Torquato Tasso and the Furore of Love, War and Madness.
Future is a term tied both to passion and to a lengthy literary history as a madness often linked to the divine. For Plato, both poetic and erotic madnesses are listed among the four types of divine fury (Works 310). Tasso recalls the idea of poetic inspiration in the opening of his epic by formally acknowledging heavenly inspiration. (2) But Tasso's purpose in invoking the Muse is to ask for pardon for the use of pleasing ornamentation in his text. (3) The Renaissance scholar Cristoforo Landino praised poetry specifically for its ornamentation as a tool used to guide the reader to knowledge through contemplation of beauty. (4) In contrast, Tasso's invocation of the Muse is to apologize for his craft; a reaction that Lawrence Rhu interprets as "defensive," almost subordinating poetry to "a merely decorative function" (178).
While Tasso does indeed recognize poetry's divine fury, his conception of its origin differs from that of Plato. Francois Graziani posits Tasso's divine inspiration as more akin to Aristotle's theories of imitation, "parce que sans nier l'inspiration il ne lui donne pas une origine externe mais interne" 'because without denying inspiration, [Tasso] gives it an internal rather than external origin' and as a result, "la fureur poetique se confond pour lui [...] avec le genie poetique" 'he confuses poetic fury with poetic genius' (137; English mine). Nonetheless, Tasso considers his poet to be divine. This is not, however, because of inspiration, but because, in creating, the poet acts in the manner of God Himself. In the Discorsi dell'arte poetica, Tasso writes of the excellent poet that "non per altro divino e detto, se non perche al supremo artefice nelle sue operazioni assomigliandosi, della sua divinita viene a partecipare" 'he is called divine for no other reason except that by resembling the supreme artificer in his works he comes to share in his divinity' (Discorsi 675; English mine). The poet is compared to God, but the poet is seen as a craftsman, and art as crafted artifice. (5)
Tasso's work reflects a shift in the nature of furore over time. For Plato, inspiration and madness were the link between the gods and humanity. Landino and other Renaissance humanists portrayed the poet as divinely inspired with prophetic gifts and also the natural gift of ingegno. Landino's contemporary, Marsilio Ficino, brought the fury of Plato down from the divine to the earthly by focusing on melancholy and the potential for madness in his De vita libri tres. In that text, the creative individual, susceptible to melancholy, is subject to furor and its divinely inspired creation, but also, more critically, to risks to the mind and body. (6) Tasso's sense of furore's interiority binds it to Ficino's madness and grounds poetic ingegno, with implications both to Tasso's work and his life.
The Liberata opens with God's search for a champion to join the Christian armies together in order to take Jerusalem. Through this, Tasso both recalls and blatantly challenges his predecessor's choice of Orlando in the role of God's champion. Ariosto's epic was centered on its protagonist's mad fury, a furore emanating from his involvement in love's passion. But Tasso's God deliberately rejects the lovesick knight Tancredi for the role, choosing Goffredo instead. This decision is illuminated in Tasso's Allegoria dei poema, published in 1581. In the Allegoria, Tasso lists the internal impediments to human beings in their struggle towards civic felicity (represented by Jerusalem) and Christian beatitude. He places emotions that are ungoverned by reason (especially sensual love and anger) in a primary, prominent position as obstacles on the path. In the allegory, Goffredo "e in vece d'intelletto" 'stands for the intellect,' and the knights Rinaldo and Tancredi are "in luogo delle altre potenze deli'animo" 'for the other faculties of the soul' (vii--viii; 470), representing, respectively, excessive wrath and lustful desire. (7)
Tasso's dialogue, the Messaggiero, underscores the role of furore and the imagination in Tasso's thought. Tasso wrote the first version of this text, completed in 1580, while imprisoned in the hospital of Sant' Anna and in the throes of battling isolation, depression and mental illness. In one passage, the visiting Spirit explains to Tasso's character how the soul can be guided either toward good or bad, reminiscent of the Platonic flight of the soul. (8) Human beings are easily led astray, for "Cio, che e soggetto a passione, e corruttibile" 'that which is subject to the passions is corruptible' (89). God realizes that, in humans, he must battle the "appetito del senso" 'sense appetite,' and so he assigns a guide to the "volonta" 'will,' and to be fair, another to guide the "parte sensuale" 'sensual part.' (9) This idea echoes the Allegoria, where the passions are presented as distracting from the movement of human reason and will towards God. In the Messaggiero the love of God plays a central role in assisting the human struggle to rise to Heaven. The Liberata, however, is not focused on questions of divine love. Instead, it is the earthly love among its warriors and the battle itself that are its focus. But this passage in the Messaggiero mirrors the Liberata in another, more critical way, for it ties together passion, creation, poetry and God by repeatedly using the terminology of war. And in both texts, it is the soul that is at stake in the battle, and it is love's dangerous excess in the human realm that is emphasized as most perilous.
The heart of the Liberata's war of religion, and love's place within it, falls squarely on the tragic relationship between Tancredi and Clorinda, who battles fiercely to defend Islam and Jerusalem but who converts to Christianity while dying. Tancredi slays his beloved Clorinda because he fails to recognize her. Tasso's language highlights fierce emotion--especially anger--throughout the description of their extended duel. The couple, like two bulls "gelosi e d'ira ardenti" 'jealous and inflamed with love' (XII.53), embraces in a struggle with overt erotic overtones, but anger's furore has taken the place of love, and their "nodi tenaci" 'clinging embraces' are "di fer nemico e non d'amante" 'of a fierce enemy, not a lover' (XII.57.3--4). And ultimately, it is madness that enables the exhausted pair to fight on. "Oh fera pugna, / u' l'arte in bando, u' gia la forza e morta, / ove in vece, d'entrambi il furor pugna!" 'Ah savage struggle! where skill is banished, where strength is dead, where in their place the madness of each is waging the fight!' (XII.62.2-4).
Through this duel, love has been removed from war and replaced by anger--but the furor of anger is also akin to that of love, as the knots of their embrace encompass both mortal enemies and lovers. Tancredi's turbulent passions had helped to conceal Clorinda's identity from him, calling attention to the inverse relationship between fury and clarity of vision in this passage. In intertwining the two passions here, Tasso is also demonstrating that both earthly love and unrestrained anger lead to blindness. (10) In the Apologia Tasso makes the connection between anger and blindness outright. He defines the anger of Homer's Achilles in battle as "una passione potentissima deli'anima nostra, che accieca la ragione" 'a very potent passion of our soul that blinds reason' (29; English mine).
Fury permeates the Liberata, as do its linguistic variants. Anger is fundamental to the characters arrayed against the crusaders, and is these warriors and leaders the type that dominates is furore's unrestrained rage. Aquinas divided anger into three types: fel (wrath--anger that is quickly aroused), mania (ill-will--enduring anger) and furor, stating that furor "utrumque importet, et velocitatem ad irascendum et firmitatem propositi ad puniendum" 'may imply both quickness to anger and a firm intention to obtain revenge' (Summa 1a2ae. 46.8). Tasso's interchangeable use of furore and many other terms to express anger in his characters blurs the distinctions between these words. More importantly, it also serves to reposition furore much more closely to human madness and emotion than to divinity. Furore and its variants are also tied to the crusaders' enemies from the very first canto, when Aladino, king of Jerusalem, is metaphorically described as a lion with "innato suo furor" 'inborn fury' (85.8), and four octaves later, as filled with "rabbia insana" 'insane fury' (89.1) when he is made aware of the crusaders' plans. (11)
The defining moment of Tasso's association between anger's fury and the pagan army is also the moment in which the war begins. When Argante, sent to Goffredo as an ambassador from Egypt to offer peace, suffers a hostile reception from the crusaders, he forms a pouch to symbolically represent the alternatives open to them, asking in an ominous voice for a choice between peace and war. When the crusaders unhesitatingly shout for war, Argante dramatically undoes the pouch, as if releasing "il Furor pazzo e la Discordia fera" 'insane rage and discord fierce' (II.91.2). Argante's "Furor" with a capital letter evokes both passion and the infernal Furies themselves, two of whom are also mentioned in this octave. Fury Aletto (whose name resonates with "allettare," meaning to allure or entice) is a female from the depths of earth, and the mirror image of the Liberata's heavenly messengers sent from God. In Dante's Inferno the Furies' appearance horrified and distracted the pilgrim from Virgil's words (IX.34-39), and here, too, Aletto inspires destruction among human beings with her missives, assisting in the battle against the crusaders both directly and indirectly. Argante is compared directly with Aletto in VI.33.5 ("In sembianza d'Aletto" 'In the likeness of Alecto'), and in battle he is tied to her by name and through the term furore itself, "non percio nel disdegnoso petto / [...] vien l'ardire o 'l furor manco, / benche suo foco in lui non spiri Aletto" 'not for that does the heat or the fury grow less in [his] scomful breast [...], though Alecto breathe no more her fire into him' (IX.67.1-4).
In this passage, Tasso uses language that accentuates Argante's belligerent actions; but at the same time, the author portrays the crusaders as the aggressors who called for war, implying an underlying commonality between the two sides. Similarly, Argante's symbolic unleashing of fury is echoed throughout the text by repetitive references to furore in many other characters. Although in the Liberata, the majority of these references are to the pagan forces, furore is a characteristic not only of the non-Christian soul, but also of the Christian soul that is on the wrong path. This is clear in the duel between Clorinda and Tancredi, and afterwards when Tancredi laments that he must now wander the earth, driven to madness--a clear reference to Ariosto's Orlando. (12) But Tasso's use of the word, "errante," reminds us that this is a temporary state, for Tancredi will ultimately be brought under Goffredo's unifying force to assist in the conquering of Jerusalem.
In the Liberata, the fury of the poet's divine inspiration has been moved to the background and the fury of the warrior is front and center. But the confusion between the sacred and the profane in the battle of the lover-enemies (and throughout the Liberata in less obvious positions) underlines the influence of furore over what Tasso sees as correctly guided reason. The confusion of the mind due to the effects of the passions on the imagination is of great importance to Tasso, and not only in the Liberata. In the Messaggiero Tasso is deeply concerned with the question of how to distinguish the real from the imaginary, and the false from the true, with a mistrust of the imagination pervading his arguments. Tasso maintains a Ficinian awareness of the connection between furore's madness and causes that are altogether bodily and not divine. He refers specifically to divine fury blurring the judgment of the mind in the same manner as drunkenness or love. Torquato also incorporates Dante's Purgatorio XVII (verses 13 and 16) in expressing his concerns:
Ne Dante si mostra meno dalla fantasia sforzato, quando [...] prorompe in questa esclamazione: O immaginativa, che ne rube, Chi muove te, se "l senso non ti porge? E certo egli non si puo negare che non si dia alcuna alienazione di mente, la quale, o sia infermita di pazzia, [...] o sia divino furore, come quello di coloro, che da Bacco, o dali'Amor son rapiti, e tale che puo non meno rappresentar le cose false per vere, di quel che faccia il sogno, anzi pare che viepiu possa farlo, perche nel sonno solo i sentimenti sono legati; ma nel furore la mente e impedita [...] (62-63) [Nor did Dante show himself any less compelled by fantasy, / when [...] he broke into this exclamation: / O imagination, that do sometimes so snatch us / who moves you if the sense affords you naught? / And certainly he himself cannot deny that one enters into / some alienation of the mind, which, whether sickness from / madness, [...] or divine fury, like those who by Bacchus or / Love are taken, is such that it can no less represent true / things as false, like that which dreams do; in fact it seems it is /more able to do so, because in sleep only the senses are / restrained, whereas in furore the mind is impeded [...]]
Through the Messaggiero we see that Tasso does not place the processes of the imagination into an ethical hierarchy based upon their source. He doesn't speak of the images of divine inspiration as being superior to other types of image-making, nor does he dwell upon the positive powers of utilizing such inspiration. Plato had said that through furore, although it is an ambivalent force, we can ascend to God. Dante used love and divine inspiration to draw human beings closer to God. Ironically, Tasso cites Dante in order to show how the images in the mind of one subject to divine fury are even less trustworthy than those in the mind of a sleeper. The basis for this distinction is the telling comment that in sleep, "solo i sentimenti sono legati" 'only the senses are restrained' but "nel furore la mente e impedita" 'in furore the mind is impeded' (63). Furords madness--whether of the poet or the impassioned warrior--has one and the same result; the blindness of the mind and of reason, and the straying from the true path to God.
In the Liberata Tasso is officially opposed to Islam (and all other non-Christian religions) and ideologically his enemies are clear. It has been observed, however, that Tasso demonstrates an underlying empathy for some of the individuais on the opposing side. (13) This conflict makes sense given his stance toward furore. For Tasso, furore is many things. It is characteristic of the errant Christian and the enemy of the Christian hero; the emblem of the battle for the soul; and also Tasso's inner enemy. Tasso was tied to furore not only because of the traditional connection between divinity and poetry, but also because of his literal madness. But Tasso has a solution to the chaos of furore, and what he offers is reason's control. The pagans, like the errant Christians, lack the proper guidance of the will and intellect, for they have no focused head; and in addition, the pagan god is repeatedly referred to as deaf to their prayers. As furore can blind and deafen, Tasso portrays the god chosen by the people defending Jerusalem as without hearing. But Tasso's Christian god is in communication with his armies, and he has supplied them with a unifying head in the figure of Goffredo. And Goffredo, described as free from the madness of passion, is also able to control the passions in his warriors and to guide them correctly.
The Christian knight Rinaldo is a key example of Goffredo's guidance. In the Allegoria, Tasso presents Rinaldo as representative of the "irascible faculty," or righteous wrath. It is reason's guidance that humbles Rinaldo and ultimately distinguishes his ira from the uncontrolled furore exhibited by the pagan warriors and errant Christians.
But if the irascible faculty is not properly hamessed, "si lascia trasportare dal suo proprio impeto" it 'allows itself to be carried away by its own violence' (xii; 473), blurring any distinction between the ira of the crusader and the furore of the enemy. Rinaldo himself was temporarily alienated from the crusader's camp due to an excess of wrath. In the Allegoria, Tasso compares the violent, warlike passion Rinaldo represents to a watchdog that may work for its master. This analogy echoes Dante, whose wrathful sinners are called "cani" 'dogs' in Inferno VIII (42). Virgil's words in turn echo Aquinas, who states that each type of animal is inclined to a particular emotion, including the "canis ad iram" 'dog to anger' (1a2ae.46.5). Tasso reiterates this tendency toward anger by warning that, if left unchecked, the watchdog of righteous anger is capable of attacking the charges it is intended to protect.
In the Allegoria the irascible is presented not only as an aid to the intellect, but also as the faculty that can keep the concupiscent faculty in check. (14) This concept is confirmed by the repeated conquering of love's passion as a prerequisite for the victory of the Christian knights. Rinaldo's relationship with his lover Armida personifies the intimate ties between love and anger in the Liberata itself. Early in the text, Rinaldo is described in this way: "se 'I miri fulminar ne l'arme avolto, / Marte lo stimi; Amor, se scopre il volto" 'If you see him glittering all clad in armor you think him Mars; but Love, if he discover his face' (I.58.7-8). But Rinaldo's role is re-defined when Carlo and Ubaldo find him with Armida. Rinaldo, the lover, is forced to confront his weakened reflection. The result is his rejection of Armida's love, for "die vergogna a sdegno loco, / sdegno guerrier de la ragion feroce" 'shame gave way to anger--anger, fierce warrior of the reason' (XVI.34, 3-6). Rinaldo is portrayed as coming back to himself; his vision is restored and he re-aligns his passions in their proper hierarchy.
Armida also changes after she is abandoned by Rinaldo. Within her, "cede la vergogna a l'ira" 'her sense of shame gives way to wrath' (XVI.72.8), mirroring Rinaldo's change earlier. But Armida's anger is uncontrolled, driving her to become wild and dangerous. She descends like Ariosto's Orlando into madness, "Cosi in voci interrotte irata freme / [...] / mostrando ben quanto ha furor raccolto" 'So wrathfully she rages in broken syllables, [...] showing plain how madness has engulfed her' (XVI.67.5-7). Her rage, unbridled by reason, is counterbalanced by Rinaldo's properly focused anger. Rinaldo's guided wrath now distinguishes him from the enemy engulfed in fury. And ultimately, it is Rinaldo's renunciation of his love that allows him to overcome the enchanted wood and lead the crusaders to victory.
Rinaldo and Armida recall the duel of love and wrath embodied by Tancredi and Clorinda. Their last meeting takes place in the same canto in which the lovers Gildippe and Odoardo are slain. Gildippe (called "Amor") had been struck down by the enemy Solimano "di furor piu che mai pieno" 'filled with fury more than ever' (XX.96), and Odoardo's death was hastened by his love and concern for her, immobilizing him in a tug-of-war between "Ira e pietade" 'anger and pity' (XX.97.1). Armida and Rinaldo's relationship is also characterized by the conflict between rage and love. But now their roles have been reversed, and she is enslaved by her emotions.
