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Two Recent Translations of Manzoni's Plays.

Something unexpected and entirely welcome has happened recently to Manzoni's reception in this country. Echoing the sudden surge of interest in I promessi sposi motivated by Archibald Colquhoun's translation of I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1950) and his study, Manzoni and His Times (1954), in the last five years we have seen the publication of two bilingual versions of Manzoni's tragedies: Two Plays, translated by Michael J. Curley in 2002 and, two years later, The Count of Carmagnola and Adelchis, introduced and translated by Federica Brunori Deigan. (1)

Curley's version is preceded by a comprehensive introduction to Carmagnola and Adelchi consisting, respectively, of seventeen and fifteen pages. In addition, the volume is not limited to the two tragedies: he includes Manzoni's "Prefazione" to Carmagnola, the "Notizie storiche" to both works and, in the "Appendix," the profile of the Venetian condottiero drawn by Simonde de Sismonde in his Histoire des republiques italiennes du Moyen Age (1826). The reader will also find a short bibliography of the two plays and exegetic notes clarifying various points in Manzoni's preface and in the historical notes just mentioned. Lastly Curley offers the reader a fair account of the playwright's early life and an overwiew of all his works.

These introductory matters betray Curley's awareness of Manzoni's meager fortune in America, (2) coupled with the desire to introduce the Italian writer to this generation of educated readers. It is worthy of note, in this regard, that Curley is a Professor of English at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, but his knowledge of Italian and of Manzoni's works is beyond dispute. Indeed his admiration for Manzoni is at times overly enthusiastic. For instance, be remarks at one point that, at least for Italians, with the publication of I promessi sposi, "Manzoni had with a stroke elevated their literature on a par with that of France and England" (6). And, as a corollary to that statement, Curley characterizes the novel as "a work of culture that brought all Italians together as few works of art had ever done before" (6). Now, it is true that the novel was quite popular from Milan to Palermo when it first appeared in 1825-27 and more so when the revised edition was published in 1840, popular to the point that unscrupulous publishers, such as Hoepli in Milan and Le Monnier in Florence, issued pirate editions of the work. On the other hand, intellectuals and literati such as Niccolo Tommaseo, the journal Civilta cattolica, and elements of the Catholic hierarchy were harshly critical of the work. (3) Lastly, to Curley's credit, he brings to the reader's attention Manzoni's virtually forgotten Osservazioni sulla morale cattolica (1819) as he writes, "was a reaction against history written from a partisan Enlightenment viewpoint," one that "reflected Manzoni's broader conviction that Italian history, in general, had too often been written tendentiously and was in need of careful revision" (12).

Deigan's work was first written as her doctoral dissertation at Johns Hopkins University, and it includes the translation of the two plays; a short bibliography of primary sources and nineteenth-century criticism (listed together) concerned with the plays; an annotated bibliography of twentieth-century criticism; and a list of selected reviews of the plays' stage performances in the twentieth century. Missing, however, is a name index of critics and writers mentioned or discussed in the book. Deigan's introduction is much more extensive than Curley's: seventy-five pages of text and twenty-five of notes. It offers as well an overview of Manzoni's life, the cultural climate in which he lived, and a substantial account of his works. The author addresses such matters as the querelle between neo-classicists and romantics and, in that regard, the fruitful contributions of Il conciliatore (8-17); the influential role that both Adelchi and I promessi sposi played in solidifying popular aspirations for Italian independence (17-20); the reception and performance of the two plays in question (20-29); observations on Foscolo's and Pellico's works (33-39); and a long, substantive section on "History and Drama in Carmagnola and Adelchis" (44-75). (4) This last part represents Deigan's main contribution to Manzoni criticism, consisting of a sustained effort to situate his work as a playwright in the larger context of the European historical drama, sustained with comparative observations on Byron, Goethe, Hugo, Shakespeare, and Schiller.

