See in Dubrovnik

Who is Who in Dubrovnik: Marin Drzic

By 20 January 2017

Continuing our look at Dubrovnik's important historical figures, let's meet Dubrovnik's very own Shakespeare, Marin Drzic.

Marin Drzic, after whom Dubrovnik's theatre is named, was born in 1508 into a large, wealthy Dubrovnik family. He is considered to be the greatest Croatian Renaissance playwright and prose writer of all time.

He was trained and even ordained in 1526 as a priest, a position Drzic was deeply unsatisfied with, and one that found itself highly unsuitable for his otherwise rebellious and impulsive personality. Despite this, he was sent from his hometown of Dubrovnik (then the Dubrovnik Republic) to Siena in Tuscany several years later in 1538 to study the Church Canon Law, a period of his life that was met with dissatisfaction equal to that of his priesthood, his barely average academic results reflecting his lack of passion for the subject. Owing to his friendly and warm temperament, Drzic found it to be no task at all to win over both his peers and even his professors, his charisma leading him to become elected to the position of Rector of the University. Unfortunately this title made little difference, and saw Drzic lose interest in his studies entirely and return, still dissatisfied, to Dubrovnik in 1543.

Upon his return to his native city, he became a friend to Christoph Rogendorf, a vagabond Austrian adventurer who at the time was at odds with the Vienna court. Drzic's extroverted personality and need for stimulation led him to a brief stay in Vienna and various other exploits, including a connection with a group of local outlaws and travels to Venice and Constantinople. This wasn't enough to satisfy his seemingly insatiable restlessness, and after attempting to hold down various stable careers, as an interpreter and even one so pure as a church musician, Drzic became a conspirator. In an act that would prove to be divisive in opinion, and totally convinced that the City of Dubrovnik was under the government of elitist aristocracy who wanted to incite tyranny, Drzic wrote five letters (four of them still exist to this day) to the influential Medici family in Florence (Italy) in an attempt to persuade them to aid him in his attempts to overthrow twenty members of Dubrovnik's ruling body, but the Medici family never responded to his numerous requests.

Drzic, who is otherwise a peculiar character, seemed to be eternally unfulfilled by any other line of work or study, made a name for himself with his impressive writing skills and wild imagination. His works cover many fields of writing, from lyric poetry to pastorals, to pamphlets and political letters, even to comedies, for which he is perhaps most well remembered. Drzic's comedies are some of the highly regarded in European Renaissance literature, they are full of the vittues of life: love, vitality liberty and sincerity, but also cleverly mock egoism, notions of tyranny and pettiness.

Some of his best known and most loved comedies are Pomet, Novela od Stanca, Skup and perhaps the most celebrated, Dundo Maroje, which is played in both local and international theatres to this day.

Marin Drzic died suddenly while in Venice in 1567. He was laid to rest in the Church of Saint John and Paul.

Today, Marin Drzic is very much alive in the City of Dubrovnik and in Croatia as a whole, with a school named after him and his statue sitting outside Dubrovnik's Marin Drzic theatre in the Old City, his pensive gaze overlooking thousands upon thousands of tourists taking photos with him and rubbing his nose for luck. His works are staged frequently, with Dundo Maroje being a particular favourite. Since gaining its independence from the former Yugoslavia, the Republic of Croatia has awarded the Marin Drzic Award for dramatic works. The Croatian Parliament declared the year 2008 - the 500th anniversary of his birth - as the Year of Marin Drzic. An avenue in the Croatian capital of Zagreb bears his name, and in Draskoviceva street (central Zagreb), there is a scenical stage named ''Vidra'', Drzic's nickname.

Records and explanations about Drzic's life are often found to be very inconsistent and have many missing parts. What we can be certain of is that he was a truly exceptional person, who was born much before his time. He stands out from the crowd with his vibrant personality and his outspokenness. His works, particularly with his undisputed talent for writing comedies, a skill which earned him the title of ''the king of laughter''. Drzic was the polar opposite to other locally born writers who were famed for writing in typical styles of the time, like Ivan Gundulic. Drzic's work, and indeed his attitude, was very questioning, comedically critical of human flaws, bestial parts of human nature and mainly of the sheer stupidity of man.

You can visit the House of Marin Drzic in the Old City of Dubrovnik at: Siroka Ulica 7.