Queering Lucrezia’s Virtú

A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Radical Machiavelli

in Theoria
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This article argues for a feminist reinterpretation of the ‘radical Machiavelli’ tradition which pushes Machiavelli’s performative theory of power towards emancipation. I base my argument on a rereading of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola, whose historical use of the mandrake legend, I claim, symptomatizes historically gendered forms of labour expropriation characteristic of early modern capitalism. Against the background of that historical contextualisation, I then argue against James Martel’s interpretation of Machiavelli’s theory of open secrets, as one that remains unable to extend to Lucrezia the democratic insights that he identifies in Callimaco and Ligurio’s textual conspiracies. Dialectically relocating the political heroism of this play in Lucrezia’s performance, I conclude, Machiavelli’s comedy becomes nevertheless useful for a subaltern theory of democratic action.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory