Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

Tarot in Literature III

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This essay corrisponds in Italian to the text 'I Tarocchi in Letteratura II'


Translation revised by Michael S. Howard, Feb. 2012

Notturno Napolitano - Giovan Maria Cecchi - Jacopo Soldani - Giovan Battista Fagiuoli - Giorgio Baffo - Carlo Gozzi - Carlo Goldoni - Fracesco Augusto Bon - Pietro Chiari - Saverio Bettinelli -  Antonio Cesari - Valentino Berni - Martino Piaggio

Notturno Napolitano

We know few things about this author, who lived in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  An improvisational poet probably paid by the Venetian militia, he died after 1552. He was confused with Epicuro Marcantonio and sometimes identified with Antonio Caracciolo.

The comments of men of letters gave him more denigration than praise.

In Opuscoli di Gio. Battista Vermiglioli ora insieme raccolti con quattro decadi di lettere inedite di alcuni celebri letterati italiani (Pamphlets by Gio. Battista Vermiglioli now collected with four decades of unpublished letters by some famous Italian literati) (1), in the chapter Di alcuni libri di Rime Italiane rarissimi stampati in Perugia nella prima metà del secolo XVI (About some rare books of Italian Rhymes printed in Perugia in the first half of the XVI century), there is a mention in his work about Triumphs: «And since I needed to report an uncertainedition by Bianchino Veronese, I am pleased to add to it others that are rare and poetic. One of them is Gioco de' trionfi, che fanno quattro compagni, detti Delio, Timbreo, Castalio, e Caballino, con due Sonetti in laude del Bembo (Game of triumphs, played by four companions, called Delio, Timbreo, Castalio and Caballino, with two Sonnets in praise of Bembo) (2). It is a light opera in verse and in 8. Written by the so-called Notturno Napolitano. Since I don’t know it, I report it just on the authority of Capponiana (page 272, Op. vol. III) where the learned annotator adds: "Who is this author? Despite the extensive research by Crescimbeni, as he attests in his Commentary in Volume Five, page 58, he has not been able to find him. On the other hand, he quotes many of his Rhymes, and believes that he came from the school of Tibaldeo, and flourished toward 1480. In the Ercolano by Varchi, he is set among the ruined poets. Also Tiraboschi wrote of having little information on him, even though he is the author of many poetic books, and reporting some of his poetry, but ignoring the light work of the Perugia edition"».


Camillo Minieri Riccio in his Memorie Storiche degli Scrittori nati nel Regno di Napoli (Historical Memories of the Writers born in the Kingdom of Naples) (3) writes in this way: “NOTTURNO Napolitano, this vulgar Neapolitan poet, hid his name, so that no one could know who he was. He flourished in the XVI century, had some good taste and wrote: "1st, Tragedia del massimo, e dannoso errore, in che è avviluppato il fragil e volubil sesso femmineo (Tragedy of the most harmful error, in which the weak and fickle feminine sex is entangled); 2nd, Gaudio d' Amore (Joy of Love); 3rd, Cato tradotto da' versi latini in volgari con nove Epitaffi d’ Uomini e donne famose con diligenza per Notturno Napoletano (Cato carefully translated from Latin verses into vulgar, with nine Epitaphs on famous men and women by Notturno Napolitano), Venice, 1555, in 8; 4th, Trionfi degli mirandi spettacoli fatti in Roma per l’elezione del papa (Triumphs of the wonderful shows done in Rome for the election of the Pope), Bologna, 1519, in 12".

Vittorio Cian in the work Decennio della Vita di M. Pietro Bembo (1521-1531). Appunti Biografici e saggio di studio sul Bembo (Decade of the Life of M. Pietro Bembo (1521-1531). Biographical notes and study essay about Bembo) (4) writes: “Notturno. He was Neapolitan, and, despite the severe judgment that Varchi later wrote about him, it seems he enjoyed great fame in his time. Read again, for instance, the verses that Cassio of Narni dedicated to him in his Morte del Danese (Death of the Dane), in which is found  a curious appendix to those by Oriolo:

vedevasi noturno in gran favore
nel mezo de li popoli taliani
alimproviso et com troppo clamore
recitar versi dotti tersi e sani
et se non chegli stesso il proprio honore
col troppo moto di piedi et di mani
turbava, et con laudar troppo se stesso
sarebbe forsi a miglior grado messo.

(You could see Notturno, who enjoyed great favour among the people of Italy, suddenly and with excessive clamour reciting erudite, clear and correct verses, and if it weren't that he himself had upset his honour with too great a movement of his feet and hands, and if he had not praised himself too much, he would perhaps have greater fame).

See the few things written about him by Crescimbeni and Tiraboschi. We will only add that it is necessary to believe that Notturno was a friend, or at least a great admirer, of Bembo, if we admit that the two sonnets in praise of the Venetian poet are really  his work”. 

The abbot Girolamo Tiraboschi wrote in this way in Storia della Letteratura Italiana (History of Italian Literature) (5): “About Notturno Napolitano we have scarcely any news. Quadrio believes (Vol. II, page 214), that this was not a nickname but the family's last name, and he says, that his Canzoniere  (Songs) was printed in the XVI century, without notes either of place or year, but that he flourished around 1480. However in the Estense Library there are some anthologies of the Poems of Notturno separately published in Bologna between 1517 and 1519, each of which is entitled Opera nuova de Notturno Neapolitano, ne la quale vi sono Capitoli, Epistole & c. (New work by Notturno Neapolitano, in which there are Chapters, Epistles etc.). In some of his stanzas entitled Viaggio (Trip), he affirms having travelled in every part of the world, but he doesn't say a lot about America:

E le tre parti del mondo ho cercato,
L'Affrica, l'Europa, e l'Asia doppia,
Dove cento regioni ho ritrovato,
Tutte diverse ed altre cose in coppia.

(And the three parts of the world I have searched for, / Africa, Europe, and double Asia, / where one hundred regions I have found again, / all different and other things in pairs).

In fact the same Poems of his show him or in one, or another country. He also has some Sonnets in the Bergamo Dialect, which seems to indicate that he lived there a few times. In two Chapters he describes the obsequies of the famous General Gian Jacopo Trivulzi, and of Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, both deceased in 1519. Neither do I know, if he lived even elsewhere. The slight sample brought by the Poems of Notturno is enough to show us that they are rightly now abandoned to the dust and moths”.

In Giuoco de’ Trionfi, Napolitano tells about four friends named Delio, Timbreo, Castalio and Caballino, who, waiting for other companions, decide to spend the time playing Triumphs (6). Everyone puts up as a prize a particular object to be delivered by the winner to his own fiancée:  a silver fork, a medal from a cap, a gold necklace and a precious ring. The dialogue's interest , more than for literary reasons, is due to a particular numeration of the Triumph cards:

1          The Emperor [Imperator]
2          The Pope [Papa]
3          The Fool [Matto]
4          The Small Magician [Bagatella]
5          Fortitude [Fortezza]
6          Temperance [Temperanza]
7          Justice [Giusticia]
8          The Chariot [Carro]
9          The Wheel [Rota]
10        The Old man [Vecchio]

It is clearly an order that permits us to understand that the author was not interested in a precise adherance  to the game, but only and exclusively in the literary aspect, which he wanted free of every constraint.

