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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Music (M.M.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The role of women changed constantly during the Renaissance era. Especially notable was the evolution of the role of women within the arts, in which the female gender was becoming particularly sought after. One woman deserving of attention is poetess, philosopher, and musician Tarquinia Molza (1542-1617) who enjoyed notable success at the court of Ferrara. Molza by-passed gender conventions of the day by engaging in traditionally “masculine” activities like philosophy and “feminine” ones such as singing. While there is plentiful scholarship about Molza, no current scholarship has specifically considered how questions regarding the ambivalence of her gender affected Molza’s relationship with her contemporaries.

This thesis explores how the notion of masculinity and femininity impacted Molza’s reception among her peers. In order to do so, I examine Molza’s philosophical, poetic, and musical output, before looking at a similarly diverse output from her contemporaries. Though this study does not encompass all of the poetry and musical settings dedicated to Molza, it helps us gain a sense of poetic and musical style, providing the basis for further study.

My thesis seeks to further our understanding of the role of women in the northern Italian courts during the second half of the sixteenth century, and strives to examine the links between the gender ambivalence surrounding Tarquinia Molza and her reception among her contemporaries. Moreover, this study sheds light on the importance of gendered rhetoric in late sixteenth-century culture, a consideration that can be further developed and applied to the study of other notable figures.


First Advisor

Emiliano Ricciardi

Second Advisor


Included in

Musicology Commons