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ITALIAN LITERATURE


any great height in the 16th century. Originality was entirely wanting, since it seemed in that century as if nothing better could be done than to copy Petrarch. Still, even Lyric
poetry.
in this style there were some vigorous poets. Monsignore Giovanni Guidiccioni of Lucca (1500–1541) showed that he had a generous heart. In fine sonnets he gave expression to his grief for the sad state to which his country was reduced. Francesco Molza of Modena (1489–1544), learned in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, wrote in a graceful style and with spirit. Giovanni della Casa (1503–1556) and Pietro Bembo (1470–1547), although Petrarchists, were elegant. Even Michelangelo Buonarroti was at times a Petrarchist, but his poems bear the stamp of his extraordinary and original genius. And a good many ladies are to be placed near these poets, such as Vittoria Colonna (loved by Michelangelo), Veronica Gambara, Tullia d’ Aragona, Giulia Gonzaga, poetesses of great delicacy, and superior in genius to many literary men of their time.

The 16th century had not a few tragedies, but they are all weak. The cause of this was the moral and religious indifference of the Italians, the lack of strong passions and vigorous characters. The first to occupy the tragic stage was Trissino with his Sofonisba, following the rules of the art most Tragedy. scrupulously, but written in sickly verses, and without warmth of feeling. The Oreste and the Rosmunda of Giovanni Rucellai were no better, nor Luigi Alamanni’s Antigone. Sperone Speroni in his Canace and Giraldi Cintio in his Orbecche tried to become innovators in tragic literature, but they only succeeded in making it grotesque. Decidedly superior to these was the Torrismondo of Torquato Tasso, specially remarkable for the choruses, which sometimes remind one of the chorus of the Greek tragedies.

The Italian comedy of the 16th century was almost entirely modelled on the Latin comedy. They were almost always alike in the plot, in the characters of the old man, of the servant, of the waiting-maid; and the argument was often the same. Thus the Lucidi of Agnolo Firenzuola, Comedy. and the Vecchio amoroso of Donato Giannotti were modelled on comedies by Plautus, as were the Sporta by Gelli, the Marito by Dolce, and others. There appear to be only three writers who should be distinguished among the many who wrote comedies—Machiavelli, Ariosto and Giovan Maria Cecchi. In his Mandragora Machiavelli, unlike all the others, composed a comedy of character, creating types which seem living even now, because they were copied from reality seen with a finely observant eye. Ariosto, on the other hand, was distinguished for his picture of the habits of his time, and especially of those of the Ferrarese nobles, rather than for the objective delineation of character. Lastly, Cecchi left in his comedies a treasure of spoken language, which nowadays enables us in a wonderful way to make ourselves acquainted with that age. The notorious Pietro Aretino might also be included in the list of the best writers of comedy.

The 15th century was not without humorous poetry; Antonio Cammelli, surnamed the Pistoian, is specially deserving of notice, because of his “pungent bonhomie,” as Sainte-Beuve called it. But it was Francesco Berni who carried this kind of literature to perfection in the Burlesque and satire. 16th century. From him the style has been called “bernesque” poetry. In the “Berneschi” we find nearly the same phenomenon that we already noticed with regard to Orlando furioso. It was art for art’s sake that inspired and moved Berni to write, as well as Anton Francesco Grazzini, called Il Lasca, and other lesser writers. It may be said that there is nothing in their poetry; and it is true that they specially delight in praising low and disgusting things and in jeering at what is noble and serious. Bernesque poetry is the clearest reflection of that religious and moral scepticism which was one of the characteristics of Italian social life in the 16th century, and which showed itself more or less in all the works of that period, that scepticism which stopped the religious Reformation in Italy, and which in its turn was an effect of historical conditions. The Berneschi, and especially Berni himself, sometimes assumed a satirical tone. But theirs could not be called true satire. Pure satirists, on the other hand, were Antonio Vinciguerra, a Venetian, Lodovico Alamanni and Ariosto, the last superior to the others for the Attic elegance of his style, and for a certain frankness, passing into malice, which is particularly interesting when the poet talks of himself.

In the 16th century there were not a few didactic works. In his poem of the Api Giovanni Rucellai approaches to the perfection of Virgil. His style is clear and light, and he adds interest to his book by frequent allusions to the events of the time. But of the didactic works that which Didactic works. surpasses all the others in importance is Baldassare Castiglione’s Cortigiano, in which he imagines a discussion in the palace of the dukes of Urbino between knights and ladies as to what are the gifts required in a perfect courtier. This book is valuable as an illustration of the intellectual and moral state of the highest Italian society in the first half of the 16th century.

Of the novelists of the 16th century, the two most important were Anton Francesco Grazzini and Matteo Bandello—the former as playful and bizarre as the latter is grave and solemn. As part of the history of the times, we must not forget that Bandello was a Fiction.Dominican friar and a bishop, but that notwithstanding his novels were very loose in subject, and that he often holds up the ecclesiastics of his time to ridicule.

At a time when admiration for qualities of style, the desire for classical elegance, was so strong as in the 16th century, much attention was naturally paid to translating Latin and Greek authors. Among the very numerous translations of the time those of the Aeneid and of the Pastorals of Translations. Longus the Sophist by Annibal Caro are still famous; as are also the translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Giovanni Andrea dell’ Anguillare, of Apuleius’s Golden Ass by Firenzuola, and of Plutarch’s Lives and Moralia by Marcello Adriani.

The historians of Italian literature are in doubt whether Tasso should be placed in the period of the highest development of the Renaissance, or whether he should form a period by himself, intermediate between that and the one following. Certainly he was profoundly out of harmony Tasso (1544–
1595).
with the century in which he lived. His religious faith, the seriousness of his character, the deep melancholy settled in his heart, his continued aspiration after an ideal perfection, all place him as it were outside the literary epoch represented by Machiavelli, by Ariosto, by Berni. As Carducci has well said, Tasso “is the legitimate heir of Dante Alighieri: he believes, and reasons on his faith by philosophy; he loves, and comments on his love in a learned style; he is an artist, and writes dialogues of scholastic speculation that would fain be Platonic.” He was only eighteen years old when, in 1562, he tried his hand at epic poetry, and wrote Rinaldo, in which he said that he had tried to reconcile the Aristotelian rules with the variety of Ariosto. He afterwards wrote the Aminta, a pastoral drama of exquisite grace. But the work to which he had long turned his thoughts was an heroic poem, and that absorbed all his powers. He himself explains what his intention was in the three Discorsi written whilst he was composing the Gerusalemme: he would choose a great and wonderful subject, not so ancient as to have lost all interest, nor so recent as to prevent the poet from embellishing it with invented circumstances; he meant to treat it rigorously according to the rules of the unity of action observed in Greek and Latin poems, but with a far greater variety and splendour of episodes, so that in this point it should not fall short of the romantic poem; and finally, he would write it in a lofty and ornate style. This is what Tasso has done in the Gerusalemme liberata, the subject of which is the liberation of the sepulchre of Jesus Christ in the 11th century by Godfrey of Bouillon. The poet does not follow faithfully all the historical facts, but sets before us the principal causes of them, bringing in the supernatural agency of God and Satan. The Gerusalemme is the best heroic poem that Italy can show. It approaches to classical perfection. Its episodes above all are most beautiful. There is profound feeling in it, and everything reflects the melancholy soul of the poet. As regards the style, however,