Even Odds

James H. Johnson

in Venice Incognito

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267718
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948624 | DOI:
Even Odds

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After sundown, maskers crowded gambling tables and halls. Compared to other venues, gambling halls held a geat social mix where people from all classes and of gender mingled. Although gambling had been a practice in Venice for centuries, its glory days were from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century. As with many social vices, the city rulers tried to destroy it with an outright ban. When that failed, they tried to limit its damage by heavy regulation. However, when regulations failed as well, the rules in fact embraced gambling. This chapter is all about gambling. In 1638, the Council of Ten granted nobles permission to sponsor games of chance in their homes. Marco Dandolo established the Ridotto where people of all classes tried their luck in the game of chance. Unlike the gambling halls, the Ridotto was marked by opulence, by the abundance of masks, and by silence. In addition to illustrating the atmosphere of the Ridotto, the chapter also discusses the concerns that arose during this period. It discusses various worries about uncontrolled mingling and profligated waste. Gambling destroyed family wealth, eroded self-control, and fueled an unregulated economy. It was seen as neither socially productive nor personally ennobling. However, not all of the effects of gambling were damaging. It also forged a temporal intimacy that was inconceivable in Venice which was marked by strict boundaries. It also structured an etiquette of self-control. By the end of the mid-eighteenth century, gambling has become a genuine social evil. In 1744, the Ridotto was closed, however, this did not end the practice of gambling in Venice.

Keywords: maskers; gambling; Council of Ten; Marco Dandolo; Ridotto; uncontrolled mingling; profligate waste

Chapter.  1931 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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