15th and 16th Centuries (Quattrocento and Cinquecento)

The work of the humanists

Petrarch’s appreciation of classical Latin points to the age of humanism and renaissance. The new attitude towards life, the rebirth (»rinascita«) of antiquity, the detachment from the medieval worldview, all of this had its origins in Italy. The patronage of the rich city-states offered poets and scholars good job opportunities. The first important center of Italian Renaissance literature was Florence, while Naples and Ferrara appeared as centers of intellectual life in the 15th century, and in the 16th century, among others. Rome, Venice and Urbino.

Literature first looked for its stylistic model in the classical Latin authors, v. a. with Cicero , research was carried out on ancient manuscripts and Latin works were translated into Italian (L. Bruni, G. F. Poggio Bracciolini, F. Filelfo); for the first time one turned to the study of Greek authors, since with the fall of Byzantium (1453) Greek manuscripts came to Italy. L. Valla, the real founder of modern textual criticism, translated, among other things. Homer and Herodotus. For the study of antiquity, learned societies (academies) were founded, in Rome by J. Pomponius Laetus, in Naples by A. Panormita and G. Pontano. The Florentine Neo-Platonists M. Ficino, C. Landino and G. Pico della Mirandola strived for the reconciliation of Platonic philosophy and Christian doctrine of salvation. Latin was used in memoir literature, in historical works (L. Bruni, L. Valla), v. a. but in lyric. For more articles about Italy and Europe, please follow Extrareference.

Renaissance Lyric and Epic Poetry

Around the middle of the 15th century, the humanists rediscovered the value and dignity of the Italian vernacular (Volgare). L. Bruni wrote a life of Dante (1436); at the same time attempts were made to imitate ancient poetry in the Italian language, including in the reproduction of ancient meters. This was the program of L. B. Alberti’s poetry contest in Florence in 1441. LB Alberti, who also proclaimed the humanistic ideal of upbringing in treatises written in Italian (“Della famiglia”, written 1437–41), thus became the founder of humanism in Italian (Umanesimo volgare) while writing his learned works in Latin.

Latin and Italian poetry permeated each other from the last third of the 15th century. The great poets used both languages, neo-Latin works were interspersed with motifs from Italian poetry, while the Italian works adopted ancient ideas and, if possible, ancient forms. In Florence, Lorenzo de ‘Medici, called il Magnifico, called for the renewal of Italian poetry. A prominent figure at his court was A. Poliziano, who, in addition to Latin elegies, wrote Italian ballads and stanzas as well as the first secular drama in Italian literature, “Favola di Orfeo” (probably composed in 1478, printed in 1494). Epic poetry also participated in the literary flowering: I. Sannazaro founded the European shepherd poetry with his Italian novel »Arcadia« (1502, fully 1504). The northern Italian Karlsepik, inherited from France, was completely naturalized in Florence by adopting comical features and local legends in the epic about the giant Morgante (“Il Morgante”, partial version 1478, final version 1483 under the title “Il Morgante maggiore”) by L. Pulci. M. M. Boiardo, in the service of the Estonians in Ferrara,drewthe material for his romantic epic »Orlando innamorato« (written 1476–94)from the same range of topics, but ingeniously adapted the medieval model to the new attitude towards life.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Italian achieved full equality with Latin. The linguistic and stylistic patterns (as prescribed by P. Bembo in “Prose della volgar lingua” 1525) were the language of F. Petrarch for the poetry and the Boccaccio for the prose. The poetics of G. G. Trissino, Antonio S. Minturno (* 1500 [?], † 1574) and L. Castelvetro, based on the rules of Aristotle, defined the characteristics and limits of the types of poetry. In the poetry, after the model of the Bembos, the platonic poetry in the style of Petrarch prevailed (L. Ariosto, T. Tasso , G. Della Casa, V. Gambara , G. Stampa , Michelangelo, V. Colonna et al). The poets L. Tansillo and Angelo di Costanzo (* around 1507, † 1591), who workedin Naples around the middle of the century, were more original and their works already point to the mannerism of the Baroque. F. Berni parodied Petrarkism. The neo-Latin poets and epics (G. Fracastoro, M. G. Vida and others) also had an impact on contemporary European literature.

The epic reached its final heyday in the Italian Renaissance: L. Ariosto continued MM Boiardo with the »Orlando furioso« (1516). The chivalrous fantasy world of the Roland sepes is no less typical of the time. G. G. Trissino (“La Italia liberata da Gothi”, 1547/48) wrote the first Italian epic strictly built according to the rules of ancient poetics, which is poetically far surpassed by the Christian epic T. Tassos, “La Gerusalemme liberata” (1581 first authorized print). Thanks to his religious content, T. Tassos differedCrusade epic on a crucial point from the epics of antiquity, which are aesthetically respected as models; The Christian modern age could feel superior to the “pagan” antiquity, at least in questions of faith, and in this way begin to emancipate itself from its long overpowering model.

Renaissance prose

The prose story followed on from G. Boccaccio: This is how M. Bandello, G. Straparola and A. Firenzuola portrayed contemporary society in a realistic manner. N. Machiavelli emerged as a historian, who wrote the first theoretical treatise on the essence of politics out of a humanistic spirit (»Il principe«, printed in 1532). His “Istorie fiorentine” (printed 1531) was surpassed by the greater political insight of the historical works (“Storia d’Italia”, printed 1561–64) of his compatriot F. Guicciardini. P. Aretino, feared as a critic, transferred the humanistic genre of the art letter into Italian literature. His »Lettere« (1537–57) offer a cross-section of the intellectual and political life of the time. In the genre of the autobiography, the »Vita« (written 1558–66) by the goldsmith B. Cellini, translated by Goethe in 1803, stood out. At the end of the century, the Accademia della Crusca (founded in 1582) tried to set fixed standards for the language.

Renaissance drama

In terms of drama, Italian literature also became a leader in Europe: the first comedy to be written according to Aristotelian rules was written by L. Ariosto (“La cassaria”, first performed in 1508). A masterpiece of realistic rendering of contemporary Italian life is the comedy “Mandragola” (written in 1518, printed in 1524) by Machiavelli. A. Beolco, called il Ruzzante, and Andrea Calmo (* 1510 [?], † 1571) laid the groundwork for the impromptu play of professional actors, the Commedia dell’Arte, which appeared around the middle of the century by using dialects with its typical personal inventory, which was widespread throughout Europe well into the 18th century and has decisively influenced the development of European theater up to the present day. The first tragedy that conformed to the rules of classical poetics was composed by G. Trissino (»Sophonisbe«, 1524). Towards the end of the century, the dialogical eclogue (based on Virgil ) and the fantasy arcadia I. Sannazaros developed into a new genre, unknown to antiquity, the shepherd’s piece. After the first attempts by G. Giraldi et al. In the first half of the century, T. Tasso and G. B. Guarini created the shepherd’s play “Aminta” (first performance in 1573) with the game “Il pastor fido” (1590) masterpieces that soon found imitators all over Europe.

15th and 16th Centuries (Quattrocento and Cinquecento)