Torquato Tasso

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Torquato Tasso The life of Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) can at best be called unfortunate. Born in Sorrento on the eleventh of March to Bernardo Tasso, himself a poet of some esteem and a member of the very minor nobility, Torquato was able to benefit from the education that was available to those of his station. He studied at the court of Duke Guibaldo II delle Rovere of Urbino until 1560, when, at his father's request, he left to study law and philosophy at the University of Padua. It was during this time that Torquato Tasso (Tasso) wrote his first major romantic poem “Rinaldo”, which dealt with the stories of Charlemagne. Tasso's father, upon reading this manuscript relieved Tasso of his legal and philosophical studies so that he might further explore and develop his poetic talents. Thus, Tasso enrolled at the University of Bologna in 1563, and after three years of study, became a courtier of Cardinal Luigi d’Este at Ferrara, under whose patronage, Tasso thrived in what could probably be called the happiest years of his life. Later, he entered into the service of the Cardinal's brother, Alfonso II, duke of Ferrara. It was at this time that Tasso produced his “L'Aminta” and his masterwork about the First Crusade, La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), which was completed between 1559 and 1575. However, it was through this work that Tasso's life and work would no longer be his to control. While in the process of completing his masterpiece, Tasso sent out portions to his friends and other critics for their evaluations and suggestions. The responses that he received were altogether unfavorable and the work was very harshly criticized, even to the point that some of the clergy dubbed Tasso a heretic for writing it. Tasso, sensitive to this criticism, fell into an unhealthy state of depression and melancholy and was prone to fits of irritability and instability. His condition was made worse by the knowledge that some of the critics who had criticized his work began to publish pieces of it publicly. His condition at one point reached such a state that one night in 1577 Tasso stabbed one of his servants who he believed to be spying on him. After this incident, Tasso was jailed but later escaped and fled to his sister's house in Sorrento.

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