Interested readers unfamiliar with Manzoni's dramatic works will find the introduction rewarding. They will learn, for instance, that "the historical notes Manzoni prepared for Carmagnola and Adelchis were an absolute novelty in Italian literature" (30). Useful as well is the excursus concerned with Foscolo's Ricciarda (1813) and Pellico's Francesca da Rimini (1815) meant to single out the operative differences in poetics and structure between the two plays and Manzoni's conception of dramatic representation betraying a strong historical consciousness. Deigan writes cogently:
 Manzoni was targeting exactly what those two dramatists held most
 dear: the centrality of passions in drama. Manzoni's reason for
 eliminating the unities was strictly connected with shifting the
 focus of tragedy away from the abstract and absolute treatment of
 human passions and toward historical truth. (39)

Equally cogent, to illustrate Manzoni's poetics, is Deigan's mention of two key points: his "elaboration of a moral role for the dramatic art through the historical genre" (41); and his admiration for Shakespeare's Richard II, a work "discussed at great length in the Lettre a M. Chauvet" (43)--admiration based on this reason: "Subjects drawn from history allow the poet to find unity of action just by following and highlighting the causal sequence of events reconstructed through historical sources" (43).

There are, however, some shortcomings in the introduction that relate mainly to the biographical part of the essay. Considering the fact that the work is most useful to a reading public unfamiliar with Manzoni, some statements needed to be expressed with greater clarity and precision, such as Manzoni's famous "risciacquatura in Arno" that, we are told here, was "intended to acquire the linguistic expertise for revising the novel's language after the Tuscan idiom" (4). Similarly, La colonna infame, the work that accompanied the 1842 edition of I promessi sposi (a damning account of the shoddy administration of justice in Lombardy under Spanish rule) is said to be "a historical tract" dealing with "the trial of the anointers, the men whom the populace believed involved in a conspiracy to poison Milan with the plague" (4). Unclear as well is the passing reference to the villa in Brusuglio that Cario Imbonati left to Manzoni's mother, and the statement in the next sentence that "in 1813 Manzoni bought a house in downtown Milan, [...] where he resided all his life" (3). Actually Manzoni and his large family spent considerable time at that villa, located in the countryside of Brusuglio, not far from Milan; indeed, it served for years as their second home in the spring and summer. (5)

I turn now to the translators' critical remarks on the plays, beginning with Carmagnola. Curley mentions first that the European dimension of Manzoni's works is reflected in his efforts to wrestle, by example, Italian drama from the age-old, encrusted neoclassical forms of composition (fixated on the unities of time, space, and action) and bring it closer to the plays of his much-admired Shakespeare as well as Goethe and Calderon. Curley adds that "Manzoni also felt compelled to surround his plays with a variety of critical and historical commentary which served to introduce his countrymen not only to the new tastes in drama, but also to the larger intellectual currents in European historiography and aesthetics" (7). One of the innovative measures he found most congenial to that end was an invisible " little comer" (un cantuccio) he reserved for himself on stage in the guise of a chorus, an ingenious device that combined at once an aspect of Greek tragedy with an expedient, both modern and romantic, that enabled him to judge and condemn, empathize with the action on stage, and elevate the human spirit. It is through the chorus that we learn of the opposing forces in the battle of Maclodio where Venetians and Milanese are maiming and killing each other; and from the chorus transpires the author's lamenting voice, his historical memory turning back to the city-states of yesteryear, his mind and heart fixed on the miseries and misfortunes of his land, now occupied by Austria and still divided, inspite of the fact that "D'una terra son tutti: un linguaggio / parlan tutti: fratelli li dice lo straniero (vv. 17-19). At a turning point in the battle, the author's voice cries out in anguish: "Ahi sventura! sventura! sventura! / gia la terra e coperta d'uccisi; / tutta e sangue la vasta pianura" (vv. 57-59). It is in this context that Curley's comment proves insightful: "... the play is of greater value as a work of art informing us about [...] the state of Italy in Manzoni's own time, than about the state of Italy in the early fifteenth century" (13).

A second key element Curly examines in the preface is Manzoni's denunciation of the all-important "ragion di stato," which is "the same principle followed by the doge of Venice in his persecution of Carmagnola," indeed the same notion of government practiced by "the Austrian administrators" (15) who, in Manzoni's time, governed the towns and cities in the Pianura Padana, agriculturally the most productive region in Italy spanning from Milan to Trieste.

In this region, in a small town near Turin named Carmagnola was born, from a peasant family, Francesco Bussone. Opting for a military career, as a young man he distiguished himself fighting for the Visconti family that governed Milan, and in 1425 he was recruited by the Republic of Venice to lead its land army. By this time he had acquired considerable wealth, served as governor of Genova for two years, and earned the title of Count of Carmagnola. In 1432, in the war between Milan and the Serenissima, he was accused of treason, found guilty, and executed.

