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Title: A History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance - With special reference to the influence of Italy in the - formation and development of modern classicism
Author: Spingarn, Joel Elias, 1875-1939
Language: English
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    *Columbia University*


    |*Columbia University*                                          |
    |                                                               |
    |STUDIES IN LITERATURE                                          |
    |                                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |=A HISTORY OF LITERARY CRITICISM IN                            |
    | THE RENAISSANCE=: With Special Reference                      |
    | to the Influence of Italy in the Formation and                |
    | Development of Modern Classicism. By JOEL                     |
    | ELIAS SPINGARN.                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |_In Press:_                                                    |
    |                                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |=ROMANCES OF ROGUERY=: An Episode in the                       |
    | Development of the Modern Novel, Part I.                      |
    | The Picaresque Novel in Spain. By FRANK                       |
    | WADLEIGH CHANDLER.                                            |
    |                                                               |
    |=SPANISH LITERATURE IN ENGLAND UNDER                           |
    | THE TUDORS=. By JOHN GARRETT                                  |
    | UNDERHILL.                                                    |
    |                                                               |
    |                                                               |
    |       *       *       *       *       *                       |
    |                                                               |
    |***_Other numbers of this series will be issued from           |
    |time to time, containing the results of literary research,     |
    |or criticism by the students or officers of                    |
    |Columbia University, or others associated with them            |
    |in study, under the authorization of the Department            |
    |of Literature_, GEORGE EDWARD WOODBERRY _and_                  |
    |BRANDER MATTHEWS, _Professors_.                                |









    *New York*


    _All rights reserved_

    _COPYRIGHT_, 1899,


    *Norwood Press*
    J. S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
    Norwood Mass. U.S.A.


THIS essay undertakes to treat the history of literary criticism in the
Renaissance. The three sections into which the essay is divided are
devoted, respectively, to Italian criticism from Dante to Tasso, to
French criticism from Du Bellay to Boileau, and to English criticism
from Ascham to Milton; but the critical activity of the sixteenth
century has been the main theme, and the earlier or later literature has
received treatment only in so far as it serves to explain the causes or
consequences of the critical development of this central period. It was
at this epoch that modern criticism began, and that the ancient ideals
of art seemed once more to sway the minds of men; so that the history of
sixteenth-century criticism must of necessity include a study of the
beginnings of critical activity in modern Europe and of the gradual
introduction of the Aristotelian canons into modern literature.

This study has been made subservient, more particularly, to two specific
purposes. While the critical activity of the period is important and
even interesting in itself, it has been here studied primarily for the
purpose of tracing the origin and causes of the classic spirit in
modern letters and of discovering the sources of the rules and theories
embodied in the neo-classic literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. How did the classic spirit arise? Whence did it come, and how
did it develop? What was the origin of the principles and precepts of
neo-classicism? These are some of the questions I have attempted to
answer in this essay; and, in answering them, I have tried to remember
that this is a history, not of critical literature, but of literary
criticism. For this reason I have given to individual books and authors
less prominence than some of them perhaps deserved, and have confined
myself almost exclusively to the origin of principles, theories, and
rules, and to the general temper of classicism. For a similar reason I
have been obliged to say little or nothing of the methods and results of
applied, or concrete, criticism.

This, then, has been the main design of the essay; but furthermore, as
is indicated in the title, I have attempted to point out the part played
by Italy in the growth of this neo-classic spirit and in the formulation
of these neo-classic principles. The influence of the Italian
Renaissance in the development of modern science, philosophy, art, and
creative literature has been for a long time the subject of much study.
It has been my more modest task to trace the indebtedness of the modern
world to Italy in the domain of literary criticism; and I trust that I
have shown the Renaissance influence to be as great in this as in the
other realms of study. The birth of modern criticism was due to the
critical activity of Italian humanism; and it is in sixteenth-century
Italy that we shall find, more or less matured, the general spirit and
even the specific principles of French classicism. The second half of
the design, then, is the history of the Italian influence in literary
criticism; and with Milton, the last of the humanists in England, the
essay naturally closes. But we shall find, I think, that the influence
of the Italian Renaissance in the domain of literary criticism was not
even then all decayed, and that Lessing and Shelley, to mention no
others, were the legitimate inheritors of the Italian tradition.

This essay was submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy, Columbia
University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy. The bibliography at the end of the essay indicates
sufficiently my obligations to preceding writers. It has been prepared
chiefly for the purpose of facilitating reference to works cited in the
text and in the foot-notes, and should be consulted for the full titles
of books therein mentioned; it makes no pretence of being a complete
bibliography of the subject. It will be seen that the history of Italian
criticism in the sixteenth century has received scarcely any attention
from modern scholars. In regard to Aristotle's _Poetics_, I have used
the text, and in general followed the interpretation, given in Professor
S. H. Butcher's _Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art_, a noble
monument of scholarship vivified by literary feeling. I desire also to
express my obligations to Professor Butcher for an abstract of
Zabarella, to Mr. P. O. Skinner of Harvard for an analysis of Capriano,
to my friend, Mr. F. W. Chandler, for summaries of several early English
rhetorical treatises, and to Professor Cavalier Speranza for a few
corrections; also to my friends, Mr. J. G. Underhill, Mr. Lewis
Einstein, and Mr. H. A. Uterhart, and to my brother, Mr. A. B. Spingarn,
for incidental assistance of some importance.

But, above all, I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to Professor
George E. Woodberry. This book is the fruit of his instruction; and in
writing it, also, I have had recourse to him for assistance and
criticism. Without the aid so kindly accorded by him, the book could
hardly have been written, and certainly would never have assumed its
present form. But my obligations to him are not limited to the subject
or contents of the present essay. Through a period of five years the
inspiration derived from his instruction and encouragement has been so
great as to preclude the possibility of its expression in a preface.
_Quare habe tibi quidquid hoc libelli._

     March, 1899.





        i. Mediæval Conceptions of Poetry.
       ii. The Moral Justification of Poetry.
      iii. The Final Justification of Poetry.

        i. Poetry as a Form of Scholastic Philosophy.
       ii. Poetry as an Imitation of Life.
      iii. The Function of Poetry.

    III. THE THEORY OF THE DRAMA                                      60
        i. The Subject of Tragedy.
       ii. The Function of Tragedy.
      iii. The Characters of Tragedy.
       iv. The Dramatic Unities.
        v. Comedy.

    IV. THE THEORY OF EPIC POETRY                                    107
        i. The Theory of the Epic Poem.
       ii. Epic and Romance.

        i. Humanism.
       ii. Aristotelianism.
      iii. Rationalism.

    VI. ROMANTIC ELEMENTS IN ITALIAN CRITICISM                       155
        i. The Ancient Romantic Element.
       ii. Mediæval Elements.
      iii. Modern Elements.



    CRITICISM IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY                               171
        i. Character.
       ii. Development.

        i. The Poetic Art.
       ii. The Drama.
      iii. Heroic Poetry.

    CRITICISM DURING THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY                           214
        i. Classical Elements.
       ii. Romantic Elements.

    SEVENTEENTH CENTURY                                              232
        i. The Romantic Revolt.
       ii. The Reaction against the Pléiade.
      iii. The Second Influx of Italian Ideas.
       iv. The Influence of Rationalistic Philosophy.



    ASCHAM TO MILTON                                                 253


        i. Tragedy.
       ii. Comedy.
      iii. The Dramatic Unities.
       iv. Epic Poetry.

        i. Introductory: Romantic Elements.
       ii. Classical Metres.
      iii. Other Evidences of Classicism.

    APPENDICES                                                       312
        A. Chronological Table of the Chief Critical
             Works of the Sixteenth Century.
        B. Salviati's Account of the Commentators on
             Aristotle's _Poetics_.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                     317

    INDEX                                                            325






THE first problem of Renaissance criticism was the justification of
imaginative literature. The existence and continuity of the æsthetic
consciousness, and perhaps, in a less degree, of the critical faculty,
throughout the Middle Ages, can hardly be denied; yet distrust of
literature was keenest among the very class of men in whom the critical
faculty might be presupposed, and it was as the handmaid of philosophy,
and most of all as the vassal of theology, that poetry was chiefly
valued. In other words, the criteria by which imaginative literature was
judged during the Middle Ages were not literary criteria. Poetry was
disregarded or contemned, or was valued if at all for virtues that least
belong to it. The Renaissance was thus confronted with the necessity of
justifying its appreciation of the vast body of literature which the
Revival of Learning had recovered for the modern world; and the function
of Renaissance criticism was to reëstablish the æsthetic foundations of
literature, to reaffirm the eternal lesson of Hellenic culture, and to
restore once and for all the element of beauty to its rightful place in
human life and in the world of art.

I. _Mediæval Conceptions of Poetry_

The mediæval distrust of literature was the result of several
coöperating causes. Popular literature had fallen into decay, and in its
contemporary form was beneath serious consideration. Classical
literature was unfortunately pagan, and was moreover but imperfectly
known. The mediæval Church from its earliest stages had regarded pagan
culture with suspicion, and had come to look upon the development of
popular literature as antagonistic to its own supremacy. But beyond
this, the distrust of literature went deeper, and was grounded upon
certain theoretical and fundamental objections to all the works of the

These theoretical objections were in nowise new to the Middle Ages. They
had been stated in antiquity with much more directness and philosophical
efficacy than was possible in the mediæval period. Plato had tried
imaginative literature by the criteria of reality and morality, both of
which are unæsthetic criteria, although fundamentally applicable to
poetry. In respect to reality, he had shown that poetry is three removes
from the truth, being but the imitation, by the artist, of the
imitation, in life, of an idea in the mind of God. In respect to
morality, he had discovered in Homer, the greatest of poets, deviations
from truth, blasphemy against the gods, and obscenity of various sorts.
Furthermore, he had found that creative literature excites the emotions
more than does actual life, and stirs up ignoble passions which were
better restrained.

These ideas ran throughout the Middle Ages, and indeed persisted even
beyond the Renaissance. Poetry was judged by these same criteria, but it
was natural that mediæval writers should substitute more practical
reasons for the metaphysical arguments of Plato. According to the
criterion of reality, it was urged that poetry in its very essence is
untrue, that at bottom it is fiction, and therefore false. Thus
Tertullian said that "the Author of truth hates all the false; He
regards as adultery all that is unreal.... He never will approve
pretended loves, and wraths, and groans, and tears;"[1] and he affirmed
that in place of these pagan works there was in the Bible and the
Fathers, a vast body of Christian literature and that this is "not
fabulous, but true, not tricks of art, but plain realities."[2]
According to the criterion of morality, it was urged that as few works
of the imagination were entirely free from obscenity and blasphemy, such
blemishes are inseparable from the poetic art; and accordingly, Isidore
of Seville says that a Christian is forbidden to read the figments of
the poets, "quia per oblectamenta inanium fabularum mentem excitant ad
incentiva libidinum."[3]

The third, or psychological objection, made by Plato, was similarly
emphasized. Thus Tertullian pointed out that while God has enjoined us
to deal calmly and gently and quietly with the Holy Spirit, literature,
and especially dramatic literature, leads to spiritual agitation.[4]
This point seemed to the mediæval mind fundamental, for in real beauty,
as Thomas Aquinas insisted, desire is quieted.[5] Furthermore, it was
shown that the only body of literary work worthy of serious study dealt
with pagan divinities and with religious practices which were in direct
antagonism to Christianity. Other objections, also, were incidentally
alluded to by mediæval writers. For example, it was said, the supreme
question in all matters of life is the question of conduct, and it was
not apparent in what manner poetry conduces to action. Poetry has no
practical use; it rather enervates men than urges them to the call of
duty; and above all, there are more profitable occupations in which the
righteous man may be engaged.

These objections to literature are not characteristically mediæval. They
have sprung up in every period of the world's history, and especially
recur in all ages in which ascetic or theological conceptions of life
are dominant. They were stock questions of the Greek schools, and there
are extant treatises by Maximus of Tyre and others on the problem
whether or not Plato was justified in expelling Homer from his ideal
commonwealth. The same objections prevailed beyond the Renaissance; and
they were urged in Italy by Savonarola, in Germany by Cornelius
Agrippa, in England by Gosson and Prynne, and in France by Bossuet and
other ecclesiastics.

II. _The Moral Justification of Poetry_

The allegorical method of interpreting literature was the result of the
mediæval attempt to answer the objections just stated. This method owed
its origin to the mode of interpreting the popular mythology first
employed by the Sophists and more thoroughly by the later Stoics. Such
heroes as Hercules and Theseus, instead of being mere brute conquerors
of monsters and giants, were regarded by the Stoic philosophers as
symbols of the early sages who had combated the vices and passions of
mankind, and they became in the course of time types of pagan saints.
The same mode of interpretation was later applied to the stories of the
Old Testament by Philo Judæus, and was first introduced into Occidental
Europe by Hilary of Poitiers and Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.[6] Abraham,
Adam, Eve, Jacob, became types of various virtues, and the biblical
stories were considered as symbolical of the various moral struggles in
the soul of man. The first instance of the systematic application of the
method to the pagan myths occurs in the _Mythologicon_ of Fulgentius,
who probably flourished in the first half of the sixth century; and in
his _Virgiliana Continentia_, the _Æneid_ is treated as an image of
life, and the travels of Æneas as the symbol of the progress of the
human soul, from nature, through wisdom, to final happiness.

From this period, the allegorical method became the recognized mode of
interpreting literature, whether sacred or profane. Petrarch, in his
letter, _De quibusdam fictionibus Virgilij_,[7] treats the _Æneid_ after
the manner of Fulgentius; and even at the very end of the Renaissance
Tasso interpreted his own romantic epics in the same way. After the
acceptance of the method, its application was further complicated.
Gregory the Great ascribes three meanings to the Bible,--the literal,
the typical or allegorical, and the moral. Still later, a fourth meaning
was added; and Dante distinctly claims all four, the literal, the
allegorical, the moral or philosophical, and the anagogical or mystical,
for his _Divine Comedy_.[8]

This method, while perhaps justifying poetry from the standpoint of
ethics and divinity, gives it no place as an independent art; thus
considered, poetry becomes merely a popularized form of theology. Both
Petrarch and Boccaccio regarded allegory as the warp and woof of poetry;
but they modified the mediæval point of view by arguing conversely that
theology itself is a form of poetry,--the poetry of God. Both of them
insist that the Bible is essentially poetical, and that Christ himself
spoke largely in poetical images. This point was so emphasized by
Renaissance critics that Berni, in his _Dialogo contra i Poeti_ (1537),
condemns the poets for speaking of God as Jupiter and of the saints as
Mercury, Hercules, Bacchus, and for even having the audacity to call the
prophets and the writers of the Scriptures poets and makers of

The fourteenth and fifteenth books of Boccaccio's treatise, _De
Genealogia Deorum_, have been called "the first defence of poesy in
honor of his own art by a poet of the modern world;" but Boccaccio's
justification of imaginative literature is still primarily based on the
usual mediæval grounds. The reality of poetry is dependent on its
allegorical foundations; its moral teachings are to be sought in the
hidden meanings discoverable beneath the literal expression; pagan
poetry is defended for Christianity on the ground that the references to
Greek and Roman gods and rituals are to be regarded only as symbolical
truths. The poet's function, for Boccaccio, as for Dante and Petrarch,
was to hide and obscure the actual truth behind a veil of beautiful
fictions--_veritatem rerum pulchris velaminibus adornare._[10]

The humanistic point of view, in regard to poetry, was of a more
practical and far-reaching nature than that of the Middle Ages. The
allegorical interpretation did indeed continue throughout the
Renaissance, and Mantuan, for example, can only define a poem as a
literary form which is bound by the stricter laws of metre, and which
has its fundamental truths hidden under the literal expressions of the
fable. For still later writers, this mode of regarding literature seemed
to present the only loophole of escape from the moral objections to
poetry. But in employing the old method, the humanists carried it far
beyond its original application. Thus, Lionardo Bruni, in his _De
Studiis et Literis_ (_c._ 1405), after dwelling on the allegorical
interpretation of the pagan myths, argues that when one reads the story
of Æneas and Dido, he pays his tribute of admiration to the genius of
the poet, but the matter itself is known to be fiction, and so leaves no
moral impression.[11] By this Bruni means that fiction as such, when
known to be fiction, can leave no moral impression, and secondly, that
poetry is to be judged by the success of the artist, and not by the
efficacy of the moralist. Similarly, Battista Guarino, in his _De Ordine
Docendi et Studendi_ (1459), says that we are not disturbed by the
impieties, cruelties, horrors, which we find in poetry; we judge these
things simply by their congruity with the characters and incidents
described. In other words, "we criticise the artist, not the
moralist."[12] This is a distinct attempt at the æsthetic appreciation
of literature, but while such ideas are not uncommon about this time,
they express isolated sentiments, rather than a doctrine strictly
coördinated with an æsthetic theory of poetry.

