Machiavelli’s Belfagor: my English translation

I have translated Niccolò Machiavelli’s Belfagor the Archdevil into modern English. Here is a link to the page on this site where you can read it.

The novella Belfagor is short, only 3220 words in the original, and barely 4000 in translation. My translation is as clear and faithful to the original as I could make it. It is also the basis for the stage adaptation and the screenplay, which are both longer than the novella.

Machiavelli wrote “La fiaba di Belfagor arcidiavolo” during the same time he worked on The Prince and La Mandragola, between the Spring of 1513 and 1518, making it just about 500 years old, today.

I made the stage adaptation of Machiavelli’s Belfagor by using all of the story and most of the words from the novella, taking the text out of plain narrative and putting it into the voices of the characters, often with the very same words. I added the prologue and some incidental and cameo parts, such as some servants and the Florentine Real Estate Agent. There is a narrator and most of the characters also do some of the action in pantomime over the narration. If you read the novella first you can see how I did this. But you can skip straight to the stage version and not miss any of the original.

The Story of Machiavelli’s Belfagor

The story starts in Hell, where the devils in charge there hear that the souls of many newly arrived men blame their wives for their damnation. They can’t believe it and Pluto orders an investigation, to protect their reputation. They decide to send an emissary up into the world to investigate what is ‘matrimony’ and Belfagor is chosen to go. After a comical and dramatic chain of fortunes and misfortunes, he flees back to Hell rather than live another day under his wife’s rule.

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