The role of controlled guidance in the Liberata underscores that in Tasso's thought, the passion of human love in particular must be severely restricted if not renounced altogether. But even as earthly love is banished from the Liberata, wrath remains. Tasso's Liberata transforms Dante's theology, founded on love, into a theology of wrath. Anger and its form are what determine the individual's movement towards the divine. Anger is also the quality shared in differing degrees by Christian and Muslim alike, making the two sides at heart the same. Wrath takes the place of the other passions in the war over the soul, assisting reason in their renunciation; and ultimately even repressing itself. This theology of anger reflects the ever-present exercise of control over human nature that saturates Tasso's text.
The significance of Goffredo's control in the Liberata extends beyond the boundaries of the text and into Tasso's own life. Tasso's world is a maze of perilous illusions and dangerous temptations, lying in wait to capture the poor soul who strives to rise to heaven. In the Messaggiero, Tasso fears his imagination is deceiving him through dream. (15) We have seen in the Liberata that passion's furore has an effect similar to sleep, causing blindness and deafness of the intellect. Human beings face incredible obstacles in the journey to Heaven, and at the same time, they are placed well below the divine, on an earth judged as squalid and inferior in both the Liberata and the Messaggiero. (16) Tasso's texts may suggest his attempt to escape the paradox of heavenly and earthly separation. (17) The hierarchical ranking of both warriors and human faculties in the Liberata reflects an underlying message about the need for a strict ordering not only of the poem and the characters within, but of life itself. The Messaggiero reflects this need by presenting an extended, detailed, and strict hierarchy of divine and infernal beings. (18)
In Tasso's Allegoria, "civic felicity" implies political happiness, but Tasso's city is also the city of the mind, and Tasso is setting out a path to this internal city and beyond in order to find relief from his own mental sufferings. The allegory illustrates that the rigid structure Tasso imposed on his characters and on the imagination to create his poetry also extended to his own life. Tasso's own visions were under constant scrutiny, as he questioned his trust in his own imagination and the corruption of his judgment. Through his work, Tasso makes explicit his renunciation of Epicurianism; apparitions, deceptions, and the delusions of the fantastic are intended to lure humankind away from the pursuit of true virtue. Such false images are double-edged; they frighten and also lure one from the correct path with the promise of earthly pleasure.
Harmony, structure, correlations with truth; the distinctions between dream and reality, based on order, illustrate Tasso's theological solution. It lies in the Liberata, in the structure of the epic poem itself, and within it the relationship between love, passion's furore and the hero. For Tasso, the key to the escape from the labyrinth of the self lies in the creations of the imagination, in the form of a work of art. Poetic creation connects the poet to God. Poetry gives order to chaos, structures the imagination and makes it valid--and it makes the images of the imagination take on a physical, visual form in the shape of the poetic text--an undeniable, objective reality. Tasso also likens the poet to a doctor, sweetening his poem's bitter lessons like medicine in order to help save himself and the reader; a metaphor reiterated at the beginning of the Liberata. (19) Poetry harnesses and guides the flight of the imagination, and saves us from the dangers of an unbridled fantasy that transgresses all boundaries. (20) Tasso's extensive writings on the rules of poetry, and their underlying sense of divine inspiration now seen as laborious human ingenuity, illustrate his effort to control the uncontrollable.
Tasso's theories embody the balancing act between utilizing the positive powers of the creative imagination and becoming a victim to its fury. He was aware on some level of the paradox in the use of a creation of the imagination to lead us away from imagination's deceptions. Tasso, after all, was the author who wrote (in the duel between Tancredi and Clorinda) "toglie l'ombra e 'l furor l'uso de l'arte" 'darkness and fury take away the use of art' (XII.55.4). (21) There is no conclusive, satisfying resolution to this conflict, because for Tasso the imagination remains an ambivalent faculty of the soul, close to madness and deception. In Tasso's work, fury is tied to the movement away from heaven, and both hero and poet are susceptible to it. Furore is a passion that defines the enemy and the errant Christian. It is represented by Hell's Furies, and also the overwhelming emotions that blind the characters on both sides to divine truth. Tasso makes it clear that love, a kind of madness, has no place in war, and even war's defining characteristic--anger--must be strictly controlled.
