Other Literary Forms
Torquato Tasso’s significant literary output reflects the eclectic interests of the Renaissance intellectual and includes poetry, drama, theoretical works, dialogues, and religious compositions. His lifelong love and greatest involvement was with the epic, and he sought to given modern expression to the ancient form, from Rinaldo (1562; English translation, 1792) to Gerusalemme conquistata (1593; Jerusalem Conquered, 1907). Tasso appeared destined for this artistic preference. His lengthy stay at the court of Ferrara, the Italian home of chivalric romances, and his paternal legacy naturally drew him to the epic form. Also influenced by the current debates on literary theory and the religious concerns of the Counter-Reformation, Tasso sought to create a work that would integrate the pleasures of chivalric romance and the gravity of the classical epic, while adhering to the Aristotelian canons expressed in De poetica (c. 334-323 b.c.e.; Poetics, 1705). To clarify his stand, the author also produced a series of theoretical works on poetics and the epic and an apologia of his own poem. Occasionally self-serving, these writings do clarify Tasso’s views, his adherence to traditions and standards, and his position as a literary critic. They also explain Tasso’s intentions and aspirations in composing Gerusalemme liberata (1581; Jerusalem Delivered, 1600), his major work. While imitating both the classics and the chivalric romances of his time, Tasso wanted to renew the epic by placing it in a historical Christian context. From Aristotle, he took the concepts of verisimilitude, unity of action, and religious/supernatural associations, as well as an insistence on “sublime” exploits, “heroic” protagonists, “illustrious” deeds, and a high tone. From the romances, he borrowed the atmosphere of enchantment, sensual love, and the desire to amuse his public.