Interlude: Taking Place as Territorialization

At this point, the thinking on territory-as-production developed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari becomes helpful in theorizing Ruzzante’s mode of theatre. I want to consider “the manner in which [the expressive qualities of Ruzzante’s theatre] constitute points in the territory that place the circumstances of the external milieu in counterpoint” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 317). Taking the Prima Oratione as a demonstration of this theory in action, the “circumstances of the external milieu” appear at first as the conditions of life produced by unjust religious laws. The “points in the territory” align with the windows or viewpoints opened by Ruzzante’s performance, through which the conditions of life exterior to the privileged space of the villa became visible for and tangible to the Cardinal(s). The complex of interior spaces produced by the wall surrounding the Villa at Asolo appeared to Ruzzante as an act of domination that sublimated nature to the confines of human law. This was the case on at least two levels. First, as the quotation on the Renaissance villa above makes explicit, the Villa Barco produced a secluded garden within the more expansive garden of Nature’s bounties. Second, for the peasants who worked the land and built their livelihood on their relationship with Padua’s land, the multiple blockades erected by religious law that exacerbated an already intense era of starvation conditioned by inclement weather and low-yield harvests created another barrier. Eviction from the heart of “Mister Jesus God,” as Ruzzante referred to him, if one ate before mass; sin acquired by working on Sundays; splitting already thin rations into the most meager of portions in order to feed children born from predatory priests. These were all signs of the religious authority figures barring access to the most immediate of resources: the land. Because the problem was man-made, Ruzzante figured that men could correct it and so he pitched his plan to Cardinal Marco Cornaro. From this perspective, the room inside the Villa Barco where Ruzzante planted himself for the address was the dominant territory, ground zero, insofar as the dominating figure of the Cardinal occupied it on that special occasion. Ruzzante’s performance, then, embodied the Deleuzo- Guattarian concept of territorial counter-point.

Deleuze and Guattari have suggested that territorial counter-points produced melodic landscapes. Such a product is not “a melody associated with a landscape; the melody itselfis a sonorous landscape in counterpoint to the virtual landscape” (318). The virtual landscape in this case was the ideal humanist projection of everyday life constructed by the Villa Barco. We can therefore unravel another paradox of Ruzzante’s theatre: the scenographic function of his dialect and frank, direct speech. How does the sonority of his speaking construct a visual field? How can his singing at the end of the Seconda Oratione display the unweeded garden that Padua had become? By proposing a territorial counter-point to the rhythm of life mandated by religious laws and broken republican governmentality, Ruzzante’s monologues and other modes of address unveiled the landscape that the walls around the Villa Barco, or the Palazzo Ducale for that matter, kept hidden from view.

Ruzzante’s acts of taking place amounted to the production of his own territory within a privileged site and the erection of a counter-politia intended to overwrite the private desires that trumped the needs of the many. When he addressed the audience with his Lettera giocosa, the territory of Ruzzante’s theatre constructed a critical distance between himself and the audience. “Critical distance is a relation based on matters of expression. It is a question of keeping at a distance the forces of chaos knocking at the door” (320). From Ruzzante’s point of view, the forces of chaos damaging his beloved Padua in the 1520s came not from nature but from the agents of the Venetian Republic and the Catholic Church, whose various systems of order produced nothing but misery. Muir cites a speech made by a local Paduan in 1509 that corroborates this claim of mine. Against the picture of benevolent republicanism painted by the influential Venetian Gasparo Contarini, this Paduan claims that, “In that city of Padua, which should be the city of Paduans, no part remains for them [... ]. Nothing is ours anymore, but everything has been extorted and torn from our hands by these Venetians” (Muir, “Republicanism?” 148). As Deleuze and Guattari put it, “How very important it is, when chaos threatens, to draw an inflatable, portable territory” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus 320). Such were those monologues, dialogues, letters, and poetic calls for reform offered by Ruzzante and other, now anonymous, Paduan spokespeople. Works such as Lettera giocosa and the two Orationi were portable territories that Ruzzante could inflate by haranguing audience members in his dialect and then deflate and carry over to the next house where he would perform. Each individual performance enacted a specifically Paduan refrain.

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