Other Comedies by Giovan Maria Cecchi

We report some passages from the comedies by Giovan Maria Cecchi (Florence, 1518-1587), of whom we have treated in Tarot in Literature I. In the following verses of Lo Sviato (The Misdirected) there is an explicit reference to the figure of the Hermit: a white-haired old man is compared in his appearance to the eleventh card of the Tuscan tarot (Germini) by one of the characters of the comedy:

Lo Sviato
(The Misdirected).  Act Five - Scene III
Viene un vecchio con la barba lunga e tutto canuto, e vestito con una veste da preti nera o pagonazza (paonazza), e dice:

.         Sia con voi la pace di Colui                       
                         Che v’ha col sangue suo ricomperati.       
Gostanza.      Voi siate il ben venuto.     
Lamberto.                                                Questo mi
                         Pare un undici de’ germini.

An old man with a long beard, all white, comes dressed in black or purple priest's vestments, and he says:

Old Man.        Be with you the peace of the One
                         who has saved you with His blood.
Gostanza.      You are welcome.
Lamberto.     This seems me the Germini eleventh


In the passage below, the expression "Da loro il venti” (Give them the twenty)  refers to the card of the element "Fire", the twentieth card of  Germini, to mean "Set fire to them”:

Lo Sviato
(The Misdirected).  Act One - Scene II

.                                                        Il mal è che
                         Questi tutori suoi son troppo miseri.
Lucia.              Ohimè! State cheto, eccone duoi.
Chima.            Da loro il venti.
Giansi.                                             Pigliamo il pendio,
                         Chè qui non è terren da pórcì vigna.


Chima.                                                       The evil is that
                        these guardians of his are much too beggarly.
Lucia.             Alas! Be calm, here are two of them.
Chima.           Give them the twenty.
Giansi.                                            We must take the slope,
                        since this is not ground for planting  vines (1)


(1)  to mean “To stay here nothing is gained”.


In the followings verses, the expression "Trionfin bastoni" has been taken from the game of  Trionfetti or Trionfini, where one of the four suits was baptized as trumps. The same expression is found in the Tancia by Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger (see Tarot in Literature II) (7).

Lo Sviato (The Misdirected).  Act Four - Scene III

Cassiere.    Voi cercate, messer Fazio
                      Che trionfin bastoni (1); però so io
                      Che e’ non trionferanno, in mo’ farò;
                      Ma per voi non vogl’io sodar, ch’egli ha
                      Certi compagni a torno che parrebbe loro
                      A dare a offerta se ne dessimo
                      Trenta, che voi non vi opporesti a venti.

Cashier.      Messer Fazio you are looking for
                      the  triumph of Staves (1); however I know
                      that it will not triumph (2), in my case;
                      but I cannot guarantee the same for you, for they have
                      certain companions around who would appear
                      to be given to your offering (3) if you gave
                      the thirty, but you only put forward the twenty.

(1)  to be given beatings [bastoni]
(2)  I will escape the beatings.
(3)  to be beaten with good will, to strike with that will and disposition with which something is offered to God.


In the following passage drawn by La Conversione della Scozia (The Conversion of Scotland), the expression “a dispetto delle Trombe” (in spite of the Trumpets) refers always to the game of Germini, which sees in the Trumpets card the highest Triumph:

 La Conversione della Scozia
(The Conversion of Scotland). Act One - Scene I 

.        In fatti e’ non si può far un disegno.
                    Che la fortuna non ne faccia un altro.
Ansaldo.    Che non pensate vi riesca forse
                    Il farmi aver qualcosa?
Bruco.                                    Mi dà il cuore
                    Di farlo anche a dispetto delle trombe (1).


Bruco.        In fact we cannot have one intention
                    if fortune makes another one.
Ansaldo.    Do you think perhaps that I am not able
                    to make it give me something?
Bruco.        My heart tells me
                    to do it even in spite of the trumpets (1)

The Trumpets is the highest  of the Triumphs: similar in meaning to "To do at any cost, despite whatever difficulty".

In L’Ammalata (The Ill) dated to 1555, we find an indirect reference to the card of the Magician, represented by a man who is busy doing the conjuring trick (About this, see our examination in the iconological essay The Magician).

(The Ill). Act three - Scene III

Orsù, stasera a ordinare un giuoco
                          Di bagattelle.

Come on, tonight let’s play a game of the small Magician. 

Concerning the expression "Like the fool in tarots" - of which we have reported different examples in Tarot in Literature I, all taken from works by Cecchi - we add the following drawn by Il Servigiale (The Outraged): 

Il Servigiale
. Act Two - Scene I
M. Gentile, a youth

M. Gentile
:                     O fratel, quivi
Son’ io, in casa mia; io burlo, io canto,
I’suono, i’ ballo, i’ fo de giuochi, io dico
Delle novelle; in somma: io son tra loro
Com’è il pazzo ne’ tarocchi.

M. Gentile
:                   Brother, here
am I, at my place; I joke, I sing,
I play, I dance, I do games, I tell
stories; in a word: I am among them
like the fool in the tarot.

Jacopo Soldani

Jacopo Soldani (1579-1641), an author of satires against the immorality of the courtiers, was considered an important literary man by men of his time, so much so as to be buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. Today criticism sets him among the minor Satiric writers close to Giovan Battista Ricciardi, Benedetto Menzini and others. An academician and a friend of Prince Leopoldo de' Medici, he merges, like Salvator Rosa, complaints about the usual evils (interest, ambition, which iin the elders takes the place of sensuality) with those that are more proper to his time: religious hypocrisy and the unbridled luxury of the nobles. We can thus say that the central theme of his satires is precisely the personal repudiation of luxury and the criticism of those who immerse themselves in it. His language, made with Crusca refinements and popular idiocies, returns to the themes of the sermonly satire typical of Ariosto. Particularly remarkable is the satire Contro i Paripatetici (Against the Peripatetics), in which he valiantly defends Galileo ( a friend of his) without nevertheless also exceeding the measure

These are the titles of the Satires:

1 - About the Court: and the bad conscience by which it torments itself.
2 - About the hypocrisy
3 - About the Satire
4 - Against the Peripatetic
5 - Against Luxury
6 - About the inconstancy of the human desires.
7 - To Monsignor Francesco Venturi. Against Luxury and Avarice.

A passage from the third satire iis of interest to us in reference to the subject treated there, where the author, inspired by Aesop's fable, The dog, the rooster and the fox, attributes the astuteness of the fox to an old man who wanted to marry a young girl and that of the rooster to the young girl, who cheated the fox, showing itself to be more cunning than it. Comparing this greater astuteness to that of the one who invented the tarot, Soldani affirms therefore that to be “little roosters” is always worthwhile.

Satire III -  About the Satire.

 E non s'accorge, quando ei giuoca in bisca,
     Del segno ch'il berton fe' ne le doppie
     Ch' ei diede a Livia; acciò quindi arguisca,

S' è di consenso suo, ch' ella s' accoppie 
     Talor seco nel letto: poichè il prezzo
     Par che d' accordo tra di lor si sdoppie.

Quel eh' acerbo non fe', maturo e mezzo
     Vuol far or Giulio: e cerca la bellezza
     D' una fanciulla aver per ogni mezzo;

Acciò, qual barbagianni, in sua vecchiezza
     Pe' difformi imenei metta le corna,
     Di cui non adornossì in giovinezza.

