Extrapolating from positions stated in the two main traditions of criticism on Torquato Tassos’s Il re Torrismondo—the nineteenth-century opinion of the play as a failed tragedy, and today’s dominant view of it as a display of a “metaphysics of darkness”—this article explores an alternative approach to Il re Torrismondo’s manifest deviances from the linguistic, technical, and ethical norms of the tragic genre. By introducing the Renaissance notion of stylistic frigidity (frigidum / psuchrón, i.e., false bombast, fustian) as an interpretive key, the article questions a presupposition of both these interpretive traditions—the assumption that Tasso’s intention with Il re Torrismondo was to compose a “very serious” tragedy—and suggests that the play’s relation to its predecessors in the tragic genre, rather than being reminiscent of the author’s alleged disability to free himself from his sources, is revelatory of a tactic of derision.


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pp. 199-230
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