In writing this epic of theology, and in emphasizing the role of the poet as theologian, (22) Tasso aligns himself with the hero, who must purge his passions and lead by example. (23) The Liberata concludes with Goffredo hanging up his arms and praying, a detail that is central in Tasso's solution to the danger of the furore of imagination and the passions. In the Allegoria, Tasso writes that Goffredo's act represents the final goal of the intellect, which is to "riposarsi [...] nelle contemplazioni de' beni dell'altra vita" 'rest itself [...] in contemplation of the goods of that other life' (xiv; 474). In the same text, Tasso states that the noblest part of a human being is the mind. To contemplate purely with the intellect, he writes, to participate with divinity, we must transcend the human and strive to become angelic. (24) In the Liberata, heroes such as Tancredi and Clorinda represent the war of the passions in the human soul. Tasso's desired solution was to make our minds ascend to God; but it would seem that to reach the lofty heights of heaven, we must, ironically, reject the very essence of our nature. But this is a tragic paradox for Tasso's hero. It is heroic because it demands a total commitment of oneself--soul, mind, body--to God. And yet in the Liberata there is only one way in which a human being can take up wings and move to the divine--and it is not the human body, but the "bella anima sciolta" 'lovely liberated soul' that, after death, spreads its wings to heaven (XII.71.3). This conflict of the passions and of life itself can only end with death. Tasso states of the hero that "gli obblighi, che s'hanno per l'onore, son maggiori di quelli, che si hanno per la vita" 'the obligations that they have to honor are greater than those they have to life' (Apologia 14; English mine). In Tasso's Christian heroic epic, the hero must honor God, and that duty overrides the hero's obligation to life itself.
Tasso fears the illusions of the mind, and his efforts to control the furies of passion and poetic activity exemplify his desire to remove both the poet and the hero from the human world. The Liberata personifies Tasso's belief in such control, while his constant revisions show the danger of control's excesses. Tasso was a man destroyed by his own tortured fears and perceived failures, even as he sought resolution. Albert Ascoli has noted that, for Tasso, death provides the means to escape the plurality of life and the self (178). (25) As Tasso showed through Clorinda, death is a surrender, of life and especially of being human, and in death Clorinda's face is peaceful, free of the war of the passions. Tasso's attempts to overcome the excesses of furore, a force at work in all human beings, often blurs the differences between the opposing sides in his epic. His underlying theology appears instead to be a renunciation of life itself in hopes of another, better world. But even this thought cannot bring him peace, for beneath it all is Tasso's fear that even as he separates heaven from earth, and rejects earth's illusions, heaven itself is an illusion: like the Spirit of the Messaggiero, it may also be a product of the mind that will vanish abruptly into the air.
(1) Zatti reads the Liberata as the concept of unity (represented by the Crusaders) in opposition to plurality (represented by the pagan enemy). See, for example, Zatti's L'uniforme, "Erranza," and "Torquato."
(2) "O Musa, tu che di caduchi allori / non circondi la fronte in Elicona, / ma su nel cielo infra i beati cori / hai di stelle immortali aurea corona, / tu spira al petto mio celesti ardori, / tu rischiara il mio canto, e tu perdona / s'intesso fregi al ver, s'adomo in parte / d'altri diletti, che de' tuoi, le catre" (I.2). Unless otherwise stated, Liberata citations are from the 1981 edition of the Gerusalemme liberata; English translations are from derusalem Delivered.
(3) This is connected to the famous debate between the proper balance of the verisimilar and the marvelous in Tasso's ideology, as reflected in Tasso's referente to Ariosto's woven text. Additionally, it shows Tasso's desire to transcend a traditionally pagan motif (Barberi Squarotti, "Armi" 81).
(4) Landino emphasizes the educational element of the poetic imagination, celebrating the poet's use of original and innovative rhetorical devices to amplify the richness of the text and to increase pleasure. He writes: "[Dante] el cui poema e nella invenzione e unico e / nella disposizione artificiosissimo e nella elocuzione in / molti colori e lumi oratori suppremo. E quello che e / mirabile, congemina e'colori in forma che un da altro / ornato piglia: il che all'auditore multiplica la volutta" ("Proemio al commento dantesco," Scritti 1:148). See also Dante con l'esposizione di Cristoforo Landino (1481).
