Margherita Costa: The Buffoons, A Ridiculous Comedy

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, Vol. 63

Margherita Costa: The Buffoons, A Ridiculous Comedy

Edited by Sara E. Díaz and Jessica Goethals
2018 | 368 + xv pp. | 978-0-86698-592-5 | Paperback 6 x 9 in
MRTS 535 | $54.95 |

OVEME v.63. This translation makes The Buffoons, the first female-authored comedy printed in Italy, available to Anglophone readers for the first time. Published in 1641, this burlesque play depicts the mismatched sexual desires of a prince and princess. Although set in northern Africa, the comedy satirizes the Florentine court of Grand Duke Ferdinando II de’ Medici, one of Costa’s several elite patrons. By featuring the clownish antics of an unconventional cast of dwarfs, hunchbacks, and buffoons, it reflects the bizarre appetites and grotesque entertainments of the day. Ribald puns and commedia dell’arte-inspired slapstick abound, presenting the reader with a comic alternative to decorous women’s writing in early modern Italy.


Margherita Costa’s Li Buffoni, depreciated, misattributed or just simply forgotten through the centuries, has finally found some love. In the sensitive hands of Sara Díaz and Jessica Goethals, who cheerfully whip the complicated language of this commedia ridicolosa into shape while remaining attentive to the irreverent, rambunctious vocabulary of the text, we find another valuable voice to add to the ever-growing roster of early modern women writers from Italy. A poet, dramatist, historian, singer, librettist, “widow and poor virtuosa with two daughters,” Costa produced fourteen works in which she managed to say something important through laughter about what court life was like for underlings of either sex, and what kind of Baroque poetics allow women to find their voice.
Valeria Finucci, Professor of Romance Studies, Duke University