Once be decided to write a historical tragedy on Carmagnola, Manzoni researched his subject with painstaking thoroughness and concluded that the Venetian senate had killed an innocent man. He proceeded to write the play in that light. Earlier historians and most of those that came after Manzoni have either found the condottiero guilty or attributed to him some culpability--the mixed verdict due to the loss or the lack of the trial proceedings. In a fairly recent work cited by Curley, A History of Venice (1982), the author, John J. Norwich, states that "even if we reject the charges of treachery as not proven, Carmagnola still fits uneasily into a martyr's shoes" (qtd. in Curley 226). Essentially Curley agrees: "Carmagnola's lukewarm pursuit of Venetian military objectives at least gave the Venetian Signoria cause to believe him guilty of disloyalty" (12), which, one must note, is not the same as treason.

Deigan's critical attention to Carmagnola is cast in a historical-political light, meaning that the historical and the literary protagonist are fused in one persona: a man absorbed by "his consuming desire for glory" (56), a general who personifies "the military mentality" and is engaged in a conflict with the "impersonal" and "duplicitous" Venetian state. But the long discussion devoted to the play, when it focuses on Carmagnola tends to see him as an ambitious man embodying questionable values rather than a historical being who comes alive on the page or the stage. (6) Much of Deigan's attention is invested in her comparative study of Carmagnola-like characters present in Shakespeare's Othello, Byron's Faliero, Goethe's Egrnont, and, above all, the Napoleon found in Manzoni's own Cinque maggio. All considered, it is a disappointing effort simply because it seems to me unwise to think that a reader who is unfamiliar with Carmagnola (and likely the other works to which it is compared) will be drawn to the text unless that reader is offered a substantial and palpable demonstration of the play's literary qualities. That, tmfortunately, is lacking in Deigan's otherwise worthy contribution.

Before proceeding with the translations, it is useful to include as well Curley's and Deigan's approaches to their versions of Manzoni's plays. "My translation into free verse," writes Curley, "attempts to remain as close as possible to the literal sense of the Italian" while maintaining "the dramatic and poetic quality" of the original (32). He informs the reader that both plays were written in unrhymed hendecasyllables and, in that regard, he also points out that Manzoni made a liberal use of antilabe, namely "the practice of apportioning the syllables of a complete line to two or more speakers" (32) --a practice he has used in his translation, but not consistently. As to the choruses of both works, Curley notes: "I have made no effort to reproduce their complex rhyme and metrical patterns" (33).

Deigan offers a more detailed account of her modus operandi in the translation. She begins her three-page "Translator's Note" as follows: "My guiding principle throughout the translations has been to remain as close as possible to the figures of speech present in the original" (vii). As to the meter, she adds that "the blank verse was the obvious choice to render the Italian endecasillabo sciolto of the dialogues" (viii); the three choruses, on the other hand, "posed a serious challenge." As a result, she writes, "I decided for the sake of readability to sacrifice the rhymes in Carmagnola's chorus and in the first chorus of Adelchis, opting for lines reproducing the rhythm of the original" (viii). For the second chorus, Deigan decided "to preserve the rhyming pattern, opting for a variant of the English ballad meter" (viii).

Turning now to both translations of Carmagnola, I have chosen Act II, which ends with a vibrant chorus known as "The Battle of Maclodio." As mentioned earlier, the chorus bemoans the clash between the Milanese and Venetian armies, the latter led by Carmagnola. In the verses cited here, the Venetians are gaining the upper hand:
 Ahi sventura! sventura! sventura!
 Gia la terra e coperta d'uccisi,
 Tutta e sangue la vasta pianura;
 Cresce il grido, raddoppia il furor.
 Ma negli ordini manchi e divisi
 Mal si regge, gia cede una schiera
 Gia nel volgo che vincer dispera,
 Della vita rinasce l'amor. (vv. 57-64)

And here are the English versions:
 Ah, havoc! havoc! havoc!
 Now the earth is covered in dead,
 And the wide plain is soaked in blood.
 Laments are raised, fury is redoubled.
 Among the broken and scattered ranks
 Disorder reigns and now one side yields;
 Now, with all hope of victory gone, the soldier
 Feels his love of life revive. (Curley)