The more strict defence of poetry was attempted for the most part on
the grounds set forth by Horace in his _Ars Poetica_. At no period from
the Augustan Age to the Renaissance does the _Ars Poetica_ seem to have
been entirely lost. It is mentioned or quoted, for example, by Isidore
of Seville[13] in the sixth century, by John of Salisbury[14] in the
twelfth century, and by Dante[15] in the fourteenth. Horace insists on
the mingled instructiveness and pleasurableness of poetry; and beyond
this, he points out the value of poetry as a civilizing factor in
history, regarding the early poets as sages and prophets, and the
inventors of arts and sciences:--

    "Orpheus, inspired by more than human power,
    Did not, as poets feigned, tame savage beasts,
    But men as lawless and as wild as they,
    And first dissuaded them from rage and blood.
    Thus when Amphion built the Theban wall,
    They feigned the stones obeyed his magic lute;
    Poets, the first instructors of mankind,
    Brought all things to their proper native use;
    Some they appropriated to the gods,
    And some to public, some to private ends:
    Promiscuous love by marriage was restrained,
    Cities were built, and useful laws were made;
    So ancient is the pedigree of verse,
    And so divine the poet's function."[16]

This conception of the early poet's function was an old one. It is to be
found in Aristophanes;[17] it runs through Renaissance criticism; and
even in this very century, Shelley[18] speaks of poets as "the authors
of language, and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary,
and painting," as "the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil
society, and the inventors of the arts of life." To-day the idealist
takes refuge in the same faith: "The tree of knowledge is of equal date
with the tree of life; nor were even the tamer of horses, the worker in
metals, or the sower, elder than those twin guardians of the soul,--the
poet and the priest. Conscience and imagination were the pioneers who
made earth habitable for the human spirit."[19]

It was this ethical and civilizing function of poetry which was first in
the minds of the humanists. Action being the test of all studies,[20]
poetry must stand or fall in proportion as it conduces to righteous
action. Thus, Lionardo Bruni[21] speaks of poetry as "so valuable an aid
to knowledge, and so ennobling a source of pleasure"; and Æneas Sylvius
Piccolomini, in his treatise _De Liberorum Educatione_ (1450), declares
that the crucial question is not, Is poetry to be contemned? but, How
are the poets to be used? and he solves his own question by asserting
that we are to welcome all that poets can render in praise of integrity
and in condemnation of vice, and that all else is to be left
unheeded.[22] Beyond this, the humanists urged in favor of poetry the
fact of its antiquity and divine origin, and the further fact that it
had been praised by great men of all professions, and its creators
patronized by kings and emperors from time immemorial.

There were then at the end of the Middle Ages, and the beginning of the
Renaissance, two opposing tendencies in regard to the poetic art, one
representing the humanistic reverence for ancient culture, and for
poetry as one of the phases of that culture, and the other representing
not only the mediæval tradition, but a purism allied to that of early
Christianity, and akin to the ascetic conceptions of life found in
almost every period. These two tendencies are expressed specifically in
their noblest forms by the great humanist Poliziano, and the great moral
reformer Savonarola. In the _Sylvæ_, written toward the close of the
fifteenth century, Poliziano dwells on the divine origin of poetry, as
Boccaccio had done in his _Vita di Dante_; and then, after the manner of
Horace, he describes its ennobling influence on man, and its general
influence on the progress of civilization.[23] He then proceeds to
survey the progress of poetry from the most ancient times, and in so
doing may be said to have written the first modern history of
literature. The second section of the _Sylvæ_ discusses the bucolic
poets; the third contains that glorification of Virgil which began
during the Middle Ages, and, continued by Vida and others, became in
Scaliger literary deification; and the last section is devoted to
Homer, who is considered as the great teacher of wisdom, and the wisest
of the ancients. Nowhere does Poliziano exhibit any appreciation of the
æsthetic value of poetry, but his enthusiasm for the great poets, and
indeed for all forms of ancient culture, is unmistakable, and combined
with his immense erudition marks him as a representative poet of

On the other hand, the puristic conception of art is elaborated at great
length by Savonarola in an apology for poetry contained in his tractate,
_De Divisione ac Utilitate Omnium Scientarum_,[25] written about 1492.
After classifying the sciences in true scholastic fashion, and arranging
them according to their relative importance and their respective utility
for Christianity, he attacks all learning as superfluous and dangerous,
unless restricted to a chosen few. Poetry, according to the scholastic
arrangement, is grouped with logic and grammar; and this mediæval
classification fixes Savonarola's conception of the theory of poetic
art. He expressly says that he attacks the abuse of poetry and not
poetry itself, but there can be no doubt that, at bottom, he was
intolerant of creative literature. Like Plato, like moral reformers of
all ages, he feared the free play of the imaginative faculty; and in
connecting poetry with logic he was tending toward the elimination of
the imagination in art. The basis of his æsthetic system, such as it is,
rests wholly on that of Thomas Aquinas;[26] but he is in closer accord
with Aristotle when he points out that versification, a merely
conventional accompaniment of poetry, is not to be confounded with the
essence of poetry itself. This distinction is urged to defend the
Scriptures, which he regards as the highest and holiest form of poetry.
For him poetry is coördinate with philosophy and with thought; but in
his intolerance of poetry in its lower forms, he would follow Plato in
banishing poets from an ideal state. The imitation of the ancient poets
especially falls under his suspicion, and in an age given up to their
worship he denies both their supremacy and their utility. In fine, as a
reformer, he represents for us the religious reaction against the
paganization of culture by the humanists. But the forces against him
were too strong. Even the Christianization of culture effected during
the next century by the Council of Trent was hardly more than temporary.
Humanism, which represents the revival of ancient pagan culture, and
rationalism, which represents the growth of the modern spirit in science
and art, were currents too powerful to be impeded by any reformer,
however great, and, when combined in classicism, were to reign supreme
in literature for centuries to come. But Savonarola and Poliziano serve
to indicate that modern literary criticism had not yet begun. For until
some rational answer to the objections urged against poetry in
antiquity and in the Middle Ages was forthcoming, literary criticism in
any true sense was fundamentally impossible; and that answer came only
with the recovery of Aristotle's _Poetics_.

III. _The Final Justification of Poetry_

The influence of Aristotle's _Poetics_ in classical antiquity, so far as
it is possible to judge, was very slight; there is no apparent reference
to the _Poetics_ in Horace, Cicero, or Quintilian,[27] and it was
entirely lost sight of during the Middle Ages. Its modern transmission
was due almost exclusively to Orientals.[28] The first Oriental version
of Aristotle's treatise appears to have been that made by Abu-Baschar, a
Nestorian Christian, from the Syriac into Arabic, about the year 935.
Two centuries later, the Moslem philosopher Averroës made an abridged
version of the _Poetics_, which was translated into Latin in the
thirteenth century, by a certain German, named Hermann, and again, by
Mantinus of Tortosa in Spain, in the fourteenth century. Hermann's
version seems to have circulated considerably in the Middle Ages, but it
had no traceable influence on critical literature whatsoever. It is
mentioned and censured by Roger Bacon, but the _Poetics_ in any form was
probably unknown to Dante, to Boccaccio, and beyond a single obscure
reference, to Petrarch. There is no question that for a long time before
the beginning of the sixteenth century the _Poetics_ had been entirely
neglected. Not only do the critical ideas of this period show no
indication of Aristotelian influence, but during the sixteenth century
itself there seems to have been a well-defined impression that the
_Poetics_ had been recovered only after centuries of oblivion. Thus,
Bernardo Segni, who translated the _Poetics_ into Italian in 1549,
speaks of it as "abandoned and neglected for a long time";[29] and
Bernardo Tasso, some ten years later, refers to it as "buried for so
long a time in the obscure shadows of ignorance."[30]

It was then as a new work of Aristotle that the Latin translation by
Giorgio Valla, published at Venice in 1498, must have appeared to
Valla's contemporaries. Though hardly successful as a work of
scholarship, this translation, and the Greek text of the _Poetics_
published in the Aldine _Rhetores Græci_ in 1508, had considerable
influence on dramatic literature, but scarcely any immediate influence
on literary criticism. Somewhat later, in 1536, Alessandro de' Pazzi
published a revised Latin version, accompanied by the original; and from
this time, the influence of the Aristotelian canons becomes manifest in
critical literature. In 1548, Robortelli produced the first critical
edition of the _Poetics_, with a Latin translation and a learned
commentary, and in the very next year the first Italian translation was
given to the world by Bernardo Segni. From that day to this the
editions and translations of the _Poetics_ have increased beyond number,
and there is hardly a single passage in Aristotle's treatise which has
not been discussed by innumerable commentators and critics.

It was in Aristotle's _Poetics_ that the Renaissance was to find, if not
a complete, at least a rational justification of poetry, and an answer
to every one of the Platonic and mediæval objections to imaginative
literature. As to the assertion that poetry diverges from actual
reality, Aristotle[31] contended that there is to be found in poetry a
higher reality than that of mere commonplace fact, that poetry deals not
with particulars, but with universals, and that it aims at describing
not what has been, but what might have been or ought to be. In other
words, poetry has little regard for the actuality of the specific event,
but aims at the reality of an eternal probability. It matters not
whether Achilles or Æneas did this thing, or that thing, which Homer or
Virgil ascribes to either, but if Achilles or Æneas was such a man as
the poet describes, he must necessarily act as Homer or Virgil has made
him do. It is needless to say that Aristotle is here simply
distinguishing between ideal truth and actual fact, and in asserting
that it is the function of poetry to imitate only ideal truth he laid
the foundations, not only of an answer to mediæval objections, but also
of modern æsthetic criticism.

Beyond this, poetry is justified on the grounds of morality, for while
not having a distinctly moral aim, it is essentially moral, because it
is this ideal representation of life, and an idealized version of human
life must necessarily present it in its moral aspects. Aristotle
distinctly combats the traditional Greek conception of the didactic
function of poetry; but it is evident that he insists fundamentally that
literature must be moral, for he sternly rebukes Euripides several times
on grounds that are moral, rather than purely æsthetic. In answer to the
objection that poetry, instead of calming, stirs and excites our meanest
passions, that it "waters and cherishes those emotions which ought to
wither with drought, and constitutes them our rulers, when they ought to
be our subjects,"[32] Aristotle taught those in the Renaissance who were
able to understand him, that poetry, and especially dramatic poetry,
does not indeed starve the emotions, but excites them only to allay and
to regulate them, and in this æsthetic process purifies and ennobles
them.[33] In pointing out these things he has justified the utility of
poetry, regarding it as more serious and philosophic than history,
because it universalizes mere fact, and imitates life in its noblest

These arguments were incorporated into Renaissance criticism; they were
emphasized, as we shall see, over and over again, and they formed the
basis of the justification of poetry in modern critical literature. At
the same time, this purely æsthetic conception of art did not prevail by
itself in the sixteenth century, even in those for whom Aristotle meant
most, and who best understood his meaning; the Horatian elements, also,
as found in the early humanists, were elaborated and discussed. In the
_Poetica_ of Daniello (1536), these Horatian elements form the basis for
a defence of poetry[34] that has many marked resemblances to various
passages in Sir Philip Sidney's _Defence of Poesy_. After referring to
the antiquity and nobility of poetry, and affirming that no other art is
nobler or more ancient, Daniello shows that all things known to man, all
the secrets of God and nature, are described by the poets in musical
numbers and with exquisite ornament. He furthermore asserts, in the
manner of Horace, that the poets were the inventors of the arts of life;
and in answer to the objection that it was the philosophers who in
reality did these things, he shows that while instruction is more proper
to the philosopher than to the poet, poets teach too, in many more ways,
and far more pleasantly, than any philosopher can. They hide their
useful teachings under various fictions and fabulous veils, as the
physician covers bitter medicine with a sweet coating. The style of the
philosopher is dry and obscure, without any force or beauty by itself;
and the delightful instruction of poetry is far more effective than the
abstract and harsh teachings of philosophy. Poetry, indeed, was the only
form of philosophy that primitive men had, and Plato, while regarding
himself as an enemy of poets, was really a great poet himself, for he
expresses all his ideas in a wondrously harmonious rhythm, and with
great splendor of words and images. This defence of Daniello's is
interesting, as anticipating the general form of such apologies
throughout the sixteenth century.

Similarly, Minturno in his _De Poeta_ (1559), elaborates the Horatian
suggestions for a defence of poetry. He begins by pointing out the broad
inclusiveness of poetry, which may be said to comprehend in itself every
form of human learning, and by showing that no form of learning can be
found before the first poets, and that no nation, however barbarous, has
ever been averse to poetry. The Hebrews praised God in verse; the
Greeks, Italians, Germans, and British have all honored poetry; the
Persians have had their Magi and the Gauls their bards. Verse, while not
essential to poetry, gives the latter much of its delightful
effectiveness, and if the gods ever speak, they certainly speak in
verse; indeed, in primitive times it was in verse that all sciences,
history, and philosophy were written.[35]

To answer the traditional objections against imaginative literature
which had survived beyond the Middle Ages seemed to the Renaissance a
simpler task, however, than to answer the more philosophical objections
urged in the Platonic dialogues. The authority of Plato during the
Renaissance made it impossible to slight the arguments stated by him in
the _Republic_, and elsewhere. The writers of this period were
particularly anxious to refute, or at least to explain away, the reasons
for which Plato had banished poets from his ideal commonwealth.
Some critics, like Bernardo Tasso[36] and Daniello,[37] asserted that
Plato had not argued against poetry itself, but only against the abuse
of poetry. Thus, according to Tasso, only impure and effeminate poets
were to be excluded from the ideal state, and according to Daniello,
only the more immoral tragic poets, and especially the authors of
obscene and lampooning comedies. Other Renaissance writers, like
Minturno[38] and Fracastoro,[39] answered the Platonic objections on
more philosophical grounds. Thus Fracastoro answers Plato's charge that,
since poetry is three removes from ideal truth, poets are fundamentally
ignorant of the realities they attempt to imitate, by pointing out that
the poet is indeed ignorant of what he is speaking of, in so far as he
is a versifier and skilled in language, just as the philosopher or
historian is ignorant of natural or historical facts in so far as he,
too, is merely skilled in language, but knows these facts in so far as
he is learned, and has thought out the problems of nature and history.
The poet, as well as the philosopher and the historian, must possess
knowledge, if he is to teach anything; he, too, must learn the things he
is going to write about, and must solve the problems of life and
thought; he, too, must have a philosophical and an historical training.
Plato's objection, indeed, applies to the philosopher, to the orator, to
the historian, quite as much as to the poet. As to Plato's second
charge, that imagination naturally tends toward the worst things, and
accordingly that poets write obscenely and blasphemously, Fracastoro
points out that this is not the fault of the art, but of those who abuse
it; there are, indeed, immoral and enervating poets, and they ought to
be excluded, not only from Plato's, but from every commonwealth. Thus
various Aristotelian and Horatian elements were combined to form a
definite body of Renaissance criticism.


[1] _De Spectac._ xxiii.

[2] _Ibid._ xxii.

[3] _Differentiæ_, iii. 13, 1.

[4] _De Spectac._ xv. _Cf._ Cyprian, _Epist. ad Donat._ viii.

