Friday, October 5, 2012

Schoolwork: Essay on Giovanni & Lusanna
I've talked about Evanescence before - check out February Songaday day 1. For ease, use the Music tab at the top of the page. This is their first major hit, if I recall. I actually really like it, despite not being too big of a fan of Fallen (though My Last Breath is also great). And yeah, unfortunately this just disqualified Evanescence from Songaday, but I really wasn't planning on using it anyway.
This is an essay I wrote for my Hist260 class (Early Modern European History), taught by Professor Halverson. We've been studying the Renaissance, mostly Florence of course, and just finished reading Giovanni and Lusanna by Gene Brucker. We had to write an essay on it, with this prompt"
In 1455, a Florentine woman named Lusanna sued her lover Giovanni for violating their marriage agreement and planning to marry another woman. The case was heard in the Archbishop's court, and allows us a close look at the intriguing world of Renaissance marriage, politics, and law. Discuss the details of this case and the social position of the two lovers brought before the court. What clues does it give us about the position of women in Florentine society? How did the courts involved make their final decision?
Now, it's already submitted. However, that doesn't mean I couldn't use some help anyway! If you wouldn't mind proofreading it, that'd be great. If you know some things about the case and have some ideas or sources that you think it would be beneficial to use, even better.
And the best thing is when you share interesting trivia you know about the case or the Renaissance or Florence and stuff. I just like knowing this stuff, so any help in any form would be awesome. Thanks.

And hey, if you're not an expert or anything, give it a look anyway - maybe you'll learn something! Wouldn't that be neat?

"Max / Ego
October 4th, 2012
HIST 260
Essay 1 (Giovanni and Lusanna)

An Unlikely Match: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence as Understood Through the Case of Giovanni and Lusanna

     Many details of the Italian Renaissance elude us even today. While the Renaissance, a period of time spanning from, roughly, the 14th to 17th century, was a time when much more attention was paid to society as a whole and to the legacy the Italians would leave for the future, the decay of time and strife has left us with a lot of mysteries about the time. Especially mysterious were the ways that class and gender were affected by the changing culture. The Renaissance was the rebirth of interest in the humanities, but often gender roles and class structure either were assumed to simply not be in need of study or the documents that were studies of them have been lost or have yet to be found. Instead, the best insight we have into the societal practices of Renaissance Italy can be found through examination of what other documents show about the surrounding culture. One the most influential of these documents is a record of a single mid-1400s court case regarding the viability of a marriage between an upper class man and a lower class woman. This document was found by Gene Brucker, a historian who went on to compile his analysis of the record and its implications about love in the Renaissance in a book, titled Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence. In the book, Brucker explains the relationship between the genders and social classes in cases of marriage, revealing the continued preferential treatment toward both men and those of the upper class, despite the eventual result of the case, the details of which will be presented in this essay.

     The book itself is predominantly a summary and analysis of the record of the case found in the Florentine archives. The record was kept by Ser Filippo Mazzei, a notary of some reknown. While notaries are often an overlooked profession in the modern day, at the time it was a position of much prestige. Notaries were often called upon to “draw up wills, property transactions, dowry contracts, and settlements of disputes,” as well as “drafting legislattion and keeping minutes of council meetings and court records,” the last of which makes Ser Filippo relevant to the case.1 Ser Fiippo's rigorously written works managed to remain preserved in twenty volumes held within the state archives of Florence. The case itself is an examination of the dispute between Giovanni della Casa, an aristocrat, and Lusanna, a woman of the artisan class. Lusanna was the one who raised the case against Giovanni, accusing him of having married another woman while he was already married to Lusanna, and Giovanni argued that he'd never married her.

     Presiding over the case was Archbishop Antoninus, a high-level leader of the Church. Antoninus himself was an interesting figure worthy of examination due to an uncommon set of values he held in regard to social class, and through Antoninus we can learn a substantial amount about the way class worked in Renaissance Florence. The most remarkable thing about Antoninus is that he was completely incorruptible. Even when faced with a potential bribe from Cosimo de' Medici himself, the most powerful and richest man in Florence, he replied that “'it was not necessary to [to petition him], for if he was in the right, justice would be rendered to him, as it would be to the lowliest man in Florence.'”2 His flawless character makes him the ideal judge for this particular case, where both gender and social class are thrown into harsh conflict. Had it been any other official, such an unbiased approach to the case would have been significantly less likely, even within the Church (currently under the short papacy of Pope Callixtus III). Public officials of the time were oftentimes quite corruptible, with bribes being nearly ubiquitous in everyday life. The Medici family in particular wound up holding an incredible amount of power over the city of Florence for several generations (beginning with Cosimo and ending, at least temporarily, with Lorenzo de Medici), despite the family only rarely holding public office directly, instead ruling the democracy through surrogates, described by Brucker as an “elaborate patronage network,”3 with patronage implying that he was either paying or supporting them for some service. That isn't to say that this corruption led to destruction of any sort – the city of Florence flourished under the Medici, and Lorenzo's time in power is often called the Golden Age of the Renaissance4 - but the amount of power wealth gave to a family was one of the major aspects that skewed society in favor of the rich and the upper-class. Should someone other than Archbishop Antoninus have presided over the case of Giovanni and Lusanna, the della Casa family would likely have been able to win without debate by bribing the official. In fact, Antoninus's own modest background5 and noted harshness on charges of usury (at one point a usury case was even transferred away from his purview out of concern that he would not be fair to the defendant)6 imply that he was actually biased against the rich. As Brucker states, Antoninus knew that Giovanni was “a rich bander and moneylender, possibly guilty of usury,”7 which may have contributed to his eventual decision to uphold Lusanna's complaint. The status difference between Lusanna and Giovanni shows us a great deal about the way classes interacted and the way Renaissance law handled the difference.