Quei ch' in bigoncia una volpe suborna,
     Ch'a l' autor de' tarocchi, esser galletti
     In senso tropologico ben torna,

D' Eraclito a la vista i semplicetti
     Son, che a farsi mangiar per divozione
     Fur da la ciurma d' un furbo costretti;

(And Giulio doesn't realize, when he plays in the gambling den at the sign of the Bertone (it could be a name or an appellative: “the Breton”) made on the double cards that he gave to Livia;  so that he could understand if sometimes she would consent to go to bed with him, because it seems that an accord between them doubles the price. What he didn’t do in his youth, Giulio wants now that he is old (mature and a half): and he tries with every means to have the beauty of a young girl;  so that, like a barn owl, in his old age is deformed and puts on the horns,which didn't adorn him when young.  The author of the tarot is the one who deceives a fox, since to be a little rooster in an allegorical sense gives a good return, while the simpletons are similar to Heraclitus, in causing themselves to be eaten by the devotion made in submitting to the charm of a cunning one).

The sense is that playing cards, a certain Giulo and a certain Livia exchange signals so that she goes in bed with Giulio, but at a double price. Giulio is a man who when he was young was well mannered and now instead that he is almost old, he tries in every way to have beautiful young girls. The author of the tarot is a sly person who deceives even the foxes, while the one who plays with her is a simpleton like Heraclitus, who caused himself to be torn apart by his dogs (According to the tradition, Heraclitus. although very wise, trusted a cunning charlatan who, to heal him from dropsy, had him immerse in manure where his ow dogs, not recognizing the owner, tore him apart).

Giovan Batista Fagiuoli

Giovan Batista Fagiuoli (1660-1742), poet, writer and playwright of Berni inspiration, praised by the Florentine Academy, was well regarded by the Medici Court, above all for his mastery in expressing acute satirical witticisms, but never malevolent, on the occasions of pleasant entertainments. He is famous for his Epigramma satirico per i Medici, Signori di Firenze: “I Medici - pietosi! - ai Fiorentini Volendo rimediar piaghe e malanni, Decretaron l’effigie sui fiorini Del Santo Protettore, San Giovanni; Però al Santo, al di dietro delle spalle, Appiopparono - al solito - le palle! E questa fu, pei Medici, l’eguale Ricetta… a ogni lor male”. (Satirical Epigram for the Medici, Lords of Florence: "The Medici - merciful! - wanting to remedy wounds and illness, decreed to the Florentines that on the florins had to be put the effigy of St. Giovanni, the Protecting Saint.  However with the Saint, on the back of the coin, they put - as usual - the balls! And this was, for the Medici, the same recipe…for all of their diseases”.

In the comedy I Genitori corretti da’ figliuoli (Parents corrected by their sons) (1735), performed together with other comedies by Fagiuoli at the theatre managed by the Accademici Infuocati (Flaming Academics), we find a reference to the tarot. The story is centred on two old parents (a father and a mother of two separate families) who, having lost their spouses, intend to marry two very substantially endowed young persons. Instead, their sons will succeed in taking their place, teaching their parents the correct way to behave in life.

I Genitori corretti da' figliuoli
(Parents corrected by their sons). Act Three - Scene VII
Anselmo Taccagni, an old miserly man, with a lantern, and standing apart. (Doctor Bartolo and Captain Hemming performed in the preceding scene). 

Che disdetta è stata la mia! In quanto a in bottega di quel barbiere, non vi vo’ più capitare: per me v’è la disgrazia; non ho visto un tarocco in tutta la sera: mi son rizzato senza finir la partita, e ho lasciato in nasso ogni cosa: ho perso non so quanti benedetti resti; basta non ho pagato aulla: faremo i conti, e s’ i’ arò a dare la si discorrerà. Ma chi è affortunato nell’amore è sfortunato nel giuoco; così segue in me per l’ appunto, che avrò la fortuna di aver quella bella ragazza, con tutta quella roba. Il Sere m’ ha detto, che io lasci fare a lui, che vuoi che sia mio ogni cosa. O che gusto!

(What rotten luck mine has been ! About the shop of that barber, I won’t go there anymore:  for me misfortune is there; I have not seen a tarot the whole evening: I got up without ending the game, and I have left everything:  I have lost I don’t know how much blessed rest (a term referring to the card game); I have had enough, I have not paid anything: I will make a count, and if I  have to pay we'll talk. But who is lucky in love is unlucky in the game; and so it is for me, that I’ll have the good fortune to marry that beautiful girl, with all her stuff. The Lord has told me to leave everything to him, since he wants everything to be mine. Oh, what a satisfaction!)

Carlo Goldoni

Indirect references to tarot can be found in different comedies by Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793), of which we will  be concerned to reserve a privileged space. The verb "taroccare" in its meaning of “to shout, to quarrel, to curse, to grumble, to get angry” (on this subject, read the  the article On the Etymology of Tarot), is often used by the writer to highlight a common way of speaking in Venice of the XVII century. In the following list of comedies, both in Italian and Venetian dialect, the verb “Taroccare” is cited: Il teatro comico (1750), La cameriera brillante (1757), Il Moliere (1751), I Rusteghi (1760), Una delle ultime sere di Carnovale (1762), I Morbinosi (1759), La dama prudente (1751), Il buon compatriotto (?), Il filosofo inglese (1754), La Vendemmia (1760), Le femmine puntigliose (1750-1751), Ircana in Julfa (1756).

Il teatro comico
(The Comic Theatre). Act III - Scene X 
Prompter and those already mentioned.

. Cospetto del diavolo! Si finisce, o non si finisce questa maledetta commedia?
Oraz. Ma voi sempre gridate. Quando si prova, vorreste, che si andasse per le poste per finir presto. Quando si recita la commedia, se qualcheduno parla dietro le scene, taroccate, che vi sentono da per tutto.
Il sug. Se tarocco, ho ragione, mentre la scena è sempre piena di gente, che fa rumore; e mi maraviglio di lei, che lasci venir tanta gente sulla scena, che non ci possiamo muovere.

The devil! Do we end this damned comedy or don't we?
Horace: You’re always screaming! When we rehearse, you would like us to go fast to end quickly. When we’re performing the comedy, if somebody speaks behind the stage, you shout [taroccate] so that you can be heard by all.
Prompter: If I shout [tarocco], I’m right to, although the stage is always full of people making noise; and I'm amazed, how you let so many people come on stage that we can't move.

La cameriera brillante
(The bright maid). Act Two - Scene XXIV
Enter Argentina, with Pantalone dresses and cap.

. Fermeve, siori,  e no tarocchè, che tutti gh’avè rason
Argentina. Stop, gentlemen and don’t get angry [tarocchè],, since you all are right.  

Il Moliere. 
Act Two - Scene One
Pirlone, then Foresta

E ben, che risolvete?
Foresta. Signore, ho già risolto; verrò se mi volete.
Stanca son di servire due Femmine sguajate!
Che tarocar principiano, tosto, che sono alzate.
Ed un Padron, che monta in collera per nulla.
Che fa tremare i servi, quando il cervel gli frulla.

. Well, have you decided?
Foresta. Sir, I have already decided; I will come if you want me.
I am tired of serving two vulgar females!
That start shouting [tarocar] as soon as they get up.
and a Lord, who flies into a rage about everything.
Who makes the servants tremble, when something’s going through his brain. 

I Rusteghi
(The Rustics). Act One - Scene IX.
Marina, then Felice, Canciano, and Count Riccardo

. Mi ve digo che no so gnente.
Mar. Come no saveu  gnente, se el vien cun vu in casa mia?
Can. Con mi?
Fel. Mo con chi donca? Caro sior conte, la compatissa.
Semo de Carneval, sala; mio mario se deverte un pocheto.
El vuol far tarocar siora Marina; n’è vero, sior Cancian?

