Carlo Gozzi wrote some poetry in the satirical vein. He also wrote his memoirs in the three-volume Memorie inutili (1797; Useless Memoirs, 1890). This eight-hundred-page autobiography represents his other major contribution to Italian literature. Gozzi’s attraction to, and involvement in, the Italian theater are predictably detailed in his memoirs. His recollections, however, are possibly more valuable for their depiction of the Venetian republic and its declining culture. In France, ideas and events that would shape an age were occurring, and Gozzi provides an incisive view of the disdain and fear that he and other members of the aristocracy felt toward these developments.
Perhaps no other Italian playwright has received such divergent criticism of his work as Count Carlo Gozzi. Some critics believe that Gozzi constitutes a notable example of the decadent literature that Venice produced during the latter portion of the eighteenth century; others laud him as a playwright second only to William Shakespeare in language, verse form, and dramatic impact. This controversy in the criticism of Gozzi’s works seems a logical extension of several controversies that actually provoked him to write his plays and that surrounded their theatrical production. Although Gozzi was writing poetry at the age of nine, along with gift sonnets and philosophical treatises during his ensuing youthful years, his major contribution to Italian literature rests in the thirty-two plays he wrote between 1761 and 1798. The most famous of these are his fiabe, fairy tales that he took from a Neapolitan collection by Giambattista Basile and transformed into fantasy dramas satirizing the Venetian scene and literary circumstances of his day.
Rigidly conservative by background and nature, Gozzi wrote the fiabe in an effort to denigrate the realistic comedies of manners and character that his arch rivals, Abbé Pietro Chiari and Carlo Goldoni, had popularized on the Venetian stage. Gozzi wished to show that traditional, nonrealistic Italian plays, the type he so dearly loved, could be as popular, if not more so, than the “new wave” productions he despised. To achieve his purpose, Gozzi drew on the great commedia dell’arte form, which had made Italian actors and their productions famous throughout Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Even though his use of fantasy, satire, and especially written dialogue exceeded the limits of the traditional, improvisational commedia form, Gozzi invariably included four of the stock characters, or “masks,” from that form in his fiabe. Later...
DiGaetani, John Louis. Carlo Gozzi: A Life in the Eighteenth Century Venetian Theater, an Afterlife in Opera. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000. This biography of Gozzi looks at his popularity during his lifetime and the popularity of his plays for operas after his death. Bibliography and index.
DiGaetani, John Louis. Introduction to Carlo Gozzi: Translations of “The Love of Three Oranges,” “Turandot,” and “The Snake Lady,” by Carlo Gozzi. New York: Greenwood, 1988. DiGaetani provides critical analysis of Gozzi’s works in his introduction to his translations. Bibliography and index.
Harvey, Dennis. Review of The Green Bird, by Carlo Gozzi. Variety, October 16-22, 2000, p. 44. Review of a performance of The Green Bird, adapted by Steven Epp for Théâtre de la Jeune Lune. Discusses the play and its suitability for modern presentation.
Wilson, Edwin. “Gozzi’s Enchanting Fable.” Review of The King Stag, by Carlo Gozzi. Wall Street Journal, September 21, 1990, p. A12. This review of a production of The King Stag by the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provides insights into the play as comments on the rivalry between Gozzi and Carlo Goldoni.