Goldoni e il teatro delle spie

Autore: Robert Fajen
In: Venetiana. 22
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In the 18th century, Venice is a city under scrutiny. The state maintains a dense network of spies who constantly provide it with information. The identity of these agents is secret, but their existence well known. Residents are aware that they are under surveillance and adjust their behavior in public spaces accordingly, as an episode in Giacomo Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie (1789/90-1797) shows. In his early comedy La bottega del caffè (1750), Carlo Goldoni takes up the issue of state control, but by no means with critical intent. He rather emphasizes the necessity of state espionage, whose main purpose is to separate public from private space. Therefore, in his text Goldoni establishes a crucial distinction between a “right” form of observation that respects this boundary and a “false” one that permanently mixes the public and the private sphere. This distinction is paradigmatically reflected in the coffeehouse owner Ridolfo and his gossiping guest Don Marzio. In his late masterpiece Sior Todero Brontolon (1762), Goldoni’s position is radically different. This play can be read as an allegory of a state control mania that knows no measure, denies people’s needs and demands and tries to cut itself off from the outside. The different versions of the play indicate that Goldoni was witnessing the cultural isolation of the Republic with growing concern.