This book studies the uses of orality in Italian society, across all classes, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, with an emphasis on the interrelationships between oral communication and the written word. The Introduction provides an overview of the topic as a whole and links the chapters together. Part 1 concerns public life in the states of northern, central, and southern Italy. The chapters examine a range of performances that used the spoken word or song: concerted shouts that expressed the feelings of the lower classes and were then recorded in writing; the proclamation of state policy by town criers; songs that gave news of executions; the exercise of power relations in society as recorded in trial records; and diplomatic orations and interactions. Part 2 centres on private entertainments. It considers the practices of the performance of poetry sung in social gatherings and on stage with and without improvisation; the extent to which lyric poets anticipated the singing of their verse and collaborated with composers; performances of comedies given as dinner entertainments for the governing body of republican Florence; and a reading of a prose work in a house in Venice, subsequently made famous through a printed account. Part 3 concerns collective religious practices. Its chapters study sermons in their own right and in relation to written texts, the battle to control spaces for public performance by civic and religious authorities, and singing texts in sacred spaces.
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