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This is a finely-produced bilingual version of Goldoni's play, The Coffee House (la bottega del caffe). The left-hand side is in Italian; the right, in English. There is a good twelve-page introduction (wholly in English) by Franco Fido of Harvard University. There are endnotes, a comment on the text, a short review of The Coffee House's history on-stage, a note on its American reception, and a bibliography.

The play is one of those sixteen that Goldoni wrote in just one season during 1750-51. A literary equivalent of Pietro Longhi's paintings of eighteenth century Venetian life, Goldoni was a prolific playwright, renowned for transforming the Italian stage from the rudimentary crudities of the Commedia dell'Arte into the modern theatrical age. The Coffee House is in the standard three acts, in which the first sets the scene and presents the problem; the second develops it; and the third resolves it.

Take a Venetian campiello, add three shops all in a row (a casino, a coffee house, and a barbershop), add an inn on one side and a house on the other, and the stage is set for Carlo Goldoni's play about everyday Venetian life, of gossip, of greed, and mistaken identity. Referring to the title of the play, in his memoirs Goldoni wrote, "I do not point ... to a story, a passion, a character; but to a coffee house, where several actions unfold at the same time, where several persons are led by different interests; ..." Our hero is Ridolfo, the put-upon coffee house owner; our villain is the loud-mouthed Mazio.

Despite some early American critics bemoaning that the play "will inspire no emotion save that of ennui" or remarking that is no more than "artistic fluff", the play is still performed, which is a testament to its theatrical qualities. I found the work of no great philosophical strength, but merely an amusing farce about Venetian morals. That said, I have not seen it performed, and reading the play is different from see it performed: even Shakespeare might not inspire from reading the mere page. Timothy Holme, in his biography of Goldoni ("A Servant of Many Masters"), writes how only a small part of Goldoni's magic is revealed by the mere reader: "This explains why so many academics and men of letters have been patronizing, if not downright hostile, towards Goldoni; they were all viewing from their study chairs, and it took a critic like Goethe ... to appreciate Goldoni."

My three stars may therefore be a little too harsh. This is certainly a fine edition.
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