[5] _Cf._ Bosanquet, _Hist. of Æsthetic_, p. 148.

[6] _Cf._ St. Augustine, _Confess._ v. 14, vi. 4; Clemens Alex.
_Stromata_, v. 8.

[7] _Opera_, p. 867.

[8] _Cf._ Dante, _Epist._ xi. 7; _Convito_, ii. 1, 1.

[9] Berni, p. 226 _sq._

[10] Petrarch, _Opera_, p. 1205; _cf._ Boccaccio, _Gen. degli Dei_, p.
250, v.

[11] Woodward, _Vittorino da Feltre_, p. 132.

[12] _Ibid._ p. 175.

[13] _Etymologiæ_, viii. 7, 5.

[14] _Policraticus_, i. 8.

[15] Moore, _Dante and his Early Biographers_, London, 1890, pp. 173,

[16] _Ars Poet._ 391 (Roscommon).

[17] _Frogs_, 1030 _sq._

[18] _Defence of Poetry_, ed. Cook, p. 5.

[19] Woodberry, "A New Defence of Poetry," in _Heart of Man_, New York,
1899, p. 76.

[20] Woodward, p. 182 _sq._

[21] _Ibid._ p. 131.

[22] _Ibid._ p. 150.

[23] Pope, _Selecta Poemata_, ii. 108; _cf._ _Ars Poet._ 398.

[24] _Cf._ Gaspary, ii. 220.

[25] Villari, p. 501 _sq._, and Perrens, ii. 328 _sq._

[26] _Cf._ Cartier, _L'Esthétique de Savonarole_, in Didron's _Annales
Archéologiques_, 1847, vii. 255 _sq._

[27] Egger, 209 _sq._

[28] _Ibid._ 555 _sq._

[29] Segni, p. 160.

[30] B. Tasso, _Lettere_, ii. 525. So also, Robortelli, 1548, "Jacuit
liber hic neglectus, ad nostra fere haec usque tempora."

[31] _Poet._ ix.

[32] Plato, _Rep._ x. 660.

[33] _Poet._ vi. 2; _Pol._ viii. 7.

[34] Daniello, p. 10 _sq._

[35] _De Poeta_, p. 13 _sq._

[36] _Lettere_, ii. 526.

[37] _Poetica_, p. 14 _sq._

[38] _De Poeta_, p. 30 _sq._

[39] _Opera_, i. 361 _sq._



IN the first book of his _Geography_ Strabo defines poetry as "a kind of
elementary philosophy, which introduces us early to life, and gives us
pleasurable instruction in reference to character, emotion, action."
This passage sounds the keynote of the Renaissance theory of poetry.
Poetry is therein stated to be a form of philosophy, and, moreover, a
philosophy whose subject is life, and its object is said to be
pleasurable instruction.

I. _Poetry as a Form of Scholastic Philosophy_

In the first place, poetry is a form of philosophy. Savonarola had
classed poetry with logic and grammar, and had asserted that a knowledge
of logic is essential to the composing of poetry. The division of the
sciences and the relative importance of each were a source of infinite
scholastic discussion during the Middle Ages. Aristotle had first placed
dialectic or logic, rhetoric, and poetics in the same category of
efficient philosophy. But Averroës was probably the first to confuse the
function of poetics with that of logic, and to make the former a
subdivision, or form, of the latter; and this classification appears to
have been accepted by the scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages.

This conception of the position of poetry in the body of human knowledge
may be found, however, throughout the Renaissance. Thus, Robortelli, in
his commentary on Aristotle's _Poetics_ (1548), gives the usual
scholastic distinctions between the various forms of the written or
spoken word (_oratio_): the demonstrative, which deals with the true;
the dialectic, which deals with the probable; the rhetorical, with the
persuasive; and the poetic, with the false or fabulous.[40] By the term
"false" or "fabulous" is meant merely that the subject of poetry is not
actual fact, but that it deals with things as they ought to be, rather
than as they are. Varchi, in his public lectures on poetry (1553),
divides philosophy into two forms, real and rational. Real philosophy
deals with things, and includes metaphysics, ethics, physics, geometry,
and the like; while rational philosophy, which includes logic,
dialectic, rhetoric, history, poetry, and grammar, deals not with
things, but with words, and is not philosophy proper, but the instrument
of philosophy. Poetry is therefore, strictly speaking, neither an art
nor a science, but an instrument or faculty; and it is only an art in
the sense that it has been reduced to rules and precepts. It is, in
fact, a form of logic, and no man, according to Varchi, can be a poet
unless he is a logician; the better logician he is, the better poet he
will be. Logic and poetry differ, however, in their matter and their
instruments; for the subject of logic is truth, arrived at by means of
the demonstrative syllogism, while the subject of poetry is fiction or
invention, arrived at by means of that form of the syllogism known as
the example. Here the enthymeme, or example, which Aristotle has made
the instrument of rhetoric, becomes the instrument of poetry.

This classification survived in the Aristotelian schools at Padua and
elsewhere as late as Zabarella and Campanella. Zabarella, a professor of
logic and later of philosophy at Padua from 1564 to 1589, explains at
length Averroës's theory that poetics is a form of logic, in a treatise
on the nature of logic, published in 1578.[41] He concludes that the two
faculties, logic and poetics, are not instruments of philosophy in
general, but only of a part of it, for they refer rather to action than
to knowledge; that is, they come under Aristotle's category of efficient
philosophy. They are not the instruments of useful art or of moral
philosophy, the end of which is to make one's self good; but of civil
philosophy, the end of which is to make others good. If it be objected
that they are [Greek: tôn enantiôn], that is, of both good and evil, it
may be answered that their proper end is good. Thus, in the _Symposium_,
the true poet is praised; while in the _Republic_ the poets who aim at
pleasure and who corrupt their audiences are censured; and Aristotle in
his definition of tragedy says that the end of tragedy is to purge the
passions and to correct the morals of men (_affectiones animi purgare et
mores corrigere_).

Even later than Zabarella, we find in the _Poetica_ of Campanella a
division of the sciences very similar to that of Savonarola and Varchi.
Theology is there placed at the head of all knowledge, in accordance
with the mediæval tradition, while poetics, with dialectic, grammar, and
rhetoric, is placed among the logical sciences. Considering _poetica_ as
a form of philosophy, another commentator on Aristotle, Maggi (1550),
takes great pains to distinguish its various manifestations. _Poetica_
is the art of composing poetry, _poesis_, the poetry composed according
to this art, _poeta_, the composer of poetry, and _poema_, a single
specimen of poetry.[42] This distinction is an elaboration of two
passages in Plutarch and Aphthonius.

II. _Poetry as an Imitation of Life_

In the second place, according to the passage from Strabo cited at the
beginning of this chapter, poetry introduces us early to life, or, in
other words, its subject is human action, and it is what Aristotle calls
it, an imitation of human life. This raises two distinct problems.
First, what is the meaning of imitation? and what in life is the
subject-matter of this imitation?

The conception of imitation held by the critics of the Renaissance was
that expressed by Aristotle in the ninth chapter of the _Poetics_. The
passage is as follows:--

     "It is evident from what has been said that it is not the
     function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may
     happen,--what is possible according to the law of probability
     or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing
     in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into
     verse, and it would still be a species of history, with metre
     no less than without it. The true difference is that one
     relates what has happened, the other what may happen. Poetry,
     therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than
     history; for poetry tends to express the universal, history the
     particular. The universal tells us how a person of given
     character will on occasion speak or act, according to the law
     of probability or necessity; and it is this universality at
     which poetry aims in giving expressive names to the

In this passage Aristotle has briefly formulated a conception of ideal
imitation which may be regarded as universally valid, and which,
repeated over and over again, became the basis of Renaissance criticism.

In the _Poetica_ of Daniello (1536), occurs the first allusion in modern
literary criticism to the Aristotelian notion of ideal imitation.
According to Daniello, the poet, unlike the historian, can mingle
fictions with facts, because he is not obliged, as is the historian, to
describe things as they actually are or have been, but rather as they
ought to be; and it is in this that the poet most differs from the
historian, and not in the writing of verses; for even if Livy's works
were versified, they would still be histories as before.[43] This is of
course almost a paraphrase of the passage in Aristotle; but that
Daniello did not completely understand the ideal element in Aristotle's
conception is shown by the further distinction which he draws between
the historian and the poet. For he adds that the poet and the historian
have much in common; in both there are descriptions of places, peoples,
laws; both contain the representation of vices and virtues; in both,
amplification, variety, and digressions are proper; and both teach,
delight, and profit at the same time. They differ, however, in that the
historian, in telling his story, recounts it exactly as it happened, and
adds nothing; whereas the poet is permitted to add whatever he desires,
so long as the fictitious events have all the appearance of truth.

Somewhat later, Robortelli treats the question of æsthetic imitation
from another point of view. The poet deals with things as they ought to
be, but he can either appropriate actual fact, or he can invent his
material. If he does the former, he narrates the truth not as it really
happened, but as it might or ought to happen; while if he invents his
material, he must do so in accordance with the law of possibility, or
necessity, or probability and verisimilitude.[44] Thus Xenophon, in
describing Cyrus, does not depict him as he actually was, but as the
best and noblest king can be and ought to be; and Cicero, in describing
the orator, follows the same method. From this it is evident that the
poet can invent things transcending the order of nature; but if he does
so, he should describe what might or ought to have been.

Here Robortelli answers a possible objection to Aristotle's statement
that poets deal only with what is possible and verisimilar. Is it
possible and verisimilar that the gods should eat ambrosia and drink
nectar, as Homer describes, and that such a being as Cerberus should
have several heads, as we find in Virgil, not to mention various
improbable things that occur in many other poets? The answer to such an
objection is that poets can invent in two ways. They can invent either
things according to nature or things transcending nature. In the former
case, these things must be in keeping with the laws of probability and
necessity; but in the latter case, the things are treated according to a
process described by Aristotle himself, and called paralogism, which
means, not necessarily false reasoning, but the natural, if quite
inconclusive, logical inference that the things we know not of are
subject to the same laws as the things we know. The poets accept the
existence of the gods from the common notion of men, and then treat all
that relates to these deities in accordance with this system of
paralogism. In tragedy and comedy men are described as acting in
accordance with the ordinary occurrences of nature; but in epic poetry
this is not entirely the case, and the marvellous is therefore admitted.
Accordingly, this marvellous element has the widest scope in epic
poetry; while in comedy, which treats of things nearest to our own time,
it ought not to be admitted at all.

But there is another problem suggested by the passage from the _Poetics_
which has been cited. Aristotle says that imitation, and not metre, is
the test of poetry; that even if a history were versified, it would
still remain history. The question then arises whether a writer who
imitates in prose, that is, without verse, would be worthy of the title
of poet. Robortelli answers this question by pointing out that metre
does not constitute the nature, force, or essence of poetry, which
depends entirely on the fact of imitation; but at the same time, while
one who imitates without verse is a poet, in the best and truest poetry
imitation and metre are combined.[45]

In Fracastoro's _Naugerius, sive de Poetica Dialogus_ (1555), there is
the completest explanation of the ideal element in the Aristotelian
conception of imitation. The poet, according to Aristotle, differs from
other writers in that the latter consider merely the particular, while
the poet aims at the universal. He is, in other words, attempting to
describe the simple and essential truth of things, not by depicting the
nude thing as it is, but the idea of things clothed in all their
beauties.[46] Here Fracastoro attempts to explain the Aristotelian
conception of the type with the aid of the Platonic notion of beauty.
There were, in fact, in the Renaissance, three conceptions of beauty in
general vogue. First, the purely objective conception that poetry is
fixed or formal, that it consists in approximating to a certain
mechanical or geometrical form, such as roundness, squareness, or
straightness; secondly, the Platonic conception, ethical rather than
æsthetic, connecting the beautiful with the good, and regarding both as
the manifestation of divine power; and, thirdly, a more purely æsthetic
conception of beauty, connecting it either with grace or conformity, or
in a higher sense with whatever is proper or fitting to an object. This
last idea, which at times approaches the modern conception that beauty
consists in the realization of the objective character of any particular
thing and in the fulfilment of the law of its own being, seems to have
been derived from the _Idea_ of the Greek rhetorician Hermogenes, whose
influence during the sixteenth century was considerable, even as early
as the time of Filelfo. It was the celebrated rhetorician Giulio
Cammillo, however, who appears to have popularized Hermogenes in the
sixteenth century, by translating the _Idea_ into Italian, and by
expounding it in a discourse published posthumously in 1544.

As will be seen, Fracastoro's conception of beauty approximates both to
the Platonic and to the more purely æsthetic doctrines which we have
mentioned; and he expounds and elaborates this æsthetic notion in the
following manner. Each art has its own rules of proper expression. The
historian or the philosopher does not aim at all the beauties or
elegancies of expression, but only such as are proper to history or
philosophy. But to the poet no grace, no embellishment, no ornament, is
ever alien; he does not consider the particular beauty of any one
field,--that is, the singular, or particular, of Aristotle,--but all
that pertains to the simple idea of beauty and of beautiful speech. Yet
this universalized beauty is no extraneous thing; it cannot be added to
objects in which it has no place, as a golden coat on a rustic; all the
essential beauty of each species is to be the especial regard of the
poet. For in imitating persons and things, he neglects no beauty or
elegance which he can attribute to them; he strives only after the most
beautiful and most excellent, and in this way affects the minds of men
in the direction of excellence and beauty.

This suggests a problem which is at the very root of Aristotle's
conception of ideal imitation; and it is Fracastoro's high merit that he
was one of the first writers of the Renaissance to explain away the
objection, and to formulate in the most perfect manner what Aristotle
really meant. For, even granting that the poet teaches more than others,
may it not be urged that it is not what pertains to the thing itself,
but the beauties which he adds to them,--that it is ornament, extraneous
to the thing itself (_extra rem_), and not the thing itself,--which
seems to be the chief regard of the poet? But after all, what is _extra
rem_? Are beautiful columns, domes, peristyles _extra rem_, because a
thatched roof will protect us from rain and frost; or is noble raiment
_extra rem_, because a rustic garment would suffice? The poet, so far
from adding anything extraneous to the things he imitates, depicts them
in their very essence; and it is because he alone finds the true beauty
in things, because he attributes to them their true nobility and
perfection, that he is more useful than any other writer. The poet does
not, as some think, deal with the false and the unreal.[47] He assumes
nothing openly alien to truth, though he may permit himself to treat of
old and obscure legends which cannot be verified, or of things which are
regarded as true on account of their appearance, their allegorical
signification (such as the ancient myths and fables), or their common
acceptance by men. So we may conclude that not every one who uses verse
is a poet, but only he who is moved by the true beauty of things--by
their simple and essential beauties, not merely apparent ones. This is
Fracastoro's conclusion, and it contains that mingling of Platonism and
Aristotelianism which may be found somewhat later in Tasso and Sir
Philip Sidney. It is the chief merit of Fracastoro's dialogue, that even
while emphasizing this Platonic element, he clearly distinguishes and
defines the ideal element in æsthetic imitation.

About the same time, in the public lectures of Varchi (1553), there was
an attempt to formulate a more explicit definition of poetry on the
basis of Aristotle's definition[48] of tragedy. Poetry, according to
Varchi, is an imitation of certain actions, passions, habits of mind,
with song, diction, and harmony, together or separately, for the purpose
of removing the vices of men and inciting them to virtue, in order that
they may attain their true happiness and beatitude.[49] In the first
place, poetry is an imitation. Every poet imitates, and any one who does
not imitate cannot be called a poet. Accordingly, Varchi follows Maggi
in distinguishing three classes of poets,--the poets _par excellence_,
who imitate in verse; the poets who imitate without using verse, such as
Lucian, Boccaccio in the _Decameron_, and Sannazaro in the _Arcadia_;
and the poets, commonly but less properly so called, who use verse, but
who do not imitate. Verse, while not an essential attribute of poetry,
is generally required; for men's innate love of harmony, according to
Aristotle, was one of the causes that gave rise to poetic composition.
Certain forms of poetry however, such as tragedy, cannot be written
without verse; for "embellished language," that is, verse, is included
in the very definition of tragedy as given by Aristotle.

