"Pardon me, but your teeth are in my neck": Giambattista Marino, Claudio Monteverdi, and the bacio mordace
Claudio Monteverdi's "Eccomi pronta ai baci" presents an odd pairing of a first-person female voice with a three-voice low male ensemble; in addition, the text, by Giambattista Marino, deals with the subject of the "bacio mordace" [biting kiss], and the female speaker invites her lover to kiss her but warns him against biting her. He of course betrays her, and the poem closes with her outraged complaint and vow never to kiss him again. The combination of text, singing voices, and expressive qualities invoked in the setting suggests that Monteverdi went beyond the conceit of Marino's madrigal in exaggerating the comic and parodistic (in the non-musicological sense of the word) aspects of the situation. In this essay, I explore the background of the kiss imagery, focusing specifically on the "bacio mordace" as an expression of "lover's furor" in Classical and Renaissance sources. I then relate the particular conceit of Marino's poem to Emanuele Tesauro's analysis of the dynamics of literary comedy: the device of decettione [deception or reversal] as part of the ridicolo [comedy] and its attendant burle [pranks]. Finally, I offer a reading of Monteverdi's madrigal in terms of Tesauro's definitions, in which I argue that the setting interjects an extra level of interpretation between the poet and the audience. This musical "filter" introduces new ambiguity into the poem's already equivocal situation, expanding its comic aspects.
Journal of Musicology
Spring 2004, Vol. 21, No. 2, Pages 175-200
Posted online on November 15, 2004.
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