Birthplace: Vicenza, Italy
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Scholar, Playwright
Executive summary: Sofonisba
Italian poet and scholar, born of a patrician family at Vicenza in 1478. He had the advantages of a good humanistic training, studying Greek under the noted Demetrius Chalcondylas at Milan and philosophy under Nicolò Leoniceno at Ferrara. His culture recommended him to the humanist Pope Leo X, who in 1515 sent him to Germany as his nuncio; later on Pope Clement VII showed him special favor, and employed him as ambassador. In 1532 the Emperor Charles V made him a count palatine. In spite of the banishment from Vicenza pronounced upon him in 1509 because his family had favored the plans of Maximilian, he was held in honour throughout Italy. Wherever he abode his home was a center for gatherings of scholars, littérateurs, and the most cultured men of the time. His family life was far from happy, apparently through little fault of his own. In the history of modern European literature Trissino occupies a prominent place because of his tragedy Sofonisba (1515), the first tragedy in Italian to show deference to the classic rules. Constantly a partisan of Aristotelean regularity, he disapproved of the genial freedom of the chivalrous epic as written by Ludovico Ariosto. In his own composition the Italia liberata dai Goti (1547-48), dealing with the campaigns of Belisarius in Italy, he sought to show that it was possible to write in the vernacular an epic in accordance with the classic precepts. The result is a cold and colorless composition.
He was one of the many who engaged in the discussion as to what is true literary Italian. Following the lead of Dante, he espoused in his Castellano (1529) the indefensible theory that the language is a courtly one made up of contributions from the refined centres in Italy, instead of being, as it is, fundamentally of Tuscan origin. For clearness he proposed that in writing Italian certain new characters (derived from the Greek alphabet) be adopted to show the difference between open and close "e" and "o" and voiced and voiceless "s" and "z." This wise proposition was ignored. I Simillimi (1548) which is a version of the Menaechmi of Plautus, I Ritratti (1524) which is a composite portrait of feminine beauty, and the Poetica, which contains his summing up of the Aristotelean principles of literary composition, made up the rest of his important writings. Trissino died in Rome in 1550. An edition of his collected works was published by Maffei at Verona in 1729.
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