(5) As one critic has observed, "Tasso is less the Christian poet-prophet than he is the craftsman seeking the authority of verisimilitude" (Benfell 194). Benfell sees Tasso as drawing connections between himself and the protagonist God in order to confer on himself "a greater authority for his account of the conquest of Jerusalem" (174). Looney sees God's role (tied to the poet) as assuring the epic won't degenerate into a "romanzo [...] errante" ("Tasso" 139).
(6) Ficino tied intelligence (including poetic genius) to madness through the body's black bile, or melancholy, in his text. He said of Plato's Phaedrus "Etsi diuinum furorem hic forte intelligi uult, tamen neque furor eiusmodi apud Physicos aliis unquam ullis, praeterquam melancholicis incitatur" 'Even if he perhaps intends divine madness to be understood here, nevertheless, according to the physicians, madness of this kind is never incited in anyone else but melancholics' (6; 117; bk 1, ch 5).
(7) Rinaldo possesses an "animo guerriero" (I.10.3), but also "d'onor brame immoderate, ardenti" (I.10.6). Tancredi is promptly passed over because God sees him "aver la vita a sdegno, / tanto un suo vano amor l'ange e martira" (1.9.3-4). Quotes from the Alle--goria are from the Opere, vol. 24, published by Capurro; translation is from Jerusalem.
(8) The Spirit explains that each human is given two demoni to guide them; one "buono," who guides human will upwards to God; and one "rio" (88). The latter is not called bad due to its being evil by nature, but because of its function anal its effects, which are "di volgere a' diletti, ed all'ambizione, e all'avarizia l'appetito sensitivo, che per se stesso v'inchina, e di trasportarlo talora con ira smoderata oltre que' termini, che sono dalla ragione prescritti" (88). Italian quotes from the Messaggiero are from Dialoghi; English translations mine.
(9) ",[...] nel teatro del Mondo cominciava l'azione del suo quasi poema. Ma perche Iddio vide ch'egli aveva da far fiero contrasto coll'appetito del senso, il quale, armato dell'armi del piacere, e della cupidita dell'avere, e dell'onore, gli tenterebbe d'impedire la salita del Cielo, volle darli un padrino, che la volonta ammaestrasse alla futura battaglia; e come giusto Signore, un altro ancora ne destino alia parte sensuale" (88).
(10) For a different opinion from mine on the role of Clorinda, see Perelli. Perelli believes that she (and the other Islamic female protagonists) provides "una soluzione del conflitto sotto il segno dell'amore" ("Divina" 46). The tragedy of their relationship is also expressed by Della Terza, who writes: "Tasso is the poet of unreachable love, of the disheartening loneliness of a passion which never appears more [...] beyond grasp than when two people are together" ("History" 37).
(11) Aladino's furious nature is restated in the next canto, when he reacts to the disappearance of an image of the Virgin he had stolen. The king believes this to be a "peccato de' fedeli" (XI.2) and as a result "d'odio infellonissi, ed arse / d'ira e di rabbia immoderata immensa" (XI.3-4).
(12) As Tancredi lies next to Clorinda's motionless body in a semi-delirious state, he describes himself as a "misero mostro" of unhappy love, who deserves only punishment for his wickedness (XII.76), for: "Vivro fra i miei tormenti e le mie cure, / mie giuste furie, forsennato, errante" (XII.77).
(13) See also Zatti, who writes (in the context of Tancredi's battles with Clorinda and Argante) that perhaps "chi si combatte e altrettanto inconsciamente fratello quanto e ufficialmente nemico" (L'uniforme 197). Zatti observes that Tasso's sympathy for the "enemy" was scandalous to his contemporaries ("Torquato" 219).
(14) As Chiampi writes in his discussion of wrath, with reference to Plato: "Thymoedes furnishes us the capacity for righteous indignation; it is the executive capacity that serves intellect in its governance of appetite" ("Tasso's Rinaldo" 487).
(15) This obsession with being able to identify illusions and distinguish them from "true" reality is a constant theme in the Messaggiero, as we saw earlier. The visiting Spirit's initial lack of a visual form makes Torquato declare that "questo mio e sogno, e tu altro non sei, che fattura della mia immaginazione; e sogni sono stati tutti i ragionamenti, che teco ho avuto" (51).
