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Reviewed by:
  • King Torrismondo
  • Hilary Lieberman
King Torrismondoby Torquato Tasso. Dual Language Edition. Translation, Introductory Essays, and Notes by Maria Pastore Passaro. New York: Fordham University Press, 1997, pp. vii + 332.

Professor Maria Passaro’s dual language edition of Torquato Tasso’s King Torrismondois immensely readable and likable. It encompasses informative, scholarly essays and a lyrical translation which brings out the intensity of Tasso’s words and resounds with the echoes of his influences. She has, without a doubt, achieved her goals of ‘accuracy, clarity, and readability’ (64), and has opened up to English readers a text which sheds much light on Tasso and his entire oeuvre.No longer will non Italian readers have to rely on brief plot summaries in critical essays—which inevitably sound ridiculous, considering the outrageous storyline of the plot!—to form an educated opinion of this text and of Tasso’s contribution to Italian tragedy in general.

On a most basic level, the type is inviting and the cover aesthetically welcoming and as well as intriguing. While unfortunately the text does not identify the image on its cover, the Ripa-like design carries a certain irony to anyone who reads the tragedy. Bona Fortuna,it reads; and yet Bona Fortuna,within this text, there is not. In addition, the facing pages of the translation facilitate a clear reading for those comfortable in both Italian and English who can shuttle between the two. Particularly helpful is Passaro’s periodic clarification of the Italian text, as when she inserts [Rosmonda] in l. 1485 of the translation to clarify the subject of the Italian “E potrebbe costed graver la fronte . . . .”

Also useful are the parenthetical explanations of the Chorus’ themes at the end of each act, taken, as Passaro explains, from Marziano Guglielminetti’s edition (316), but not included in the Italian edition from which she works [ Il re Torrismondoin Torquato Tasso, Opere IIa cura di Bruno Maier (Milan: Rizzoli, 1964), 723–871]. Not only do these explanations point out the Chorus’ at times ironic link to the text, (as in Act IV, about the triumph of human valor over nature just as the failure of humans to overcome fortunahas been revealed) but in clarifying the Chorus’ meaning, the explanations also allow readers to focus better on the emotional melody of the Chorus’ words. Throughout the text, as she explains before the text, to ensure readability, Passaro translates the ‘endecasillabi’ and ‘settenari’ of the original tragedy into English prose instead of iambic pentameters; in doing so, she smartly creates an enjoyable, lyrical text which does not lose the resonance of Tasso’s voice or that of his predecessors.

Anthony Oldcorn’s Introduction to the text is both colloquial and scholarly; informative and accurate, it reveals a tongue-in cheek attitude which shows his enjoyment of the text and serves as a fitting welcome to new readers of this tragedy. Oldcorn’s essay is almost an exact reprint of his earlier, “Torquato Tasso, Poet on the Edge: The Case of Il Re Torrismondo” [in The Image of the Baroque,eds. Aldo Scaglione and Gianni Eugenio Viola. (New York: Peter Lang, 1995), 21–37]. (It was in reading the earlier version that I [End Page 198]discovered the origin of the erroneously misplaced footnote (#2) on page 22 of this text; I believe it was to be omitted from the earlier essay but overlooked in editing. Another typo appears on page 8: “the Este family’s increasingly gingerly protection” should read “increasingly gingerprotection.”) While including a personal and literary history of Tasso, background information on the age in which he lived, an analysis of the tragedy linking it to Tasso’s other works, those who influenced him and those he influenced, Oldcorn’s essay speaksto us (perhaps because it stems from a lecture) in a jovial tone—see his line, “Like you and me, only more so, the characters are insane,” p. 24—inviting us to like Tasso as much as he seems to.

Of Passaro’s own various introductory and critical essays on Tasso, most useful to readers is “ King Torrismondo,A Renaissance Tragedy,” which discusses the roots of Tasso’s tragedy...

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pp. 198-200
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