Seriously, Marin Who?

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Marin Držić House, Dom Marina Držića, Dubrovnik, Croatia

If I say the name Marin Držić to you, what would you say?  Even assuming that I pronounced it correctly, I don’t think you recognised it, did you?

It’s widely publicized within Dubrovnik that Marin Držić (1508-1567) was the Croatian Shakespeare/Moliere.  He was a master of Croatian Renaissance literature and celebrated for his comic plays, a large number of which have been lost, but some of which are still performed today.  Basically, they’re ‘modern’ interpretations of the classical repertoire dating back to the Greeks and Romans, so there are lots of misers, cuckolds, drippy lovers and generally farcical situations.  Sadly, English translations seem to either be non-existent, or very bad, so it’s hard to categorise Držić with the literary greats of Europe.

So, because I was not previously familiar with Držić, I didn’t have high expectations for this museum.  Added to that, I’d read some scathing reviews on Tripadvisor that were pretty blunt, but I was really looking forward to going inside an old Ragusan house and wanted to learn more about Držić.

And I did indeed learn about good old Marin.  He had a fascinating, though sketchily documented, life.  He travelled a great deal, getting his education in Siena, spending a brief period in Vienna, and even visiting Constantinople.  Perhaps the highlight of his life was when he exiled himself to Venice, basically because he got in a strop with the Ragusan aristocracy.  He was so riled, he wrote to the powerful Cosimo I de’ Medici in Florence, asking for help to overthrow the Ragusan government.  Funnily enough, Cosimo didn’t take up the offer.

After disturbing the lady on reception, who was mid-phone call, we started our visit under the glaring eyes of papier mache figures from Držić’s plays.  Freaked out, we peered into a practically empty room on the ground floor, and read a panel telling us about how this House of Držić was basically very probably not his house at all.  It was possibly his house, because his father was linked to the church next door, but they don’t know for certain – just like the rest of the uncertainty involved in Držić’s life.

Then we went up some stairs, which promisingly told us we were going back in time to the 16th century.  Hm… not really.  Some modern art demonstrated Držić’s plays.  We saw some posters.  Excited to find that there was an exhibit in a glass case, we went rushing over.  It was a gold ring set with a ruby.  Držić owned just such a ring!… but this isn’t it.  This is of the type he had.  Apparently Držić had to pawn his version of the ring, so Sister Chickpea and I were amused at the possibility of this ending up by being his real ring.

Finally, there’s the room, made up to look as it may have done in Držić’s day.  This is the picture that is used to advertise the house.  It’s cute, and fairly evocative – it may have been more so, if I hadn’t been in a bad mood by then.

So In Summary

My family would agree that I am one who sees the best in things.  If I see just one item of interest in a museum, I think it’s a success.  I also am very aware of the poverty of many museums, and I know that it’s very difficult to make a successful exhibition about a playwright, particularly one who left behind… well, nothing.

Certainly, the website acknowledges that the house was devised as a memorial place, which serves to celebrate the work of the city’s famous son.  But it’s marketed as a museum.  As more and more tourists visit Dubrovnik, more foreigners will want to explore the house because it’s included on museum cards, and they will continue to leave dire, but often fair, reviews on sites like Tripadvisor.  It’s a real shame, because it ends up by feeling disrespectful – both to Držić and the visitors.  The house could offer something of interest to non-Croats and become a fun space – like the Natural History Museum up the road.

If the museum wants to make itself a hit with tourists, it needs to offer something more than it does now: they could have more costumes, set designs – all the pretty paraphernalia that is used when they stage Držić’s plays.  They could have scene setting.  They could have child friendly activities.  They could try a lot of things.  It will be interesting to see if they do.

Further Information

If you’d like to find out more, from the museum’s own perspective, their website is in English:

You do have to pay to get in the museum, but it is included on the D’UM card, so if you go the Rector’s Palace, for example, this one is then a freebie.

How to Get There

Here is a link for a clear and map:


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