The question whether poetry could be written in prose was a source of
much discussion in the Renaissance; but the consensus of opinion was
overwhelmingly against the prose drama. Comedy in prose was the usual
Italian practice of this period, and various scholars[50] even sanction
the practice on theoretical grounds. But the controversy was not
brought to a head until the publication of Agostino Michele's _Discorso
in cui si dimostra come si possono scrivere le Commedie e le Tragedie in
Prosa_ in 1592; and eight years later, in 1600, Paolo Beni published his
Latin dissertation, _Disputatio in qua ostenditur præstare Comoediam
atque Tragoediam metrorum vinculis solvere_.[51] The language of Beni's
treatise was strong--its very title speaks of liberating the drama from
the shackles of verse; and for a heresy of this sort, couched as it was
in language that might even have been revolutionary enough for the
French romanticists of 1830, the sixteenth century was not yet fully
prepared. Faustino Summo, answering Beni in the same year, asserts that
not only is it improper for tragedy and comedy to be written in prose,
but that no form of poetry whatever can properly be composed without the
accompaniment of verse.[52] The result of the whole controversy was to
fix the metrical form of the drama throughout the period of classicism.
But it need not be said that the same conclusion was not accepted by all
for every form of poetry. The remark of Cervantes in _Don Quixote_, that
epics can be written in prose as well as in verse, is well known; and
Julius Cæsar Scaliger[53] speaks of Heliodorus's romance as a model

Scaliger, however, regards verse as a fundamental part of poetry. For
him, poetry and history have the forms of narration and ornament in
common, but differ in that poetry adds fictions to the things that are
true, or imitates actual things with fictitious ones,--_majore sane
apparatu_, that is, among other things, with verse. As a result of this
notion, Scaliger asserts that if the history of Herodotus were
versified, it would no longer be history, but historical poetry. Under
no circumstances, theoretically, will he permit the separation of poetry
from mere versification. He accordingly dismisses with contempt the
usual argument of the period that Lucan was an historian rather than a
poet. "Take an actual history," says Scaliger; "how does Lucan differ,
for example, from Livy? He differs in using verse. Well, then he is a
poet." Poetry, then, is imitation in verse;[54] but in imitating what
ought to be rather than what is, the poet creates another nature and
other fortunes, as if he were another God.[55]

It will be seen from these discussions that the Renaissance always
conceived of æsthetic imitation in this ideal sense. There are scarcely
any traces of realism, in anything like its modern sense, in the
literary criticism of this period. Torquato Tasso does indeed say that
art becomes most perfect as it approaches most closely to nature;[56]
and Scaliger declares that the dramatic poet must beyond all things aim
at reproducing the actual conditions of life.[57] But it is the
appearance of reality, and not the mere actuality itself, that the
critics are speaking of here. With the vast body of mediæval literature
before them, in which impossibilities follow upon impossibilities, and
the sense of reality is continually obscured, the critical writers of
the Renaissance were forced to lay particular stress on the element of
probability, the element of close approach to the seeming realities of
life; but the imitation of life is for them, nevertheless, an imitation
of things as they ought to be--in other words, the imitation is ideal.
Muzio says that nature is adorned by art:--

    "Suol far l' opere sue roze, e tra le mani
    Lasciarle a l' arte, che le adorni e limi;"[58]

and he distinctly affirms that the poet cannot remain content with exact
portraiture, with the mere actuality of life:--

    "Lascia 'l vero a l' historia, e ne' tuoi versi
    Sotto i nomi privati a l' universo
    Mostra che fare e che non far si debbia."

In keeping with this idealized conception of art, Muzio asserts that
everything obscene or immoral must be excluded from poetry; and this
puristic notion of art is everywhere emphasized in Renaissance
criticism. It was the _verisimile_, as has been said, that the writers
of this period especially insisted upon. Poetry must have the appearance
of truth, that is, it must be probable; for unless the reader believes
what he reads, his spirit cannot be moved by the poem.[59] This
anticipates Boileau's famous line:--

    "L'esprit n'est point ému de ce qu'il ne croit pas."[60]

But beyond and above the _verisimile_, the poet must pay special regard
to the ethical element (_il lodevole e l' onesto_). A poet of the
sixteenth century, Palingenius, says that there are three qualities
required of every poem:--

    "Atqui scire opus est, triplex genus esse bonorum,
    Utile, delectans, majusque ambobus honestum."[61]

Poetry, then, is an ideal representation of life; but should it be still
further limited, and made an imitation of only human life? In other
words, are the actions of men the only possible themes of poetry, or may
it deal, as in the _Georgics_ and the _De Rerum Natura_, with the
various facts of external nature and of science, which are only
indirectly connected with human life? May poetry treat of the life of
the world as well as of the life of men; and if only of the latter, is
it to be restricted to the actions of men, or may it also depict their
passions, emotions, and character? In short, how far may external nature
on the one hand, and the internal working of the human soul on the other
hand, be regarded as the subject-matter of poetry? Aristotle says that
poetry deals with the actions of men, but he uses the word "actions" in
a larger sense than many of the Renaissance critics appear to have
believed. His real meaning is thus explained by a modern writer:--

     "Everything that expresses the mental life, that reveals a
     rational personality, will fall within this larger sense of
     action.... The phrase is virtually an equivalent for [Greek:
     êthê] (character), [Greek: pathê] (emotion), [Greek: praxeis]
     (action).... The common original from which all the arts draw
     is human life,--its mental processes, its spiritual movements,
     its outward acts issuing from deeper sources; in a word, all
     that constitutes the inward and essential activity of the soul.
     On this principle landscape and animals are not ranked among
     the objects of æsthetic imitation. The whole universe is not
     conceived of as the raw material of art. Aristotle's theory is
     in agreement with the practice of the Greek poets and artists
     of the classical period, who introduce the external world only
     so far as it forms a background of action, and enters as an
     emotional element into man's life and heightens the human

Aristotle distinctly says that "even if a treatise on medicine or
natural philosophy be brought out in verse, the name of poet is by
custom given to the author; and yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in
common except the material; the former, therefore, is properly styled
poet, the latter, physicist rather than poet."[63]

The Aristotelian doctrine was variously conceived during the
Renaissance. Fracastoro, for example, asserts that the imitation of
human life alone is not of itself a test of poetry, for such a test
would exclude Empedocles and Lucretius; it would make Virgil a poet in
the _Æneid_, and not a poet in the _Georgics_. All matters are proper
material for the poet, as Horace says, if they are treated poetically;
and although the imitation of men and women may seem to be of higher
importance for us who are men and women, the imitation of human life is
no more the poet's end than the imitation of anything else.[64] This
portion of Fracastoro's argument may be called apologetic, for the
imitation of human actions as a test of poetry would exclude most of his
own poems,[65] such as his famous _De Morbo Gallico_ (1529), written
before the influence of Aristotle was felt in anything but the mere
external forms of creative literature. For Fracastoro, all things
poetically treated become poetry, and Aristotle himself[66] says that
everything becomes pleasant when correctly imitated. So that not the
mere composition of verse, but the Platonic rapture, the delight in the
true and essential beauty of things, is for Fracastoro the test of
poetic power.

Varchi, on the other hand, is more in accord with Aristotle, in
conceiving of "action," the subject-matter of poetry, as including the
passions and habits of mind as well as the merely external actions of
mankind. By passions Varchi means those mental perturbations which impel
us to an action at any particular time ([Greek: pathê]); while by
manners, or habits of mind, he means those mental qualities which
distinguish one man or one class of men from another ([Greek: êthê]).
The exclusion of the emotional or introspective side of human life
would leave all lyric and, in fact, all subjective verse out of the
realms of poetry; and it was therefore essential, in an age in which
Petrarch was worshipped, that the subjective side of poetry should
receive its justification.[67] There is also in Varchi a most
interesting comparison between the arts of poetry and painting.[68] The
basis of his distinction is Horace's _ut pictura poesis_, doubtless
founded on the parallel of Simonides preserved for us by Plutarch; and
this distinction, which regarded painting as silent poetry, and poetry
as painting in language, may be considered almost the keynote of
Renaissance criticism, continuing even up to the time of Lessing.

In Capriano's _Della Vera Poetica_ (1555) poetry is given a preëminent
place among all the arts, because it does not merely deal with actions
or with the objects of any single sense. For Capriano, poetry is an
ideal representation of life, and as such "vere nutrice e amatrice del
nostro bene."[69] All sensuous or comprehensible objects are capable of
being imitated by various arts. The nobler of the imitative arts are
concerned with the objects of the nobler senses, while the ignobler arts
are concerned with the objects of the senses of taste, touch, and smell.
Poetry is the finest of all the arts, because it comprehends in itself
all the faculties and powers of the other arts, and can in fact imitate
anything, as, for example, the form of a lion, its color, its ferocity,
its roar, and the like. It is also the highest form of art because it
makes use of the most efficacious means of imitation, namely, words,
and especially since these receive the additional beauty and power of
rhythm. Accordingly, Capriano divides poets into two classes: natural
poets, who describe the things of nature, and moral poets (such as epic
and tragic poets), who aim at presenting moral lessons and indicating
the uses of life; and of these two classes the moral poets are to be
rated above the natural poets.

But if all things are the objects of poetic imitation, the poet must
know everything; he must have studied nature as well as life; and,
accordingly, Lionardi, in his dialogues on poetic imitation (1554), says
that to be a good poet, one must be a good historian, a good orator, and
a good natural and moral philosopher as well;[70] and Bernardo Tasso
asserts that a thorough acquaintance with the art of poetry is only to
be gained from the study of Aristotle's _Poetics_, combined with a
knowledge of philosophy and the various arts and sciences, and vast
experience of the world.[71] The Renaissance, with its humanistic
tendencies, never quite succeeded in discriminating between erudition
and genius. Scaliger says that nothing which proceeds from solid
learning can ever be out of place in poetry, and Fracastoro (1555) and
Tomitano (1545) both affirm that the good poet and the good orator must
essentially be learned scholars and philosophers. Scaliger therefore
distinguishes three classes of poets,--first, the theological poets,
such as Orpheus and Amphion; secondly, the philosophical poets, of two
sorts, natural poets, such as Empedocles and Lucretius, and moral
poets, who again are either political, as Solon and Tyrtæus, economic,
as Hesiod, or common, as Phocyllides; and, thirdly, the ordinary poets
who imitate human life.[72] The last are divided according to the usual
Renaissance classification into dramatic, narrative, and common or
mixed. Scaliger's classification is employed by Sir Philip Sidney;[73]
and a very similar subdivision is given by Minturno.[74]

The treatment of Castelvetro, in his commentary on the _Poetics_ (1570),
is at times much more in accord with the true Aristotelian conception
than most of the other Renaissance writers. While following Aristotle in
asserting that verse is not of the essence of poetry, he shows that
Aristotle himself by no means intended to class as poetry works that
imitated in prose, for this was not the custom of Hellenic art. Prose is
not suited to imitative or imaginative subjects, for we expect themes
treated in prose to be actual facts.[75] "Verse does not distinguish
poetry," says Castelvetro, "but clothes and adorns it; and it is as
improper for poetry to be written in prose, or history in verse, as it
is for women to use the garments of men, and for men to wear the
garments of women."[76] The test of poetry therefore is not the metre
but the material. This approximates to Aristotle's own view; since while
imitation is what distinguishes the poetic art, Aristotle, by limiting
it to the imitation of human life, was, after all, making the matter the
test of poetry.

Castelvetro, however, arrives at this conclusion on different grounds.
Science he regards as not suitable material for poetry, and accordingly
such writers as Lucretius and Fracastoro are not poets. They are good
artists, perhaps, or good philosophers, but not poets; for the poet does
not attempt to discover the truth of nature, but to imitate the deeds of
men, and to bring delight to his audience by means of this imitation.
Moreover, poetry, as will be seen later, is intended to give delight to
the populace, the untrained multitude, to whom the sciences and the arts
are dead letters;[77] if we concede these to be fit themes for poetry,
then poetry is either not meant to delight, or not meant for the
ordinary people, but is intended for instruction and for those only who
are versed in sciences and arts. Moreover, comparing poetry with
history, Castelvetro finds that they resemble each other in many points,
but are not identical. Poetry follows, as it were, in the footsteps of
history, but differs from it in that history deals with what has
happened, poetry with what is probable; and things that have happened,
though probable, are never considered in poetry as probable, but always
as things that have happened. History, accordingly, does not regard
verisimilitude or necessity, but only truth; poetry must take care to
establish the probability of its subject in verisimilitude and
necessity, since it cannot regard truth. Castelvetro in common with
most of the critics of the Renaissance seems to misconceive the full
meaning of ideal truth; for to the Renaissance--nay, even to
Shakespeare, if we are to consider as his own various phrases which he
has put into the mouths of his dramatic characters--truth was regarded
as coincident with fact; and nothing that was not actual fact, however
subordinated to the laws of probability and necessity, was ever called

It is in keeping with this conception of the relations between history
and poetry, that Castelvetro should differ not only from Aristotle, but
from most of the critics of his own time, in asserting that the order of
the poetic narrative may be the same as that of historical narrative.
"In telling a story," he says, "we need not trouble ourselves whether it
has beginning, middle, and end, but only whether it is fitted to its
true purpose, that is, to delight its auditors by the narration of
certain circumstances which could possibly happen but have not actually
happened."[78] Here the only vital distinction between history and
poetry is that the incidents recounted in history have once happened,
while those recounted in poetry have never actually happened, or the
matter will not be regarded as poetry. Aristotle's fundamental
requirement of the unity of the fable is regarded as unessential, and is
simply observed in order to show the poet's ingenuity. This notion of
poetic ingenuity is constant throughout Castelvetro's commentary. Thus
he explains Aristotle's statement that poetry is more philosophic than
history--more philosophic, according to Castelvetro, in the sense of
requiring more thought, more speculation in its composition--by showing
that it is a more difficult and more ingenious labor to invent things
that could possibly happen, than merely to repeat things that have
actually happened.[79]

III. _The Function of Poetry_

According to Strabo, it will be remembered, the object or function of
poetry is pleasurable instruction in reference to character, emotion,
action. This occasions the inquiry as to what is the function of the
poetic art, and, furthermore, what are its relations to morality. The
starting-point of all discussions on this subject in the Renaissance was
the famous verse of Horace:--

    "Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetæ."[80]

This line suggests that the function of poetry may be to please, or to
instruct, or both to please and instruct; and every one of the writers
of the Renaissance takes one or other of these three positions.
Aristotle, as we know, regarded poetry as an imitation of human life,
for the purpose of giving a certain refined pleasure to the reader or
hearer. "The end of the fine arts is to give pleasure ([Greek: pros
hêdonên]), or rational enjoyment ([Greek: pros diagôgên])."[81] It has
already been said that poetry, in so far as it is an imitation of human
life, and attempts to be true to human life in its ideal aspects, must
fundamentally be moral; but to give moral or scientific instruction is
in no way the end or function of poetry. It will be seen that the
Renaissance was in closer accord with Horace than with Aristotle, in
requiring for the most part the _utile_ as well as the _dulce_ in

For Daniello, one of the earliest critical writers of the century, the
function of the poet is to teach and delight. As the aim of the orator
is to persuade, and the aim of the physician to cure, so the aim of the
poet is equally to teach and delight; and unless he teaches and delights
he cannot be called a poet, even as one who does not persuade cannot be
called an orator, or one who does not cure, a physician.[82] But beyond
profitableness and beauty, the poet must carry with him a certain
persuasion, which is one of the highest functions of poetry, and which
consists in moving and affecting the reader or hearer with the very
passions depicted; but the poet must be moved first, before he can move
others.[83] Here Daniello is renewing Horace's

        "Si vis me flere, dolendum est
    Primum ipsi tibi,"--

a sentiment echoed by poets as different as Vauquelin, Boileau, and

Fracastoro, however, attempts a deeper analysis of the proper function
of the poetic art. What is the aim of the poet? Not merely to give
delight, for the fields, the stars, men and women, the objects of
poetic imitation themselves do that; and poetry, if it did no more,
could not be said to have any reason for existing. Nor is it merely to
teach and delight, as Horace says; for the descriptions of countries,
peoples, and armies, the scientific digressions and the historical
events, which constitute the instructive side of poetry, are derived
from cosmographers, scientists, and historians, who teach and delight as
much as poets do. What, then, is the function of the poet? It is, as has
already been pointed out, to describe the essential beauty of things, to
aim at the universal and ideal, and to perform this function with every
possible accompaniment of beautiful speech, thus affecting the minds of
men in the direction of excellence and beauty. Portions of Fracastoro's
argument have been alluded to before, and it will suffice here to state
his own summing up of the aim of the poet, which is this, "Delectare et
prodesse imitando in unoquoque maxima et pulcherrima per genus dicendi
simpliciter pulchrum ex convenientibus."[84] This is a mingling of the
Horatian and Platonic conceptions of poetic art.

