Saturday, March 11, 2017

Born Today March 11: Torquato Tasso


16th century Italian poet Torquato Tasso was born on this day in Sorrento, in what was then the independent Kingdom of Naples (now Campania, Italy).  He had aristocratic ties in his family, with his mother being closely connected to prominent Neapolitan families; his father was secretary in service to the Prince of Salemo, Ferrante Sanseverino (so much so, that when the Prince was exiled, Tasso's father went with him).  He grew up with his mother and sister in Naples and was educated by the Jesuits there.  He possessed a fierce intellect and religious devotion that he attracted wide spread attention at only 8 years of age.  He was subsequently sent to live with his father just outside of Rome; as it happens his father was also a poet.  While he was there, his mother died suddenly and suspiciously; the elder Tasso was convinced that her own brother murdered her in order to take control of her estate.  This, no doubt, had an ill effect on the young man.  Torquato traveled with his father when he accepted a position in the court of Urbino.  At court there, Torquato's education was advanced by the general atmosphere of philosophical studies and regular poetry recitation. Torquato also followed his father to Venice, where he had relocated to get his own epic published.  His father was greatly influenced in the negative by the fortune of his lot in life as a writer, and he was determined to turn Torquato to a more lucrative profession.  He was sent to study law in Padua.  But when he arrived there, he fell to studying philosophy and poetry instead.  By 1562 he had written a 12 canto epic of his own.  It was an impressive enough work to have the younger Tasso deemed the most promising young poet of his time; this so flattered his father, that he allowed the for the poem's publication.  Tasso's renown career in writing poetry was off.  He also was able to indulge his love for religion by taking up work with a Cardinal.  His career and relationships would have serious up and downs however, due to a disease that had already begun to manifest itself.  It is thought that if he had lived in modern times, he would have been diagnosed as Bi-polar.  The result of this, was that he slipped from one illustrious house to another, before being admitted to a "mad house" run by the church.  He stayed confined for some time, though is condition seemed to improve and he was released and continued to write, he never fully recovered, as the case even today, if the disease goes untreated.  In regards to film, 8 films have been produced from his poetry over the years, with 5 of those produced in the silent era.  The first of these came in 1910 with Le tyran de Jérusalem, a French film produced by Pathe' Freres.  The first film to be produced in his native Italy from his work came the next year with The Crusaders.  The short Aminta also came out in 1911.  Jerusalem Liberated was produced in 1913 and remade in 1918.  The most recent film produced from his work came in 2001 with Rinaldo, a made for television film in Germany, based on his very first epic poem.  Though he would eventually be named Poet Laureate and would be afforded several pensions, he retired himself to a monastery located in what is now Vatican City, stating upon his arrival that he was there to die.  And die he did, 24 days later at the very young age of 51 on the 25th of April.  There are no details as to his funerary rites or burial.  He is now remembered as being the greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance.

Poster from the 1918 version of Jerusalem Liberated

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