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THE ITALIAN DRAMA.
make a series of beautiful and pathetic TRAGEDY AND COMEDY DURING THE pictures ; so that the interest is wrought
SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH up to the highest pitch by those alternaCENTURIES; MONTI, GOLDONI, tions of terror and compassion which are ETC.
the great elements of a well-sustained A.D. 1600-1800.
tragedy. It is an awful drama ; and if VICENZO MONTI followed close upon the mere perusal of it is sufficient to the footsteps of Alfieri in the terribil via stir the strongest emotions, the effect struck out by that Michael Angelo of when represented on the stage can easily the Italian drama. The Aristodemo, be imagined. In the third Act (Scene Monti's best tragedy, was inspired by 7) there is a remarkable discourse the recital of Alfieri's Virginia in Rome upon suicide between Gonippo and (1782). Deeply impressed with the Aristodemo, and the same beauty and vigour of that play, tains the description of the apparition of Monti, immediately on his return home, the spectre to the unhappy king, one of sketched out the plot of Aristodemo, the most powerful passages in the drama. King of Messenia, which appeared to The accessories of spectres and tombs him an equally fine subject for a have since been objected to as a kind of tragedy. The discussion among the tragic terror too hackneyed for use; litterati of the day as to the merits and the entrance of Cesira into the and defects of Alfieri's style stimu. tomb has been censured as an unnatural lated Monti to improve upon the rug- act of courage on her part; but Monti ged asperities and strained inversions
urges in her defence that the desire to which occasionally mar the grand
save her father is sufficient to outweigh passages of his fellow-tragedian. And all the ordinary fears such an action his success was signal; for Signorelli, an would inspire ; and we must here observe eminent critic, remarks that when that, like Merope, the whole interest of Alfieri's noble conceptions are illustrated Aristodemo centres in filial affection by Monti's polished style, Italian tragedy Aristodemo is looked upon as undoubtat last attains to the summit of perfec- edly the best of Monti's three dramas, tion. Aristodemo carried
although the other two-Caio Gracco medal offered by the Duke of Parma and Galeotto Manfredi—have also for the best drama, a distinction which, obtained distinguished laurels. The owing to the general inferiority of tragi- Gracco owed its reputation in some cal composition, had not been claimed measure to its patriotic sentiment, for two years. The style is noble and which was in accordance with the sustained, the versification fluent, the spirit of the age. It has besides great dialogue easy and polished, the plot intrinsic merit, showing a vigour and clearly and rapidly unfolds itself ; but, power in depicting the Roman character above all, the passions are delineated which can only have been derived from with the hand of a master. The anguish deep study of the classics. It would seem of Aristodemo, soothed by the tender as if the ardent spirits of this century compassion of Cesina, to whom, while Italy looked back fondly to the past, still unaware that she is his daughter, as though to learn from their Roman he feels drawn with the strong chain of ancestors how to gain that liberty for parental affection; the attachment shown which they sighed in vain. But Monti by the faithful servant Gonippo-all is careful to draw the distinction bethese, in the hands of an author who tween the true liberty established on writes as if entranced with his subject, the basis of truth and justice and the
lawless license at that time so vividly Like some invading foe whose iron tread portrayed in France, founded on crime,
Leaves ruthless footmarks in the trampled and only maintained by the daily per
But gently lays its mortal burthen down, petration of new atrocities. This
With lingering looks of love. So have I * libertà di ladroni e d'assassini” is sternly condemned by the Mother of
One who has travelled o'er some distant the Gracchi. They have,” she says,
Reaching the goal at last, take tender leave “their country's name for ever on their Of the beloved companion of his toils, lips, and never in their hearts” (Act i. Bidding him fond farewell.” Scene 3). In his description of the assassinated Consui (Act iv. Scene 6),
The imitation of Shakspeare again Monti has literally borrowed the appears in Galeotto Manfredi, Principe well-known forcible language in which di Faënza, Monti's third and last traShakspeare paints the murdered corpse gedy, the character of Zambrino, the of Gloucester.
wicked courtier, resembling closely the But "see, his face is black, and full of Iago of Othello. But he is also painted
from the life as a portrait of the “Ma qui, il vedete ? tutto quanto il viso
author's personal enemy. By the chaDell' infelice n'è ricolmo e nero.