(16) For example, Goffredo is the only human in the poem capable of seeing the Archangel Michael, but because he is a human being, his very essence forms a dense cloud, initially blocking his vision. Tasso also concludes the vision when Goffredo looks back to the bloody struggle on the ground. The immediate effect of Goffredo's vision is to demonstrate the weakness of the human world and the power of the heavens. It also demonstrates that the human and the heavenly worlds cannot be viewed simultaneously. Rather than being a link between heaven and earth, the visions that compare the two realms are part of Tasso's attempt to further remove the heavenly from that of humankind; a characteristic of Tasso's work noted by Thomas Greene (Descent 192).
(17) For a reading of the tragedy of this separation in a later poem by Tasso, "Le Lagrime della Beata Vergine," see Mazzotta, "Lagrime." Mazzotta also perceives in this work the poet's underlying fear of an inability to transcend the earthly world and breech this painful divide.
(18) In the Messaggiero, Tasso places Demoni (spirits who take on bodies and serve as messengers to humans from the divine) into the intermediary role between Heaven and Earth, and places people at the bottom of the ladder. Humans "essendo il corpo umano non meno sottoposto a tutte le passioni, [...] ne men corruttibile, che sia quel de' bruti" (77). In the Liberata, God commands that the hellish denizens plaguing the earthly armies be told to desist and to return promptly to their own realm. God's command is obeyed by Michael without delay, and similarly the hellish denizens promptly respond to the message of Michael the "God-like." The infernal spirits' deference to Michael's authority reminds us that these flying beings are subject solely to the divine realm, and not naturally a part of the human, earthly sphere.
(19) "Cosi a l'egro fanciul porgiamo aspersi / di soavi licor gli orli dei vaso: / succhi amari ingannato intanto ei beve, / e da l'inganno suo vita riceve" (I.3.5-8).
(20) The passage describing the voyage of Cario and Ubaldo is an example of poetry's regulation of the flight of the creative imagination. In order for the poet to be successful, he must bow to the conditions set out for him by heaven, and, paradoxically, like the explorers, be needs to identify illusions while simultaneously surrendering the creativity of his own ingegno. The island Cario and Ubaldo must visit is not only false and illusory, but a distraction from the mission the two men were sent to complete, and from the war itself. This journey can only be successful insofar as it has as its goal the salvation of Rinaldo, and the liberation of Jerusalem as commanded by God. As long as the two knights strictly follow the regulations set forth by God, without deviating from the path through their own genius or pride, their mission will be successful.
(21) I interpret this quote much as it is written--that fury obscures art; for another reading, see Monorchio. He interprets this verse as "'l'arte' si trasforma subito in 'furore'" (19), representing their love relationship. Monorchio likens Tancredi's love for Clorinda to that of a respectful husband, because, he says, in the Liberata only marital love can have positive effects (11).
(22) In the Discorsi del poema eroico, Tasso compares the poet to the "teologo mistico" and states, in a discussion of image-making, that "non e maraviglia che 'l poeta sia quasi medesimo ch'e il teologo" (Discorsi 700).
(23) This stance reflects Tasso's focus in the later Discorsi on the social responsibilities of the poet (Gunsberg 29). The fact that the poet does not speak in the first person does not obscure his desire to be identified with the hero. Rhu has explained how a combination of Aristotelian and Platonic notions led Tasso to believe the poet's voice must be hidden (and Tasso criticized Ariosto's prominent voice in his poem), but also the fact that Homeric tradition allowed the poet to be identified with the hero (166-68). Rhu explains that the Aristotelian ideas on "Homeric self-effacement," coupled with the Platonic tradition of the poet as "selfless conduit for divine inspiration" result in Tasso's obscuring of his own poetic voice in the Liberata (168). He also describes how Homer's poet Demodokos, as well as Odysseus' reaction to him, shows the merging of the poet and hero's identities in the Odyssey. Odysseus himself is also compared to the minstrel, allowing him to share the voice of Homer himself (166).
(24) Tasso writes: "il viver dell'uomo sia il contemplare e l'operare semplicemente con l'intelletto; come che questa vita molto paja partecipare della divinita, e quasi trasumanandosi angelica divenire" (vi).
(25) Ascoli's observation is rooted in an exploration of the theme of death that is based on Zatti's well-known ideas on unity and plurality in Tasso's work (178).
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|Title Annotation:||From Petrarch to Manzoni|
|Author:||Cozzarelli, Julia M.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
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