Fat Thursday

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:
Fat Thursday

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The climax of the Venetian carnival came not on the Tuesday but on the previous Thursday, giovedi grasso, nearly a week before Lent put an abrupt end to the long season of festivity. At its center was a lavish spectacle that brought all ranks together in common celebration. The staged events, repeated every year after year, century after century, affirmed the Republic’s image and put the government’s own vision for the season front and center. The state-glorying pageant was high spirited, but it also employed pomp to keep hilarity firmly in check. Anything revelers might do after such a display was bound to be anticlimactic. This was exactly what the day’s planners intended. This chapter discusses the giovedi grasso which signaled the end of the Venetian carnival. It discusses the transformation of the Venetians to docility, gentleness, and reverence. On the advent of Lent, most Venetians found themselves caught-up in the festivities of carnival and masking and then gave up their masks to observe Lent. This religiousness, a sudden intrusion of piety, seemed almost comic to those who did not know Venice. Alongside families of the parish and honest workers in their street clothes, the visitor could see harlequins, demons, and men dressed as women. The contrast between the costumes and this final destination was great, however their impulse and intention was sincere. Venice showed that there were two things a person could not be: a gentleman and a Christian.

Keywords: Venetian carnival; Thursday; giovedi grasso; Lent; docility; gentleness; reverence

Chapter.  2609 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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