AT: The Candle Bearer; The Candle-Maker A: Giordano Bruno Pf: Unknown, 1st recorded production 1968 Pb: 1582 Tr: 1964 G: Commedia erudita in 5 acts; Italian prose S: A square in Naples, late 16th c. C: 15m, 4fThere are three focuses of the action: the first, Bonifacio, is an old lecher who is trying to seduce the courtesan Vittoria. He hires a magician to cast a spell on Vittoria, although the advice he is given by the portrait painter Giovan Bernardo is more useful: that he should give up ‘candles’ (i.e. small boys' penises) and concentrate more on ‘thimbles’ (i.e. sex with women). Bonifacio, believing that Vittoria is under the spell and is waiting to be loved by him, disguises himself as Giovan Bernardo, and goes to Vittoria's house, where he is in fact received by his own wife disguised as Vittoria. His lecherous plan is exposed, he is arrested by a bogus watch of opportunistic rogues, and is released only by offering bribes and by begging forgiveness of his wife and Giovan Bernardo, who becomes her lover. The second plot turns on the character of Bartolomeo, who is so obsessed with gold that he neglects his wife and is easily tricked by an unscrupulous alchemist. He too is arrested and stripped naked by the bogus watch. The final figure is Manfurio, a pedantic schoolmaster, who wearies everyone with his learning, is robbed, and is eventually beaten by the bogus watch, in part for sodomizing his pupils.
AT: The Candle Bearer; The Candle-Maker A: Giordano Bruno Pf: Unknown, 1st recorded production 1968 Pb: 1582 Tr: 1964 G: Commedia erudita in 5 acts; Italian prose S: A square in Naples, late 16th c. C: 15m, 4f
Giordano Bruno is best remembered as a sceptical philosopher, who was burnt at the stake in 1600 for his heretical views. The Candlestick is generally accounted the best Italian comedy of the second half of the 16th century and reflects Bruno's cynical views not only of superstition (Bonifacio and Bartholomeo being easily exploited by charlatans) but also of the greed and immorality of human society. This long and complex play is quite savage and obscene (the Italian title has an additional slang meaning of ‘sodomite’), and only the two wives display any modicum of virtue. The pedant Manfurio is very similar to the Doctor of the commedia dell'arte, and Jonson's The Alchemist clearly owes a debt to Bruno's play.