The development of the Roman carnival over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Mooney, Denis (1988) The development of the Roman carnival over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The purpose of this thesis is to give a description of the main features of the carnival in Rome over a period of time from the late seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, the last two hundred years of its effective existence. To appreciate the form of the festival over this period, which in its essential characteristics remained basically unchanged, something must be said about the earlier centuries, where there were notable differences and emphases. The final form of the carnival was established in the second half of the seventeenth century. Given the time-scale and the number of factors involved, a thematic rather than a chronological sequence has been followed in order to establish in which ways the earlier carnival differed from the later. Chapter One is devoted to the earlier years. There is a serious lack of documentation for the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, especially in relation to the enjoyment of the ordinary people. Most refernces to the occasion tend to concentrate on the more aristocratic manifestations, or on the official and more organized events. In the Middle Ages and for much of the sixteenth century the carnival held a position of importance in the civic calendar of Rome, in the form of the Games of Agone and Testaccio. They were organized by the S.P.Q.R., the city magistrates and the `Rioni'. With the progressive establishment of Papal power from the mid fifteenth century, and the choice of the via Lata for the main events, the importance of the people's games declined (the games of Testaccio dying out some time in the early seventeenth century) and this reflected the gradual decline of the people's power. With the increasing power of the Papacy and the new Papal aristocracy in the seventeenth century, a process of control, reform and refinement of the carnival took place - political control, moral reform under the impetus of the Counter-Reformation, the regulating of the carnival to remove the violence and disorders of earlier years, a refining of the features of the carnival which removed some of the crudeness and vulgarity. These moves concerned particularly the carnival of the people, of which only glimpses are recorded; the years after the mid sixteenth century are those in which the Church and the cultural elite distanced themselves from the popular culture which had been shared by all in the Renaissance period - and the carnival was the prime example of this culture. Annual edicts dictated the rules to be observed in the conduct of carnival; initially extremely severe, they were softened somewhat in the course of the seventeenth century, particularly in relation to the participation of women in the celebrations. This chapter ends with a look at the innovations of Paul II, who gave the carnival its essential form and duration in 1466, by his move to the Corso (via Lata), his introduction of the classical `Trionfo', which was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a celebration of the city and the Pope, and in the seventeenth century of the aristocracy. Some reference will be made to the most popular masks seen in the seventeenth century carnival. The chapter ends with a look at the races, increased in number and in variety by Paul II. For most of this period the horse-race was only one of a number of races; only in the second half of the seventeenth century did it become the sole kind. Chapter Two covers the period up to 1789; a period of relative stability, free from political tension and troubles. The form of the carnival was now virtually complete - only the `Moccoli' ceremony of the last evening had still to be added. This chapter gives a description of the various features of the carnival which remains generally valid for later periods, though more details and more emphasis will be noted on certain points in later chapters. The focus was now firmly on the Corso, by this time the venue for all the main events of the carnival - the public events. The games of Agone and Testaccio were over, and the other locations which had been occasionally used no longer figured in the celebrations. The aristocratic domination of the occasion had declined considerably; the focus was on the people and their pleasure, the aristocracy preferring, as Goethe indicated, to mix with the crowd on the street. Foreigners were an increasing presence, but had not yet begun to take such an enthusiastic part in the proceedings as they did later. A description of individual features will be given, the masks, some indication of the scenes played out on the Corso, the confetti battles (with a look at the projectiles used in earlier periods), the `moccoli' evening, the races ( the one area where the aristocracy maintained control for the greater part of the century). Chapter Three covers the period between 1789 and 1815 - a period of upheaval, with the arrival of revolution in the city. The political dimension was brought into the carnival, the element of conflict absent for so many years. With war in Europe the numbers of foreigners visiting the city diminished considerably; there is much less information available from foreign observers for this period. The political tension, already apparent even before the arrival of the French in 1798, came to the surface at various moments, most notably in the remarkable example of passive resistance to the French command which took place in the carnival of 1809. The French, in 1798-99, made an unsuccessful attempt to reform and renew the carnival, to turn it into a `f^ete réolutionnaire' (`la Festa Saturnale'); but very soon things were back to normal - or almost, since the `moccoli' ceremony banned in 1790, was not resumed till 1811. The traditional masks, some of which had been outlawed, were back in those closing years of the period. There was a further increase in the freedom allowed to women, and the mask of the peasant girl, or `Ciociara' was becoming the most popular female costume. Chapter Four continues the story up to 1848. With the end of hostilities and the Restoration of Papal government foreigners flocked back to Rome, and began to play a more active role, in the masked ball, private or public, but also on the Corso - particularly in the confetti battles, where their participation was so violent that they often offended the Romans. The freedom of the young women was even more noticeable in these years. The quality of the horses presented for the races had deteriorated. The familiar masks were very much in evidence, but there was an increase of more primitive and grotesque ones - animals, giants, physical deformities. There is more evidence of little scenes played out on, and off, the Corso, and praise of the skill of the Romans in comic improvisation. There were, however, numerous foreign observers who denied the ability of the Romans to `support' character, and who preferred the masked ball, their concept of masking - based on historical, artistic, literary models. Such masks began to appear on the Corso, too. This chapter ends with a look at the political situation after 1830. Even before this year some of the more sensitive foreign observers had sensed an unease and a tension under the light-heartedness of the affair, indications that perhaps some of the inhabitants of Rome had not welcomed the Pope back so whole-heartedly. The carnival of 1831, in the middle of the rebellion in the Papal States, brought this to the surface

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Reproductions of plates removed.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1988
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:1988-2502
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2011
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2014 15:48

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