racter of Ubaldo, the contrast to “ His eyeballs farther out than when he lived,
Zambrino, Monti intended to represent Staring full ghastly like a strangled man.” himself; and it is said that on “. Mirate le pupille
occasion when the tragedy was being Travolte, oblique, e per lo sforzo quasi played the allusion struck the spectators Fuor dell' orbita lor."
so forcibly that they insisted upon the “ His hair upreared, his nostrils stretched with struggling.'
repetition of the whole scene between “ Notate il varco
the faithful and false courtiers, The Delle narici dilatato, indizio di compres
argument of the tragedy, the author respiro.”
tells us, is taken from Tenducci's Storio “ His hands abroad displayed, as one that
di Faënza,3 It had a great attraction grasped
for Monti, who had spent much of his And tugged for life, and was by strength time in that brilliant and cultivated subdued.”
city, and had seen with his own eyes equeste braccia
the chamber where Manfredi was murStese quanto son lunghe, equeste dita Pur tutte aperte, come d'uom che sente
dered. Monti was born in Alfonsina, Afferrarsi alla gola, e si dibatte
near Ravenna, in 1754; he Finchè forza il soggioga.”ı
educated at Faënza. His talents early The Italian tragedian does not attempt procured him the notice of the papal to render the
legate at Ferrara, Cardinal Borghese, “ Well-proportioned beard made rough and
under whose protection he went to rugged,
Rome. There he resided some years, Like to the summer's corn by tempest and became secretary to the Duca di lodged;"
Nemi, nephew to Pius VI. He obbut he concludes his description with a tained a high reputation as a poet some beautiful contrast which diverts the time previous to the appearance of thoughts from the preceding horrors. those tragedies already mentioned; but An English translation can scarcely the limits of our subject will not admit convey the soft and peaceful picture of the mention, except by name, of his presented by the Italian :
famous poem, La Bassvigliana, written “Not thus, not thus, my friends, a just man's
in the "terza rima” of Dante, and of soul
the same visionary character as the Parts from its earthly home. It flees not Divina Commedia. The subject was the thence,
? Galeotto Manfredi, Act iv. Sc. 6. i King Henry VI., Part II. Act iii. Sc. 2; 3 Also to be found in Roscoe's Life of Caio Gracco, Att. iv. Sc. 6.
Lorenzo de' Medici, vol. ii. Pp. 168–172.
death of the French envoy at Rome, Ugo grotesque wit of the personages of the de Bassville. It was published in 1793, old Italian Mascherata. We find the the year of the murder of Louis XVI., account in Memoirs which rival those and contains a striking description of of Alfieri in candour, and make so the death of that unhappy monarch. lively and sparkling a narrative, that Monti witnessed the rise and fall of Gibbon pronounces them “ to be a great Napoleon, some of whose victories he deal more comic than the comedies celebrated in his poetry. In the zenith themselves," Carlo Goldoni was born of his fame he recognised and acknow- in Venice in 1707, and from his childledged the bright star of the rising hood gave unmistakable signs of his genius of Manzoni, and Manzoni, mak- passion for the drama. We have ing allusion to the classical subjects of already seen how he employed the Monti's poetry, takes leave of the last puppet-show which had been given to tragedian of the eighteenth century in him for a toy, and at the age of eight he the graceful couplet
wrote his first comedy-so good that
his father would not believe it was his Salve, O divino, a cui largì natura, Il cor di Dante, e del suo Duca il canto,
unassisted work. At thirteen he comQuesto fia il grido dell'età ventura
posed a prologue to the comedy La Ma l'età che fu tua tel dice in pianto.”] Sorellina di Don Pilone, by Gigli
, in We have seen how great an effort which he acted the part of the prima was required to restore Italian tragedy, donna. It was represented at the but it was a get more difficult task to Jesuit College at Perugia, the scene of give stability to her comedy. The his early education. He pursued his great writers of the fourteenth and studies at Rimini, under the tutelage of fifteenth centuries, Bibbiena, Ariosto, the Dominican fathers, and there he and Machiavelli, had once given it the fell in with a troop of comedians, with shape and form of dramatic composition; whom he rapidly made friends. Every but their improvements were confined night he attended their performances, to their own comedies, and, with very and was in such despair when their rare exceptions, no writers worthy of engagement at Rimini came to a close note continued the task which these that he accepted their invitation to had begun. Thus in the seventeenth accompany them to Chiozza, under century we find the comic drama of pretext of seeing his mother, who had Italy chiefly depending for its reputa- taken
