Francesco Scipione Maffei Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Francesco Scipione Maffei came of a noble family and was himself a marquis. He studied with the Jesuits in Parma, then fought in the war of succession in 1704 in Bavaria. He returned to Verona for his studies but soon interrupted them for a long trip into France, England, Holland, and Belgium. He was a learned gentleman who published on a wide variety of subjects: literature, philosophy, theology, archeology, and dramatic arts. In this last connection, he was a champion of classical tragedy.

There were a number of theorists and playwrights in the very early years of the eighteenth century who wanted to establish tragedy in its purest form, and it was the mission of the Arcadian Academy founded in Rome in 1690. Maffei, who had spent time in Rome as a young man, was initiated into the Arcadian Academy in 1698, and in 1704 he established a Verona chapter of the academy. In 1700, the academy’s president, Giovan Crescimbeni, published La bellezza della volgar poesia (the beauty of vernacular poetry), arguing that opera had spoiled the purer genres of comedy and especially tragedy. Gian Gravina, also a member of that academy, published five tragedies in 1712 followed by a critical defense, Della tragedia (on tragedy). Pier Martelli wrote several tragedies and is remembered for his special adaptation of the French Alexandrine verse that came to be called Martellian verse and was much imitated by other writers of serious drama of that day. There...

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