Theatre in the Italian Academies, c.1525 - 1630 - Dr Lisa Sampson

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Introduction to research area 

Dr Sampson's research deals with the theatre and spectacle practised in the Italian academies from 1525 to 1630. Academies represented a characteristic dimension of early modern culture; in this period there were over 600 operating in Italy alone. These institutions brought together amateurs and experts in all branches of the arts and sciences and were places of cultural discussion, inspiring the founding of major institutions across Europe such as The Royal Society. The Academies
also had a more playful aspect, devising amusing nicknames which were often represented visually in punning devices.

Academies frequently had a ritual and spectacular dimension and many engaged in theatrical activities through composition, criticism and performance.
Some are of particular note, such as the Accademia degli Intronati (the 'Academy of
the Stunned ones'), founded in Siena in 1525, for their comedies, and the Accademia Olimpica ('Olympic Academy') of Vicenza, for creating the first permanent theatre in Italy on a design by Palladio (1585). Countering a tradition of critical neglect of academies, this research builds on new interest in how such institutions variously fostered innovative dramatic experimentation (e.g. with the genres of pastoral drama and opera) as well as responding to new styles of professional musical and theatrical performance (commedia dell'arte).


  • Italian Academies: the research on theatre contributes to a major AHRC-funded research project on the Italian Academies 1525-1700: The first intellectual networks of Early Modern Europe.
  • Explore the Italian Academies project's Themed Collection database at the British Library: "The Italian Academies 1530 - 1650: a themed collection database" . This open-access catalogue on Italian Academies allows researchers to access information about the lesser known academies; opening up the British Library's extensive holdings to new research and providing the necessary details for establishing a direct link between individual academicians, books and academies.
  • Edit16: National database of Italian sixteenth-century printed editions.
  • M. Maylander, Storia delle accademie d'italia, 5 vols (1926-30): History of the Italian academies.
  • Accademia Olimpica: web site for the Accademia Olimpica - formed in Vicenza in 1555.


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Dr Lisa Sampson
Senior Lecturer, Italian Studies

The centre's directors:
Professor Helen Parish and Dr Lisa Sampson

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See also

  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science
  • Department of History


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