 What a dire, most dire event!
 All the land is now covered with corpses;
 The vast plain is dripping with blood;
 The cry roars and the furor redoubles,
 But the ranks are depleting, disbanded,
 One array is now yielding, is broken.
 Lust for life rises up in the hearts
 Of the people who know they will lose. (Deigan)

Curley's rendition portrays accurately the physical disarray of the battle, but not the spectator's sentiment of dismay. Deigan's first line is weakened by the choice of "event" but is felicitous in its choice of "dire" and the emphatic "most dire." Yet the second line, "la terra" is rendered with "all the land," which is unsuited and as unpoetic as the "corpses" that follows it. Curley's "the earth is covered in dead" isn't much better, but he regains his footing with the "plain soaked in blood"--the logical and, I would add, easy choice. Deigan's "vast plain dripping with blood" is overly graphic and inaccurate, while the literal "cry" (grido) is anemic especially in relation to the robust "furor" that follows it. Better, though short of optimal, is Curley's "laments are raised," which interprets and humanizes Manzoni's dry "grido." Clearly a poor choice is Deigan's "one array" for "una schiera," improved by Curley's "the broken and scattered ranks," which also captures the cadence of the original "mal si regge, gia cede una schiera."

The final two verses in Curley's version are merely adequate, marred by the conversion of a collective (volgo) to a singular noun, "soldier," which counters the author's intended widespread relief among mercenary soldiers. Also, the colorless "revive" could have been invigorated by "reborn" or "born anew." Denigan's' overused "lust for life" intensifies the delicate "rinasce l'amor" to a hyperbole; and the original is illserved as well by "rises up" and "people," the latter easily replaceable with "soldiers" or simply "men." The comparison bears out the differences in Curley's and Denigan's approaches to the text: the former is court and literally close to the original; the latter expands, qualifies, and often modifies the Italian verses yielding a construct that, next to Curley's, is structurally more removed from Manzoni's text.

The second selection from Carmagnola offered here is the last scene of Act V. Carmagnola, accused of betraying the Serenissima, bids farewell to his wife and daughter minutes before he is led to his death.
 Figlia, tu piangi! e tu consorte! ... Ah quando
 Ti feci mia, sereni i giorni tuoi
 Scorreano in pace: io ti chiamai compagna
 Dei mio tristo destin: questo pensiero
 M'avvelena il morir. Deh ch'io non veda
 Quanto per me sei sventurata! (vv. 16-21)

 ... Daughter you weep, and
 You, my wife! ... Ah! When you became
 Mine your days serenely flowed along in peace.
 I called you a companion to my unhappy
 Destiny. This thought embitters my dying.
 Alas, if only I did not see how miserable
 You have become because of me! (Curley)

 ... O do not weep, my daughter!
 And you, my wife, before I married you,
 Your days would go by peaceful and serene.
 I elected you my mate in this sad lot,
 And this thought embitters my last moments
 Pray do not let me see how wretched you are
 Because of me! (Deigan)

The temporal "quando" in the first line is ambiguous in the sense that, to some readers, it refers to betrothal, to others, marriage. Curley opts for the latter "... when you became / mine..." followed by the highly effective "your days serenely flowed along in peace," which renders the sense and the smoothness of the original. Deigan ruins the tine" days ... peaceful and serene" by interjecting a colloquial "would go." And she brushes aside the strongly possessive pronoun "mia" (tifeci mia) in favor of a milder, politically correct "I married you." The next line is accurate and straightforward in Curley: "I called you a companion...." In the same line of Deigan's translation, the lexical choices are at once formal ("I elected you") and too informal ("sad lot"); moreover the latter is less than accurate, for "tristo destino" is closer to "cruel" or "wretched destiny." The quasi-literal rendition of the last two lines, "Deh ch'io non veda / quanto per me sei sventurata" is unsatisfactory in both versions; both render the passage's approximate meaning, but fail to convey the emotive depth of "quanto" whose sense is close to "immeasurable"; both do little justice to "per me," a powerful causative, and to the quintessentially romantic "sventurata."

