the original to truly enjoy the nuances in H.D. Greaves’ well-produced e-book, Mandragora?
If you are a fan of the burlesque, and if you already know the story of how Callimaco deceives Nicia to sleep with Lucrezia, your answer to both questions would probably be yes. With an expansively redolent vocabulary, including double entendres and wordplays – I’ve not laid sighs on you for a tweak or two – Greaves consistently heaps ridicule upon derision, absurdity upon grotesquerie, all in the name of poking fun at something that was not meant to be serious in the first place. I leave it to savants to answer whether his novelization is successful or even prudent.