Ugo Betti devoted himself to the activities of a literary man while engaging full-time in his profession as a judge. This combination of roles might seem discordant at first, but in fact it holds the key to his unusual gifts as a dramatist. A native of Camerino in the Marches, a region of central Italy, Betti spent his early life, and pursued his studies, in Parma, where his father, Tullio, a country doctor, had moved his family in 1900 to become the head of the municipal hospital. Displaying from early childhood an affinity for sports, Betti first played soccer but later converted to tennis, a sport in which he engaged for the rest of his life. His inclination for poetry inspired him to compose poems from a very young age and to translate Catullus’s poem 64 when he was eighteen.
Although he would have liked to pursue literary studies in Bologna, young Betti was convinced by his father that a law career would give him more security. Completing his studies in jurisprudence at the University of Parma in 1914, Betti earned his law degree, in partial fulfillment of which he wrote the thesis “Il diritto e la rivoluzione” (law and revolution). Betti’s thesis revealed that, like many young people of his generation, he was not immune to the anarchical ideologies of Georges Sorel, Max Stirner, and the Italian Futurists nor to the philosophical influences of Friedrich Nietzsche and Gabriele D’Annunzio. Betti’s acceptance of the necessary evils of warfare was soon to be tempered, however, by the events of World War I. Having been in favor of Italy’s intervention in the war, he volunteered and participated in it as an artillery officer. He won a medal before being captured by the Germans in October,...
(The entire section is 702 words.)