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self a matter of considerable difficulty, could hardly be expected to be advantageously developed in the course of twenty-four hours, the legal space of time allotted to a tragic writer by the strict rules of classicism. The artifice to which Francesca has recourse, in order to conceal her unlawful affection towards her brother-in-law, by feigning a contrary feeling, by shunning his presence with horror, affecting an unconquerable hatred against him, on account of the involuntary occision of her youthful brother, is, according to our manner of thinking, irreparably injurious to her character, and loo far below the ideal beauty of that single-minded Francesca of Dante, to whom, under the extenuating circumstances of previous attachment and compulsory marriage, we might have been not entirely unwilling to forgive her trespasses. By this trait of more than feminine simulation Pellico has destroyed the effect which that
“light veil of melancholy Making her face look like a thing of heaven;"* and that
"intense, unutterable sorrow, Which, by the will of God, weighed down her heart,"f had worked upon our souls.
This, and the exaggerations and rodomontades in her lover's love speeches, and Lanciotto's truly marital blindness and Guido's (Francesca's father) indifferently portrayed character, are among the principal faults which strike the reader at the first glance. But there is enough of Pellico's tender, ingenuous and passionate soul diffused throughout the work to compensate for all its defects, and Francesca da Rinini will remain for a long time in possession of the popularity with which it originally met on the stage.
« Eufemio di Messina” was also given to the public previous to the author's arrest at Milan, and was equally considered as the performance of a promising youth. The subject is
* We can scarcely deny ourselves the pleasure of quoting these two lines that sound so sweetly in the original.
+ “Iddio m'ha posto un incredibil peso
D'angoscia sovra il core, e a sopportarlo
"Bella, Come un angel che Dio crea nel più puro Suo trasporto d'amor!"
and the other
as happily chosen though not equally familiar with that of “ Francesca.” But it required perhaps a greater power of imagination than fell to the share of poor Pellico to fill up the blanks that exist in the obscure records of the semi-barbarous epoch to which it belongs. The irruption of the Saracens of Africa into Sicily towards the year 830, under the guidance of a young renegade, whose wounded pride and blighted affections prompted him to plunge bis country into endless calamities, is one of those many events of the middle ages so registered in the volume of history as to exclude every doubt on their authenticity, without however furnishing us with sufficient details to satisfy the curiosity that such extraordinary vicissitudes are well calculated to awaken. Similar subjects cannot be made the theme for poetry or the drama without building on those barren materials such a romance as may easily convey to our minds a plausible representation of the age, and personages in whose fortunes we are expected to take an interest. These are precisely the themes on which such fancies as Shakspeare's or Walter Scott's are wont to perform their greatest wonders. Their imagination loves to expatiate in that empty field and to conjure up a thousand phantoms of light, which soon gain so powerful an ascendency on our imagination, and so perplex our judgment, as to render it difficult for us to distinguish their chimerical personifications from the best defined characters with which real history has acquainted us.
The “ Eufemio” of Pellico is powerfully depicted. He is indeed the rash, raving youth, who may be conceived to have turned an apostate and a traitor, under the influence of disorderly passions. His magic ascendency over his Mussulman followers, the warm devotion of his brother-in-arms Almanzor, give the character of the principal hero a dazzling lustre which captivates our admiration, notwithstanding the enormity of his crimes. He appears before us as one of those fated beings who must surpass all other mortals in guilt if they are prevented from excelling in deeds of virtue.
But Pellico's “ Eufemio” is a single-sided picture. He comes upon the stage like one possessed by a relentless rage; all his tenderest, his most sacred emotions, his love, his patriotism find no utterance from his lips but in a voice of thunder and storm. His whole soul is preyed upon by a raving phrensy; he is driven from madness into madness, as a man urged on by the wrath of heaven to his destruction. That fury never, for a moment, abates. It seems to have a contagious effect on every other actor on the stage, as well as on the poet himself. But woe to him if it does not equally operate upon his audience-if by injudiciously submitting them from the very beginning to such an unremitting and
exhausting excitement, he either wearies their ininds with overexertion, or fatigues them with a distracting monotony !
The tragedies of Pellico that were either written, or rather meditated in the solitude of his dungeon (for he very seldom was indulged in the luxuries of pen and ink), and which were published after bis release, are visibly affected by the prostration and languor of a broken spirit.
The subject of three of them is taken from the earliest period of the Italian republics, the successful struggle of the towns of the Lombard league against the emperors of Germany, and their subsequent discords of Guelphs and Ghibelines. The Italians have lately turned their attention to that, for them, most important epoch, and the national songs of their bards, especially those of Berchet, have awakened a new enthusiasm on an old and long since forgotten theme. But it is a question whether the convulsions of that glorious era can be advantageously brought upon the stage. The victory, which for a few centuries secured to the north of Italy the possession of an almost absolute independence, was the result of the unanimous efforts of a sober, frugal, and hardy population, rather than of the heroic achievements of individuals. The names of those earliest champions of freedom or of their popular leaders have hardly been transmitted to posterity; there is scarcely among so many a single character rising above the level of the obscure multitude. The people, jealous of their equality, seem to have abolished even aristocracy of fame. There was in that epoch no hero, but a nation of heroes. Now, nothing is more difficult in dramatic poetry than the personification of a whole people. Poetry seems to cling fondly to individualism. The chorus, eminently a republican contrivance, was never even in Athens and Rome, with the exception of a few of Æschylus's primitive performances, intended to be the Protagonist. But in modern ages it has been altogether suppressed as an awkward encumbrance, at the best only fit to sing the interludes. Jack Cade or Masaniello, or any other most abject demagogue, can be raised to the dignity of a hero, but the stage can be no throne for the sovereign people. Hence Pellico found himself obliged to throw the people into the back ground, and to bring forward ideal heroes whose interests are supposed to be implicated in the great national contest, which thus becomes only an episode, in the same manner as the novelist, in order to fix the attention of his Scotch readers on a French subject, introduces his own Quintin Durward at the court of Louis XI.