By other critics a more practical function was given to poetry. Giraldi
Cintio asserts that it is the poet's aim to condemn vice and to praise
virtue, and Maggi says that poets aim almost exclusively at benefiting
the mind. Poets who, on the contrary, treat of obscene matters for the
corruption of youth, may be compared with infamous physicians who give
their patients deadly poison in the guise of wholesome medicine. Horace
and Aristotle, according to Maggi, are at one on this point, for in the
definition of tragedy Aristotle ascribes to it a distinctly useful
purpose, and whatever delight is obtainable is to be regarded as a
result of this moral function; for Maggi and the Renaissance critics in
general would follow the Elizabethan poet who speaks of "delight, the
fruit of virtue dearly loved." Muzio, in his versified _Arte Poetica_
(1555), regards the end of poetry as pleasure and profit, and the
pleasurable aim of poetry as attained by variety, for the greatest poems
contain every phase of life and art.

It has been seen that Varchi classed poetry with rational philosophy.
The end of all arts and sciences is to make human life perfect and
happy; but they differ in their modes of producing this result.
Philosophy attains its end by teaching; rhetoric, by persuasion;
history, by narration; poetry, by imitation or representation. The aim
of the poet, therefore, is to make the human soul perfect and happy, and
it is his office to imitate, that is, to invent and represent, things
which render men virtuous, and consequently happy. Poetry attains this
end more perfectly than any of the other arts or sciences, because it
does so, not by means of precept, but by means of example. There are
various ways of making men virtuous,--by teaching them what vice is and
what virtue is, which is the province of ethics; by actually chastising
vices and rewarding virtues, which is the province of law; or by
example, that is, by the representation of virtuous men receiving
suitable rewards for their virtue, and of vicious men receiving suitable
punishments, which is the province of poetry. This last method is the
most efficacious, because it is accompanied by delight. For men either
can not or will not take the trouble to study sciences and virtues--nay,
do not even like to be told what they should or should not do; but in
hearing or reading poetic examples, not only is there no trouble, but
there is the greatest delight, and no one can help being moved by the
representation of characters who are rewarded or punished according to
an ideal justice.

For Varchi, then, as for Sir Philip Sidney later, the high importance of
poetry is to be found in the fact that it teaches morality better than
any other art, and the reason is that its instrument is not precept but
example, which is the most delightful and hence the most efficacious of
all means. The function of poetry is, therefore, a moral one, and it
consists in removing the vices of men and inciting them to virtue. This
twofold moral object of poetry--the removal of vices, which is passive,
and the incitement to virtue, which is active--is admirably attained,
for example, by Dante in his _Divina Commedia_; for in the _Inferno_
evil men are so fearfully punished that we resolve to flee from every
form of vice, and in the _Paradiso_ virtuous men are so gloriously
rewarded that we resolve to imitate every one of their perfections. This
is the expression of the extreme view of poetic justice; and while it is
in keeping with the common sentiment of the Renaissance, it is of
course entirely un-Aristotelian.

Scaliger's point of view is in accord with the common Renaissance
tradition. Poetry is imitation, but imitation is not the end of poetry.
Imitation for its own sake--that is, art for art's sake--receives no
encouragement from Scaliger. The purpose of poetry is to teach
delightfully (_docere cum delectatione_); and, therefore, not imitation,
as Aristotle says, but delightful instruction, is the test of
poetry.[85] Minturno (1559) adds a third element to that of instruction
and of delight.[86] The function of poetry is not only to teach and
delight, but also to move, that is, beyond instruction and delight the
poet must impel certain passions in the reader or hearer, and incite the
mind to admiration of what is described.[87] An ideal hero may be
represented in a poem, but the poem is futile unless it excites the
reader to admiration of the hero depicted. Accordingly, it is the
peculiar office of the poet to move admiration for great men; for the
orator, the philosopher, and the historian need not necessarily do so,
but no one who does not incite this admiration can really be called a

This new element of admiration is the logical consequence of the
Renaissance position that philosophy teaches by precept, but poetry by
example, and that in this consists its superior ethical efficacy. In
Seneca's phrase, "longum iter per præcepta, breve per exempla." If
poetry, therefore, attains its end by means of example, it follows that
to arrive at this end the poet must incite in the reader an admiration
of the example, or the ethical aim of poetry will not be accomplished.
Poetry is more than a mere passive expression of truth in the most
pleasurable manner; it becomes like oratory an active exhortation to
virtue, by attempting to create in the reader's mind a strong desire to
be like the heroes he is reading about. The poet does not tell what
vices are to be avoided and what virtues are to be imitated, but sets
before the reader or hearer the most perfect types of the various
virtues and vices. It is, in Sidney's phrase (a phrase apparently
borrowed from Minturno), "that feigning notable images of virtues,
vices, or what else, with that delightful instruction, which must be the
right describing note to know a poet by." Dryden, a century later, seems
to be insisting upon this same principle of admiration when he says that
it is the work of the poet "to affect the soul, and excite the passions,
and above all to move admiration, which is the delight of serious

But Minturno goes even further than this. If the poet is fundamentally a
teacher of virtue, it follows that he must be a virtuous man himself;
and in pointing this out, Minturno has given the first complete
expression in modern times of the consecrated conception of the poet's
office. As no form of knowledge and no moral excellence is foreign to
the poet, so at bottom he is the truly wise and good man. The poet may,
in fact, be defined as a good man skilled in language and imitation; not
only ought he to be a good man, but no one will be a good poet unless he
is so.[89] This conception of the moral nature of the poet may be traced
henceforth throughout modern times. It is to be found in Ronsard[90] and
other French and Italian writers; it is especially noticeable in English
literature, and is insisted on by Ben Jonson,[91] Milton,[92]
Shaftesbury,[93] Coleridge,[94] and Shelley.[95] In this idea Plato's
praise of the philosopher, as well as Cicero's and Quintilian's praise
of the orator, was by the Renaissance transferred to the poet;[96] but
the conception itself goes back to a passage in Strabo's _Geography_, a
work well known to sixteenth-century scholars. This passage is as

     "Can we possibly imagine that the genius, power, and excellence
     of a real poet consist in aught else than the just imitation of
     life in formed discourse and numbers? But how should he be that
     just imitator of life, whilst he himself knows not its
     measures, nor how to guide himself by judgment and
     understanding? For we have not surely the same notion of the
     poet's excellence as of the ordinary craftsman's, the subject
     of whose art is senseless stone or timber, without life,
     dignity, or beauty; whilst the poet's art turning principally
     on men and manners, he has his virtues and excellence as poet
     naturally annexed to human excellence, and to the worth and
     dignity of man, insomuch that it is impossible he should be a
     great and worthy poet who is not first a worthy and good

Another writer of the sixteenth century, Bernardo Tasso, tells us that
in his poem of the _Amadigi_ he has aimed at delight rather than
profitable instruction.[98] "I have spent most of my efforts," he says,
"in attempting to please, as it seems to me that this is more necessary,
and also more difficult to attain; for we find by experience that many
poets may instruct and benefit us very much, but certainly give us very
little delight." This agrees with what one of the sanest of English
critics, John Dryden (1668), has said of verse, "I am satisfied if it
caused delight, for delight is the chief if not the only end of poesie;
instruction can be admitted but in the second place, for poesie only
instructs as it delights."[99]

It is this same end which Castelvetro (1570) ascribes to poetic art. For
Castelvetro, as in a lesser degree for Robortelli also, the end of
poetry is delight, and delight alone.[100] This, he asserts, is the
position of Aristotle, and if utility is to be conceded to poetry at
all, it is merely as an accident, as in the tragic purgation of terror
and compassion.[101] But he goes further than Aristotle would have been
willing to go; for poetry, according to Castelvetro, is intended not
merely to please, but to please the populace, in fact everybody, even
the vulgar mob.[102] On this he insists throughout his commentary;
indeed, as will be seen later, it is on this conception that his theory
of the drama is primarily based. But it may be confidently asserted that
Aristotle would have willingly echoed the conclusion of Shakespeare, as
expressed in _Hamlet_, that the censure of one of the judicious must
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. At the same time, Castelvetro's
conception is in keeping with a certain modern feeling in regard to the
meaning of poetic art. Thus a recent writer regards literature as aiming
"at the pleasure of the greatest possible number of the nation rather
than instruction and practical effects," and as applying "to general
rather than specialized knowledge."[103] There is, then, in
Castelvetro's argument this modicum of truth, that poetry appeals to no
specialized knowledge, but that its function is, as Coleridge says, to
give a definite and immediate pleasure.

Torquato Tasso, as might be expected, regards poetry in a more highly
ideal sense. His conception of the function of poets and of the poetic
art may be explained as follows: The universe is beautiful in itself,
because beauty is a ray from the Divine splendor; and hence art should
seek to approach as closely as possible to nature, and to catch and
express this natural beauty of the world.[104] Real beauty, however, is
not so called because of any usefulness it may possess, but is primarily
beautiful in itself; for the beautiful is what pleases every one, just
as the good is what every one desires.[105] Beauty is therefore the
flower of the good (_quasi un fiore del buono_); it is the circumference
of the circle of which the good is the centre, and accordingly, poetry,
as an expression of this beauty, imitates the outward show of life in
its general aspects. Poetry is therefore an imitation of human actions,
made for the guidance of life; and its end is delight, _ordinato al
giovamento_.[106] It must essentially delight, either because delight is
its aim, or because delight is the necessary means of effecting the
ethical end of art.[107] Thus, for example, heroic poetry consists of
imitation and allegory, the function of the former being to cause
delight, and that of the latter to give instruction and guidance in
life. But since difficult or obscure conceits rarely delight, and since
the poet does not appeal to the learned only, but to the people, just as
the orator does, the poet's idea must be, if not popular in the ordinary
sense of the word, at least intelligible to the people. Now the people
will not study difficult problems; but poetry, by appealing to them on
the side of pleasure, teaches them whether they will or no; and this
constitutes the true effectiveness of poetry, for it is the most
delightful, and hence the most valuable, of teachers.[108]

Such, then, are the various conceptions of the function of poetry, as
held by the critics of the Renaissance. On the whole, it may be said
that at bottom the conception was an ethical one, for, with the
exception of such a revolutionary spirit as Castelvetro, by most
theorists it was as an effective guide to life that poetry was chiefly
valued. Even when delight was admitted as an end, it was simply because
of its usefulness in effecting the ethical aim.

In concluding this chapter, it may be well to say a few words, and only
a few, upon the classification of poetic forms. There were during the
Renaissance numerous attempts at distinguishing these forms, but on the
whole all of them are fundamentally equivalent to that of Minturno, who
recognizes three _genres_,--the lyric or melic, the dramatic or scenic,
and the epic or narrative. This classification is essentially that of
the Greeks, and it has lasted down to this very day. With lyric poetry
this essay is scarcely concerned, for during the Renaissance there was
no systematic lyric theory. Those who discussed it at all gave most of
their attention to its formal structure, its style, and especially the
conceit it contained. The model of all lyrical poetry was Petrarch, and
it was in accordance with the lyrical poet's agreement or disagreement
with the Petrarchan method that he was regarded as a success or a
failure. Muzio's critical poem (1551) deals almost entirely with lyrical
verse, and there are discussions on this subject in the works of
Trissino, Equicola, Ruscelli, Scaliger, and Minturno. But the real
question at issue in all these discussions is merely that of external
form, and it is with the question of principles, in so far as they
regard literary criticism, that this essay is primarily concerned. The
theory of dramatic and epic poetry, being fundamental, will therefore
receive almost exclusive attention.


[40] Robortelli, p. 1 _sq._

[41] This analysis of Zabarella, _Opera Logica, De Natura Logicæ_, ii.
13-23, I owe to the kindness of Professor Butcher of Edinburgh.
Zabarella probably derived his knowledge of Aristotle's _Poetics_ from
Robortelli, under whom he studied Greek. _Cf._ Bayle, _Dict._ s. v.

[42] Maggi, p. 28 _sq._ _Cf._ B. Tasso, _Lettere_, ii. 514; Scaliger,
_Poet._ i. 2; Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 7; Salviati, Cod. Magliabech.
ii. ii. 11, fol. 384 v.; B. Jonson, _Timber_, p. 74.

[43] Daniello, p. 41 _sq._

[44] Robortelli, p. 86 _sq._

[45] Robortelli, p. 90 _sq._

[46] Fracastoro, i. 340.

[47] Fracastoro, i. 357 _sq._

[48] _Poet._ vi. 2.

[49] Varchi, p. 578.

[50] _E.g._ Piccolomini, p. 27 _sq._

[51] Tiraboschi, vii. 1331.

[52] Summo, pp. 61-69.

[53] _Poet._ iii. 95.

[54] _Poet._ i. 1.

[55] Another critic of the time, Vettori, 1560, pp. 14, 93, attacks
poetic prose on the ground that in Aristotle's definition of the various
poetic forms, verse is always spoken of as an essential part. It is
interesting to note that the phrase "poetic prose" is used, perhaps for
the first time, in Minturno, _Arte Poetica_, 1564, p. 3, etc.

[56] _Opere_, x. 254. _Cf._ Minturno, _Arte Poetica_, p. 33.

[57] _Poet._ iii. 96.

[58] Muzio, p. 69.

[59] Giraldi Cintio, i. 61.

[60] _Art Poét._ iii. 50. _Cf._ Horace, _Ars Poet._ 188.

[61] _Zodiac. Vitæ_, i. 143.

[62] Butcher, pp. 117, 118.

[63] _Poet._ i. 8.

[64] Fracastoro, i. 335 _sq._

[65] _Cf._ Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 27 _sq._

[66] _Rhet._ i. 11.

[67] _Cf._ A. Segni, 1581, cap. i.

[68] Varchi, p. 227 _sq._

[69] Capriano, cap. ii.

[70] Lionardi, p. 43 _sq._

[71] _Lettere_, ii. 525.

[72] Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 2.

[73] _Defense_, pp. 10, 11.

[74] _De Poeta_, p. 53 _sq._

[75] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 23 _sq._

[76] _Ibid._ p. 190.

[77] _Cf._ T. Tasso, xi. 51.

[78] _Poetica_, p. 158.

[79] _Poetica_, p. 191.

[80] _Ars Poet._ 333.

[81] Butcher, p. 185.

[82] Daniello, p. 25.

[83] _Ibid._ p. 40.

[84] Fracastoro, i. 363.

[85] Scaliger, _Poet._ vi. ii. 2.

[86] _De Poeta_, p. 102. _Cf._ Scaliger, _Poet._ iii. 96.

[87] _De Poeta_, p. 11.

[88] _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, p. 104.

[89] _De Poeta_, p. 79.

[90] _Oeuvres_, vii. 318.

[91] _Works_, i. 333.

[92] _Prose Works_, iii. 118.

[93] _Characteristicks_, 1711, i. 207.

[94] H. C. Robinson, _Diary_, May 29, 1812, "Coleridge talked of the
impossibility of being a good poet without being a good man."

[95] _Defence of Poetry_, p. 42.

[96] Minturno plainly says as much, _De Poeta_, p. 105.

[97] _Geog._ i. ii. 5, as cited by Shaftesbury.

