Gerusalemme Liberata Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

Gerusalemme Liberata was a great critical success when it was published in 1581. Tasso was hailed as the greatest poet in all of Europe for combining the Heroic, the Romance, and the Moral tales in one poem. The early English translations spoke highly of Tasso's moral plan and his political allegory. Italian critics, who had originally hated the poem, claimed Tasso as the poetic successor to Dante and Virgil. This praise did not make Tasso happy, partly because he did not believe it and partly because he felt the poem had too much erotic and supernatural content. The poem did not provide Tasso with economic security because there were no notions of copyright, but its popularity did help secure Tasso the post of Poet Laureate of Rome in 1594. Tasso's reputation and the poem's critical impact continued to grow after his death.

The English poets seemed to be more heavily influenced by Tasso and Gerusalemme Liberata than were French, Spanish, or Italian poets. Edward Fairfax's translation in 1600 brought numerous new readers to the poem and poets such as Edmund Spenser, Rachel Speght, and Margaret Cavendish credited Tasso with teaching them how to write poetry. John Milton, Thomas Gray, and various Victorian poets continually referenced Tasso's work as a model for writing epic poetry.

The idea of the moral duty of the poet was very popular among literary circles in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and Tasso was regarded as the shining example of a poet with his readers' best interests at heart. Both French and English literary critics favored Tasso over Ariosto since Tasso's message of honor, truth, and victory through God's help...

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