The magical fruit featured in Giambattista Basile’s baroque fairy tale “The Three Citrons” transforms into the protagonist’s longed-for white-and-red wife. Basile’s unusual choice of citron as the object of this love metamorphosis belongs to the tradition of citrus representation in early modern Italy, in particular, Giovanni Pontano’s long Latin poem De Hortis Hesperidum (1501). This text identifies citrus with the mythical golden apples of the Garden of the Hesperides and with Venus’s own fruit. Through the exaltation of citrus, Pontano and Basile glorify the region where they made their home; furthermore, the parallels between the metamorphosis in “The Three Citrons” and the one in Pontano’s Latin poem give luster to the language and the theme of Basile’s Neapolitan-dialect fairy tale.


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pp. 228-244
Launched on MUSE
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