Turning now to Adelchi, Curley's translation is preceded by the "Historical Notes" prepared by the author--a judicious decision as the historical information will doubtless enhance the reader's full appreciation of the play. Curley's perceptive observations are bound to reinforce such appreciation.

In some respects, and Curley addresses this point, Adelchi is more important than Carmagnola in that it echoes "the moral force of the theater in shaping human behavior" (22), clearly voiced in the Lettre a M. Chauvet. Secondly, the translator reminds us that "Adelchi was not just the fruit of Manzoni's lyric and critical genius, but also of his painstaking research on the Lombards and the Italians during the two centuries of Lombard rule in Italy (A.D. 568-774)" (25). In this context, Curley points to the importance of the twice-revised Discorso sopra alcuni punti della storia longobardica in Italia (1822) where the Milanese writer "relentlessly critiques the methods and conclusions of the major historians of the Lombard kingdom in Italy" (25) including Machiavelli's assertion that "after two hundred years of cohabiting the same territory, the Lombards and the Italians had blended together into one people" (25).

While the historical interests cultivated by Manzoni remind us of today's mass movements of people across countries and continents, a second point singled out by Curley is equally relevant. He writes: "Manzoni hoped to include in his second play the perspective of the Latin folk, whose voices were seldom heard in the chronicles of the Middle Ages or the modern historians who drew upon such sources" (26). A perceptive reader, Curley apprises the critic as well that "the redemptive nature of self-sacrifice and suffering were themes dear to Manzoni's heart" (28) and he left us in the play the moving figure of Ermengarda, Charlemagne's rejected spouse.

Deigan's critical attention to Adelchi (62-67) provides a fuller account of the Discorso on the Lombards mentioned by Curley. She broadens the significance of Manzoni's work as a historian intent on correcting the record of the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy, namely "the optimistic thesis that the Lombards had harmoniously blended with the Italians" (62). In the course of extensive research, Manzoni is said to have discovered instead that "the Lombards kept the indigenous population in a state of slavish subjection" (62). One example mentioned here is that "the laws issued by the Lombard kings explicitly stated that they concerned only the Lombard nation, not the Italian one" (62).

Further, Deigan devotes a good share of attention to Manzoni's relationship with Shakespeare's Richard H and Henry V. She points to the analogous character traits of Richard and Adelchi, and the fact that "Manzoni borrows for Adelchis the blasphemous self-identification of Richard with Christ" (66). What seemingly drew the Italian playwright's attention to the Shakespearean texts dealing with English kings is said to be "the complex analysis of the question of the ideal ruler" that, in tuna, brings Machiavelli into the question.

Clearly the historical notes that Deigan provides with regard to Lombard rule in northern Italy, the Pope anal bis territorial ambitions, and the intervention of Charlemagne to support those ambitions are all elements that inform our understanding of the play's historical background. But the center stage of Manzoni's tragedy is taken by individuals, historical ones at that, who reveal their thirst for power, their ambitions and passions, their deceit and human frailties. All this is sensed, but not developed by Deigan, who states that "while the Discorso recounts and reasons on the historical events, only the tragedy fills in the details of Charles's thoughts and doubts, of that strong will in action, as it were" (67). Those are precisely the elements that make up and enliven a literary work, be it on stage or a written text, elements that frankly the reader expects to find in a discussion of Adelchi. Regrettably, missing in Deigan's introduction to both plays is what an American critic, in 1838, intuited so well by commending Manzoni's "perfect knowledge of the inmost recesses of the human heart." (7)

Let us now turn to the two translations of Adelchi. I have chosen first a relatively simple passage in Act III, which sees Desiderio, the Lombard king and Adelchi's father, express affection and pride for his son's achievements on the battlefield.
 Figlio, a te, rege qual son io, m'e tolto
 Esser lungo d'onor: farti piu grande
 Nessun mortale il puo; ma un premio io tengo
 Caro alla tua pieta, la gioia e l'alte
 Lodi d'un padre. Salvator d'un regno,
 La tua gloria or comincia: altro piu largo
 E agevol campo le si schiude. (Scene 2, vv. 103-09)

Here, first, is Curley's rendition:
 Son, king as I am, I am unable
 To bestow upon you more honor. No mortal can
 Increase your greatness. But one prize I have
 Which is dear to your filial affection: the joy and
 High praise of a father. Preserver of the kingdom,
 Now your glory begins. Another field,
 Broader and easier, opens for you.