her abode there. tion upon the old commedie dell'arte, of three days in the “Barca dei Comici which still maintained the position they seems to have influenced the whole of had acquired by their classical origin. his after-life. At college he spent the Goldoni conceived the ingenious idea of time he ought to have devoted to his enlisting harlequin and his troop in the studies in reading all the plays he could service of the true drama, availing him- lay hands upon, in every language ; and self of the license they enjoyed, and the perceiving the inferiority of the Italian immunities they claimed from long drama to that of other nations, he deprescriptive right. This was a work of termined that it should be the work time, and required all the skill and of his life to place it on
an equal ingenuity of the greatest of Italian footing with theirs. When dismissed comedians before he could substitute in disgrace from college for a satirical the dialogues and plots of his own dramatic composition, called L'Atellana, invention for the extempore jests and in imitation of the old Roman farces, "Hail Bard divine ! at once to thee were
he nearly fled to Gravina at Rome, given
in the hope that he would take him, as The heart of Dante and his leader's
a second Metastasio, under his protheme; Meet salutation for the age to come,
tection; but not having sufficient funds Thine own, o'er glories past, must weep
for the journey, he was obliged to return and dream."
to his parents at Chiozza. What were
they to do with him ? From his father's ensuing night. The Belisario had been profession he had already turned with supplemented by two “opere buffe," loathing; he thought in a moment of also by Goldoni, a kind of dramatic despair of entering a monastery, but as composition which, although well quickly abandoned the idea. There known in Naples and Rome, had not seemed some chance of success for him yet made its way into Northern Italy. in the legal profession, when, after This novelty added to the popularity of passing his examination at Padua, he the performance, and the comedians became enrolled in the corps of ad- discovered that Goldoni was henceforth vocates at Venice. But his career as indispensable to their dramatic arrangea lawyer came to an abrupt end, and ments. He lived with them on the although it was afterwards resumed most friendly terms, writing parts to with some distinction, it has been suit this person and that, gratifying the entirely eclipsed by his fame as the whims and fancies of the prima donnas, greatest writer of Italian comedy. He and turning their very jealousies and began, however, by writing an opera. quarrels to account; thus feeling his ". The authors of comedy," he tells us, way by degrees to the reform which he
were ill paid, while the Opera offered had long meditated. The first step a prospect of an immediatè fortune.” 1 consisted in composing what he called And so he wrote his “ Amalassunta." a commedia di carattere, to be perHe read it aloud to the director of the formed without masks, by contrast with Opera, who pronounced it to be a com- the commedia a soggetto, the name given plete failure as an opera.
“ You have to plays with skeleton plots filled in at written it,” he said, “on the true prin- the pleasure of the actors, just as ciples of tragedy, but you did not know charades are now performed in private that in the composition of an opera you
theatricals. The Italian comedians were must be guided by rules, which, how- very tenacious of this privilege. They ever destitute of common sense they considered it an insult to their talents may appear, are none the less essential to be given a written part to perform, to the construction of a musical drama.” and much disliked the trouble of learning And then he proceeded to enumerate all it. They struggled with pertinacity for the arbitrary arrangements and restric- their rights in this respect, and Goldoni tions as to the number of ariette, and never obtained a complete victory over their distribution among the actors and them, although he fought hard for it all actresses, which Metastasio had managed his life. In his first commedia of the to observe without marring the poetical reformed kind he entrusted the principal effect of his drama. Made wiser by ex- parts to two actors, late additions to perience, Goldoni consulted a musical their
of whose talents he had composer before he wrote his second a high opinion, and it had an eminent opera. This he called Il Gondolier
After this attempt Goldoni Veneto, and it appeared as an inter- tried another opera, Gustavo Vasa, about mezzo to an opera called Belisario, which he consulted the great Apostolo shining all the more by contrast with Zeno, then in his old age, and living in this indifferent composition. Goldoni retirement at Venice. The tacit disoffered to re-write Belisario ; his offer couragement of so excellent a judge, and was accepted with joy by the troop of the lukewarm reception of Gustavo Vasa comedians, and when the Belisario was by the people, proved to Goldoni that represented at Venice (1714), the effect comedy was the best field for his genius, it produced surpassed their highest for in it he could command the success expectations. “Questa, questa,” was which did not always attend his other the unanimous choice of the audience, dramatic compositions. Il Prodigo was when, according to the custom, the stage another commedia di carattere of the manager appeared before the curtain to same kind as his first experiment; but announce the performance for the the comedians again complained that this * Mem. del Sig. Goldoni, p. 103.
