[Milton-L] Tasso, Shakespeare, Milton

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Thu Jun 2 05:08:10 EDT 2011

An unplanned “issue,” being suggested by the reading of Shakespeare’s
Midsummer Night’s Dream. Its relationship to Tasso’s Mondo Creato
(written in 1592; he died in 1595) looks quite interesting, first of
all, because the respective dates almost coincides (A M. N.’s Dream
supposedly dating back to the years between 1594 and 1597).
Two works which are so different, and so close to each other,
nonetheless. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a humorous, joyful play
written for a wedding feast; Il Mondo Creato is a “holy poem” trying
to show the Truth of the Catholic dogmas. But, all in all, they
present a worldview with strikingly similar features. The core of both
being the very idea of THEATER, which is the image Tasso more often
employs to describe society, the world, the universe.
On stage in this theater – according to both works – Complexity and
Illusion enter as the main characters. Things and behaviors are not as
they appear at first glance, they slip our comprehension. Everything,
however, is co-present in the Now, where each subject matter interacts
with the others, being reworked in the process, and each Time is
included “at the same time:” Greek mythology, Celtic imagery, Biblical
episodes, Christian teachings, present-day questions and personages,
deep philosophy and light-hearted puns, etc., as well as
metaliterature embodied in literature itself.
Both in Tasso’s poem and in Shakespeare’s play, the top power, the
real one, if not the only one, belongs to Nature. (As to this aspect
in Il Mondo Creato, see previous posts.) Nature that, with a
surprisingly up-to-date approach, both acts as the mighty ruler of
universe, and reveals a very frail balance on this Earth, depending on
many causes, Man plus the defective laws of matter plus further,
hidden forces.
I think that Tasso would appreciate Titania’s words in II 1.81 ff. In
fact, a cosmic solution is found just because “now thou and I are new
in amity” (Oberon in IV 1.87).

As for Milton, who happened to know both works, I would say that he
basically mixed their features: a Bible-based long poem, structured
and performed as a drama. Somehow wavering between the Bard’s witty
dialogues and the Italian poet’s inner tragedy. Shakespeare too,
however, seems to convey a sense of universal “crash” even below his
jokes in A M. N.’s Dream.
All three of them, finally, used their own languages and standard
meters in a very personal, lively way; though Tasso e Milton, much
more than Shakespeare who kept the audicences in his mind, liked
unusual wordings and lenghty sentences which force – always forced? –
their readers to “restart” in order to grasp the meaning of the text.

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