The Emblematic Woman

Wendy Heller

in Emblems of Eloquence

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780520209336
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520919341 | DOI:
The Emblematic Woman

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This chapter presents the emblematic woman drawn from the ancient world whose virtues and vices were fashioned and refashioned to express early modern notions of femininity. The crescendo in the voices and increased theatricality of Venetian literary men and women involved in the debate about women is described. Women's voices gained greater power when the purity of Venice's female image seemed most at risk. Giovanni Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus was an extraordinarily important work in the formation of early modern ideas about female heroines. Exemplary women played a significant role in an elaborate didactic system that instructed women not to be exceptional but rather to emulate exceptional woman only insofar as they practiced “ordinary” virtues. The debate about women and the Sensa is particularly relevant to the consideration of women and opera in Venice. The emblematic woman was a natural focus for opera during the more theatrically minded Seicento.

Keywords: emblematic woman; femininity; Venice; Giovanni Boccaccio; De claris mulieribus; Sensa; opera

Chapter.  9599 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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