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The Gerusalemme liberata in England

By the early years of the twentieth century, the fame of Torquato Tasso and his work in England had started to wane. This book of Tasso's literary, artistic, and biographical afterlives is an attempt to stimulate a revival of 'sympathetic interest' in a now undeservedly underappreciated epic masterpiece and its fascinating poet. It addresses the simultaneous and long-standing impact of the poet's work, particularly his epic Gerusalemme liberata, on opera and the visual arts. The first strand of the book traces the reception and artistic afterlives in England, focused on the amorous interlude of Armida and Rinaldo in her enchanted garden in cantos XV and XVI. Initially, the book concentrates on the literary impact of Armida's arrival in the poem, examining how the poets Abraham Fraunce and Samuel Daniel both responded to canto IV of Tasso's poem. The poet, Edmund Spenser, regarded Gerusalemme liberata as a significant new epic model as he seemed to both reflect and pre-empt its enormous popularity in other artistic media. The book investigates the impact in England of visual depictions of scenes from Tasso's romantic episodes, featuring both Rinaldo and Armida and the almost equally popular Tancredi and Erminia. It explores ambitious musical adaptations of the episode for the London stage in the native form of dramatic opera in John Dennis's 'Rinaldo and Armida: A Tragedy'. Among other things, the second strand of the book analyses many imaginative engagements with aspects of the poet's legendary biography, such as his prolonged imprisonment in Ferrara.

The Art of The Faerie Queene is the first book centrally focused on the forms and poetic techniques employed by Spenser. Though much scholarly attention in recent years has been on the relationships between Spenser’s poetry and political and colonial history, the place of his epic in literary history has received less attention. This book aims to rectify that by re-reading The Faerie Queene as poetry which is at once absorbing, demanding, and experimental. The Spenser explored here ingeniously uses the tricks of his poetic style to amplify his symbolic agendas and to deepen the reading experience.

One of the book’s particular originalities is the way in which it reframes Spenser’s place in literary history. As opposed to the stylistic conservatism diagnosed by previous generations of scholars, The Art of The Faerie Queene presents the poem as more radical, more edgy, and less conventional, particularly as it appeared to Spenser’s first readers. As such, the book proposes new ways of understanding the Elizabethan poetic Renaissance and the ways in which Spenser is best understood in terms of literary history.

The book progresses from the choice of individual words through to questions of metre, rhyme, and stanza form up to the larger structures of canto, book, and the incomplete yet massive poem itself. It will be of particular relevance to undergraduates studying Elizabethan poetry, graduate students, and scholars of Renaissance poetry, for whom the formal aspect of the poetry has been a topic of growing relevance.

The Bowre of Blisse and Armida’s garden revisited

Spenser is concerned to represent the randomness of a viewer’s encounter with an illusionistic work of art and uses the indefinite transitions ‘and other where’ or ‘and otherwhiles’. Spenser’s casual subordinate treatment of elements from the Medea story in stanza forty-five works like Focused imagery to build an impression of sensuous discovery; these

in Tasso’s art and afterlives

’s poetic focus on the solipsistic lovers at the centre of the garden has been described by Unglaub as a ‘complex network of specularity and voyeurism [that] offered an irresistible challenge to painters’. 2 Unglaub and Giovanni Careri have recently traced this early fascination with the scene in Italian art at the turn of the seventeenth century, through works by Lodovico and Annibale Carracci and Domenico

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
Gerusalemme liberata and the early development of opera in England

–8) (Charming birds in the green foliage sing, vying with each other, lascivious songs; the wind murmurs, and causes the leaves and waves to pipe up, as it strikes them differently. When the birds are silent, it answers loudly; when the birds sing, it blows more softly; whether by chance or by art, now it accompanies them, and now it alternates the musical breeze

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
The arrival of Gerusalemme liberata in Elizabethan England

become the most celebrated and widely imitated in a range of art forms throughout Europe for at least the next 250 years, the amorous interlude of the Christian hero Rinaldo and the pagan enchantress Armida in cantos XIV to XVI, had already started to attract significant literary interest in England within a decade of the poem’s publication. This interest both anticipated and mirrored French literary

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
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‘I dote on Tasso’

Christian crusaders, including Robert of Normandy, Tancred, and all her unwitting brothers, she is quick to challenge the soldiers about the dissent in the ranks that their competitive behaviour is provoking: Princes, what means this frenzy in your hearts? Or hath some Necromanticke Coniurer Rais’d by his Art some fury in my

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
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The emergence of Tasso’s psychobiography

and psychic ambivalence into art is reflected in the extraordinarily baroque conceits and the difficult syntax’ and failure to achieve ‘aesthetic closure’. 8 Some key elements of Ferguson’s approach to what she has described as Tasso’s ‘psychic biography’ had, however, been anticipated almost a century earlier in Symonds’s account of the poet’s life, some thirty years

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
Representations of Tasso’s life in England

: When thou art near, my veins no longer feel To have their usual current; in its stead, Music seems floating thro’ them, and converts Each thought to inspiration. 14 If, in most accounts of his life, Tasso’s visions were believed to emanate from his troubled imagination, then it is striking that in the early nineteenth

in Tasso’s art and afterlives
Tarquin’s inner stage and outer action

did delay him’ 325): ‘The merchant fears, ere rich at home he lands’ (336). When Tarquin says ‘My part is youth’, he clearly shows that he knows his Aristotle, or, rather, Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric . Aristotle describes ‘the nature of the characters of men according to their emotions, habits, ages, and fortunes’ (II.12.2; 1389a) and links those to the ages of man – ‘youth, the prime of life, and old age

in William Shakespeare and John Donne