Hope Greenberg
History 300
Daily Questions: July 13, 1993

I had to change the characters slightly but let's say this is a letter to Dora, wife of Francesco, mother of Antonia, from her sister, wife of Giovanni del Bene, mother of Caterina....

It was with great sorrow that I heard of your unhappiness in the matter of the marriage of Caterina with Andrea di Carbello de Quarata. To hear that you, who have always been a sensible and dignified woman, ready to give comfort to your family and to live in peace and harmony with your husband as befits a good wife, should have on this occasion fallen prey to such melancholy as to lose all dignity, saying shocking things to your husband and family and comporting yourself in a way that disrupts your husband's good opinion of you, saddens me deeply.

You must not think that because there is joy surrounding Caterina's good fortune that Antonia will be no less fortunate. I know that you are not one of those women that so abound in our time who think nothing of wasting their patrimony on luxurious clothes, fine jewels, and paints and perfumes so that they may display themselves in public to their family's discredit. And even though Antonia may be upset at the blue silk gown that we have chosen for Caterina, which we have decided will be part of her dowry and so should be of good quality, I know that she will follow your example of modesty and realize that she, too, if God wills it, will soon have an opportunity for a similar one.

You must not fear that Antonia will not have this opportunity. Yours is a respected family and everyone knows your worth. She is a chaste and modest girl and has always been considered well-proportioned and fair. Everyone who knows her remarks on her obedience and dignified speech, her competence and willingness to assist you with your large household, and that she has been carefully nurtured by you and instructed by her father. Do not throw away these advantages because of a moment's fear that she will not find a suitable husband. You do no credit to your family by such actions and will only anger the husband who has always shown such care and affection towards you.

Well, OK, it was an experiment.....I thought it might make a change from the standard paragraphs with the obligatory opening sentence of "The role and status of women in the Renaissance....." I believe I managed to work in at least three or four points from both Barbaro and the marriage correspondence.

My Question:

The punishments meted out in the excerpts from the court trials vary greatly (from beating to prison to beheading). I suppose the beheading for witchcraft is understandable but there are not enough examples in the others to determine whether the differences in punishment are regional or an indication of relative criminality. Any comments?

And here I go again with a comment....it is fortunate that Bartlett includes selections from Gregorio Dati that express his concern and care for his children (pp. 183-185). Otherwise, one might be tempted to read the following in what I trust is the wrong way: "Her lose [his wife, Ginevra] has sorely tried me. May He help me to bring up the unruly family which is left to me.....God who shows his wisdom in all things permitted the plague to strike our house......" Actually this does lead to a question: Klapisch-Zuber mentions the development of new attitudes towards young children. Would you consider Dati's phrases like "May he intercede with God for us" or "God grant she pray for us" when referring to his deceased children an indication of that changed attitude or just a standard sentiment?

Just one last thing.....favorite line from Barbaro: "Although I have been occupied with this treatise for only a few months...." Months!? Months!? We are not talking any speed writing records here are we? Or does he include production time in this as well. What does the original look like? I would guess that it's not a shabby affair.....

This file is part of Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio for the course History 300. Created 15 October 1996.