With the Mandragola we are facing the most beautiful Italian comedy of all time. Voltaire was already aware of its exceptional nature in Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations (1756): “Machiavelli’s Mandrake alone is perhaps worth more than all Aristophanes’ comedies”. That the author is also the founder of modern political thought is a circumstance that can be explained by his genius. Comedy arises from the same intelligence of men and things that is in political and historical works, but at the same time reveals the ability to grasp what is funny and paradoxical in everyday life and a mocking temperament willing to desecrate any value. However, the miracle would not have succeeded if the two souls of the great fifteenth-century Florentine culture had not met in M.: the humanistic one of Marsilio Ficino and Poliziano – revived in the meetings of the Orti Oricellari (→, where, moreover, the theater was a primary interest) – and the vulgar one that extended from Giovanni Boccaccio to him.
Dating and methods of composition. In the absence of any information about the times and methods of the composition of the Mandrake, the objective terms within which to place the drafting are between 1504, the year in which the story was set, and 1519, date affixed to the Laurenziano Redi 129 of the Laurentian Medici Library of Florence, the only manuscript that today transmits it; taking into account the Florentine calculation of the years ab incarnatione, the year 1519 could also cover the time span from 1 January to 24 March 1520. Neglecting other hypotheses of dating outside this period, without any foundation, point an obligatory starting point for the consideration of the chronology of composition is the opinion of Roberto Ridolfi, who in the second revised edition of the Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli (October 1954) assigned the comedy to January-February 1518. Ridolfi based his evaluation on measure III 32 of the widow to the friar (“Do you believe that the Turk is spending this year in Italy?”), A joke that, in the scholar’s opinion, could not have been topical in any other year than 1518, when the danger of a Turkish invasion in Italy would have been concretely present.