Giuseppe Giusti Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Giuseppe Giusti’s prose writings, though inferior to his poetic ones, must be regarded, nevertheless, as a complement to them, for like his verses, they bear the mark of constant, painstaking rewriting and polishing. While his writings in prose suffer from a belabored style, his poetry retains its appearance of streamlined spontaneity despite numerous revisions.

When Giusti’s Epistolario (1904, 1932, 1956; correspondence) was published in its complete form, it confirmed his place in Italian literary history as a significant regional writer. Giusti’s letters epitomize the distinct flavor of the Tuscan language as it was spoken by the common people of his time. In the vernacular that he cultivated with pride, perhaps even with a certain arrogance, Giusti depicted vignettes of everyday life in contemporary Tuscany.

A similar spirit informs Raccolta dei proverbi toscani, con illustrazioni cavata dei manoscritti di G. Giusti ed ora ampliata ed ordinata (1853; illustrated collection of Tuscan proverbs from G. Giusti’s enlarged and rearranged manuscripts), published three years after Giusti’s death by his closest friend, Gino Capponi. The proverbs are a repository of Tuscan folkloric wit and wisdom, but, like Giusti’s letters, they suffer at times from the linguistic excesses to which he was prone. “Memorie inedite” (unpublished memoirs), later published as Cronaca dei fatti di Toscana (1890; chronicle of...

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Giuseppe Giusti Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Giuseppe Giusti was a key poet of the Italian Risorgimento, and although the label of “minor poet” has been applied to his name, it does not minimize the important role he played in the literature and history of nineteenth century Italy. His greatest gift as an author was his keen common sense, exemplified in his use of the satiric traditions of his native Tuscany. While his regional standing may have limited his range, it also contributed to his instantaneous recognition and fame throughout the peninsula, as his scherzi (jokes) were circulated in manuscript form long before they became available in print. Scherzi are satirical poetic compositions often in short, quick-moving verses in the tempo of lively musical compositions also named scherzi by early nineteenth century composers. Structured in a great variety of meters and lengths, the scherzi were written to satirize events, mores, and public figures. Giusti’s rapidly growing fame reinforced his belief that it was by the poetic word that he could contribute to his country’s liberation.

With their sarcastic needling of police spies, princes, ministers, and courtiers, Giusti’s scherzi became weapons of liberalism and symbols of the Italians’ patriotic aspirations to unity and freedom. Although Niccoló Tommaseo, and even his friend Alessandro Manzoni, found Giusti unduly sardonic in matters of linguistic pride and purity, it was to Giusti that Manzoni went for advice in order to give the final, polishing touches to the language of his immortal novel I promessi sposi (1842; The Betrothed, 1951, a revision of the earlier Gli sposi promessi, 1827; The Betrothed, 1828). Manzoni’s elegant Florentine language in that novel was to become the model for Italian prose.

Thus, if by his almost fanatical devotion to the Tuscan vernacular Giusti limited the scope of his poetic aspirations, he nevertheless helped to awaken the national conscience to the need for political and linguistic unity.

Giuseppe Giusti Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Bossi, Maurizio Bossi, and Mirella Branca, eds. Giuseppe Giusti: Il tempo e i luoghi. Florence, Italy: L.S. Olschki, 1999. A collection of biographical and critical essays on Giusti. Published in Italian.

Horner, Susan. The Tuscan Poet Giuseppe Giusti, and His Times. Cambridge, Mass.: Macmillan, 1864. A biography of Giusti with some historical background.

Tusiani, Joseph. From Marino to Marinetti. New York: Baroque Press, 1974. An anthology of forty Italian poets including Giusti translated into English with some biographical notes on each.