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Emblems of EloquenceOpera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice$
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Wendy Heller

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520209336

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520209336.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

The Emblematic Woman

The Emblematic Woman

(p.27) Chapter 1 The Emblematic Woman
Emblems of Eloquence

Wendy Heller

University of California Press

This chapter presents the emblematic woman drawn from the ancient world whose virtues and vices were fashioned and refashioned to express early modern notions of femininity. The crescendo in the voices and increased theatricality of Venetian literary men and women involved in the debate about women is described. Women's voices gained greater power when the purity of Venice's female image seemed most at risk. Giovanni Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus was an extraordinarily important work in the formation of early modern ideas about female heroines. Exemplary women played a significant role in an elaborate didactic system that instructed women not to be exceptional but rather to emulate exceptional woman only insofar as they practiced “ordinary” virtues. The debate about women and the Sensa is particularly relevant to the consideration of women and opera in Venice. The emblematic woman was a natural focus for opera during the more theatrically minded Seicento.

Keywords:   emblematic woman, femininity, Venice, Giovanni Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus, Sensa, opera

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