Thus “ Gismonda da Mendrisio," the first and perhaps the best of those tragedies, is a very able exhibition of a lofty female character struggling between the regrets of disregarded love and the powerless rage of vengeful jealousy. The destruction of Milan
by Frederic Barbarossa, to which constant allusion is made, only appears as a remote and not very essential incident.
* Leoniero da Dertona,” a sort of Christian Brutus, sacrificing his own son tv secure the interest of the national cause, bears the date of the battle of Legnano; and, as in “ Gismonda,” the lieutenants or messengers of Frederic are brought in to remind us of that noble despot whom Pellico would have done better, if he had dared, to introduce personally to our acquaintance. In the “ Iginia d'Asti” we perceive some attempts at giving the people voice and action. The madness of popular factions engross nearly the whole of the drama, and the gentle contrast of private affections seems to have been resorted to only for the sake of a happy diversion.
We never heard that any of these tragedies were brought before the notice of an Italian audience, every subject connected with national history being diligently proscribed by the provident cares of the Austro-Italian police. But we are convinced that the common classes in Italy are too ignorant of the annals of their country to be able to understand allusions so imperfectly and obscurely conveyed to their minds, and as the chief interest of those dramas was intended to lay on their historical importance, and their plans are otherwise ill-digested, and the style languid and neglected, they are not likely, even under more favourable political circumstances, to be ranked by the side of that favourite “ Francesca.”
We have also two tragedies by the same author on scriptural subjects: “ Ester d'Engaddi” and “Erodiade.” This last, which an Italian might be tempted to call “ La Saullessa," is, in fact, nothing better than a reproduction of the “ Saul” of Alfieri, under a female attire,--a lofty and originally noble and righteous soul brought to evil by the violence of passion, and distracted by sleepless remorse, by a vague and powerless longing for rehabilitation and atonement. It is perhaps more than any other remarkable for that exaggeration and transport which pervades every page of Pellico's poetical works, strangely contrasting with the meek and resigned temper of the author's mind, such as it exhibits itself in his “ Prigioni,” and which may appear incompatible with the state of weariness and debility resulting from that long hour of torture, unless it is to be considered as the effect of that feverish dreaminess by which a morbid imagination re-acts upon an exhausted frame, and is almost unconsciously raised into a sphere of preternatural imagery over which reason has no control.
“ Tommaso Moro" (Thomas More), is the last of Pellico's tragedies that has reached our hands, though we have heard “Il Colombo” mentioned as a novel performance lately received with
great applause on the stage at Turin. On attempting an English subject of such vital importance, Pellico, as may well be expected, had no greater object in view than to bring forward new arguments in favour of the cause of Catholicism, which he has so warmly espoused. The martyrdom (as he calls it) of the chancellor of Henry VIII. might undoubtedly suggest a few happy thoughts to a supporter of the supremacy and infallibility of the Church of Rome. But the classical style and heroic language in which the tragedy is written would, to say the least, sound strangely to English ears, and it would be difficult for us to recognize our bluff Henry and his ill-fated mistress in the staid pompous personages which the poet has entitled to bear their names. “Tommaso Moro” is, to our judgment, the weakest of Pellico's theatrical productions.
Niccolini commenced his literary career several years earlier than either Pellico or Manzoni. His first tragedies, - Polissena," “Medea,” “Edipo," “ Inoe Temisto,” &c., altogether belong to the old classical school. The romanticideas did not take root in Tuscany so rapidly or so thoroughly as in the north of Italy, where a greater proportion of Gothic and Lombard blood and the climate itself seem to give the people a more northern cast of mind, and where in consequence the German taste might be expected to meet with a more favourable reception. His reputation however was established soon after the fall of Napoleon by his “ Nabucco," an allegorical drama, in which, under the names of the Assyrian king, and Vasti his mother, Amiti his wife, &c., the poet very ably pourtrayed the characters of Napoleon, Letizia Buonaparte, Maria Louisa, Francis of Austria, and all the greatest actors of that fearful drama of which our fathers were witnesses. This dramatic satire obtained a great popularity, as a novelty, in and out of Italy. As a tragedy we need scarcely mention it, not only because the Italian governments have banished it from the stage, but because it could not appear upon it with success, without borrowing its interest from occasional circumstances.
" Niccolini's master-piece is “ Antonio Foscarini," which, among the works of living authors, can alone dispute the palm of popularity against Pellico's “ Francesca da Rimini.” A few years later appeared his “Giovanni da Procida,” the first instance in which an Italian has attempted to give his own version of an event on which the French and other foreign authors had thrown perhaps more odium than could be consistent with justice and truth. After an interval of several years, during which the author was busy at his “ History of the House of Swabia,” he published his “ Rosmonda d'Inghilterra," and is now preparing, what is by his friends considered his noblest performance," Gregorio VII.” « Foscarini” is a Venetian subject, and belongs to that dark