class of drama took the bread out of
It was very
their mouths, and gave them nothing to words the desired impression to the do. To pacify them, he wrote Le Trentadue audience. For this reason Goldoni Disgrazie di Arlecchino, to be played by determined sooner or later to extirpate their best actor, Sacchi.
the masks from Italian comedy. Meanwell received, and the comedians were while he continued indefatigable in profor the time satisfied. It was followed viding for the public amusement, and by another of the same kind. But in in return he was a general favourite. the succeeding one, Il Fallimento, in- His popularity stood him in good stead tended to expose the swindling specula- when, on his appointment to the contions at that time prevalent in Venice, sulship of Genoa, he left Venice (1741) a much larger proportion of the drama to take possession of his new office. was written than in either of the Italy was involved in the war of the preceding commedie di carattere. Thus succession of Austria, and the country little by little, now yielding, and now was full of hostile troops. Goldoni and taking advantage of his concession, his wife fell a prey to the rapacity of Goldini advanced steadily on his way the Austrian soldiers, and were robbed to the reform he contemplated. He of all their goods ; but they obtained devotes a chapter of his Memoirs to the immediate redress when the Comaccount of the origin of what he calls mander-in-Chief discovered that he was the “four masks of Italy,” deriving his the author of the comedies at that time information from a manuscript con- 80 universally popular, and moreover taining a hundred and twenty com- presented him to Lobkowitz, the Commedie d'arte. Four personages were
mander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army, indispensable to the plot of each of who placed in his hands the direction these comedies--Pantaleone, a Venetian of the theatrical entertainments provided merchant; Il Dottore, a jurist, or for the troops. At Pisa the comedians Doctor of Law of Bologna ; Brighella asked his leave to perform the Trentaand Arlecchino, Bergamese servants, one due Disgrazie d'Arlecchino, but this a knave and the other a fool. Il Pan- being a comedy a snggetto, and dependtaleone and Il Dottore represent the ing in great measure upon the talent of parts of the old men, or fathers in the Sacchi, who had played harlequin becomedy; the other two are subordinate. fore, now fell completely flat. Goldoni
, Panteleone, the merchant, has always in a moment of disgust, resolved to worn the Venetian costume, Venice abandon as a hopeless task the reform being the most ancient mercantile city of the comici, who would always insist of Italy. Il Dottore, the lawyer, from upon representing commedie a soggetto
, the famous University of Bologna, is regardless whether their actors were meant to draw the contrast between good or bad.
There was at that time the man of learning and the man of a branch of the Accademia degli Arcadi
He was always disfigured resident at Pisa ; the Arcadians received by a most hideous mask. The servants Goldoni with open arms, and invited are Bergamese, because in Bergamo the him to join their society, assuring him two extremes of knavery and stupidity that his talents might be far more are most conspicuous. Brighella wears worthily employed than in writing a kind of livery, and a brown mask, as comedies. By their advice, he resumed a caricature of the sunburnt skin of the forsaken practice of the law; his the inhabitants of those high mountains. clients steadily increased, he was making Arlecchino, as has been already said, himself a name as an advocate, when, wears a coat of many pieces, to repre- fortunately for the Italian drama, his sent a beggar who patches his torn coat scheme of life was again changed by with
rags and tatters of all colours and tidings from Sacchi that he had returned kinds. Goldoni then laments over the to Venice. This letter from his favourite necessity of the masks, as concealing all actor had the effect of a trumpet upon the play of feature and change of coun- a war-horse. Sacchi begged Goldoni to tenance, which often convey better than write a comedy for him to act; more