Italy Literature – The Great and the Minor Prose of the 16th Century Part II

By | February 23, 2022

Most of the moralists are Tuscan: Giambattista Gelli, author of the  Capricci del Bottaio  and della  Circe , arguments and dialogues that recommend that men submit to the dictates of reason and not to the whims of meaning; Monsignor Giovanni Della Casa, a fruitful writer in prose and verse, whose  Galateo  is one of the most graceful writings of the century; Anton Francesco Doni, bizarre genius who will upset numerous works and operettas on the subject and in very varied forms and with capricious titles, and who in the dialogues  I Marmi he talked about everything a little, fighting superstitions, biting vices, teaching the good about practical life. But there are also natives from other regions, such as the Venetian Pietro Bembo, great dictator of sixteenth-century literature, who in the  Asolani  treated platonegging of love with Boccaccio-style gravity; the Paduan Sperone Speroni, a writer of various and heavy doctrine, not unhappy elaborator in the numerous dialogues ( Of love ,  Of discordia ,  Of active and contemplative life , etc.) of the current ideas of his time around disparate issues, and, to keep quiet on the other, Baldassar Castiglione from Mantua and Giordano Bruno from Nola, who stand out above all for virtue of thought and form.

In  the Cortegiano, Castiglione outlines the figure of the perfect “courtier” and the perfect “woman of the palace”, theorizing that cultured, refined life practice, full of decorum in all its manifestations, which the century. XV had elaborated especially in the courts of northern Italy, and thus forming the type of man of society, which Renaissance Italy gave to Europe. Castiglione drew from the chosen reality that he had under his eye and of which he himself was a part, and from his classical education, the elements of his work, which, relived and unified by his imagination, took on a simple and dignified form. As for the language, he used that basically Tuscan loquela, but variegated of Latin and provincial words and forms, in which some intended to implement Dante’s illustrious vulgar or courtier in the sixteenth century, against the Florentineism of another school. Del Bruno, the extravagant prose unconditional in dialect, but fervid imaginative vigorous is the thought of himself thirsting for truth, concrete and original, energetic propeller of Italian philosophy in new ways. In Bruno’s moral and metaphysical dialogues there is now the rush of a soul that in a kind of intoxication yearns for absolute truth, and now the violence or sarcasm of the polemic against opponents witty portrayed in caricatured types; all this combined in a prose that abandons itself to a picturesque disorder, to escapes of synonyms and antitheses, to bizarre artifices, mostly not empty of ideal meaning.

According to TRANSPORTHINT.COM, there are also numerous Florentine historians, of whom Iacopo Nardi, a fervent lover of freedom, certainly has lively and easy pages in his account of the facts of his homeland from 1375 to 1538, but in general he lacks the vigor of synthesis and therefore of style; Benedetto Varchi, various writer and not despicable philologist in Herculaneum  , is a rather unequal narrator but, despite the Medici spirit, trusted in the history of Florence, and it would be better if he did not think of being, as well as historian, stylist; Pierfrancesco Giambullari was the first to write in the vernacular a work which, like certain vast Latin compilations of the Middle Ages, extends widely beyond the borders of a nation, the  History of Europe , largely compiled on the Antapodosis Liutprando, aiming more to show off his descriptive and oratory expertise in a rather limp prose, than to do the work of a historian; Bernardo Davanzati, translator and reducer of historians, rather than historian, acquired a reputation as a concise and vigorous prose writer with his version of Tacitus and with the  History of the Schism of England  composed on the Latin work of an English Jesuit. Outside Tuscany, the Venetian Pietro Bembo, in Latin and vulgar pompously classical, the Genoese Iacopo Bonfadio and Uberto Foglietta, the Neapolitans Angelo di Costanzo and Camillo Porzio narrated the history of their lands; and everywhere there were more or less copious chronical notations, precious as historical documents, but hardly touching the margins of literature.

Similar to historical prose, instead, the prose, vivid and witty representative of men of customs of things, of the letters on India of the Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti, flourished with spontaneous or intentional effects of art, the rather flat, but easy and decorous, one of the  Lives of the most excellent painters , etc., from the Arezzo area, Giorgio Vasari, and leaving aside many other names, the one in which the soul of Benvenuto Cellini lives splendid in color and prominence. Here a magnificent fantasy, overcoming the temptation, which sometimes peeps out, of literary syntax and reaching an admirable balance between the spontaneity of the popular language and the maturity of the healthy classical habits that were in the air, created a masterpiece of representative evidence. and conversational lucidity.

Less benevolent judgment deserves the oratory prose, whose emphasis and classical affectation in the turning of the periods generally take away the air of sincerity and persuasive vigor, which have only a few sixteenth-century prayers, such as the defense of the tumultuous Straccioni from Lucca. Giovanni Guidiccioni (1533), Della Casa’s harangue to induce the Venetians to ally themselves with the Pope and the King of France against Charles V (1547), and above all the Apology  of Lorenzino de ‘Medici, the killer of Duke Alessandro, whose prose, a nervous incisive move, has in several places the virtue of winning over the reader, even if he knows that the tyrannicide was not that candid lover of freedom who wants to be believed.

Italy Literature - The Great and the Minor Prose of the 16th Century 2