Wine, Women and Song: Female Vocality and the Villotta

Alvise Castellino’s Il primo libro de villotte (Venice, 1541) is dedicated to Ercole II d’Este and indeed the songs might have been performed at Ferrarese banquets similar to those described by Christoforo da Messisbugo. This paper explores links between Castellino’s songs, civility books and comic theatre associated with Ferrara, paying particular attention to songs concerning female speech and sexuality. While noblewomen and noblemen alike seem to have enjoyed these types of ‘rustic’ entertainments, the context of their active participation differs considerably. Although noblemen might strengthen their noble identity by patronizing or performing strophic dialect song, in theory (if not in practice), noblewomen had to be more circumspect.

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