I tell you I don’t know anything.
Mar. How don't you know anything, since he sometimes comes to my place with you?
With me?
FelWith whom, then? Dear Count, please forgive him.
You know, we are in Carnival time; my husband is having a little fun.
He wants Lady Marina to get angry [tarocare]; don’t you, Sir Canciano?

Una delle ultime sere di Carnovale
(One of the last Carnival evenings).  Act One - Scene II
Zamaria, then Domenica

El xè ben altretanto bon.
Dom. Bon el xè? E mi ho sentio a dir, che tutto el di mario e muggier no i fa altro, che rosegarse.
Zam. Saveu, perché? Perché i se vol ben. I xè tutti do zelosi, e per questo ogni men de che i ha qualcossa da tarocar; del resto, quel putto, el xè l’istessa bontà. Cusì te ne capitasse uno a ti.

Zam. He is indeed as good as many.
Dom. Is he good? I heard that husband and wife are quarreling all day long.
Zam. Do you know why? Because they really love each other. They are both jealous, and for this reason they have always something to quarrel [tarocar] about; otherwise, that young man has the same goodness. You’d be lucky to meet one like him.

Morbinosi. Act Four - Scene VII
Toni, and said.

Toni.                                          No voggio tarocar,
            No digo che a la festa no ve voggia menar,
            E se una puta sola non ha d'andar cussì,
            Senza che altri s'incomoda, la vôi compagnar mi. (la prende per mano e la conduce via)

Toni.                                          I don’t want to argue [tarocar],
            I’m not saying I won’t accompany you to the party;
            if a girl cannot go alone,
            without being a bother, I will accompany you. (He takes her hand and leads her away)     

In the following passage the verb "taroccare" is actually used in the context of the card game, in which, as one protagonist says, it is impossible not to argue = taroccare: "Roberto. I hear arguing / Eularia. When we are playing, we cannot do less".

La dama prudente
(The Prudent Lady ). Act Two -  Scene XIX
Don Roberto and said (Lady Eularia, the Count, lady Emilia, lady Rodegonda, the Marquis). 

. Signora, se non avete piacer di giuocare...
Rob. Eh, che giuocherà, giuocherà.
Eul. Giuocherò, giuocherò. Eccomi qui. Favorite. (siede)
Con. (La compatisco, se non ha volontà di giuocare). (siede)
Mar. (Se non ci fossi io, giuocherebbe più volentieri). (siede e comincia a mescolar le carte, e giuocano)
Rob. (Oh la bella partita!) (da sé)
Rodeg. Orsù, giacché finalmente si sono accomodati, accomodiamoci anche noi. Don Roberto, favorite di seder qui. (la sedia resta colla schiena a donna Eularia)
Rob. Subito vi servo. (vorrebbe osservare donna Eularia) Signora donna Emilia, voi siete in un cattivo posto.
Emil. Perché?
Rob. L’aria che viene da quella porta, vi offenderà. Favorite, restate servita qui.
Rodeg. La porta è serrata.
Rob. I servitori che l’aprono, faranno venire dell’aria. Qui starete meglio senz’altro.
Emil. Farò come comandate. (Farmi scomodare! Anche questo è un complimento all’usanza di Castelbuono). (da sé)
Rob. (Ora vedrò meglio il fatto mio). (resta in faccia a donna Eularia)
Rodeg. Ecco le carte, finiamola. (dà le carte in mano a don Roberto)
Rob. Vi servo subito. (mescola, e di quando in quando dà delle occhiate al tavolino della moglie)
Mar. (Eh, benissimo. Col signor Conte si fanno tutti i partiti vantaggiosi nel giuoco). (giuocando, piano a donna Eularia).
Eul. (Il partito che ho fatto a lui, lo faccio a tutti; io non giuoco per vincere).
Mar. (Per favorire un cavaliere che dà nel genio, non si bada a pregiudicare il terzo).
Rob. (Mi pare che tarocchino a quel tavolino). (da sé)
Con. (Mi maraviglio di voi).
Mar. (Ed io di voi).
Rob. Che c’è? Chi vince? Chi perde? (forte all’altro tavolino)
Eul. Sinora non v’è svario.
Rob. Sento taroccare.
Eul. Quando si giuoca, non si può fare a meno.
Rodeg. Badate qui. Invito ad uno scudo.
Rob. Tengo.
Mar. (Eh via, signora, non gli mostrate le carte). (a donna Eularia)
Eul. (Io non gliele ho mostrate).
Mar. (Se ho veduto io, come avete fatto).
Eul. (No, da dama d’onore).
Mar. (Eh!)
Con. (Quando una dama lo dice, siete obbligato a crederlo, e quando impegna l’onor suo, siete un mal cavaliere, se replicate).
Rob. (Taroccano davvero). (da sé, ascoltando)
Eul. (Per amor del cielo, acquietatevi).
Rob. Che c’è? Che c’è? (forte all’altro tavolino)
Eul. Niente, niente. Si giuoca.


La dama prudente (The Prudent Lady ). Act Two -  Scene XIX
Enter Don Roberto, with those already present (Lady Eularia, the Count, Lady Emilia, Lady Rodegonda, the Marquis).


Mar. Milady, if you don’t want to play...
Rob. Eh, if she’s going to play, she will.
Eul. I will, I will. Here I am. Please sit down. (She sits)
Count. (I sympathize with her, if she does not want to play). (He sits)
Mar. (If I weren't here, she would play more gladly). (He sits and starts shuffling the cards, and they play)
Rob. (To himself) (What a great game!) 
Rodeg. Come on, since they finally took their seats, let’s do the same. Don Roberto, please sit here. (The chair is in back of Lady Eularia.)
Rob. Here I serve you. (He would like to observe Lady Eularia.) Lady Emilia, you are in a bad place.
Emil. Why?
Rob. The air coming from that door will offend you. Please, stay here.
Rodeg. The door is closed.
Rob. The servants who open it let the air in. Here you would be better.
Emil. As you wish. (To herself.) (They give me trouble! Even this is a compliment to the custom of Castelbuono) 
Rob. (In front  of Lady Eularia) (Now I will see my stuff better)
Rodeg. To conclude, here are the cards. (He gives the cards to Don Roberto’s  hands)
Rob. Here I serve you. (He shuffles the cards and sometimes glances at his wife’s table)
Mar. (Eh, very well. With the Count we always make advantageous game moves). (While playing, in a low voice to lady Eularia)
Eul. (The plays I made to him, I make to everybody; I’m not in the game to win)
Mar. (To  favour a gifted gentleman, we take care to compromise a third)
Rob. (It seems to me they’re quarrelling (tarocchino) at that table). (to himself)
Con. (I’m surprised at you)
Mar. (And I at you)
Rob. What’s up? Who’s winning? Who’s losing? (In a loud voice to the other table)
Eul. Until now there is no difference.
Rob. I hear quarreling [toroccare].
Eul.  When we are playing, we cannot do less.
Rodeg. Listen to me. I invite to a Scudo.
Rob. I hold.
Mar. (To lady Eularia) (Come on, milady, don’t show him your cards).
Eul. (I didn’t)
Mar. (I saw what you did)
Eul. (No, I’m a lady of my honor)
Mar. (Eh!)
Con. (When a lady says that, you’re obliged to believe her, and when she pledges her honour, you’re a not a gentleman if you respond)
Rob. (They quarrel [toroccare] indeed). (To himself, listening)
Eul. (For the love of Heaven, calm down)
Rob. What’s going on? What’s going on? (In a loud voice, to the other table)
Eul. Nothing, nothing. We are playing.

