Italian Renaissance Literature

Revival in literature
The discovery of the waterway to India proved fatal for Italy. At the end of the 15th century, the world trade highway was already far away from it, and this undermined its internal forces. “… The revolution of the world market since the end of the 15th century has destroyed the commercial dominance of Northern Italy,” K. Marx wrote.

Wool from England and Spain ceased to arrive, and the cloth production of Italian cities almost completely ceased. European states that developed their own production ceased to need Italian goods.

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True, artists still travel to Italy for science in Italy, as before, Italy is revered as the center and center of cultural life in Europe, a kind of university of art. The wealthy people of England, France, Germany, Spain turn to Italian masters with orders, sometimes not noticing that their own, national cultural forces have already grown. However, Italy has already irrevocably ceded to other countries its primacy in economic power. World trade routes have moved. Actively began to bustle life in England, France. Italy remained aloof. Once noisy cities were empty, working people, not finding demand for their own hands, left for the villages. The provincial lords again felt the power on their side and pulled the country to feudal antiquity.

And then the war began. Spain and France fought for Italian wealth, fought in Italy. Foreign troops robbed and terrorized the population.

In the second half of the 16th century, Spain subjugated almost all of Italy. Sicily, Sardinia and Southern Italy, Tuscany, Montferrat, Genoa, the Duchy of Milan, Parma, Reggio, Piacenza, the Duchy of Ferrara, Modena and others lost their independence. And along with the loss of independence, the economic exploitation of Italian lands by the Spanish invaders in the form of indemnities and taxes began. This continued in the XVII century.

The national tragedy of the Italian people was completed by the Catholic reaction. The papal authority, combined with the Spanish enslaver of the country, laid its heavy, bloody hand on the creative thought of the people, and the mighty genius of Italy, creating incomparable art masterpieces that surprised and delighted the world, fell into a deep centuries-old dream.

The Renaissance Italian proudly looked forward, he believed in himself, believed in reason, believed in human strength. He was worried about the big problems of the life of the Universe, the Earth, human Society and Man himself. He boldly stormed everything that prevented us from understanding and resolving these serious problems, and he was brave, cheerful and talented.

Leaving the cramped, gloomy cave, Where the error of the lawsuit tormented me, There I leave the chains that a hostile hand squeezed on me – exclaimed one of the last fighters of the Renaissance Giordano Bruno. Bruno was executed in Rome on the Square of Flowers on February 17, 1600, in the second month of the 17th century. The reaction executes Galileo even more cruelly. She burned Giordano Bruno at the stake, without forcing him to submit. She leaves Galileo alive, breaking his will, abusing his scientific conscience, forcing him to abandon his teachings.

The Italian of the 17th century ceased to believe in the omnipotence of reason, for the sorrowful pictures of the suppression of reason by the brute force of fire and sword showed him modern reality. He became gloomy and suspicious, he lost his courage, he lost his talent. The most unprincipled retained the gaiety of the spirit and with ease in thoughts and feelings turned to poetic trinkets.

Such is Marino (1569-1625), a native of Naples, Jambattista, who baptized a whole current in literature in his own name.

Marinism is by no means a specifically Italian phenomenon. The features that characterize the literature of Italian marinism are also inherent in English literature of a similar type, which went down in history under the name of euphism, and Spanish, known under the name of cultism, and French, the so-called precision literature.

Marino, an adventurer by way of life, repeatedly went to jail, escaped from them, lived in poverty, content with a crust of bread, then in well-fed well-being, merrily groveling before aristocrats. He was well-read and, unashamedly, transferred to his pages what his brilliant memory kept from reading Ovid, and Virgil, Lucretius and Poliziano. In 1615 he went to France to the court of Maria Medici, the Italian wife of Henry IV, who was killed in 1610. Here in 1623 he publishes his huge poem in 45 thousand verses and 20 songs “Adonis”, dedicating it to the young king Louis XIII. Returning to Naples already a rather wealthy man, he was enthusiastically greeted by his compatriots and after death elevated to the rank of great poet.

