Eugenio Refini

Jan 25, 2024

Staging the Soul

Allegorical Drama as Spiritual Practice in Baroque Italy

Legenda 2023

As per William Shakespeare, ‘all the world’s a stage’. But what if the human soul was a stage too? What if the stage of the world and the stage of the soul coincided? And what if the soul was also the main character of the play? 

These questions are at the core of Eugenio Refini's book Staging the Soul: Allegorical Drama as Spiritual Practice in Baroque Italy (Legenda, 2023), which explores pedagogical uses of allegorical drama in Italy in the decades around 1600, with a focus on the place of theatre in the education of female orphans in the hospitals of Venice. The consumption of morality plays is looked at as a form of spiritual practice modeled on long-lasting theatrical metaphors. In this context, tropes such as the theatrum mundi not only regained their literal meaning by being actually staged, but also turned into rhetorical devices able to promote the inner staging of the ‘world’ on the ‘spiritual’ stage of the soul.

Kate Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Italian and Romance Studies at Duke University. She is a specialist of early modern Italian and European literary and cultural history, with interests in women’s and gender studies, performance history, and the cultures of diplomacy and reception. Email: kate.driscoll@duke.edu.

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Kate Driscoll

Kate Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Italian and Romance Studies at Duke University. She is a specialist of early modern Italian and European literary and cultural history, with interests in women’s and gender studies, performance history, and the histories of diplomacy and sociality. Email: kate.driscoll@duke.edu.

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