Giacomo Casanova

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Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova (April 2, 1725June 4, 1798) was a famous 18th century Italian adventurer whose name has become synonymous with seduction.

Casanova's extraordinary life carried him across the breadth of Europe in all kinds of scandalous adventures which he memorialized in his "Histoire de Ma Vie"--perhaps the most fascinating source for the social history of The Enlightenment. During his travels Casanova made and lost fortunes and encountered many famous personalities such as the Pope Clement XIII and Voltaire in 1760, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Mozart in 1787.

Born in Venice to a family of actors, Casanova started his career in Padua where he studied for the priesthood. His licentious behaviour there resulted in expulsion whence he travelled to Rome to become the secretary to the cardinal Acquaviva. More scandals followed and he moved on to Venice where he made his way by defrauding wealthy socialites with occult tricks a la Cagliostro. The Inquisitori di Stato in Venice convicted him of witchcraft in 1755 and he was led across the Bridge of Sighs and imprisoned in "I piombi" ("The Leads"), a famous prison attached to the doge's palace. He escaped and fled to France where he sensationalized the exploit by a pamphlet that made him into a minor celebrity. In Paris he used the name Jacques Casanova and styled himself the "Chevalier de Seingalt". There he made a fortune by starting a lottery. This success was not to last and his restless genius led him to other countries and adventures. Impecunious at the end, he retired in 1785 to become the librarian to the Count of Waldstein in the castle of Dux, Bohemia (now Duchcov, Czech Republic) where he died aged 73.

His reputation as a womaniser has antagonised many female readers and critics. It must be said however that, uncommonly for his time, he always claims to have been in love with those he seduced; that he never committed rape or forced himself on a woman; that one of his main aims was to ensure that his partner enjoyed herself as much, sexually, as he. The fact that in his time it was relatively common for men to make use of under-age girls for sex does not perhaps excuse him, but once again it should be noted that those who found themselves in his bed were invariably encouraged by their mothers. He is sometimes said to be bisexual: this is only true to the extent that he had two or three recorded incidents of taking part in sexual acts with males, and without complaint. He was extremely confused when he fell in love with a boy, and more than a little relieved when she proved to be a girl in drag. This suggests that he was basically heterosexual, though not averse to play with another male if no woman was currently available.

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Casanova in 1788

His autobiography is regarded, by some, as pornography; it is true that he clearly relished retailing his amorous adventures, often in great detail (he wrote the memoirs at Dux, after his sexual powers had, to his infinite regret, subsided) and many of the incidents can shock modern susceptibilities (his happy incest with his daughter, for instance, whose bed her mother shared with him). Others are of the opinion that the book is a masterpiece, not only of confessional revelation, but in the detail of contemporary life.

Casanova (and the archetype that he has come to represent) has appeared in a significant number of both regular and "adult" movies. The first was the 1918 Hungarian movie of that name by Alfréd Deésy in which the director also played the title role. (Also featuring an early film performance by Bela Lugosi). One well known representation was in 1976 by Donald Sutherland in Il Casanova di Federico Fellini. BBC television in the United Kingdom has twice produced dramas named Casanova based on his life - once in 1971, written by Dennis Potter, and again in 2005, written by Russell T. Davies (starring David Tennant and Peter O'Toole as the young and old Casanova, respectively). The most recent (and only current) biography is Derek Parker: Casanova (London, Sutton, 2002).

Works

  • 1752 - Zoroastro, tragedia tradotta dal Francese, da rappresentarsi nel Regio Elettoral Teatro di Dresda, dalla compagnia de' comici italiani in attuale servizio di Sua Maestà nel carnevale dell'anno MDCCLII. Dresda.
  • 1753 - La Moluccheide, o sia i gemelli rivali. Dresda
  • 1769 - Confutazione della Storia del Governo Veneto d'Amelot de la Houssaie, Amsterdam (Lugano).
  • 1772 - Lana caprina. Epistola di un licantropo. Bologna.
  • 1774 - Istoria delle turbolenze della Polonia. Gorizia.
  • 1775 - Dell'Iliade di Omero tradotta in ottava rima. Venezia.
  • 1779 - Scrutinio del libro "Eloges de M. de Voltaire par différents auteurs". Venezia.
  • 1780 - Opuscoli miscellanei - Il duello - Lettere della nobil donna Silvia Belegno alla nobildonzella Laura Gussoni. Venezia.
  • 1781 - Le messager de Thalie. Venezia.
  • 1782 - Di aneddoti viniziani militari ed amorosi del secolo decimoquarto sotto i dogadi di Giovanni Gradenigo e di Giovanni Dolfin. Venezia.
  • 1782 - Né amori né donne ovvero la stalla ripulita. Venezia.
  • 1786 - Soliloque d'un penseur, Prague chez Jean Ferdinande noble de Shonfeld imprimeur et libraire.
  • 1787 - Histoire de ma fuite des prisons de la République de Venise qu'on appelle les Plombs. Ecrite a Dux en Boheme l'année 1787, Leipzig chez le noble de Shonfeld.
  • 1788 - Icosameron ou histoire d'Edouard, et d'Elisabeth qui passèrent quatre vingts ans chez les Mégramicres habitante aborigènes du Protocosme dans l'interieur de notre globe, traduite de l'anglois par Jacques Casanova de Seingalt Vénitien Docteur èn lois Bibliothécaire de Monsieur le Comte de Waldstein seigneur de Dux Chambellan de S.M.I.R.A., Prague à l'imprimerie de l'école normale.
  • 1790 - Solution du probleme deliaque démontrée par Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, Bibliothécaire de Monsieur le Comte de Waldstein, segneur de Dux en Boheme e c., Dresde, De l'imprimerie de C.C. Meinhold.
  • 1790 - Corollaire a la duplication de l'Hexaedre donée a Dux en Boheme, par Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, Dresda.
  • 1790 - Demonstration geometrique de la duplicaton du cube. Corollaire second, Dresda.
  • 1797 - A Leonard Snetlage, Docteur en droit de l'Université de Gottingue, Jacques Casanova, docteur en droit de l'Universitè de Padoue.
  • 1960-1961 - Histoire de ma vie, F.A. Brockhaus, Wiesbaden and Plon, Paris.

External links

The most recent, and only current biography is Derek Parker: Casanova. London, Sutton, 2002


Casanova is also the name of a commune of the Haute-Corse département of France, on the island of Corsica. da:Giacomo Casanova de:Giacomo Casanova es:Giacomo Casanova eo:Giacomo CASANOVA fr:Giacomo Casanova hr:Casanova it:Giacomo Casanova nl:Giacomo Casanova pl:Giacomo Casanova ru:Казанова, Джованни Джакомо sv:Giacomo Casanova

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