Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226112589 Published November 2004
Paper $27.00 ISBN: 9780226269719 Will Publish February 2015
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226112602 Published January 2010

Love and Death in Renaissance Italy

Thomas V. Cohen

Love and Death in Renaissance Italy
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Thomas V. Cohen

320 pages | 11 halftones, 1 map | 6 x 9 | © 2004
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226112589 Published November 2004
Paper $27.00 ISBN: 9780226269719 Will Publish February 2015
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226112602 Published January 2010
Gratuitous sex. Graphic violence. Lies, revenge, and murder. Before there was digital cable or reality television, there was Renaissance Italy and the courts in which Italian magistrates meted justice to the vicious and the villainous, the scabrous and the scandalous. Love and Death in Renaissance Italy retells six piquant episodes from the Italian court just after 1550, as the Renaissance gave way to an era of Catholic reformation.

Each of the chapters in this history chronicles a domestic drama around which the lives of ordinary Romans are suddenly and violently altered. You might read the gruesome murder that opens the book—when an Italian noble takes revenge on his wife and her bastard lover as he catches them in delicto flagrante—as straight from the pages of Boccaccio. But this tale, like the other stories Cohen recalls here, is true, and its recounting in this scintillating work is based on assiduous research in court proceedings kept in the state archives in Rome.

Love and Death in Renaissance Italy contains stories of a forbidden love for an orphan nun, of brothers who cruelly exact a will from their dying teenage sister, and of a malicious papal prosecutor who not only rapes a band of sisters, but turns their shambling father into a pimp! Cohen retells each cruel episode with a blend of sly wit and warm sympathy and then wraps his tales in ruminations on their lessons, both for the history of their own time and for historians writing today. What results is a book at once poignant and painfully human as well as deliciously entertaining.

American Historical Association: AHA-Helen & Howard R. Marraro Prize

View Recent Awards page for more award winning books.
Konrad Eisenbichler | Toronto Globe & Mail

". . . and so the book continues with stories that keep our attention pinned to the seamy underbelly of Roman society at the end of the Renaissance. Cohen's versatile and lively pen not only brings to life the complex characters that move the plot of these court-room narratives, but also invites us to ponder a variety of questions that rise from these stories."

Robin Ganev | Canadian Journal of History
"It is very moving to read about such powerful passions centuries after all the charactrs are long gone and would have been consigned to the dustbin of history had it not been for Cohen's patient reconstruction. . . . This is a remarkable book. In these days of ever increasing specialization and jargon, it is hard to find books that combine scholarly excellence with such lively, colourful writing. Love and Death in Renaissance Italy will bring pleasure to both specialists and general readers.”
Mary S. K. Hewlett | Renaissance Quarterly
"It is very rare to find a history book that you simply cannot put down, but the latest contribution to Italian social history from Thomas V. Cohen is just such a book. Set in and around Renaissance Rome, this work comprises a collection of six incredible microhistories of love (or more often lust), intrigue, betrayal, dirty old men, and death. . . . This book is a wonderful addition to the burgeoning world of Italian microhistory. It is a beautifully crafted work in which Cohen sets up his dramnatic tales, then brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to the interpretation of the texts. The result is inspiring to scholars and provides students with an intriguing glimpse into the complex world of the Renaissance criminal court."
James P. Hammersmith | Southern Humanities Review
"These are Renaissance true crime stories, cleverly and entertainingly told, that give us a glimpse of the reality behind the stereotype we have long accepted. We may well respond, as contemporaries in English playhouses seeme to have done, with a mixture of fascination and horror."
Christopher Carlsmith | Sixteenth Century Journal
"The work reflects an admirable combination of historical sleuthing, literary analysis, and creative imagination. . . . Yet each story offers much more than archival minutiae. Cohen writes with exuberance and style, utilizing flashbacks and other devices to build the tension while remaining true to the archival record. . . . We come away with an enhanced sense of the past and an appreciation for the importance of literary style happily married to historical research."
Carole Collier Frick | Journal of Modern History
"This is a generous and illuminating work of early modern historical scholarship that would also be useful to anyone teaching in the profession. . . . Cohen's prose is witty, colorful, and delightful to read."
1. Double Murder in Cretone Castle
2. Lost Love and a Handkerchief
3. The Last Will of Vittoria Giustini
4. "This Is My Dowry": The Vile Loves of Prosecutor Pallantieri
5. The Lady Lives, the Pigeon Dies
6. Three in a Bed: The Seduction of Innocentia
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