[Milton-L] The TeaM: The Tasso Witch Project

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Wed Feb 23 01:05:45 EST 2011

Apparve noto alla matrigna ingiusta
Poi l’aconito, e non rimase occulta
La mandragora in terra, e non s’ascose
Il papaver, che sparge il grave succo.

_____Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato 3.1038-1041

To the wicked stepmother was known
Then the aconite, nor did lay concealed
The mandrake underground, nor hidden
The poppy which strews drowsing juice.

Witches and wizards play a fundamental role in several dramas by
Shakespeare, as well as Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Tasso’s
Gerusalemme Liberata. Not so in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Nor in the
Mondo Creato, where witches are seldom mentioned, and without any
super-power (as they do have in Shakespeare, in Orlando Furioso, and
Gerusalemme Liberata) nor as lovers and emissaries of the devil (as
they are also in PL), but just as gatherers of herbs having
psychotropic properties. As it was in truth.
Tasso’s balanced attitude is absolutely remarkable in the 16th
century, i.e. the Era – not the Middle Ages – when thousands of
“witches” were tortured and killed all over Europe, both in the
Catholic and in the Protestant countries at the same rate.

As we have already seen in other cases, “field sociology” in MC is
always linked to some cultural, literary reference. The editor Prof.
Basile in fact points out that the phrase “matrigna ingiusta” (injust,
wicked stepmother) comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoseis 1.147.

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