Like the Freudian id or the stunted troll, Lagerkvist’s dwarf, Piccolino, represents the dark side of human life—“a person’s dwarf is really the person’s self,” and one “cannot do without one’s dwarf for long.” This is to say that human life is basically evil: Instead of attempting to deny or to eradicate one’s evil, which is, in fact, one’s instinct to survive, one should be constantly aware of it. The antithesis of evil, in this context, is not good but love, which directs the energy of one’s self toward the betterment of another. To be evil and to love is to become good—that is, good at being human. Evil and love are moral integers; goodness is a functional integer.
Piccolino serves a prince, clearly patterned after Niccolò Macchiavelli’s exemplar, Cesare Borgia. The prince dallies sensually with the courtesan Fiammetta; his wife, Princess Teodora, is in love with Don Ricardo (suggestive of the historical Francesco Orsini, an admirer of Petrarch’s poetry). Angelica, daughter of the prince and Teodora, is in love with Giovanni, the son of the prince’s enemy, Lodovico Montanza il Toro (historically, Ludovico Sforza il Moro). Messer Bernardo (Leonardo da Vinci), who has painted The Last Supper for Montanza in the refectory of Santa Croce (Santa Maria delle Grazie), is now painting a portrait of Princess Teodora (the Mona Lisa). The time of the events is probably 1502 to 1503, when Macchiavelli and...
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