     The class difference is not only revelatory of the way the law handled social class, but also of how social class was handled in matters of love. The way class affected romance in Renaissance Florence is immediately evident even in Giovanni's initial pursuit of Lusanna. Giovanni falls in love with Lusanna while her husband is still alive, and tries to begin a relationship with her. He is forward and insistent, only becoming more persistent when asked to stop by Lusanna's brother Antonio8. Had Lusanna fallen for Giovanni, she would not have the same luxury – thanks to Giovanni's family's wealth and reputation, he had many girls seeking to marry him in order to increase the status of their family – and that is the root of why Giovanni and Lusanna's case is so unusual. The custom at the time was to marry in order to increase social status or to tie together important families, not to marry for love. This is the evidence behind many of Giovanni's arguments in court regarding Lusanna is lying, saying that the two of them married, with Giovanni arguing that “it is not credible that he would have accepted her as a wife, for he would have married a prostitute to the grave dishonor of himself and his family.”9 Giovanni sought to argue that he while he admitted to having sexual relations with her, there was no way he would have considered marriage because it would have been destructive to his family to marry a woman of such lower-class than himself. He also needed to marry into another upper-class family in order to obtain the dowry that would come with it, which was “essential to his family's welfare and reputation,”10 indicating another reason why Giovanni would have married an upper-class woman rather than Lusanna. Having called her a prostitute there, Giovanni built his case around blackening her reputation into that of an obsessive, indecent, and promiscuous woman, thus making her undesirable, though it is important to note that while their concept of prostitution is the same as ours today, at the time it was an acceptable career path for those of the lower class, not a crime as it often is today. Giovanni even tried to directly wield his class against Lusanna when he attempted to have the case thrown out if she could not guarantee her ability to pay all the relevant fees should she lose the case11. On this point Antoninus agreed that it was an aspect to consider, though obviously the case went on.

     But social class is not the only difference between the two that is revealed through the case; gender is just as important, if not more so. Lusanna was a rare exception among women of the time, and could not be categorized as any of the major roles women adopted. Typically, women of her rank would be “chaste wives and widows or cloistered nuns,” not passionate and driven like Lusanna. Throughout the case, Giovanni was able to prove that their relationship had in fact started before the death of her husband Andrea, and Lusanna's willingness to not only participate in a relationship that made her happier than her marriage but to occasionally seize the initiative in that illicit relationship sets her apart from other women of the era.12 However, the most unfortunate difference between the classes was the double standard that existed regarding sex. Giovanni attempted to paint Lusanna in the most sexualized light he could because for a women to be that forward and promiscuous was a great break of the social norms at play in Florence. Both secular and religious law forbid and punished adultery like that Lusanna practiced whilst married to Andrea. This alone is not problematic, if applied universally. However, Brucker explains that for Giovanni, he didn't need to “fear prosecution for his offense, which was so prevalent and widely tolerated that it was rarely penalized by Florentine courts.”13 The same actions that Lusanna was being accused of to paint her as in the wrong were being practiced by Giovanni as well and openly admitted, without any of the same idea of wrongdoing attached to it. “Giovanni's behavior thus conformed in most respects to the conventions of his sex, age, and class.”14 It was expected of him while being condemned in Lusanna, and if these social values were held throughout Florentine society, women were unjustly being held to a much higher standard than men.

     In the end, Antoninus decides in favor of Lusanna, establishing the validity of their clandestine, barely-witnessed marriage.15 This in itself is astounding for both women and for the lower-class, because against all odds a low-ranking woman triumphed over an upper-class man. I would attribute this to Antoninus's ability to see through the social restrictions placed upon women and his distaste for the abuses of the upper class. His decision was based upon his assertion that the key to a valid marriage is consent. Despite all of the social expectations about “'age, beauty, power, social rank, wealth, and family'”16 that go into the acceptance of a marriage, Antoninus believed that, while unorthodox, merely consent of both parties is sufficient for a marriage to be true. Unfortunately for Lusanna, Giovanni did appeal this case directly in Rome through many of his powerful allies including, potentially, Cosimo de Medici himself. By bypassing the incorruptible Antoninus, the Della Casa family apparently was able to obtain a papal nullification of the marriage not too long afterward17, proving that class, once again, can take priority over the truth. Through the case of Giovanni and Lusanna, in the text written by Gene Brucker, the way social status and gender affected marriage and culture in Renaissance Florence is far clearer than ever before.

1Gene Brucker, Giovanni and Lusanna (Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 1.
2Ibid., p. 13.
3Ibid., p. 111.
4Beginner's Guide, "Florence Overview and History." Last modified 2006. Accessed October 4, 2012.
5Gene Brucker, Giovanni and Lusanna (Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 11.
6Ibid., p. 74.
7Ibid., p. 74.
8Ibid., p. 16.
9Ibid., p. 50.
10Ibid., p. 84.
11Ibid., p. 44.
12Ibid., p. 84.
13Ibid., pp. 79-80.
14Ibid., p. 80.
15Ibid., p. 73.
16Ibid., p. 53.
17Ibid., p. 118."

End Recording,

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