[98] _Lettere_, ii. 195.

[99] _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, p. 104.

[100] _Cf._ Piccolomini, p. 369.

[101] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 505. _Cf._ Twining, ii. 449, 450.

[102] _Poetica_, p. 29.

[103] Posnett, cited by Cook, p. 247.

[104] _Opere_, viii. 26 _sq._

[105] _Ibid._ ix. 123.

[106] _Ibid._ xii. 13.

[107] _Ibid._ xi. 50.

[108] _Ibid._ xii. 212.



ARISTOTLE'S definition of tragedy is the basis of the Renaissance theory
of tragedy. That definition is as follows: "Tragedy is an imitation of
an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in
language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several
kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action,
not of narration; through pity and fear effecting the proper _katharsis_
or purgation of these emotions."[109]

To expand this definition, tragedy, in common with all other forms of
poetry, is the imitation of an action; but the action of tragedy is
distinguished from that of comedy in being grave and serious. The action
is complete, in so far as it possesses perfect unity; and in length it
must be of the proper magnitude. By embellished language, Aristotle
means language into which rhythm, harmony, and song enter; and by the
remark that the several kinds are to be found in separate parts of the
play, he means that some parts of tragedy are rendered through the
medium of verse alone, while others receive the aid of song. Moreover,
tragedy is distinguished from epic poetry by being in the form of
action instead of that of narration. The last portion of Aristotle's
definition describes the peculiar function of tragic performance.

I. _The Subject of Tragedy_

Tragedy is the imitation of a _serious_ action, that is, an action both
grave and great, or, as the sixteenth century translated the word,
illustrious. Now, what constitutes a serious action, and what actions
are not suited to the dignified character of tragedy? Daniello (1536)
distinguishes tragedy from comedy in that the comic poets "deal with the
most familiar and domestic, not to say base and vile operations; the
tragic poets, with the deaths of high kings and the ruins of great
empires."[110] Whichever of these matters the poet selects should be
treated without admixture of any other form; if he resolves to treat of
grave matters, mere loveliness should be excluded; if of themes of
loveliness, he should exclude all grave themes. Here, at the very
beginning of dramatic discussion, the strict separation of themes or
_genres_ is advocated in as formal a manner as ever during the period of
classicism; and this was never deviated from, at least in theory, by any
of the writers of the sixteenth century. Moreover, according to
Daniello, the dignified character of tragedy demands that all unseemly,
cruel, impossible, or ignoble incidents should be excluded from the
stage; while even comedy should not attempt to represent any lascivious
act.[111] This was merely a deduction from Senecan tragedy and the
general practice of the classics.

There is, in Daniello's theory of tragedy, no single Aristotelian
element, and it was not until about a decade later that Aristotle's
theory of tragedy played any considerable part in the literary criticism
of the sixteenth century. In 1543, however, the _Poetics_ had already
become a part of university study, for Giraldi Cintio, in his _Discorso
sulle Comedie e sulle Tragedie_, written in that year, says that it was
a regular academic exercise to compare some Greek tragedy, such as the
_Oedipus_ of Sophocles, with a tragedy of Seneca on the same subject,
using the _Poetics_ of Aristotle as a dramatic text-book.[112] Giraldi
distinguishes tragedy from comedy on somewhat the same grounds as
Daniello. "Tragedy and comedy," he says, "agree in that they are both
imitations of an action, but they differ in that the former imitates the
illustrious and royal, the latter the popular and civil. Hence Aristotle
says that comedy imitates the worse sort of actions, not that they are
vicious and criminal, but that, as regards nobility, they are worse when
compared with royal actions." Giraldi's position is made clear by his
further statement that the actions of tragedy are called illustrious,
not because they are virtuous or vicious, but merely because they are
the actions of people of the highest rank.[113]

This conception of the serious action of tragedy, which makes its
dignity the result of the rank of those who are its actors, and thus
regards rank as the real distinguishing mark between comedy and tragedy,
was not only common throughout the Renaissance, but even throughout the
whole period of classicism, and had an extraordinary effect on the
modern drama, especially in France. Thus Dacier (1692) says that it is
not necessary that the action be illustrious and important in itself:
"On the contrary, it may be very ordinary or common; but it must be so
by the quality of the persons who act.... The greatness of these eminent
men renders the action great, and their reputation makes it credible and

Again, Robortelli (1548) maintains that tragedy deals only with the
greater sort of men (_præstantiores_), because the fall of men of such
rank into misery and disgrace produces greater commiseration (which is,
as will be seen, one of the functions of tragedy) than the fall of men
of merely ordinary rank. Another commentator on the _Poetics_, Maggi
(1550), gives a slightly different explanation of Aristotle's meaning.
Maggi asserts that Aristotle,[115] in saying that comedy deals with the
worse and tragedy with the better sort of men, means to distinguish
between those whose rank is lower or higher than that of ordinary men;
comedy dealing with slaves, tradesmen, maidservants, buffoons, and other
low people, tragedy with kings and heroes.[116] This explanation is
defended on grounds similar to those given by Robortelli, that is, the
change from felicity to infelicity is greater and more noticeable in the
greatest men.[117]

This conception of the rank of the characters as the distinguishing mark
between tragedy and comedy is, it need not be said, entirely
un-Aristotelian. "Aristotle does undoubtedly hold," says Professor
Butcher, "that actors in tragedy ought to be illustrious by birth and
position. The narrow and trivial life of obscure persons cannot give
scope for a great and significant action, one of tragic consequence. But
nowhere does he make outward rank the distinguishing feature of tragic
as opposed to comic representation. Moral nobility is what he demands;
and this--on the French stage, or at least with French critics--is
transformed into an inflated dignity, a courtly etiquette and decorum,
which seemed proper to high rank. The instance is one of many in which
literary critics have wholly confounded the teaching of Aristotle."[118]
This distinction, then, though common up to the end of the eighteenth
century, is not to be found in Aristotle; but the fact is, that a
similar distinction can be traced, throughout the Middle Ages,
throughout classical antiquity, back almost to the time of Aristotle

The grammarian, Diomedes, has preserved the definition of tragedy
formulated by Theophrastus, Aristotle's successor as head of the
Peripatetic school. According to this definition, tragedy is "a change
in the fortune of a hero."[119] A Greek definition of comedy preserved
by Diomedes, and ascribed to Theophrastus also,[120] speaks of comedy as
dealing with private and civil fortunes, without the element of danger.
This seems to have been the accepted Roman notion of comedy. In the
treatise of Euanthius-Donatus, comedy is said to deal with the common
fortunes of men, to begin turbulently, but to end tranquilly and
happily; tragedy, on the other hand, has only mighty personages, and
ends terribly; its subject is often historical, while that of comedy is
always invented by the poet.[121] The third book of Diomedes's _Ars
Grammatica_, based on Suetonius's tractate _De Poetis_ (written in the
second century A.D.), distinguishes tragedy from comedy in that only
heroes, great leaders, and kings are introduced in tragedy, while in
comedy the characters are humble and private persons; in the former,
lamentations, exiles, bloodshed predominate, in the latter, love affairs
and seductions.[122] Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, says
very much the same thing: "Comic poets treat of the acts of private men,
while tragic poets treat of public matters and the histories of kings;
tragic themes are based on sorrowful affairs, comic themes on joyful
ones."[123] In another place he speaks of tragedy as dealing with the
ancient deeds and misdeeds of infamous kings, and of comedy as dealing
with the actions of private men, and with the defilement of maidens and
the love affairs of strumpets.[124] In the _Catholicon_ of Johannes
Januensis de Balbis (1286) tragedy and comedy are distinguished on
similar grounds: tragedy deals only with kings and princes, comedy with
private citizens; the style of the former is elevated, that of the
latter humble; comedy begins sorrowfully and ends joyfully, tragedy
begins joyfully and ends miserably and terribly.[125] For Dante, any
poem written in an elevated and sublime style, beginning happily and
ending in misery and terror, is a tragedy; his own great vision, written
as it is in the vernacular, and beginning in hell and ending gloriously
in paradise, he calls a comedy.[126]

It appears, therefore, that during the post-classic period and
throughout the Middle Ages, comedy and tragedy were distinguished on any
or all of the following grounds:--

i. The characters in tragedy are kings, princes, or great leaders; those
in comedy, humble persons and private citizens.

ii. Tragedy deals with great and terrible actions; comedy with familiar
and domestic actions.

iii. Tragedy begins happily and ends terribly; comedy begins rather
turbulently and ends joyfully.

iv. The style and diction of tragedy are elevated and sublime; while
those of comedy are humble and colloquial.

v. The subjects of tragedy are generally historical; those of comedy are
always invented by the poet.

vi. Comedy deals largely with love and seduction; tragedy with exile and

This, then, was the tradition that shaped the un-Aristotelian conception
of the distinctions between comedy and tragedy, which persisted
throughout and even beyond the Renaissance. Giraldi Cintio has followed
most of these traditional distinctions, but he is in closer accord with
Aristotle[127] when he asserts that the tragic as well as the comic plot
may be purely imaginary and invented by the poet.[128] He explains the
traditional conception that the tragic fable should be historical, on
the ground that as tragedy deals with the deeds of kings and illustrious
men, it would not be probable that remarkable actions of such great
personages should be left unrecorded in history, whereas the private
events treated in comedy could hardly be known to all. Giraldi, however,
asserts that it does not matter whether the tragic poet invents his
story or not, so long as it follows the law of probability. The poet
should choose an action that is probable and dignified, that does not
need the intervention of a god in the unravelling of the plot, that does
not occupy much more than the space of a day, and that can be
represented on the stage in three or four hours.[129] In respect to the
dénouement of tragedy, it may be happy or unhappy, but in either case it
must arouse pity and terror; and as for the classic notion that no
deaths should be represented on the stage, Giraldi declares that those
which are not excessively painful may be represented, for they are
represented not for the sake of commiseration but of justice. The
argument here centres about Aristotle's phrase [Greek: en tô phanerô
thanatoi],[130] but the common practice of classicism was based on
Horace's express prohibition:--

    "Ne pueros coram populo Medea trucidet."[131]

Giraldi gives it as a universal rule of the drama that nothing should be
represented on the stage which could not with propriety be done in one's
own house.[132]

Scaliger's treatment of the dramatic forms is particularly interesting
because of its great influence on the neo-classical drama. He defines
tragedy as an imitation of an illustrious event, ending unhappily,
written in a grave and weighty style, and in verse.[133] Here he has
discarded, or at least disregarded, the Aristotelian definition of
tragedy, in favor of the traditional conception which had come down
through the Middle Ages. Real tragedy, according to Scaliger, is
entirely serious; and although there are a few happy endings in ancient
tragedy, the unhappy ending is most proper to the spirit of tragedy
itself. _Mortes aut exilia_--these are the fit accompaniments of the
tragic catastrophe.[134] The action begins tranquilly, but ends
horribly; the characters are kings and princes, from cities, castles,
and camps; the language is grave, polished, and entirely opposed to
colloquial speech; the aspect of things is troubled, with terrors,
menaces, exiles, and deaths on every hand. Taking as his model Seneca,
whom he rates above all the Greeks in majesty,[135] he gives as the
typical themes of tragedy "the mandates of kings, slaughters, despairs,
executions, exiles, loss of parents, parricides, incests,
conflagrations, battles, loss of sight, tears, shrieks, lamentations,
burials, epitaphs, and funeral songs."[136] Tragedy is further
distinguished from comedy on the ground that the latter derives its
argument and its chief characters from history, inventing merely the
minor characters; while comedy invents its arguments and all its
characters, and gives them names of their own. Scaliger distinguishes
men, for the purposes of dramatic poetry, according to character and
rank;[137] but it would seem that he regarded rank alone as the
distinguishing mark between tragedy and comedy. Thus tragedy is made to
differ from comedy in three things: in the rank of the characters, in
the quality of the actions, and in their different endings; and as a
result of these differences, in style also.

The definition of tragedy given by Minturno, in his treatise _De Poeta_
(1559), is merely a paraphrase of Aristotle's. He conceives of tragedy
as describing _casus heroum cuius sibi quisque fortunæ fuerit faber_,
and it thus acts as a warning to men against pride of rank, insolence,
avarice, lust, and similar passions.[138] It is grave and illustrious
because its characters are illustrious; and no variety of persons or
events should be introduced that are not in keeping with the calamitous
ending. The language throughout must be grave and severe; and Minturno
has expressed his censure in such matters by the phrase, _poema amatorio
mollique sermone effoeminat_,[139] a censure which would doubtless apply
to a large portion of classic French tragedy.

In Castelvetro (1570) we find a far more complete theory of the drama
than had been attempted by any of his predecessors. His work is by no
means a model of what a commentary on Aristotle's _Poetics_ should be.
In the next century, Dacier, whose subservience to Aristotle was even
greater than that of any of the Italians, accuses Castelvetro of lacking
every quality necessary to a good interpreter of Aristotle. "He knew
nothing," says Dacier, "of the theatre, or of character, or of the
passions; he understood neither the reasons nor the method of Aristotle;
and he sought rather to contradict Aristotle than to explain him."[140]
The fact is that Castelvetro, despite considerable veneration for
Aristotle's authority, often shows remarkable independence of thought;
and so far from resting content, in his commentary, with the mere
explanation of the details of the _Poetics_, he has attempted to deduce
from it a more or less complete theory of poetic art. Accordingly,
though diverging from many of the details, and still more from the
spirit of the _Poetics_, he has, as it were, built up a dramatic system
of his own, founded upon certain modifications and misconceptions of the
Aristotelian canons. The fundamental idea of this system is quite
modern; and it is especially interesting because it indicates that by
this time the drama had become more than a mere academic exercise, and
was actually regarded as intended primarily for representation on the
stage. Castelvetro examines the physical conditions of stage
representation, and on this bases the requirements of dramatic
literature. The fact that the drama is intended for the stage, that it
is to be acted, is at the bottom of his theory of tragedy, and it was to
this notion, as will be seen later, that we are to attribute the origin
of the unities of time and place.

But Castelvetro's method brings with it its own _reductio ad absurdum_.
For after all, stage representation, while essential to the production
of dramatic literature, can never circumscribe the poetic power or
establish its conditions. The conditions of stage representation change,
and must change, with the varying conditions of dramatic literature and
the inventive faculty of poets, for truly great art makes, or at least
fixes, its own conditions. Besides, it is with what is permanent and
universal that the artist--the dramatic artist as well as the rest--is
concerned; and it is the poetic, and not the dramaturgic, element that
is permanent and universal. "The power of tragedy, we may be sure," says
Aristotle, "is felt even apart from representation and actors;"[141] and
again: "The plot [of a tragedy] ought to be so constructed that even
without the aid of the eye any one who is told the incidents will thrill
with horror and pity at the turn of events."[142]

But what, according to Castelvetro, are the conditions of stage
representation? The theatre is a public place, in which a play is
presented before a motley crowd,--_la moltitudine rozza_,--upon a
circumscribed platform or stage, within a limited space of time. To this
idea the whole of Castelvetro's dramatic system is conformed. In the
first place, since the audience may be great in number, the theatre must
be large, and yet the audience must be able to hear the play;
accordingly, verse is added, not merely as a delightful accompaniment,
but also in order that the actors may raise their voices without
inconvenience and without loss of dignity.[143] In the second place, the
audience is not a select gathering of choice spirits, but a motley crowd
of people, drawn to the theatre for the purpose of pleasure or
recreation; accordingly, abstruse themes, and in fact all technical
discussions, must be eschewed by the playwright, who is thus limited, as
we should say to-day, to the elemental passions and interests of
man.[144] In the third place, the actors are required to move about on a
raised and narrow platform; and this is the reason why deaths or deeds
of violence, and many other things which cannot be acted on such a
platform with convenience and dignity, should not be represented in the
drama.[145] Furthermore, as will be seen later, it is on this conception
of the circumscribed platform and the physical necessities of the
audience and the actors, that Castelvetro bases his theory of the
unities of time and place.

