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INTROD. per un lungo poema epico."(e) Beauties, however, it has, and amongst these Signorelli reckons a lively picture of the human passions. But in a period so partially enlightened as the fourteenth century, Mussato's powers in moving, or delineating the passions could not have been generally felt, or enjoyed; for the language in which his tragedies are written, veiled all their beauties from the vulgar eye. (f) Still, therefore, mysteries or moralities, performed either by the clergy, or under their direction, were the only dramatic amusements with which the people were indulged; and these rude exhibitions were generally represented in dumb show, with figures of wood, wax, or hoematites, like the conversion of Saint Paul by Girolamo Genga ; (g) or by men dressed grotesquely characteristic. Struck with the absurdity of this practice, Lorenzo de' Medici secretly meditated a reform in the Italian

( Tiraboschi having observed, that the tragedies of Mussato are written on the model of Seneca, significantly adds, "ma un cattivo originale non potea fare che una più cattiva copia."

(f) It is observed by the abbè de Sade, that the reason which determined Dante and Petrarca" à composer en langue vulgaire," was the disuse of Latin in conversation; "n'etoit plus," says he, "entendue que des sçavans, et ils vouloient être entendus de tout le monde." tom. i. p. 74.

(g) Vasari relates, that while Genga resided in Valli, a village near Urbino," per non "star in ozio, fece di matita una conversione di S. Paolo con figure, è cavalli assai ben grandi, e con bellissime attitudini." tom. v. p. 223. Il Cecca, a famous Florentine engineer, who died in 1499, excelled in designing such representations. Nor has the practice yet totally ceased in Italy: several instances met my own observation. The PRESEPE, which is still exhibited at Naples, may be denominated a mute mystery. It is a representation of the birth of our Saviour with all the concomitant circumstances.


drama, while he sanctioned, from policy, the representations INTROD which he despised.(b) A favourable opportunity of carrying his plan into execution occurring, he availed himself of it. On the marriage (1488) of his daughter Maddalena to Francesco Cibo, nephew of Innocent VIII. instead of the exhibitions usual, in those times, upon such occasions, he had a rappresentazione or sacred drama, written by himself, entitled San Giovanni e San Paolo, performed by his own children, in his house at Florence. The heroes of this piece are two eunuchs, attendant on the daughter of Constantine the great, who are put to death by Julian the apostate, for their adherence to the christian religion. This little drama, calculated as well to edify as to amuse, is sprinkled with moral and political precepts. But Lorenzo did not stop here. He waged war with the saints, angels and devils, who had long infested the Italian stage. Amongst the poems published at the close of the present work," says his elegant biographer, “ will be found an attempt to substitute the deities of Greece and Rome, for the saints and martyrs of the christian church; (i) but the



(b) I allude to the public spectacle exhibited in the church of Spirito Santo in Florence, during the visit of Galeazzo Sforza, duke of Milan, in 1471. See Hift. Fior. p. 276. ed. 1550.

(i) See Amori di Venere, e Marte, an unfinished poem, partaking of the nature of a masque, subjoined to the second volume of Mr. Roscoe's Life of Lorenzo de Medici. The chief object of Lorenzo in this little piece, seems to be the correction of a crime still too prevalent in Italy-infidelity to the marriage-bed. Apollo, on detecting Mars and Venus in amorous dalliance, exclaims,


INTROD. jealous temper of the national religion seems, for a time, to have restrained the progress, which might otherwise have been expected in this department of letters." Some years after the death of Lorenzo, continues our author, "a more decided effort was made by Bernardo Accolti, in his drama of Virginia, founded on one of the novels of Boccaccio."(k) Prefixed

Ingiuria è grande al letto romper fede;

Non sia chi pecchi, e di chi' I sapra mai?

Che 'l sol, le stelle, el ciel, la luna il vede.

But the amiable author defeats, in a great degree, his own purpose by the manner in which he makes his heroine prepare for the reception of her lover, and by the lascivious warmth with which her invitation glows.

Marte, se oscure ancor ti paron l'ore,

Vienne al meo dolce ospizio, ch' io t' aspetto;

Vulcan non v'è che ci disturbi amore.

Vien, ch' io t' invito...

Non indugiar, ch' el tempo passa, e vola,

Coperto m' ho di fior vermigli il petto.

(4) Accolti is honourably noticed by Ariosto, Furios. cont. xlvi. st. 10. and by Castiglione, Corteg. p. 10. Lysn. 1553. The drama to which Mr. Roscoe attributes so happy an effect, was first represented in Sienna, at the marriage of Antonio Spannocchi. The title of this piece is a singular monument of paternal affection;—Virginia was the name of a beloved daughter of the author! Both Riccoboni and Baretti have erroneously registered, in their respective catalogues, the edition of this drama, printed in Venice, 1553, as the first. Hist. du theat. Ital. tom. i. p. 185. Ital. lib. p. 115. It was first printed in Florence, 1518, with "capitoli e strambocti" of the author, subjoined. As this edition is very rare, I fhall give the full title: Comedia del preclarissimo messer Bernardo Accolti Aretino: scriptore apostolico et abbreviatore: recitata nelle noze del magnifico Antonio Spannocchi: nella inclyta cipta di Siena. At the end we read: Finita la comedia: et capitoli: et strambocti di messer Bernardo Accolti Aretino. Stampata in Firenze. anno MD XVIII. Riccoboni falls into another error in regard to this


fixed to the first edition of this drama, the argument is given INTROD in the following


Virginia amando, el re guarisce, e chiede
Di Salerno el gran principe in marito,
Qual costrecto a sposarla, e poi partito
Per mai tornar fin lei viva si vede.
Cercha Virginia scrivendo mercede,
Ma el principe da molta ira assalito,
Li domanda, sa lei vuol sia redito,
Dua condition, qual impossibil crede.
Però Virginia sola, e travestita,

Partendo ogni impossibil conditione
Adempie al fin con prudentia infinita.
Onde el principe pien d'ammiratione
Lei di favore, e grazia rivestita

Sposa di nuovo con molta affetione.

drama: he says it is in prose. Had he inspected the work, he would have found that it is in ettava rima. The stanza with which the second act is opened, shall serve as a specimen.

Dura profana abhorrita fortuna :

mai contenta star ferma in uno stato
tu sempre giri con rota importuna
el basso elevi, et lalto hai ruinato.
Et lhuom che justo senza causa alchuna
persegui: & quel che injusto fai beato
ne morte o prego in te pietate arreca
pero chiamata sei fallace et cieca.



However imperfect this piece may be, it probably assisted in promoting a revolution in the state of the Italian drama, which led to its melioration.

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