Il buon compatriotta (The good countryman). Act One - Scene II
Leandro and those already present (Rosina, Traccagnino)

Leand. Quest'uomo, signora Contessa, mi figuro che sarà il vostro servo.
Ros. Sì certo; è il mio servitore.
Tracc. (Tarocca, e dice piano a Rosina, che non vuol passare per servitore)
Ros. (Tasè, abbiè pazenzia: za nol ve cognosse; no perdè gnente del vostro).
Tracc. (Insiste che non vuole, e scoprirà tutto)
Ros. (Tasè, no me ruvinè, no me precepitè. Soffrì per mi e per la patria).

Leand. Countess, I suppose this man is your servant.
Ros. Of course; he is my servant.
Tracc. (He gets angry [tarocca] and says in a low voice to Rosina, that he doesn’t want to be considered a servant)
Ros. (Shut up, be patient: he doesn’t know you: you won’t lose anything)
Tracc. (He insists he doesn’t want to and he’ll expose everything)
Ros. (Shut up, don't ruin me, don't push me over the cliff. Suffer it for me and for your country)

Il filosofo inglese (The English Philosopher). Act Five - Scene VIII
Sir Saixon, then Birone 

.  Mia moglie a non badarle con questi versi insegna.
Tarocca, non le bado, e poi meco si sdegna.
È pazza. Ehi dal libraio. (alla bottega del libraio)
Bir. Signor che mi comanda?

.  With these verses I learn not to take care of my wife.
She gets angry [tarocca], I don’t care, then she disdains me.
She’s crazy. You bookseller! (To the bookshop)
Bir. Sir, who’s  calling me?

La Vendemmia
(The grape harvest) - Act One -Scene II
Ippolito and Fabrizio

Dove andate?
Fabr.  In cucina.
Ipp.    Ed a che fare?
Fabr.  Vado a sollecitare,
            Perché non posso più; sono a digiuno
            Da ieri sera in qua.
            Vi giuro in verità, sento ch'io peno
            Quando non mangio ogni tre ore almeno.
                      La fame vorace
                      Tormento mi dà.
                      Nel corpo il rumore
                      Sentite che fa.
                      Borbotta, tarocca,
                      Fa strepito e chiasso,
                      E dice alla bocca:
                      «Son stanco, son lasso».
                      Io, come un cavallo
                      Che corre veloce,
                      Men vado in cucina
                      Per farlo quietar. (parte)

Where are you going?
Fabr.  To the kitchen.
Ipp.    To do what?
Fabr.  I’m going to solicit,
            because I can’t stand any more; I haven’t eaten since yesterday evening.
            I swear, I really suffer
            if I don’t eat at least every three hours.

                     Voracious hanger
                      tortures me.
                      Listen to the noise it’s making in my body.
                      It mumbles, gets angry [tarocca, makes noises]
                      And tells to my mouth:
                      «I’m really tired, really weary».
                      I Like a horse running fast,
                      I go to the kitchen
                      To calm it down. (He goes)

Le femmine puntigliose
(The obstinate females). Act One - Scene XIV
Countess Beatrice served by Count Lelio, Rosaura by Count Onofrio, Count Ottavio and those already present

Conte Ottavio
. Signora contessa Beatrice, in casa vostra decidete voi.
Contessa Beatrice. In casa mia non comando, quando vi sono delle dame, alle quali, per debito e per rispetto, devo cedere tutta l'autorità.
Conte Ottavio. Sicché dunque me ne posso andare.
Conte Onofrio. (Conte Ottavio, sentite una parola. Frattanto che queste pazze puntigliose taroccano fra di loro, volete venir con me in cucina a mangiar quattro polpette?). (ad Ottavio, piano)
Conte Ottavio. (Vi ringrazio, per ora non ho appetito). (ad Onofrio)

Count Ottavio. Countess Beatrice, in your home you make the decisions.
Coutess Beatrice. I do not command in my home, when there are some ladies to whom, out of obligation and respect,  I must cede all the authority.
Count Ottavio. So I can leave.
Count Onofrio (to Ottavio, in a low voice). (Count Ottavio, listen to one word. While these obstinate crazy women argue [toccare] among themselves, would you come with me to the kitchen to eat four meatballs?)
Count Ottavio (to Onofrio). (I thank you, but now I’m not hungry)

Ircana in Julfa.
Act Four - Scene XIV
Creona and and those already present.

. Eccole tutte qui. Che fanno in questo loco?
Sola non ci starei. Vo' divertirmi un poco.
Marliotta.  Chi è questo qui? Signora, siete voi qui al presente? (tocca Creona)
Kiskia.  Con chi parli? (si fa sentir lontana)
Marliotta.  Ah mia madre, qui vi è dell'altra gente.
Kiskia.  Ircano, siete qui?
Creona. (Or or per me taroccano). (cercando Marliotta)
Ircana. Da voi non m'allontano. (a Kishkia )

. Here they are all. What are they doing here in this place?
I wouldn’t stay here alone. I want to have fun.
Marliotta. Who’s this man? Milady, are you here at present? (touches Creona)
Kiskia. (hearing from far off).  Who are you speaking to?
Marliotta.  Ah my mother, there are some other people here.
Kiskia.  Ircano, are you here?
Creona (looking for Marliotta). (Now they are going to be quarreling [taroccando] because of me)
Ircana. (to  Kiskia) I'm not walking away from you.

The verb "taroccare" even appears in the following comedies:

Le donne di buon umore (The women of good humor) (1758): “Ora, per farlo un po' taroccare, facciamo così, signora Felicita” /  “Così si fa. Che serve cogli uomini gridare e taroccare? Con la buona grazia si fa più, e si arrischia meno” (Now, to make him get angry, this is the way, Lady Felicita” -  “This is the way. With men it is not necessary to shout and get angry. With good manners we get more and risk less”.

La burla retrocessa nel contraccambio (The joke returned in exchange) (1760):Non istate più a taroccare, che ora vi conterò tutta la faccenda com'è” (Don’t grumble anymore, now I’m going to tell you the whole story).

Il contrattempo (The mishap) (1753): “Eh via! Vi conosco; volete farmi taroccare” (Come on! I know you; you want to make me get angry).

Gli Innamorati (The Lovers) (1758): “Eh, lasciatelo dire. Non sapete com'è fatto? Ha voglia di taroccare”. (Come on let him say. Don’t you know how he is ? He wants to grumble).

Sior Todero brontolon (Mr. Todero grumbler) (1762): “L'avrei potuto intitolare o il Superbo o l'Avaro; ma come la sua superbia consiste solamente nel comandar con durezza a' suoi dipendenti, e la sua avarizia è accompagnata da un taroccare fastidioso, insolente, ho creduto bene d'intitolarlo dal difetto suo più molesto ch'è il Brontolone, o sia il Vecchio fastidioso”. (I could have named him the Proud or the Miserly; but since his pride just consists in harshly commanding his servants, and his avarice is accompanied by an irritating, insolent grumbling [taroccare], I thought to name him for his most annoying  fault, which is the Grumbler, or the Irritating Old Man).

I Malcontenti (The Discontent) (1755): “Eccoli lì i due mestieri del signor Policastro. Mangiare e dormire. E voi taroccare, e contar quattrini" (Here there are the two jobs of mister Policasto. Eating and sleeping. And yours, getting angry and counting money).