The plot of his poem is not new. As you know, Shakespeare’s pen belongs to the magnificent processing of the ancient myth of Venus, in love with the beautiful young man Adonis. Marino tells the love story of the goddess with a somewhat mocking grace, equipping the speech with subtle erotic hints. His verse is light, elegant, distinguished by a sonorous rhyme.

The peculiarity of his writing is made up of unexpected metaphors, images, comparisons. This is the secret of his glory. The reader is in a state of constant surprise. Marino was the inventor of the so-called “Konchetti”, masterly phrases, unusually applied epithets, unexpected turns of speech. Such, for example, is the neighborhood of mutually exclusive concepts: “learned ignoramus”, “dumb speaker”, “rich beggar”, “joyful pain”, etc. The stars in Marino’s poems are nothing but “sparks of eternal love”, “sparkling ducats from the heavenly mint ”,“ gentle dancers of the sky ”,“ torches during the burial of the day ”. A kiss for Marino is an “all-healing medicine”, and the beauty’s mouth is a “beckoning prison”. Hundreds of such comparisons are scattered in the poems of the poet, they amaze contemporary readers, delight them, forcing them to see in such an inventive poet a genius discovering a new, still unknown field of poetry.

Marino is cheerful, but this cheerfulness does not come from optimism, which the Renaissance is full of, but from the consciousness of the futility of all the worries and anxieties of life. This is the gaiety of despair. Why grieve when you still can’t fix the world? Why puzzle over the mysteries of the universe? After all, you will not allow them. Isn’t it better to flutter like a moth, fun and carefree? And it was pleasant in those gloomy days, it lulled a woeful consciousness, lulled a suffering soul.
If you seriously ask Marino and he will honor you with a serious answer about his thoughts regarding human life, then this is his answer:

“As soon as a man was born into the world, his eyes are already open for tears.

Even in the cradle, a person is deprived of freedom, beatings grow a little older, and then there are insatiable passions, then illness, suffering, old age, “and now his grave gloom encompasses for a century …” (“On Human Life”).

The Baroque philosophy is completely in control of Marino’s mind. For a joke, he expresses, for example, such thoughts: “Folly makes the world beautiful; for, since it consists entirely of contradictions, this opposition forms a ligature that prevents it from disintegrating. ” This is not a simple joke. The true social philosophy of Marino is here. He cites France as an example. “France is full of inconsistencies and imbalances, which, in the form of a certain consensus disagreement, support its existence. Freakish customs, ferocious passions, incessant coups, uncontrolled civil wars, immoderate extremes, confusion, turmoil, inconsistency and foolishness – in a word, everything that should have destroyed it, in fact, by some miracle of it supports! ” (letter to Loreizo Scoto).

The fame of Marino in the XVII century is almost universal. They imitate him, praise him, praise him to heaven.

However, some contemporaries of Marino already saw in his work a danger to Russian literature. The poet Gabriello Chiabrera (1552–1638) seeks to contrast Marino’s elaborate poetry with the antique simplicity of form. He takes the work of Torquato Tasso as his model, creates heroic poems in imitation of him, writes pastorals, eclogues, melodramas and tragedies, masterfully mastering the verse. However, the poetry of Chiabrera is aristocratic; it is dominated by a cult of refined beauty and gallant anacreontism. Ciabrera is a poet of idyllic rural landscapes with antique nymphs, cupids. He himself spent almost his whole life away from noisy cities, singing in idealistic nature and lovely beauties, whose lips are like roses, lips – pearls, “legs – marvelous”, “bliss of a glance”, not without grace and grace, “songs” (canzonetta) and so forth in the same spirit.

Fulvio Testi (1593–1646), a Ferrara courtier, was influenced by both Marino and Chiabrera. His poetry is not without a political element; he complains about his paltry age, bitterly laments the national humiliation of Italy, and sometimes even raises his voice against the “arrogant nobles.” Testi is fond of ancient Latin poetry, imitates Horace, but his poems are as effeminate and gallant as the poems of his brothers Marino and Ciabrera.

Mention should be made here of Vincenzo Filicaya (1642-1707). He, as verbose, cutesy, mannered as his fellow writers, once rose to the height of true mastery. His pen belongs to the famous sonnet “Italy! Italy! ”, Which excited both his contemporaries and descendants. Byron translated the sonnet into English (Childe Harold, chap. IV, stanza 42).

