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The Library of Renaissance Symbolism
The Symbolic Literature of the Renaissance

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Latin: Equivocans

Authority: Tesauro

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The word equivoque as it was used in the Renaissance has to be translated with care since it can be used either in the meaning of equivalent that is the same as or with the opposite meaning as equivocal or uncertain.

     The equivoques as a literary genre (for which there is no direct English translation) were in the tradition of the burlesque in which a subject is treated in a tone either more loftily or more lightly than it deserves. In a long tradition of scatological or obscene literature, poems and public songs, the equivoques went back to the Goliards, the works of Burchiello, carnival songs including Triumphs and the works of Lorenzo Medici (the Magnificent) in the late 15th century. The high point of the equivoques is found in the Capitoli of Berni and his followers.

     The equivoques used a language with two meanings: on the surface the meaning was simple and common place but the secondary meaning was a language unto itself which was nevertheless known and understood by its readers.  The attraction of the equivoques was not so much the (generally) sexual subject matter which was necessarily limited in scope but the perceived subtlety by which new words were coined in which the secondary meaning could be illustrated (see Toscan for a full description of the equivoques of Berni).

See also: Burlesques, Jokes