Le smanie per la villeggiatura
(The addiction to vacation) (1761): “Via, via, non istate più a taroccare. Lasciate, che le donne finiscano di fare quel che hanno da fare, e piuttosto v'aiuterò a terminare il baule per mio fratello” (Come on, don’t grumble anymore. Let the women finish what they have to do, and instead I’ll help you fill my brother’s trunk).

To end this examination about the verb “taroccare” in Goldoni, we recall the poem Ottave Veneziane  dirette a Sua Eccellenza il  Signor Paolo Baglioni Fratello  Amorosissimo della Sposa (Venetian Octaves to His Excellency Lord Paolo Baglioni Beloved brother of the Bride) written “In occasione delle nozze di sua Eccellenza  la Sig. Caterina Baglioni, e Sua Eccellenza il Signor Lorenzo Minelli” (On the occasion of the wedding of Her Excellency Lady Caterina Baglioni, and His Excellency Lord Lorenzo Minelli) of which we report the octave we are interested in:                      

Certo (respondo mi) che una fortuna
Gh’averà quel mario che la ghe tocca.
Credo de cento no ghe ne sia una
Che gh’abbia el cuor, come gh’ha quella, in bocca;
El so conto l’al sa più de nissuna,
Ma per ben o per mal, no la tarocca;
Del spirito ghe n’è, ma la xe onesta:
La gh’ha talento, ma la xe modesta.

Sure (I answer) it’ll be a fortune
for the husband who’ll marry her.
I’m sure that there is no one who
Has their heart, as she has, in their mouth
[as she always tells the truth].
She knows more things than anyone else,
But for good or ill never gets angry [tarocca]
She’s got wit, but she’s honest:
She’s got talent, but she’s modest.

In L’Adulatore (The Flatterer), presented in Mantua in 1750, the word tarot becomes a last name representative of an inconvenient character. To attribute the name or last name “tarot” to an interpreter of comedy seems not unusual: we can find it also in the Tempesta Amorosa (Love Tempest) (1604) by Alessandro Donzellini, where there is a “Tarocco Prigioniero” (Prisoner Tarot). 

(The Flatterer). Act Two - Scene  IV
Pantalone de’ Bisognosi, Venetian merchant and Don Sigismondo, secretary.

Servitor obbligatissimo Sior Segretario.
Sig. O! Amabilissimo Signor Pantalone! Onor de i Mercanti, decoro di questa Città, in che posso servirla?
Pan. La prego de farme la grazia de farme aver udienza da So Eccellenza.
Sig. Oggi caro, non dà udienza; ma se vi occorre qualche cosa, comandate , vi servir.
Pan. Àveria bisogno de presentarghe sto memorial.
Sig. Oh!Volentieri, subito. Consegnatelo a me, glie lo porto immediatamente.
Pan. Ma averia piaser de dirghe qualche cossa a bocca:
Sig. Quanto mi dispiace non potervi consolare! Oggi non gli si può parlare, è giornata di Posta.
Pan. Me rincresce, che stassera va via le lettere, e me premeva de scriver qualcossa su sto proposito ai mi corrispondenti.
Sig.  Ditemi, di che si tratta.
Pan.. Ghe dirò. La sà, che mi ho introdotto in sta Città la fabrica de i Veludi, e la sà, che utile ho portà a sto Paese. Adesso un Capo Mistro, sem' havolta contra, el xe spalleggià da do Mercanti, e el pretende de voler eriger un' altra fabrica. Mi, che gh' ho el merito d' esser stà el primo, domando el privilegio coll’ esclusiva de ogn' altro; esibendome mi de çrescere i laorieri, se occorre, a benefizio della Città.
Sig. L’istanza non può esser’ più giusta. Non dubitate, che sarete consolato. Date a me il Memoriale.
Fan. Eccolo. Me recomando alla so protezion.
Sig. Riescono veramente bene questi vostri Velluti?
Pan. I riesce perfettamente.
Sig. Non li ho mai considerati esattamente. Fate una cosa, mandatemene una pezza del più bello, acciò lo possa far vedere al Signor Governatore, per animarlo a farvi la grazia.
Pan (Ho inteso, el me vol magnar una pezza de veludo). La sarà servida. Adessadesso la manderò, ma me raccomando.
Sig. Non ci pensate, lasciate fare a me.
Pan.. Vago subito al negozio, e la mando (Tanto fa quel, che s' ha da far, farlo subito).
Sig. Ehi, dite: come si chiama questo Capo Maestro, che vi si vuol ribellare?
Pan. Menego Tarocchi .
Sig. Non occorr'altro.
Pan. La prego.....
Sig. Sarete servito. Mandate subito il Velluto.
Fan. Subito. (Per farme servizio, ghe preme sta lettera de raccomandazion). parte.
Manderò a chiamare questo Menico Tarrocchi, e se le sue proposizioni saranno avvantaggiose, non l' abbandonerò. Bisogna ascoltar tutti, far del bene a tutti, aumentare, quando si può il regio Patrimonio, ed anche nello stesso tempo i miei onesti profitti.
Pan. Servitor obbligatissimo Sior Segretario.

Sig. Oh! Beloved Signor Pantalone! Honour of Merchants, honored of this City, what can I do for you?
Pan. I pray you to help me get a hearing with His Excellency.
Sig. Today, dear one, no hearings; but if you need something, command and I’ll serve you.
Pan. I would like to present him this Memorandum.
Sig. Oh! Gladly, quickly. Give it to me; I’ll take it to him immediately.
Pan. But I’d like to talk to him personally.
Sig. I’m so sorry not to be able to comfort you! Today it is not possible to talk to him, it’s Postal Day.
Pan. I’m sorry that the evening mail is gone, I wanted to write something about this situation to my correspondents.
Sig.  Tell me what it concerns
Pan. I’ll tell you. You know that I have introduced in this City the Velvet factory, and you know what a profit I have brought to the Country.  Now a Chief Master has turned against me: he is backed by two merchants, and claims to want to build another factory. I have been the first and I ask the privilege of exclusivity; producing an increase in workers, if needed, to the benefit of the City.
Sig. The request could not be more just.  Don’t doubt, you’ll be comforted. Give me the Memorandum.
Fan. Here it is. I entrust it to your protection.
Sig. Are your velvets so good ?
Pan. They are perfect.
Sig. I haven’t considered them as I should. Please, send me a piece of the most beautiful, so that I’ll be able to show it to the Governor, to encourage him to bestow the favor.
Pan (I see, he wants to rip one of my velvet pieces.) You’ll be served. I’ll send it as soon as possible, but please, I entrust you.
Sig. Don’t think about it, let me do it.
Pan. I am going immediately to the shop, and I am sending it (If I have to, it is better to do it soon)
Sig. Excuse me: what’s the name of this Master, who wants to rebel against you?
Pan. Menego Tarocchi.
Sig. That’s enough.
Pan. Please.....
Sig. You’ll be served. Send the velvet.
Pan. Immediately. (To have success, I must have this letter of recommendation.). He leaves
I will call this Menico Tarrocchi, and if his proposals are advantageous, I won’t abandon him. It is necessary to listen to everybody, for the welfare of all, to augment, if possible, the royal Estate and also, at the same time, my honest profits.


