Renaissance and Reformation Lucrezia Marinella
Maria Galli Stampino
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0317


Lucrezia Marinella (b. 1571–d. 1653) was a widely known author in Venice and throughout Italy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Her poetry and prose works were printed (and even reprinted), attracting notice and renown. Despite her subsequent fame as a proto-feminist, most of her writing is devoted to religious topics, in which her personal, pro-woman stance is present but expressed in ways that are in keeping with the constraints of genre and the culture of her time. She was daughter, sister, and wife to physicians. Marinella’s knowledge emerges as varied and extensive in her writings. Her published texts fall between 1595 and 1605 and then 1617 and 1648; this hiatus is usually explained by the date of her marriage (1607). As remarkable as the length of her career is the span of topics her works engage: lives and stories of the Virgin and of several saints, the struggle of man to defeat sin under the guise of classical mythology, the role of women in society and culture, and the Fourth Crusade are but a few. From her will we know she had a son and a daughter, as well as a granddaughter from the latter. Her diverse topics, choice of form, wide-ranging selection of dedicatees, individual voice, and long career make her an important point of reference for exploring post–Council of Trent literary production by women in Italian.

General Overviews

Despite Marinella’s long publication record in her lifetime and fame both then and starting in the late 1970s, very few book-length studies are devoted solely to her. Partly because of her extensive production encompassing a variety of meters and on different topics, and partly because little is known about her personal history, Marinella has not been central to the analysis of a specific genre (e.g., lyrical poetry through Vittoria Colonna) or to the recovery of profiles like that of the cortigiana onesta (as is the case with Tullia d’Aragona and Veronica Franco) or the female actor (such as Isabella Andreini). Malpezzi Price 1994 offers a solid outline of Marinella’s texts and criticism but does not include more recent studies. Kolsky 2005 gives an updated overview, although its bibliography is not as complete. Another useful entry point is Benedetti 2008. Although somewhat dated, Allen and Salvatore 1992 stands out as the earliest English-language contribution that situates Marinella’s works within her culture. Cox 2008 places Marinella in historical and geographical context, offering important indications concerning her chosen themes, ideological positions, and significance with respect to earlier and later authors. Conversely, Malpezzi Price and Ristaino 2008 offers an exceptionalist view of Marinella, tracing what the authors identify as her distinctly female point of view through a number of her works; nevertheless, this is still the only monograph in English or Italian devoted to Marinella as author. Cox 2011 contextualizes Marinella within the ideological and cultural world of the Counter-Reformation, focusing on how her chosen topics conform to or oppose it from within.

  • Allen, Prudence, and Filippo Salvatore. “Lucrezia Marinelli and Woman’s Identity in Late Italian Renaissance.” Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 28.4 (1992): 5–39.

    Three-part study that concentrates on the sociohistorical background in which Marinella lived and worked: on Enrico in relation to its antecedents and contemporary epic poems, on The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men and her philosophical positions, and on Marinella’s connections with and divergence from cultural norms. Useful introduction to the many facets of Marinella’s works, even if its language betrays its age.

  • Benedetti, Laura. “Lucrezia Marinella.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography 339: Seventeenth-Century Italian Poets and Dramatists. Edited by Albert N. Mancini and Glenn Palen Pierce, 182–190. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2008.

    Concise overview with updated biography, which offers a good entry point into Marinella’s work for undergraduate students.

  • Cox, Virginia. Women’s Writing in Italy, 1400–1650. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

    Provides excellent contexualizing overview of the circumstances in which women writers such as Marinella worked in Italy. Compares and contrasts Marinella’s background, works, and publication history with those of her predecessors and contemporaries.

  • Cox, Virginia. The Prodigious Muse: Women’s Writing in Counter-Reformation Italy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

    Fundamental work on the social, religious, and cultural contexts in which Marinella lived and wrote. Includes commentaries on several of her works.

  • Kolsky, Stephen. “The Literary Career of Lucrezia Marinella (1571–1653): The Constraints of Gender and the Writing Woman.” In Ritual, Images, and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expressions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Edited by F. W. Kent and Charles Zika, 325–342. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1484/M.LMEMS-EB.6.09070802050003050009000705

    Offers a balanced chronological overview of Marinella’s production with an introduction to some of the issues that it presents for readers and scholars. Useful overview for undergraduate students, although with limited bibliography.

  • Malpezzi Price, Paola. “Lucrezia Marinella (1571–1653).” In Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Edited by Rinaldina Russell, 234–241. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994.

    Provides a solid bibliography of works published before 1994, thus offering a good entry point for undergraduate students approaching Marinella.

  • Malpezzi Price, Paola, and Christine Ristaino. Lucrezia Marinella and the “Querelle des Femmes” in Seventeenth-Century Italy. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2008.

    Only monograph in English solely devoted to several facets of Marinella’s work. Informative and thorough, with a clear ideological agenda of positing Marinella as unique within the culture of her times.

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