Tasso’s art and afterlives

The Gerusalemme liberata in England

Author: Jason Lawrence

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.

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