Deigan offers the following:
 My dear son, as you are my peer in kingship
 I can not grant to you more honors.
 No mortal man can make you greater than
 You are; the sole reward I can offer,
 Which will be dear to you for my own sake,
 Is my joy and fatherly high praises.
 You saved a kingdom, and your glory has just
 Begun to shine over an even larger
 And smoother field.

The warmth of the original ("Figlio, a te") is absent in Curley where the little affection conveyed by "son" is diluted by an iterative "I am, I am" that draws attention to Desiderio rather than Adelchi. Warmth and gentleness are captured in full by Deigan's first line" "My dear son, you are ...," though "in kingship" is awkward and expendable. The next sentence is accurate in both versions: Deigan's is more elegant in bestowing praise; Curley's is curt and to the point. The reverse is the case in the line that follows where Curley's "the joy and high praise of a father" is far more effective, smoother and closer to the text. Deigan's rendition is flat and unduly lengthy: "the sole reward," and "which will be dear ..." are defective; "fatherly high praise" is flat and verbose; though, truth be told, Curley's "dear to your filial affection" falls short as well.

One of the high moments in Adechi is the lyrical chorus that closes the firs scene of Act IV and centers on the figure of Ermengarda, the repudiated wife of Carlo, king of the Franks. Forgotten and disconsolate, the once proud and beloved queen is confined to a convent where she spends her last days reliving the memories of the happy times spent with Cario. In the chorus, we find her on the deathbed:
 Te colloco la provida
 Sventura infra gli oppressi;
 Muori compianta e placida;
 Scendi a dormir con essi:
 Alie incolpate ceneri
 Nessuno insultera. (vv. 103-08)

 Provident misfortune has
 Gathered you in among the oppressed.
 You die, lamented and at peace;
 Go down to sleep among them:
 No one will insult
 Your blameless ashes. (Curley)

 Providential woe rendered you
 One of the oppressed.
 Dearly mourned, you die and sleep
 Among them, unvexed.
 To your guiltless ashes no one
 Will ever cause offense. (Deigan)

The first verse in Curley is oblivious to the focal position of "Te"--a direct object, both pronominal sign and signifier of human destiny: Ermengarda, the center of attention at the court and object of love and admiration is now the object of misfortune and neglect; in short the initial "Te" is the seminal graphic form of the stanza, an agent that sets in motion the rush of emotions that follow it. Placed in mid-second line, the "te/you" in Curley carries no referential energy; it reappears in the third line--"You die"--as a flat descriptive pronoun. In addition, the choices of "misfortune" for "sventura" and "gathered" for "colloco" are feeble and unpoetic compared to Manzoni's choices, which convey pathos and the inevitable; a substitute for "gathered" that comes readily to mind would be "destined." The touching "muori compianta," inextricable in Italian, is separated by a comma, thus assuming a slightly different meaning. "Scendi" too is ill served: delicate and suggestive in Manzoni ("scendi a dormir con essi") takes on physical and colloquial form in Curley's hands: "Go down to sleep...."

Deigan's translation, as a whole, is more effective and closer to Manzoni in terms of the poetic diction. Flawed, it seems to me, are both "woe" and "rendered" in the first line, given the fact that "woe" is totally devoid of the tonal quality, the connection with human destiny, and the Romantic connotation that are readily understood in Italian. Ill-advised as well is the transitive verb "render" in "woe rendered you one of the oppressed" that distorts the original "te colloco infra gli oppressi." Deigan attributes an active and causal agency to "colloco," which is not present in the original where the agency is destiny, and the relation Ermengarda-oppressi is figurative and spatial, hence non-causative. On the other hand, Deigan offers the reader a poignant and very felicitous "dearly mourned" for "muori compianta," which strays a bit from the original but conveys a sense of deep empathy with Ermengarda, one that is even stronger than what is found in Manzoni. Not so for the perfunctory "you die and sleep" and the quaint "unvexed."