Giorgio Baffo

Remaining in Goldoni's Venice, we cannot forget Giorgio Baffo (1694-1768), author of 1200 poems of a licentious character and of different works about the corruption of the customs of his city, particularly of the clergy, besides philosophical works. Here follthe first strophe of the poem Conforto alle Donne (Comfort to Women) in which Baffo counsels “young ladies” not to get angry against the monks who were constantly walking through the town streets (since their presence stopped these women's normal activity):

Donne, no tarocchè, se per città 
I vuol che vada i frati accompagnai, 
E se a vintiquattr'ore i ha comandà 
che drento ai so conventi i sia serrai.

Women, don’t get angry [tarocchè], if in town
the monks go around,
and if for 24 hours they command
then they’ll be closed in their convents.

Always in Venetian language, the verb "tarocar" is used by Carlo Gozzi, whose comedies we’ll treat later:

. E un poco xe anca per colpa vostra.
Gaspare. Per colpa mia?
Carlo. Per colpa vostra, della vostra debolezza.
Gaspare. Sentì, fradelo, mi go un mal de stomego che no posso più.
Se gavè vogia de tarocar, spetè un altro momento.

And a little it is also your fault.
Gaspare. My fault?
Carlo. Your fault, because of your weakness.
Gaspare. Listen brother, I’ve got a stomach ache and I can stand no more.
If you want to quarrel [tarocar], do that at another time.

Pietro Chiari

The Jesuit Pietro Chiari (1712-1785), writer, playwright and librettist, in his letter L'Uomo Albero (The Tree Man), dispatched: “Dal mondo della luna li 23 maggio 1751” (From the world of the moon on May 23, 1751),  writes about the relation between two spouses: “Se facesse altrimenti, e non prendesse tutte le cose così a fior d’acqua, o con essa,  o con altri ci faria tanto da tarocar ogni giorno, che non sapria come vivere” (If he would behave in a different way and not take slightly everything  or quarrel [tarocar] with her or others so much every day, he wouldn’t know any longer how to live) (8).

Antonio Cesari

The expression “Like the Fool in tarot” can also be found in the Prologue of Il Formione, a comedy by Antonio Cesari (1760-1828), composer and linguist. Theorist of the Purism of the Italian Language against barbarization due to the influence, in the XVIII century, of English and French culture, in his Dissertazione sullo stato presente della lingua italiana (Dissertation about the present state of the Italian Language) (1808-1809) proposed the Tuscan-Florentine linguistic model of the XIV century, supporting this thesis in the revised edition of the Crusca Vocabulary and in his translations of the Odesof Horace and of the comedies of Terence.

Formione is the sixth of the comedies by Terence that Cesari translated into the Florentine vulgar tongue. Their translation appeared in 1816 with the title Le Sei Commedie di Terenzio recate in Volgar Fiorentino da Antonio Cesari, con note postoci innanzi un ragionamento cioè difesa dello Stil Comico Fiorentino (The Six Comedies of Terence translated into the Florentine Vulgar by Antonio Cesari, with notes set before an argument in defence of the Florentine Comic Style).

In the Prologue the author writes: «Io son venuto con una nuova Commedia, che in Greco ha nome “Epidicazomenon”, in Latino Il Formione: perchè la principal parte ha il parasito Formione; che in questa è come il Matto ne’ tarocchi» (I have come with a new Comedy, that in Greek has name “Epidicazomenon”, in Latin Il Formione:  because the parasite Formione has the main part; in this he is like the Fool in tarot).

Martino Piaggio

The verb Taroccare with a meaning of shouting, screaming, can be found in many Italian dialects. Martino Piaggio, a prolific author of Ligurian dialect poetry, cites it in a sonnet included in the Raccolta delle migliori poesie edite ed inedite di Martino Piaggio (Anthology of the best poetry edited and unedited of Martino Piaggio) (Genoa, 1846) entitled Ae-Campann-e, of which we report the first strophe:


Belle campann-e cäe! Quando a finiei
De rompi giorno e nèutte o sèunno e a testa
Con quello vostro sòn chi ne molesta
E ne fa taroccà senza piaxei?. 

Beautiful dear bells! When will you stop
breaking all day and night our sleep and head
with your sound that bothers us
and make us get angry [taroccà]with no pleasure? (9)

Valentino Berni

Monsignor Valentino Berni (1874) set in and around Cortona his three novels in verse about Pasquèle, a  mountaineer from the village  Cermentosa: Pasquèle va a Fiorenza, Pasquèle en prigione, Pasquèle arpiglia moglie (Pasquele goes to Florence, Pasquele in prison, Pasquele gets married)  collected in a little volume entitled  Pasquèle de la Cermentosa.  The language is the Tuscan dialect, of the area in which the stories are set. The writer uses the term “tarocchè” in the fourth strophe of the first novel.

Pasquèle goes to Florence

Strophe 4

Pòro Pasquèl, la sissantina ho varco
e sono armasto solo en questa valle,
Ma en grazia a Dio me sento anche più scarco;
quanto peso de meno ho en tu le spalle
dappò che la mì Betta è suppigliata
e che de tarocchè la fè funita!

Poor Pasquèl, I’m more than sixty
and I’m alone in this valley,
But thanks to God I feel less oppressed;
I’ve got much less weight on my shoulders
since my Betta calmed down
and stopped grumbling [tarocchè].

Saverio Bettinelli


The Jesuit Saverio Bettinelli (1718-1808) was a polymath playwright, writer and literary critic. A friend of Voltaire and Rousseau, he had a close correspondence with them. His fame is connected to the work of criticism against the academicism and rhetoric of the time. In Letter IX of his Lettere a Virgilio agli Arcadi di Roma (Letters to Virgil to the Arcadians in Rome) he even went so far as to blast the Divine Comedy, whose verses could not be read “without fainting for worry or sleep”, and suggested putting it among the books of poor erudition, leaving “only some passages that, collected and put in order in the best way, could form no more than five poems”. Besides some tragedies (Gionata, Demetrio Poliorcete and Serse), to be put in the Jesuit theatre field, he composed numerous poems of undeniably archaic model, collected in the Versi Sciolti (Blank Verses) dated to 1758. In Volume XVI of his Opere edite ed inedite in prosa e in versi (Published and unpublished Works in prose and verse) printed in Venice between 1799 and 1801, there sticks out the poem Il Giuoco delle Carte (The Game of Cards) (three poems of 108 octaves!), in which he deals poetically with gambling. In the Annotazioni (Annotations) to the composition, written by the author himself, can be found information about the history of the card games that were mentioned by different historians of the subject, among which was Cicognara in his Memorie spettanti alla storia della calcografia (Memories due to the history of chalcography).

The tarot is mentioned by Abbot Bettinelli just in one octave, the twenty-first of Poem II, where he represents Carnival time as a poetic Temple “in cui, come ognun vede, sono aperte in tutte le gran Città, e nelle Corti anche straniere, aperti i ridotti, usate le maschere ec” (in which, as everyone sees, all the great Cities are opened, and in the Courts, also foreign ones,  the foyers are opened,  masks are used, etc) (10). These are the verses:


E la facciata tutta pinta a guazzo
Delle più belle, e lusinghiere favole,
Con che allettano i sonni, o dan solazzo
Ai fanciullin vecchie nodrici, ed avole;
Pur di due braccia del fatal palazzo
Un destinato è alle tranquille tavole,
Ove l'Ombre, il Picchetto, ed i Tarocchi
Van lontan dalla turba degli sciocchi. (11)

And the facade is all painted in gouache
with the most beautiful and pleasing fairy tales
with which old nurses and grandmothers
lure to sleep, or entertain, little chidlren;
from the two branches of the fairy palace
one destination is the calm tables
where Ombre, Piquet and Tarot
are played far from the crowd of fools.

