The Washington Post: "The Popes Daughter offers a studied reconsideration of Lucrezias life, swerving dramatically from accounts of her as a monster, a poisoner, and a prostitute."
Date: Aug 10 2015
Writers and entertainers have long found rich fodder in the historical muck of the Borgia clan. Spanish interlopers at the height of the Italian Renaissance — the “original crime family,” as the popular Showtime series describes them — inspired works by Dumas, Victor Hugo and Rafael Sabatini, among others. Despite all the adultery, bribery, incest, murder and ruthless power-grubbing in the House of Borgia, perhaps no member of the family has excited more salacious gossip than Lucrezia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI and Renaissance Italy’s favored villainess. An alleged poisoner of husbands said to have conducted incestuous affairs with father and brother both, Lucrezia had a dubious reputation as early as the 17th century in John Ford’s tragedy “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.”
According to the new novel by Nobel laureate Dario Fo, however, this is nothing but “creative embroidery in the fine art of scandalmongering.” Making his novel debut at the lively age of 89, Fo’s “The Pope’s Daughter” offers a studied reconsideration of Lucrezia’s life, swerving dramatically from accounts of her as “a monster, a poisoner, and a prostitute.” Here, instead, she is a devoted wife and daughter, lover of culture and patron of the poor and downtrodden. Not just a pawn or sacrificial lamb, she’s a keen political mind in her own right, able to maneuver with the best (and worst) of the men.
The Borgia’s political machinations provide an undoubtedly grotesque spectacle, a fine subject for the dell’arte all’improvviso, which has long been a creative touchstone of Fo’s. A controversial choice for the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Italian has been called the “people’s court jester,” taking his cues, as an actor, playwright, comedian and director from the tradition of the Italian giullare, an itinerant medieval performer whose antics gave the exploited a voice. Fo has used the tradition to target the hypocrisies of his own time, lampooning Forza Italia and the Vatican through solo performances like “Mistero Buffo” or political farces like “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” His Nobel itself was seen by some as a satirical commentary on the part of the Swedish Academy.