titolo Ludovico AriostoTorquato Tasso
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Torquato Tasso is one of Italy’s greatest poets, writing during the late Renaissance period with extraordinary theoretical lucidity and marvellous depth to his poetic output. Raised at the courts of Nothern Italy in the mid-sixteenth century, specifically Urbino, Padua and the House of the Este at Ferrara, he thoroughly assimilated the Petrarchan tradition and the precedent of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. His project of an epic poem, resulting in twenty years’ work on his Gerusalemme liberata, is infused with the full complexity of mid-century debates on poetics. Drawing on the tradition of the classical epic, it centres on a choice of powerful religious significance, namely a Crusade. The Liberata is a masterpiece that springs from the blend of all of these elements, displaying the fullness of life that derives from an opposition between the earthly passions (the love or yearning for glory which animates the memorable characters on each side, thereby fixing them permanently in readers’ minds) and the ideal, sustained by Goffredo’s inspired faith, of regaining the holy city, thereby regaining interior salvation.

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Tasso’s life combines exemplary features of renaissance society and culture with a uniqueness that, from a certain point onwards, appears to turn his life into a symbol of the emerging age of transition. Indeed, the young Tasso, already marked by a strong literary vocation, grew up in the shadow of his father, Bernardo, settling down quickly and successfully into court life in Northern Italy. From the mid-1570s, however, he experienced increasing friction with the Estense court, which coincided with his work on the Liberata coming to a standstill. This, together with his lengthy and painful confinement in melancholy at Sant'Anna, has often been perceived as a restless and tormented author’s opposition towards an increasingly suspicious environment. In his last years, Tasso found refuge at the private courts of Naples and above all in the sumptuous pontifical Rome of Sixtus V and Clement VIII.

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The Gerusalemme Liberata is the most important of Tasso’s works, and the most important work of the entire second half of the sixteenth century. Moreover, around it revolves a large body of additional writings, some functional to the poem itself, as preventive reflection or in defence, while others developed in connection with or totally separate from it. All have the same stylistic and poetic vein that distinguishes all of Tasso’s works. Although the compact Aminta is the prodigy produced while he was at his peak, his output of lyrical poems constitute the century’s most important canzoniere. His constant production of dialogues and poems in later life shows the signs of the substantial culture he had accumulated over the years, in function of the new image of the learned poet which Tasso had begun to fashion for himself following his confinement.

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On account of the sheer quantity of Tasso’s output during the last three decades of the sixteenth century, and the variety of issues dealt with in his work, his oeuvre provides an almost complete picture of the essential themes in Italian culture during the late renaissance period. Making use of all literary genres, including tragedy, philosophical dialogues, sacred poems, lyric poetry, and the breadth provided by the epic in his Liberata, Tasso’s work garners and filters the central issues of his time (political crisis, religious reform, and a more general epistemological uncertainty), embedding them within a complex vision of human beings and their condition, a vision which became increasingly distressed as time passed.

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Biographical pathway - Textual pathway - Thematic pathway
Home "Pathways through Literature" - Dante Alighieri - Francesco Petrarca - Giovanni Boccaccio - Baldassarre Castiglione
Ludovico Ariosto - Torquato Tasso - Ugo Foscolo - Alessandro Manzoni - Giacomo Leopardi

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