Carlo Gozzi 

Born in Venice of a noble family, Carlo Gozzi (1720-1806) tried to preserve Tuscan literature from foreign influences. With this aim he published the satiric poem La tartana degli influssi per l'anno 1756 (Tartana of influences for the year 1756) and L'amore per le tre melarance o Analisi riflessiva della fiaba (Love for three oranges or Reflexive Analysis of the fairy tale), a comedy of 1761 produced on stage with the company of Antonio Sacchi, in which he parodied the style of Chiari and Goldoni, modeled on French examples. His extraordinary success, due also to the insertion of mythical and supernatural elements, let Gozzi preserve the purity of Italian style. Then he dedicated himself to dramatic poems based upon fairy tales (as he had already done with Love), much appreciated by Goethe and Madame de Stael, among which was the famous Turandot, later translated by Schiller, and in addition, tragedies, inserting many comical ideas, and Spanish dramas. These last, however, had little success. His works were published in Venice in 22 volumes between 1772 and 1803.

While Goldoni gives a character in one of his comedies the last name "Tarocco", Gozzi, in L’Augellino Belverde (The small bird Belverde) (Philosophical Fairy Tale in Five Acts, 1765), gives the nickname “Queen of Tarots” to an old hag, so as to illustate her character.
These are the name of some characters with their identification:

Tartaglia =  king of Monterotondo
Tartagliona =  old queen of Tarots, his Mother
Brighella = Poet and fortune-teller, false lover of Tartagliona
Renzo and Barbarina = twins, sons of Ninetta

L’Uccellino Belverde.
Act One - Scene One
A street of the town of Monte-Rotondo
Brighella as a caricature of a fortune-teller , Pantalone behind with attentive

(da se in entusiasmo)  O Sol, che ti xe specchio
Delle umane vicende,
Mai ti deventi vecchio
Per scoprir a chi sa cose tremende!
Pant. {da se) Mi ghe son matto drio sto Poeta. El
dixe cose, che le xe da retrazer; el fa versi,
che i xe da Raccolta per Nozze.
Brig. {come sopra)
O dei Tarocchi misera Regina!
O Tartagia felice!
O Renzo, o Barbarina!
Tal frutto nasce da fatal radice!
Pant. (da se) Ole! qua l'entra in tel sangue Real de
Monterotondo. La Regina dei Tarocchi meschina?
Sior si; la se lo merita. Sta vecchia marantega
dopo la partenza del Re Tartagia, so fio, no la fa
altro, che tirannie, e lu no merita de esser felice
per aver lassà el governo in man per el corso de
disdott'anni a sta striga. Fussela morta da quel
resepiglion, che la gaveva in telle gambe al tempo
delle nozze de so fio. Ma no capisso. O Ren-
zo, o Barbarina ! tal frutto nasce da fatal radice !
Brig. {come sopra)
O spirito gentil del Re de Coppe,
Passà nell'altro mondo !
Quanti gran casi, quante gran faloppe
Famoso deve far Monterotondo!

(to himself, enthusiastically) Oh Sun, you mirror
of human events,
to you it never gets old,
the uncovering of who knows what tremendous things!
Pant.  (to himself) I am a fool, to follow this poet. He says
things that make no sense; writes verses
good for a Wedding Anthology.
Brig. (as above)
Oh you wretched Queen of Tarots!
Oh happy Tartagia!
Oh Renzo, oh Barbarina!
Such fruit born of deadly root!
Pant. (to himself) Ole! Here we are going into the royal blood
of Monterotondo. The Queen of Tarot, wretched?
Yes, sir, she deserves it. This ugly old woman 
after the departure of King Tartagia, her son, does nothing but
act tyrannically, and he does not deserve to be happy,
who has left the government in this witch’s hands
for eighteen years. It would be better if she died of that
lover who she had in her legs at the time
of her son’s wedding. But I don’t understand. Oh Ren-
zo, oh Barbarina! Such fruit born of deadly root!
Brig. (as above)
Oh gentle spirit of the King of Cups,
go to the other world!
How many cases, how many little and big events
must make Monterotondo famous!

Francesco Augusto Bon

Finally, we find the game of tarot cited in the three act comedy La Festa Onomastica e il giorno dopo (The Onomastic Party and the day after) (1830) by Francesco Augusto Bon (1788-1858). Descendant of Caterina Cornaro and husband of the actress Luigi Ristori, from whom was born Laura Bon, who was also a very famous actress and future lover of Vittorio Emanuele II, Bon was the author of works of Goldonian inspiration, that he considered easier than the prevailing fashion of romantic-tearful dramas. He chose French comedy and vaudeville and directed for many years an acting company dedicated to the famous Venetian author. His limitation was that of relying on the language of the Veneto, used by many actors of that region, in a period in which it was declining, while on the stage the Roman and Piedmont languages were triumphing. 

The Onomastic Party. Scene Twelve.
Maurizio, rich ship owner; Lodovico, Vittorina’s lover; Vittorina, daughter of Maurizio.

. (Ridendo forte) Poffarre il mondo! Voi siete il più meschino giocatore di tarocchi ch’io m’abbia mai veduto.
Lod.  Non è vero, sapete: è propriamente che questa sera mi trovava distratto: non poteva occuparmi del giuoco: pensava ad altro….
Vitt. (da sè) Pensava a me.

(Laughing loudly) By God, can the world make this! You are the most wretched tarot player I have ever seen.
Lod. It is not true, you see: this evening I am distracted; I cannot focus on the game: I’m thinking about other…
Vitt. (to himself) He’s thinking about me.



- Volume Three, Perugia, 1826, pages 49 – 50-
2 - The work in verse was published in Perugia by Costo da Verona called Bianchino dal Leone (s.d., ms 1521) in 8°.
3 - Naples, 1844, pag. 241.
4 - Turin, 1885, page 238.
5 - Tome IV (from the year MCCCC until the year MD), Part II, Rome 1784, page 174.
6- Franco Pratesi, who found in London at the British Library a copy of the small volume, made a short examination of it in the article Italian Cards: New Discoveriesn. 6, in "The Playing Card", XVII, 1988, pages 23-33. The work had been quoted by Rodolfo Renier in Studi su Matteo Maria Boiardo (Studies on Matteo Maria Boiardo), Bologna, 1894.  
- About this kind of game see the essay Triumphs, Trionfini and Trionfetti.
8 - Lettere scelte di varie materie, piacevoli, critiche, erudite, scritte ad una Dama di Qualità dall'Abate Pietro Chiari, Bresciano (Selected letters on various pleasant, critical, erudite subjects, written to a Lady of Quality by Abbot Pietro Chiari, of Brescia), Volume Three, Venice, 1765, page 137. 
9 - The translation of this sentence is due to the courtesy of Genoa professor Paolo Aldo Rossi.
10 - Saverio Bettinelli, Opere edite ed inedite in prosa e in versi,Seconda Edizione Riveduta, ampliata e corretta dall’Autore (Published and unpublished Works in prose and in verse. Second Revised Edition with additions and corrections by the author), Volume 
 XVI, Venice, MDCCC, "Annotations", n. 8, page 279.
11 - Saverio Bettinelli, op. cit., page 270.


Copyright  by Andrea Vitali  © All rights reserved 2005