chapter  11
18 Pages

The Motif of the Woman in Male Disguise from Boccaccio to Bigolina

For the most pmt, the early Italian novellas employing this motif fall into two broad categories. The first category includes tales of amorous intrigues and beffe, the practical jokes that are so common in the Italian novella; here the disguised characters are rarely well developed, and often their disguised state is of relatively brief duration.3 In the second category, which includes the type of love story that Mario Baratto has called novella-romanzo in the context of the narrative modes of Boccaccio's Decameron, the motif is much more amply developed and tends to confer far greater power and freedom of movement on the disguised character.4 Such stories typically follow narrative patterns that derive from the ancient Greek romances, including pairs of separated lovers or spouses who become involved in a series of disasters and journeys marked by abrupt shifts in fortune, often ending with a recognition scene and a joyful reunion. In many of these stories, heroines must disguise themselves as men as a result of danger or desperate need in order to facilitate their movements in male-dominated social spheres. I will begin this essay by tracing some of the salient aspects of this motif as it appears in various 110velle-romanzi from Boccaccio to the sixteenth century. I will then seek to demonstrate how the motif attains the apex of its develop-

ment-with truly unique social implications-in the works of Giu[ia Bigolina, the tirst woman to have gained any renown for her contributions to the Ita[ian novella and romance in prose.5