Renæssanceforum 13 • 2018

Magnus Tessing Schneider
Busenello's Secret History: An allegorical reading of L'incoronazione di Poppea

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The 1623 publication of Procopius' Secret History shocked the scholarly world. The ancient historian's rejection of his official account of the reign of Justinian I forced humanists to reflect on the general reliability of historical sources. The article suggests that Giovan Francesco Busenello's libretto L'incoronazione di Poppea (1643) reflects the challenge posed by Procopius' book. Though its portrayal of historical figures adheres to Tacitus' Annals, it plays with the possibility that even Tacitus himself was deceived by Machiavellian rulers. Did he, for example, condemn Nero and Poppaea while praising Octavia because this was the truth, or because Octavia was in fact a superior politician who had managed to craft a favourable epitaph for herself?