In distinguishing the different _genres_, Castelvetro openly differs
with Aristotle. In the _Poetics_, Aristotle distinguishes men according
as they are better than we are, or worse, or the same as we are; and
from this difference the various species of poetry, tragic, comic, and
epic, are derived. Castelvetro thinks this mode of distinction not only
untrue, but even inconsistent with what Aristotle says later of tragedy.
Goodness and badness are to be taken account of, according to
Castelvetro, not to distinguish one form of poetry from another, but
merely in the special case of tragedy, in so far as a moderate virtue,
as Aristotle says, is best able to produce terror and pity. Poetry, as
indeed Aristotle himself acknowledges, is not an imitation of character,
or of goodness and badness, but of men acting; and the different kinds
of poetry are distinguished, not by the goodness and badness, or the
character, of the persons selected for imitation, but by their rank or
condition alone. The great and all-pervading difference between royal
and private persons is what distinguishes tragedy and epic poetry on the
one hand from comedy and similar forms of poetry on the other. It is
rank, then, and not intellect, character, action,--for these vary in men
according to their condition,--that differentiates one poetic form from
another; and the distinguishing mark of rank on the stage, and in
literature generally, is the bearing of the characters, royal persons
acting with propriety, and meaner persons with impropriety.[146]
Castelvetro has here escaped one pitfall, only to fall into another; for
while goodness and badness cannot, from any æsthetic standpoint, be made
to distinguish the characters of tragedy from those of comedy,--leaving
out of consideration here the question whether this was or was not the
actual opinion of Aristotle,--it is no less improper to make mere
outward rank or condition the distinguishing feature. Whether it be
regarded as an interpretation of Aristotle or as a poetic theory by
itself, Castelvetro's contention is, in either case, equally untenable.

II. _The Function of Tragedy_

No passage in Aristotle's _Poetics_ has been subjected to more
discussion, and certainly no passage has been more misunderstood, than
that in which, at the close of his definition of tragedy, he states its
peculiar function to be that of effecting through pity and fear the
proper purgation ([Greek: katharsis]) of these emotions. The more
probable of the explanations of this passage are, as Twining says,[147]
reducible to two. The first of these gives to Aristotle's _katharsis_ an
ethical meaning, attributing the effect of the tragedy to its moral
lesson and example. This interpretation was a literary tradition of
centuries, and may be found in such diverse writers as Corneille and
Lessing, Racine and Dryden, Dacier and Rapin. According to the second
interpretation, the purgation of the emotions produced by tragedy is an
emotional relief gained by the excitement of these emotions. Plato had
insisted that the drama excites passions, such as pity and fear, which
debase men's spirits; Aristotle in this passage answers that by the very
exaltation of these emotions they are given a pleasurable outlet, and
beyond this there is effected a purification of the emotions so
relieved. That is, the emotions are clarified and purified by being
passed through the medium of art, and by being, as Professor Butcher
points out, ennobled by objects worthy of an ideal emotion.[148] This
explanation gives no direct moral purpose or influence to the
_katharsis_, for tragedy acts on the feelings and not on the will. While
the ethical conception, of course, predominates in Italian criticism, as
it does throughout Europe up to the very end of the eighteenth century,
a number of Renaissance critics, among them Minturno and Speroni, even
if they failed to elaborate the further æsthetic meaning of Aristotle's
definition, at least perceived that Aristotle ascribed to tragedy an
emotional and not an ethical purpose. It is unnecessary to give a
detailed statement of the opinions of the various Italian critics on
this point; but it is essential that the interpretations of the more
important writers should be alluded to, since otherwise the Renaissance
conception of the function of the drama could not be understood.

Giraldi Cintio points out that the aim of comedy and of tragedy is
identical, viz. to conduce to virtue; but they reach this result in
different ways; for comedy attains its end by means of pleasure and
comic jests, while tragedy, whether it ends happily or unhappily, purges
the mind of vice through the medium of misery and terror, and thus
attains its moral end.[149] Elsewhere,[150] he affirms that the tragic
poet condemns vicious actions, and by combining them with the terrible
and the miserable makes us fear and hate them. In other words, men who
are bad are placed in such pitiable and terrible positions that we fear
to imitate their vices; and it is not a purgation of pity and fear, as
Aristotle says, but an eradication of all vice and vicious desire that
is effected by the tragic _katharsis_. Trissino, in the fifth section of
his _Poetica_ (1563), cites Aristotle's definition of tragedy; but makes
no attempt to elucidate the doctrine of _katharsis_. His conception of
the function of the drama is much the same as Giraldi's. It is the
office of the tragic poet, through the medium of imitation, to praise
and admire the good, while that of the comic poet is to mock and
vituperate the bad; for tragedy, as Aristotle says, deals with the
better sort of actions, and comedy with the worse.[151]

Robortelli (1548), however, ascribes a more æsthetic function to
tragedy. By the representation of sad and atrocious deeds, tragedy
produces terror and commiseration in the spectator's mind. The exercise
of terror and commiseration purges the mind of these very passions; for
the spectator, seeing things performed which are very similar to the
actual facts of life, becomes accustomed to sorrow and pity, and these
emotions are gradually diminished.[152] Moreover, by seeing the
sufferings of others, men sorrow less at their own, recognizing such
things as common to human nature. Robortelli's conception of the
function of tragedy is, therefore, not an ethical one; the effect of
tragedy is understood primarily as diminishing pity and fear in our
minds by accustoming us to the sight of deeds that produce these
emotions. A similar interpretation of the _katharsis_ is given by
Vettori (1560) and Castelvetro (1570).[153] The latter compares the
process of purgation with the emotions which are excited by a
pestilence. At first the infected populace is crazed by excitement, but
gradually becomes accustomed to the sight of the disease, and the
emotions of the people are thus tempered and allayed.

A somewhat different conception of _katharsis_ is that of Maggi.
According to him, we are to understand by purgation the liberation
through pity and fear of passions similar to these, but not pity and
fear themselves; for Maggi cannot understand how tragedy, which induces
pity and fear in the hearer, should at the same time remove these
perturbations.[154] Moreover, pity and fear are useful emotions, while
such passions as avarice, lust, anger, are certainly not. In another
place, Maggi, relying on citations from Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander
of Aphrodisias, explains the pleasure we receive from tragedy, by
pointing out that we feel sorrow by reason of the human heart within us,
which is carried out of itself by the sight of misery; while we feel
pleasure because it is human and natural to feel pity. Pleasure and pain
are thus fundamentally the same.[155] Varchi[156] is at one with Maggi
in interpreting the _katharsis_ as a purgation, not of pity and fear
themselves, but of emotions similar to them.

For Scaliger (1561) the aim of tragedy, like that of all poetry, is a
purely ethical one. It is not enough to move the spectators to
admiration and dismay, as some critics say Æschylus does; it is also the
poet's function to teach, to move, and to delight. The poet teaches
character through actions, in order that we should embrace and imitate
the good, and abstain from the bad. The joy of evil men is turned in
tragedy to bitterness, and the sorrow of good men to joy.[157] Scaliger
is here following the extreme view of poetic justice which we have found
expressed in so many of the Renaissance writers. In the last century,
Dr. Johnson, in censuring Shakespeare for the tragic fate meted out to
Cordelia and other blameless characters, showed himself an inheritor of
this Renaissance tradition, just as we shall see that Lessing was in
other matters. For Scaliger the moral aim of the drama is attained both
indirectly, by the representation of wickedness ultimately punished and
virtue ultimately rewarded, and more directly by the enunciation of
moral precepts throughout the play. With the Senecan model before him,
such precepts (_sententiæ_) became the very props of tragedy,--_sunt
enim quasi columnæ aut pilæ quædam universæ fabricæ illius_,--and so
they remained in modern classical tragedy. Minturno points out that
these _sententiæ_ are to be used most in tragedy and least in epic

Minturno also follows Scaliger in conceiving that the purpose of tragedy
is to teach, to delight, and to move. It teaches by setting before us an
example of the life and manners of superior men, who by reason of human
error have fallen into extreme unhappiness. It delights us by the beauty
of its verse, its diction, its song, and the like. Lastly, it moves us
to wonder, by terrifying us and exciting our pity, thus purging our
minds of such matters. This process of purgation is likened by Minturno
to the method of a physician: "As a physician eradicates, by means of
poisonous medicine, the perfervid poison of disease which affects the
body, so tragedy purges the mind of its impetuous perturbations by the
force of these emotions beautifully expressed in verse."[159]

According to this interpretation of the _katharsis_, tragedy is a mode
of homoeopathic treatment, effecting the cure of one emotion by means of
a similar one; and we find Milton, in the preface to _Samson Agonistes_,
explaining the _katharsis_ in much the same manner:--

     "Tragedy, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the
     gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems;
     therefore said by Aristotle to be of power, by raising pity and
     fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such like
     passions; that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure
     with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those
     passions well imitated. Nor is nature wanting in her own
     effects to make good his assertion; for so in physic, things of
     melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour
     against sour, salt to remove salt humours."

This passage has been regarded by Twining, Bernays, and other modern
scholars as a remarkable indication of Milton's scholarship and critical
insight;[160] but after all, it need hardly be said, he was merely
following the interpretation of the Italian commentators on the
_Poetics_. Their writings he had studied and knew thoroughly, had
imbibed all the critical ideas of the Italian Renaissance, and in the
very preface from which we have just quoted, filled as it is with ideas
that may be traced back to Italian sources, he acknowledges following
"the ancients and Italians," as of great "authority and fame." Like
Milton, Minturno conceived of tragedy as having an ethical aim; but both
Milton and Minturno clearly perceived that by _katharsis_ Aristotle had
reference not to a moral, but to an emotional, effect.

One of the most interesting discussions on the meaning of the
_katharsis_ is to be found in a letter of Sperone Speroni[161] written
in 1565. His explanation of the passage itself is quite an impossible
one, if only on philological grounds; but his argument is very
interesting and very modern. He points out that pity and fear may be
conceived of as keeping the spirit of men in bondage, and hence it is
proper that we should be purged of these emotions. But he insists that
Aristotle cannot refer to the complete eradication of pity and fear--a
conception which is Stoic rather than Peripatetic, for Aristotle does
not require us to free ourselves from emotions, but to regulate them,
since in themselves they are not bad.

III. _The Characters of Tragedy_

Aristotle's conception of the ideal tragic hero is based on the
assumption that the function of tragedy is to produce the _katharsis_,
or purgation, of pity and fear,--"pity being felt for a person who, if
not wholly innocent, meets with suffering beyond his deserts; fear
being awakened when the sufferer is a man of like nature with
ourselves."[162] From this it follows that if tragedy represents the
fall of an entirely good man from prosperity to adversity, neither pity
nor fear is produced, and the result merely shocks and repels us. If an
entirely bad man is represented as undergoing a change from distress to
prosperity, not only do we feel no pity and no fear, but even the sense
of justice is left unsatisfied. If, on the contrary, such a man entirely
bad falls from prosperity into adversity and distress, the moral sense
is indeed satisfied, but without the tragic emotions of pity and fear.
The ideal hero is therefore morally between the two extremes, neither
eminently good nor entirely bad, though leaning to the side of goodness;
and the misfortune which falls upon him is the result of some great flaw
of character or fatal error of conduct.[163]

This conception of the tragic hero was the subject of considerable
discussion in the Renaissance; in fact, the first instance in Italian
criticism of the application of Aristotelian ideas to the theory of
tragedy is perhaps to be found in the reference of Daniello (1536) to
the tragic hero's fate. Daniello, however, understood Aristotle's
meaning very incompletely, for he points out that tragedy, in order to
imitate most perfectly the miserable and the terrible, should not
introduce just and virtuous men fallen into vice and injustice through
the adversity of fortune, for this is more wicked than it is miserable
and terrible, nor should evil men, on the contrary, be introduced as
changed by prosperity into good and just men.[164] Here Daniello
conceives of tragedy as representing the change of a man from vice to
virtue, or from virtue to vice, through the medium of prosperity or
misfortune. This is a curious misconception of Aristotle's meaning.
Aristotle refers, not to the ethical effect of tragedy, but to the
effect of the emotions of pity and terror upon the mind of the
spectator, although of course he does not wish the catastrophe to shock
the moral sense or the sense of justice.

Giraldi Cintio, some years after Daniello, follows Aristotle more
closely in the conception of the tragic hero; and he affirms, moreover,
that tragedy may end happily or unhappily so long as it inspires pity
and terror. Now, Aristotle has expressly stated his disapprobation of
the happy ending of tragedy, for in speaking of tragedies with a double
thread and a double catastrophe, that is, tragedies in which the good
are ultimately rewarded and the bad punished, he shows that such a
conclusion is decidedly against the general tragic effect.[165]
Scaliger's conception of the moral function of the tragic poet as
rewarding virtue and punishing vice is therefore inconsistent with the
Aristotelian conception; for, as Scaliger insists that every tragedy
should end unhappily, it follows that only the good must survive and
only the bad suffer. Another critic of this time, Capriano (1555),
points out that the fatal ending of tragedy is due to the inability of
certain illustrious men to conduct themselves with prudence; and this is
more in keeping with Aristotle's true meaning.[166]

It has been seen that Aristotle regarded a perfectly good man as not
fitted to be the ideal hero of tragedy. Minturno, however, asserts that
tragedy is grave and illustrious because its characters are illustrious,
and that therefore he can see no reason, despite Aristotle, why the
lives of perfect men or Christian saints should not be represented on
the stage, and why even the life of Christ would not be a fit subject
for tragedy.[167] This is, indeed, Corneille's opinion, and in the
_examen_ of his _Polyeucte_ he cites Minturno in justification of his
own case. As regards the other characters of tragedy, Minturno states a
curious distinction between characters fit for tragedy and those fit for
comedy.[168] In the first place, he points out that no young girls, with
the exception of female slaves, should appear in comedy, for the reason
that the women of the people do not appear in public until marriage, and
would be sullied by the company of the low characters of comedy, whereas
the maidens of tragedy are princesses, accustomed to meet and converse
with noblemen from girlhood. Secondly, married women are always
represented in comedy as faithful, in tragedy as unfaithful to their
husbands, for the reason that comedy concludes with friendship and
tranquillity, and unfaithful relations could never end happily, while
the love depicted in tragedy serves to bring about the tragic ruin of
great houses. Thirdly, in comedy old men are often represented as in
love, but never in tragedy, for an amorous old man is conducive to
laughter, which comedy aims at producing, but which would be wholly out
of keeping with the gravity required in tragedy. These distinctions are
of course deduced from the practice of the Latin drama--the tragedies of
Seneca on the one hand, and the comedies of Plautus and Terence on the

In a certain passage of Aristotle's _Poetics_ there is a formulation of
the requirements of character-drawing in the drama.[169] In this passage
Aristotle says that the characters must be good; that they must be drawn
with propriety, that is, in keeping with the type to which they belong;
that they must be true to life, something quite distinct either from
goodness or propriety; and that the characters must be self-consistent.
This passage gave rise to a curious conception of character in the
Renaissance and throughout the period of classicism. According to this,
the conception of _decorum_, it was insisted that every old man should
have such and such characteristics, every young man certain others, and
so on for the soldier, the merchant, the Florentine or Parisian, and the
like. This fixed and formal mode of regarding character was connected
with the distinction of rank as the fundamental difference between the
characters of tragedy and comedy, and it was really founded on a
passage in Horace's _Ars Poetica_,--

    "Ætatis cujusque notandi sunt tibi mores,"[170]

and on the rhetorical descriptions of the various characteristics of men
in the second book of Aristotle's _Rhetoric_.

The explanation of the Renaissance conception of _decorum_ may start
from either of two points of view. In the first place, it is to be noted
that Horace, and after him the critics of the Renaissance, set about to
transpose to the domain of poetry the tentative distinctions of
character formulated by Aristotle, in the _Rhetoric_, simply for the
purposes of rhetorical exposition. These distinctions, it must be
repeated, were rhetorical and not æsthetic, and they are therefore not
alluded to by Aristotle in the _Poetics_. The result of the attempt to
transpose them to the domain of poetry led to a hardening and
crystallization of character in the classic drama. But the æsthetic
misconception implied by such an attempt is only too obvious. In such a
system poetry is held accountable, not to the ideal truth of human life,
but to certain arbitrary, or at best merely empirical, formulæ of
rhetorical theory. The Renaissance was in this merely doing for
character what was being done for all the other elements of art. Every
such element, when once discriminated and definitely formulated, became
fixed as a necessary and inviolable substitute for the reality which had
thus been analyzed.

