Although Battista Guarini is primarily known as the author of a pastoral tragicomedy, he also collected his correspondence in the two-volume Lettere (1593-1596); among his nonfiction are Il segretario (1594; the secretary), a dialogue on the obligations of a secretary, and a political treatise, Trattato della politica libertà (1818; treatise on political freedom). He also collected his verse in a book entitled Rime (1598).
Battista Guarini’s most famous play, The Faithful Shepherd, was first staged in the city of Crema during the Carnival of 1596 and later in September of the same year in Ronciglione, in the state of the Farnesi. The numerous editions of The Faithful Shepherd in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and the several translations into French, Spanish, English, German, Greek, Polish, Swedish, and Dutch are clear evidence of the great success of this work. The first translation into English was done by John Dymock in 1602. However, the translation in 1647 by Sir Richard Fanshawe, which uses heroic couplets and remains very close to the original, is still considered to be the best. The 1964 edition of that translation was republished in 1976 with an introduction by John H. Whitfield.
Much to Guarini’s credit, he accompanied his painstaking work of composition and revision with a robust theoretical defense of The Faithful Shepherd and of a hedonistic conception of art, free of moralizing. Guarini built his work on the pastoral tradition of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, on the results of the critical elaboration of Italian sixteenth century drama (tragedy and comedy), and on humanist and Renaissance culture in general. His tragicomedy manifests his expertise in manipulating stage techniques, constructing a complex plot, and employing the traditional tools of tragedy. The theatricality of his work is enhanced...
Donno, Elizabeth Story, ed. Three Renaissance Pastorals: Tasso, Guarini, Daniel. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1993. Three early pastorals—Battista Guarini’s The Faithful Shepherd, Torquato Tasso’s Aminta, and Samuel Daniel’s Queen’s Acadia—are presented and analyzed. Contains bibliographical references.
Niccoli, Gabriel Adriano. Cupid, Satyr, and the Golden Age: Pastoral Dramatic Scenes of the Late Renaissance. New York: P. Lang, 1989. Niccoli examines the works of a number of pastoral dramatists from the late Renaissance, including Guarini’s The Faithful Shepherd. Bibliography and index included.
Perella, Nicolas J. The Critical Fortune of Battista Guarini’s “Il Pastor Fido.” Florence, Italy: L. S. Olschki, 1973. Perella examines the reception of Guarini’s The Faithful Shepherd. Bibliography included.