Realism and Satire
Sad modernity could not but excite the writers of Italy in the 17th century. Separate voices call on Italians to unite, to rally forces against foreign oppressors. The outstanding patriot was undoubtedly Alessandro Tassoni (1565-1635).

In the Philippines against the Spaniards, he vigorously protests against foreigners who suppressed the thought and will of Italy. The poet is worried, indignant and awakens the patriotic feelings of his compatriots. He scornfully rejects Marino and the Marinists (“Reflections on the Poetry of Petrarch”), opposes the authority of Aristotle in literature (“Different Thoughts”), correctly understanding the destructive spirit of imitation and authoritarianism for the original development of literature.

Tassoni’s famous satirical poem “The Abducted Bucket” (1622), ridiculing Italy’s regional disunity, called for national unity. The poem was a great success both among Tassoni’s compatriots and outside Italy.

The plot of the poem is based on a comic episode of a quarrel between residents of the cities of Bologna and Modena. As early as 1325, the Modena people stole a wooden bucket from the Bolognians (this bucket is stored in Modena as a historical relic), and the strife between the cities dragged on for many years. The epic seriousness with which the author tells of such an insignificant event produces a comic effect. However, only a few pages were written seriously, in a sublime tone, next to them are grotesque, caricature figures designed for the laughter of readers. Old Saturn sets himself a klystir; Mars – in stockings to the waist and with a sultan in a hat; Diana washes clothes; parks bake bread, and the roguish Silenus dilutes the wine of the gods with water. Song XI contains a comic story about a certain column with a “chicken heart” forced to fight a duel, about his fears and miserable behavior in a duel:

The count at night, in anticipation of a duel, could never close his eyes … And at dawn in the state of state he terribly presented himself as a suffering stomach.

Tassoni puts in the mouth of his comic count love poems in the manner of the gallant lyrics of Marino:

“Souls of my apple, mirrors!

In you, beauty admires itself;

You, eyebrows, in which was hidden

Amur’s arrow, similar to a bowstring … ”

The satirical trend in Italian literature is closer to folk poetry, somewhat rude and far from aristocratic pomp. The nephew of the great Michelangelo, Michelangelo Buonarroti Jr. (1568–1646), creates a series of funny folk comedies (Fair, Rural Comedy), saturating them with Italian street air, folk tones, bringing to the scene the typical types of street crowds.

At the end of the 17th century, a group of poets appeared in Italy, declaring their desire to eradicate the evil spirit of marinism and return literature to simplicity and genuine sincerity.

In the palace of the Swedish Queen Christina, who abdicated and settled in Rome in 1655, a circle of poets, scholars, and critics was formed who severely condemned marinism and gallant depravity. A return to the innocent purity of morals is the moral slogan of this group. After the queen’s death, a certain Academy was founded by the visitors of her salons, called “Arcadia” (1690), symbolizing by her own name the desire to find a promised place on earth where happiness would not be overshadowed by the rudeness of real life. The infant Jesus was declared the patron saint of this Arcadia, and the shepherd’s pipe, twisted with garlands of laurel and pine, became its emblem. Meetings of its members took place somewhere in the lap of nature, in luxurious parks in the vicinity of Rome.

The members of the Arcadia, speaking out against marinism, cultivating shepherd’s poetry with all its features dating back to Theocritus, were not far from the first critic of the Marinarians of Ciabrera.

Their poetry was as far from the people as the poetry of Marina. The idyllic shepherds with their gallant love became the favorite characters of aristocratic poetry.

Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639), who continued the Renaissance traditions of philosophical literature, stands apart in Italian literature of the 17th century.

Campanella’s life is grim. From the age of fifteen he has been in a monastery, where he studies philosophy and theology. Having barely reached adulthood, he is included in the struggle of the best minds of his time against scholasticism and the spirit of authoritarianism, which attracts the wrath of the Inquisition. Then the restless thinker begins to dream of the liberation of his homeland from Spanish rule, prepares an uprising. The plot is uncovered, and Campanella is in prison. Twenty-five years of imprisonment, torture, bullying, deprivation. Barely released, he barely breathed in the air of freedom – and again enters the struggle. When the prosecution of Galileo began, Campanella defended him. Could he look indifferently at the oppression of human thought? Again the persecution. Campanella is threatened with a new prison. The philosopher is forced to leave his homeland. Far from her, in France, he is dying.

