Giambattista Marino Critical Essays


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

True to the spirit of his time, Giambattista Marino wrote a number of panegyrical poems, among them Il ritratto del serenissimo Don Carlo Emanuello Duca di Savoia, Il tempio, and Epitalami, a collection of ten very sensual nuptial odes patterned after traditional models, largely mythological in content, and written to celebrate the weddings of various princes and kings. Marino was equally at ease with religious subjects, which he treated with a certain emotional detachment. In 1614, he published Dicerie sacre, an important work which included three lengthy and elaborate metaphorical sermons on painting, music, and Heaven, inspired respectively by the “Sindone” (Christ’s shroud), the seven last words of Christ, and the orders of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro. In 1617, while in France, Marino wrote La sferza, invettiva a quattro ministri della iniquitá, an invective against the enemies of the Catholic Church.

Among Marino’s other writings worthy of mention are his pastoral Egloghe boscherecce (sylvan eclogues), first published in 1620, although the only extant copies are dated 1627, and the famous La Murtoleide (the deeds of Murtola). La Murtoleide, published in 1626 but dating back to Marino’s Turin period, consists of eighty-one fischiate (boos), satirical sonnets written against his rival, the mediocre court poet Gaspare Murtola, who had attacked Marino in a libelous Abridgement of the Life of Cavalier Marino. Rather predictably, Murtola retorted by writing a Marineide (the deeds of Marino), which consisted of thirty-two risate (laughs); he also tried, unsuccessfully, to kill Marino, shooting at him with a pistol.

A well-known tercet that is said to epitomize the quintessence of Marino’s poetics is to be found in the thirty-third fischiata of La Murtoleide: “The goal of the poet is to cause wonder/ (I am speaking about excellent poets and not clumsy ones):/ Those who do not know how to astonish should go to the stables.”

Marino also tried his hand at composing serious epic poetry and, great admirer of Tasso that he was, he attempted to deal with two themes much in the Tassian tradition: Gerusalemme distrutta...

(The entire section is 936 words.)