Studying Curley's and Deigan's translations for this review has reconfirmed, for me, the difficulty of converting a literary text from its original structure into another linguistic construct apt to convey the essential elements of the original. Moreover, my personal interest in both the critical texts dealing with Manzoni and the translations of his works has led me to believe that the latter is closer to the source of creative energy that generates a literary work, especially one in verse. A critic examines and evaluates a text; a translator, in a sense, has to retrace the steps that make up the process of composition, has to go beyond literal meaning, the easier part of the conversion. This effort involves identifying and refashioning what lies behind the graphic form: the choice of words and their effect, the position, sequence, tone, and nuances of lexical constructs and, no less, a fair discernment of the author's temperament. Together these essential elements enable the gifted translator to gain a glimpse of the fluid energy, the ingenuity and the inventive sparks one can say constitute the creative act. When the results are largely positive, as they are in the two works examined here, the reader should approach the translation with a sense of appreciation, to be sure, but also a measure of humility considering the labor, the negotiations between the two languages in question, the challenges, the strategies and compromises, to say nothing of the perseverance required to bring to us, the readers, a text that has come close in reproducing the qualities of the original work.


Syracuse University


(1) Alessandro Manzoni, Two Plays, translated by Michael J. Curley (New York: Peter Lang, 2002); Alessandro Manzoni, The Count of Carmagnola and Adelchis, introduced and translated by Federica Brunori Deigan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004).

(2) See especially Rocco Montano, "I promessi sposi. Reasons Why It Is Scarcely Known in America," Umanesimo 1 (1967): 45-59; and Olga Ragusa, "Manzoni in America," Italianistica 2 (1973): 219-224.

(3) See, among other studies, Alfredo Cottignoli, "I promessi sposi e la critica patriottica," Italianistica 4 (1975): 538-47, in which the author demonstrates diligently that for at at least two decades (1830-50) much of the criticism dealing with Manzoni's work was negative, due to its perceived lack of revolutionary patriotic spirit. As to the conservative press, see Giorgio Rumi, "I cattolici intransigenti non lo piansero," Civilta ambro--siana 2 (1985): 214-21, which focuses on three conservative publications--Civilta cattolica, Scuola cattolica, and L'osservatore cattolico--that, in the wake of Manzoni's death, ignored or criticized what was then regarded as his liberal ideology. Typical was the position of Davide Albertario, who in the Scuola cattolica (May 29, 1873) remarked that Manzoni had "due fedi" and "due amori": "l'una in Dio e nella Chiesa, l'altra nella rivoluzione, nemica di Dio e della Chiesa" (216).

(4) "Adelchis" is the form used in this volume. "As far as the characters' names," Deigan notes, "I anglicized them, with some exceptions" (ix).

(5) At his villa in Brusuglio, which had a good acreage of land, Manzoni found rime to cultivate his extensive botanical interests. On this subject, see Maurizio e Letizia Corgnati, Alessandro Manzoni, 'fattore' di Brusglio (Milano: Mursia, 1985). He also devoted a good share of rime to his writings, to the point that, at his death, he had a sizeable library, separate from the larger personal library at his second home in Via Morone in Milan. See Richard B. Hilary, "Manzoni's Plague: Bibliographic Resources for a Literary Device," Romance Notes 31 (Spring 1991): 251-56; and Cesarina Pestoni, "Preliminare informazione sulle raccolte manzoniane," "Raccolte di Via Morone," "Biblioteca di Via Morone in Milano," "Raccolta di Brera, Raccolta di Brusuglio," Annali manzoniani 6 (1981): 58-64, 65-159, 161-84, 185-233.

(6) On the much-discussed question of whether Manzoni's two tragedies were meant to be staged or simply read, see Paolo Bosisio, "Il Conte di Carmagnola e la tecnica teatrale del Manzoni," Otto/Novecento 9 (marzo-aprile 1985): 73-111. In spite of Manzoni's insistence that his plays were not written to be staged ("non rappresentate ne rappresentabili'), Bosisio claims that, in view of the Romantic vision of the theater as "rappresentazione scenica," Manzoni did not dismiss entirely the desirability of seeing his plays staged.

(7) See Murray R. Low, "Manzoni in the American 1830's: Poet, Dramatist, or Novelist?" The Reasonable Romantic. Essays on A. Manzoni, ed. Sante Matteo and Larry H. Peer (New York: Peter Lang, 1986) 60.
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Title Annotation:Alessandro Manzoni, Two Plays; The Count of Carmagnola and Adelchis
Author:Pallotta, Augustus
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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