Campanella – the son of another century, the Renaissance, he essentially did not live in the XVII century, distant, isolated from public life for many years within the walls of the casemate, so he remained in the XVII century a living tradition of the Renaissance, his utopian novel “City of the Sun” (1623) full of bright dreams for the best structure of human dormitory. Somewhere on the islands of the Indian Ocean, some navigator saw a completely different life, different from European social systems, of people. There they worship the Sun and the supreme ruler bears the name of the Sun. There, at the head of the state are the Power of Wisdom and Love. The people have one book, written concisely and accessible to everyone, and it is called “Wisdom.”

This people does not recognize property, seeing in it the beginning of all vices. Gum everyone is working. There is no envy, nor ambition, and all are inspired by love for the fatherland. The benefit to society is the highest criterion of all expediency.
Speaking of Italian prose of the 17th century, one cannot help but name Galileo (1564-1642). The scientist, like the humanists of the previous century, used the polemical art of journalism in order to disseminate his scientific ideas. In his “Dialogue on the Two Major World Systems” (1632), they argue about the Ptolemy system and the Copernicus system. A supporter of Ptolemy Simplicio (Rustic) wholeheartedly defends the geocentric system, refuted by Copernicus. The reader greets the stupid Simplicio with a smile. The Vatican’s censors opened their eyes to the pope, saying that in the image of Simplicio Galileo portrayed none other than the governor of God himself. This decided the case and Galileo was brought to trial by the Inquisition. June 21, 1633 he renounced the teachings of Copernicus. The next day, at the Church of Santa Maria in Rome, he brought public repentance on his knees and was recognized as a prisoner of the Inquisition.

The scientist’s condemnation, but perhaps more, his renunciation deeply shocked the world and paralyzed free thought for a long time in Italy itself.

One cannot fail to mention Traiano Boccalini (1556-1613), who lived most of his life in the previous century and brought the indomitable spirit of humanistic rebellion before his death, Bokkalini published a satire Izvestia from Parnassus, which quickly flew around neighboring countries, in a brief review of XVII century Italian prose , subsequently translated into many European languages. Against the dominance of the Spaniards in Italy against aristocratic snobbery, against literary pedantry this clever, brilliant joke and sharp irony of satire is directed.

Boccalini takes up arms against literary aristarchs who recognize only the aesthetic rules of Aristotle and swaddle young talents in them. The writer jokingly describes the alleged conversation between Apollo, the god of art, and Aristotle: “Apollo with an extremely angry face and voice very irritated asked Aristotle if he was the shameless and daring one who dared to enact laws and publish rules for the exalted gifts of artists, for whom he, Apollo, always demanded complete freedom of writing and creativity; for the living talents of his writers, free of any rules and not bound by chains of precepts, to his great pleasure daily enrich schools and libraries with beautiful works. ”

Aristotle justifies himself by saying that the ignoramuses used his name to oppress the poets, but he only wanted to help the fragile talents find the true paths of art.


This criticism of literary scholasticism is noteworthy if one imagines the subsequent two-century struggle against the falsely understood Aristotelian principles of art in Western Europe, and especially in France.

In this essay, having examined the position of culture in Renaissance Italy, we see in the Italian literature of the 17th century a complex interweaving of various styles, their struggle and mutual influence. Ciaberera and “shepherd’s” poets of the end of the century are fighting against Marino and Marinism for the “simplification” of literature, but they also cultivate a kind of “aristocracy of the spirit” and belong to the Baroque literature equally, representing only various aspects of it in their work.

Alessandro Tassoni rejected both baroque poets (marinists) and advocates of imitation and authoritarianism in Italian poetry (classicists). His satirical poem, The Stolen Bucket, is written in the spirit of rebellious realism of the Renaissance. The same indomitable spirit of protest against all sorts of canons and literary dogma lives in the magnificent satire of Boccalini.