The Story of Marin Držić from Dubrovnik

by | About Dubrovnik

The story of Marin Držić from Dubrovnik will bring you interesting facts about his life, work and philosophy of the famous Renaissance playwright Marin Držić from Dubrovnik!


Let’s enter the Renaissance City and visit the places where culture was being made long time ago. Let’s taste the other side of Dubrovnik, a literary side full of stories and experiences that will surely enrich your life in so many ways.

You are probably aware of the great history and famous names connected to this city, but there is one name you should remember if you’re fan of poetry, theatre and literature in all its forms. Now, we will focus on one man and one man only because there is so much to say, so much to learn and so many of his steps to follow throughout the City that there is no room for anyone else at the moment.

There was a man born in a Renaissance Dubrovnik who challenged people of his time, broke some new boundaries and gave us the best literary work we have to this very day. His name was    MARIN DRŽIĆ

Who was Marin? 

We don’t know for a fact the year of his birth, but it probably it must have been 1508. His family had a noble title up until 14th century, but they lost it because one of his ancestors fled the city in time of the plague which was not a very noble act, one must say.

“We must arm ourselves with patience to ride out the hard times and later enjoy the good.” Dundo Maroje (Uncle Maroye)


It was a family tradition that someone becomes a monk or a priest (it was very common in those times, and girls who didn’t marry were sent to a convent which is also an interesting fact) and one of the most important Marin’s ancestors, Džore Držić, also belonged to the church. 

Džore Držić was a Croatian poet and playwright, one of the fathers of Croatian literature. He was Marin’s uncle, his father’s brother, and it must be that young Marin has read and studied his uncle’s verse.

Džore died before Marin was born, in 1501. and left the great legacy behind. Marin was also connected to the Church in many ways. In 1538. he played church organ in Dubrovnik Cathedral and in the same year he got the scholarship to go to college in Siena, ItalyAs we know, he didn’t finish his studies, but it was there in Siena where he found an inspiration and love for the theatre. Later on, we will see how his life took an unexpected turn and why he was a man of the future even though he most certainly didn’t know that.

Love for the theatre

It was around the year 1548. that his plays started to appear. It was a common thing for them to perform at wedding parties of important people of the time, or in front of the Rector’s Palace in the public for people to enjoy. For the crowd was hungry for laughs and magic so much that there is a story that one time, while people were trying to see or hear one of Marin’s plays that was performed at a wedding party, it was so many people there that the brick fell of the wall and hit one man in the head.

Controversy & conspirational letters

Beside all that, we know Držić was also connected with some controversial doings. He dared to speak of things no writer before him dared to speak of. He has challenged the minds of his generation, brought critique and deepened the way people were seeing art and thinking about it. We can say that he was intelligent enough to use his words to create characters and situations we can relate to without any hesitation, even today.

That is exactly what we think when we say that his plays are still fresh and consumable, and there is no doubt that they will be so in the distant future too. In one period of his life, in 1566., Držić was involved in politics and was very unsatisfied with how things were going in the Republic, so he decided to write to Cosimo de’ Medici and seek for help.

There are five conspiratorial letters that we know of and they are well kept in the archives in Florence. Everything after that episode in his life becomes pretty blurry. We know that Marin went to Venice and died there the very next year, in 1567. We still don’t know what the cause of his death was.

Why is Držić so important and where can we find him?

So what is interesting in this man, his life and his writings today? Because I’m pretty sure that if you’d have known him, you would most certainly love him. He was a man beyond his time, and his literary works are very fresh and interesting even today. He is the greatest Croatian playwright of all time, one of the most eminent Croatian writers in history, as well as one of the key authors of the European Renaissance comedy.

In fact, one of his most popular plays “Dundo Maroje” (“Uncle Maroye”) you can find and read it in English. Nowadays, you can find Marin Držić at the House of Marin Držić, institution in culture of the City of Dubrovnik, founded in 1989. It’s situated in Široka street 7. In our next blog follow the concept of the House of Marin Držić and find the numerous reasons why you should visit Držić House while your stay in Dubrovnik.

And remember, when you visit the country or a city, you don’t visit the buildings or the fortresses only, you also visit people and the spirit of everything that makes them who they are. Their poetry, their art and everything their culture was made of. With this in mind, we hope you will remember our Marin and his great spirit while walking the streets of Dubrovnik.

Photo credit: Ivan Vuković & House of Marin Držić

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