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Giambattista Della Porta's Histrionic Science


One of the lifelong concerns of Giambattista Della Porta (1535-1615) was the description and the production of seemingly extraordinary and hence inexplicable experiments that would testify to his amazing abilities as a natural magician. But this Neapolitan nobleman was not only one of the most renowned "professors of secrets“ in his time, he was also the author of highly influential books on physiognomy and exercised his literary gifts in more than a dozen successful works for the theater. This paper looks into several instances where Della Porta managed the contemporary political and religious situation in order to stage his natural philosophy, thus pointing to specific examples where both the realms of theater and early modern science interacted on a literary as well as on a conceptual level. The paper relates Della Porta's  writings to his ideal of a silent audience that watched mirabilia with amazement and delight.

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