Torquato Tasso, 1544-1595

Torquato Tasso. Frederico Zuccari, 1594, private collection, Bergamo, Italy, Encyclopedia Britannica.

Torquato Tasso was born in Sorento, Italy in 1544 and died in Rome in 1595. He studied at the University of Padua and was originally encouraged by his friends, G.M. Verdizzotti, a pupil of Titian and Danese Cataneo, a sculptor, to compose an epic on the First Crusades while in Venice in 1560. After completing his studies in Padua Tasso entered the service of the Este court in Ferrara. He wrote many works under the Este patronage but spent most of his life revising his Christian epic on the First Crusades. Although Tasso was never satisfied with this work, Gerusalemme Liberata it immediately became a European success when it was published in Ferrara in 1581.There are three distinct goals Tasso had in mind in creating Gerusalemme Liberata. First, he attempted to imitatethe classics, themes from the Iliad and the Aeneid are evident in his epic. In battle Rinaldo simulates Achilles from the Iliad, however when he is forced to leave Armida in order to save Jerusalem their love story is influenced by the Aeneid when Aeneas must leave Dido to found Rome. Secondly, he tried to emphasize historical facts and Christianity. For this reason he focused on the First Crusades when the Christians battled the Muslims for the city of Jerusalem. Lastly, he wanted to rival Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso that was also written for the Este court and published in 1516.

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