But we may look at the principle of _decorum_ from another point of
view. A much deeper question--the question of social distinctions--is
here involved. The observance of _decorum_ necessitated the maintenance
of the social distinctions which formed the basis of Renaissance life
and of Renaissance literature. It was this same tendency which caused
the tragedy of classicism to exclude all but characters of the highest
rank. Speaking of narrative poetry, Muzio (1551), while allowing kings
to mingle with the masses, considers it absolutely improper for one of
the people, even for a moment, to assume the sceptre.[171] Accordingly,
men as distinguished by the accidents of rank, profession, country, and
not as distinguished by that only which art should take cognizance of,
character, became the subjects of the literature of classicism; and in
so far as this is true, that literature loses something of the
profundity and the universality of the highest art.

This element of _decorum_ is to be found in all the critics of the
Renaissance from the time of Vida[172] and Daniello.[173] So essential
became the observance of _decorum_ that Muzio and Capriano both
considered it the most serious charge to be made against Homer, that he
was not always observant of it. Capriano, comparing Virgil with Homer,
asserts that the Latin poet surpasses the Greek in eloquence, in
dignity, in grandeur of style, but beyond everything in _decorum_.[174]
The seeming vulgarity of some of Homer's similes, and even of the
actions of some of his characters, appeared to the Renaissance a most
serious blemish; and it was this that led Scaliger to rate Homer not
only below Virgil, but even below Musæus. In Minturno and Scaliger we
find every detail of character minutely analyzed. The poet is told how
young men and old men should act, should talk, and should dress; and no
deviations from these fixed formulæ were allowed under any
circumstances. As a result of this, even when the poet liberated himself
from these conceptions, and aimed at depicting character in its true
sense, we find character, but never the development of character,
portrayed in the neo-classic drama. The character was fixed from the
beginning of the play to the end; and it is here that we may find the
origin of Ben Jonson's conception of "humours." In one of Salviati's
lectures, _Del Trattato della Poetica_,[175] Salviati defines a humour
as "a peculiar quality of nature according to which every one is
inclined to some special thing more than to any other." This would apply
very distinctly to the sense in which the Elizabethans used the word.
Thus Jonson himself, in the Induction of _Every Man out of his Humour_,
after expounding the medical notion of a humour, says:--

    "It may, by metaphor, apply itself
    Unto the general disposition:
    As when some one peculiar quality
    Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
    All his effects, his spirits, and his powers,
    In their confluctions, all to run one way,
    This may be truly said to be a humour."

The origin of the term "humour," in Jonson's sense, has never been
carefully studied. Jonson's editors speak of it as peculiar to the
English language, and as first used in this sense about Jonson's period.
It is not our purpose to go further into this question; but Salviati's
definition is close enough to Jonson's to indicate that the origin of
this term, as of all other critical terms and critical ideas throughout
sixteenth-century Europe, must be looked for in the æsthetic literature
of Italy.[176]

IV. _The Dramatic Unities_

In his definition of tragedy Aristotle says that the play must be
complete or perfect, that is, it must have unity. By unity of plot he
does not mean merely the unity given by a single hero, for, as he says,
"infinitely various are the incidents in one man's life which cannot be
reduced to unity; and so, too, there are many actions of one man out of
which we cannot make one action. Hence the error, as it appears, of all
poets who have composed a Heracleid, a Theseid, or other poems of the
kind. They imagine that as Heracles was one man, the story of Heracles
ought also to be a unity."[177] This is Aristotle's statement of the
unity of action. But what is the origin of the two other unities,--the
unities of time and place? There is in the _Poetics_ but a single
reference to the time-limit of the tragic action and none whatsoever to
the so-called unity of place. Aristotle says that the action of tragedy
and that of epic poetry differ in length, "for tragedy endeavors, so far
as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or but
slightly to exceed this limit; whereas the epic action has no limits of
time."[178] This passage is the incidental statement of an historical
fact; it is merely a tentative deduction from the usual practice of
Greek tragedy, and Aristotle never conceived of it as an inviolable law
of the drama. Of the three unities which play so prominent a part in
modern classical drama, the unity of action was the main, and, in fact,
the only unity which Aristotle knew or insisted on. But from his
incidental reference to the general time-limits of Greek tragedy, the
Renaissance formulated the unity of time, and deduced from it also the
unity of place, to which there is absolutely no reference either in
Aristotle or in any other ancient writer whatever. It is to the Italians
of the Renaissance, and not to the French critics of the seventeenth
century, that the world owes the formulation of the three unities. The
attention of scholars was first called to this fact about twenty years
ago, by the brochure of a Swiss scholar, H. Breitinger, on the unities
of Aristotle before Corneille's _Cid_; but the gradual development and
formulation of the three unities have never been systematically worked
out. We shall endeavor here to trace their history during the sixteenth
century, and to explain the processes by which they developed.

The first reference in modern literature to the doctrine of the unity of
time is to be found in Giraldi Cintio's _Discorso sulle Comedie e sulle
Tragedie_. He says that comedy and tragedy agree, among other things, in
the limitation of the action to one day or but little more;[179] and he
has thus for the first time converted Aristotle's statement of an
historical fact into a dramatic law. Moreover, he has changed
Aristotle's phrase, that tragedy limits itself "to a single revolution
of the sun," into the more definite expression of "a single day." He
points out that Euripides, in the _Heraclidæ_, on account of the long
distance between the places in the action, had been unable to limit the
action to one day. Now, as Aristotle must have known many of the best
Greek dramas which are now lost, it was probably in keeping with the
practice of such dramas that their actions were not strictly confined
within the limits of one day. Aristotle, therefore, intentionally
allowed the drama a slightly longer space of time than a single day. The
unity of time, accordingly, becomes a part of the theory of the drama
between 1540 and 1545, but it was not until almost exactly a century
later that it became an invariable rule of the dramatic literature of
France and of the world.

In Robortelli (1548) we find Aristotle's phrase, "a single revolution
of the sun," restricted to the artificial day of twelve hours; for as
tragedy can contain only one single and continuous action, and as people
are accustomed to sleep in the night, it follows that the tragic action
cannot be continued beyond one artificial day. This holds good of comedy
as well as tragedy, for the length of the fable in each is the
same.[180] Segni (1549) differs from Robortelli, however, in regarding a
single revolution of the sun as referring not to the artificial day of
twelve hours, but to the natural day of twenty-four hours, because
various matters treated in tragedy, and even in comedy, are such as are
more likely to happen in the night (adulteries, murders, and the like);
and if it be said that night is naturally the time for repose, Segni
answers that unjust people act contrary to the laws of nature.[181] It
was about this time, then, that there commenced the historic controversy
as to what Aristotle meant by limiting tragedy to one day; and
three-quarters of a century later, in 1623, Beni could cite thirteen
different opinions of scholars on this question.

Trissino, in his _Poetica_ (1563), paraphrases as follows the passage in
Aristotle which refers to the unity of time: "They also differ in
length, for tragedy terminates in one day, that is, one period of the
sun, or but little more, while there is no time determined for epic
poetry, as indeed was the custom with tragedy and comedy at their
beginning, and is even to-day among ignorant poets."[182] Here for the
first time, as a French critic remarks, the observance of the unity of
time is made a distinction between the learned and the ignorant
poet.[183] It is evident that Trissino conceives of the unity of time as
an artistic principle which has helped to save dramatic poetry from the
formlessness and chaotic condition of the mediæval drama. So that the
unity of time became not only a dramatic law, but one the observation of
which distinguished the dramatic artist from the mere ignorant compiler
of popular plays.

There is in none of the writers we have mentioned so far any reference
to the unity of place, for the simple reason that there is no allusion
to such a requirement for the drama in Aristotle's _Poetics_. Maggi's
discussion of the unity of time, in his commentary on the _Poetics_
(1550), is of particular interest as preparing the way for the third
unity. Maggi attempts to explain logically the reason for the unity of
time.[184] Why should tragedy be limited as to time, and not epic
poetry? According to him, this difference is to be explained by the fact
that the drama is represented on the stage before our eyes, and if we
should see the actions of a whole month performed in about the time it
takes to perform the play, that is, two or three hours, the performance
would be absolutely incredible. For example, says Maggi, if in a tragedy
we should send a messenger to Egypt, and he would return in an hour,
would not the spectator regard this as ridiculous? In the epic, on the
contrary, we do not see the actions performed, and so do not feel the
need of limiting them to any particular time. Now, it is to be noted
here that this limitation of time is based on the idea of
representation. The duration of the action of the drama itself must
fairly coincide with the duration of its representation on the stage.
This is the principle which led to the acceptance of the unity of place,
and upon which it is based. Limit the time of the action to the time of
representation, and it follows that the place of the action must be
limited to the place of representation. Such a limitation is of course a
piece of realism wholly out of keeping with the true dramatic illusion;
but it was almost exclusively in the drama that classicism tended toward
a minuter realism than could be justified by the Aristotelian canons. In
Maggi the beginnings of the unity of place are evident, inasmuch as he
finds that the requirements of the representation do not permit a
messenger or any character in the drama to be sent very far from the
place where the action is being performed. The closer action and
representation coincide, the clearer becomes the necessity of a
limitation in place as well as in time; and it was on this principle
that Scaliger and Castelvetro, somewhat later, formulated the three

There is, indeed, in Scaliger (1561) no direct statement of the unity of
time; but the reference to it is nevertheless unmistakable. First of
all, Scaliger requires that the events be so arranged and disposed that
they approach nearest to actual truth (_ut quam proxime accedant ad
veritatem_).[185] This is equivalent to saying that the duration of the
action, its place, its mode of procedure, must correspond more or less
exactly with the representation itself. The dramatic poet must aim,
beyond all things, at reproducing the actual conditions of life. The
_verisimile_, the _vraisemblable_, in the etymological sense of these
words, must be the final criterion of dramatic composition. It is not
sufficient that the spectator should be satisfied with the action as
typical of similar actions in life. An absolutely perfect illusion must
prevail; the spectator must be moved by the actions of the play exactly
as if they were those of real life.

This notion of the _verisimile_, and of its effect of perfect illusion
on the spectator's mind, prevailed throughout the period of classicism,
and was vigorously defended by no less a critic than Voltaire himself.
Accordingly, as Maggi first pointed out, if the playwright, in the few
hours it takes to represent the whole play, requires one of his
characters to perform an action that cannot be done in less than a
month, this impression of actual truth and perfect illusion will not be
left on the spectator's mind. "Therefore," says Scaliger, "those battles
and assaults which take place about Thebes in the space of two hours do
not please me; no sensible poet should make any one move from Delphi to
Thebes, or from Thebes to Athens, in a moment's time. Agamemnon is
buried by Æschylus after being killed, and Lichas is hurled into the sea
by Hercules; but this cannot be represented without violence to truth.
Accordingly, the poet should choose the briefest possible argument, and
should enliven it by means of episodes and details.... Since the whole
play is represented on the stage in six or eight hours, it is not in
accordance with the exact appearance of truth (_haud verisimile est_)
that within that brief space of time a tempest should arise and a
shipwreck occur, out of sight of land."

The observance of the unity of time could not be demanded in clearer or
more forcible terms than this. But it is a mistake to construe this
passage into a statement of the unity of place.[186] When Scaliger says
that the poet should not move any one of the characters from Delphi to
Thebes, or from Thebes to Athens, in a moment's time, he is referring to
the exigencies, not of place, but of time. In this, as in many other
things, he is merely following Maggi, who, as we have seen, says that it
is ridiculous for a dramatist to have a messenger go to Egypt with a
message and return in an hour. The characters, according to Scaliger,
should not move from Delphi to Thebes in a moment, not because the
action need necessarily occur in one single place, but because the
characters cannot with any appearance of truth go a great distance in a
short space of time. This is an approach to the unity of place, and had
Scaliger followed his contention to its logical conclusion, he must
certainly have formulated the three unities. But by requiring the action
to be disposed with the greatest possible approach to the actual truth,
or, in other words, by insisting that the action must coincide with the
representation, Scaliger helped more than any of his predecessors to the
final recognition of the unity of place.

In Minturno[187] and in Vettori[188] we find a tendency to restrict the
duration of the epic as well as the tragic action. It has been seen that
Aristotle distinctly says that while the action of tragedy generally
endeavors to confine itself within a period of about one day, that of
epic poetry has no determined time. Minturno, however, alludes to the
unity of time in the following words: "Whoever examines well the works
of the most esteemed ancient writers, will find that the action
represented on the stage is terminated in one day, or does not pass
beyond the space of two days; while the epic has a longer period of
time, except that its action cannot exceed one year in duration."[189]
This limitation Minturno deduces from the practice of Homer and
Virgil.[190] The action of the _Iliad_ begins in the tenth year of the
Trojan war, and lasts one year; the action of the _Æneid_ begins in the
seventh year after the departure of Æneas from Troy, and also lasts one

Castelvetro, however, was the first theorist to formulate the unity of
place, and thus to give the three unities their final form. We have
seen that Castelvetro's theory of the drama was based entirely upon the
notion of stage representation. All the essentials of dramatic
literature are thus fixed by the exigencies of the stage. The stage is a
circumscribed space, and the play must be performed upon it within a
period of time limited by the physical necessities of the spectators. It
is from these two facts that Castelvetro deduces the unities of time and
place. While asserting that Aristotle held it as _cosa fermissima e
verissima_ that the tragic action cannot exceed the length of an
artificial day of twelve hours, he does not think that Aristotle himself
understood the real reason of this limitation.[191] In the seventh
chapter of the _Poetics_ Aristotle says that the length of the plot is
limited by the possibility of its being carried in the memory of the
spectator conveniently at one time. But this, it is urged, would
restrict the epic as well as the tragic fable to one day. The difference
between epic and dramatic poetry in this respect is to be found in the
essential difference between the conditions of narrative and scenic
poetry.[192] Narrative poetry can in a short time narrate things that
happen in many days or months or even years; but scenic poetry, which
spends as many hours in representing things as it actually takes to do
them in life, does quite otherwise. In epic poetry words can present to
our intellect things distant in space and time; but in dramatic poetry
the whole action occurs before our eyes, and is accordingly limited to
what we can actually see with our own senses, that is, to that brief
duration of time and to that small amount of space in which the actors
are occupied in acting, and not any other time or place. But as the
restricted place is the stage, so the restricted time is that in which
the spectators can at their ease remain sitting through a continuous
performance; and this time, on account of the physical necessities of
the spectators, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, cannot well go
beyond the duration of one revolution of the sun. So that not only is
the unity of time an essential dramatic requirement, but it is in fact
impossible for the dramatist to do otherwise even should he desire to do
so--a conclusion which is of course the _reductio ad absurdum_ of the
whole argument.

In another place Castelvetro more briefly formulates the law of the
unities in the definitive form in which it was to remain throughout the
period of classicism: "La mutatione tragica non può tirar con esso seco
se non una giornata e un luogo."[193] The unities of time and place are
for Castelvetro so very important that the unity of action, which is for
Aristotle the only essential of the drama, is entirely subordinated to
them. In fact, Castelvetro specifically says that the unity of action is
not essential to the drama, but is merely made expedient by the
requirements of time and place. "In comedy and tragedy," he says, "there
is usually one action, not because the fable is unfitted to contain more
than one action, but because the restricted space in which the action
is represented, and the limited time, twelve hours at the very most, do
not permit of a multitude of actions."[194] In a similar manner
Castelvetro applies the law of the unities to epic poetry. Although the
epic action can be accomplished in many places and at diverse times, yet
as it is more commendable and pleasurable to have a single action, so it
is better for the action to confine itself to a short time and to but
few places. In other words, the more the epic attempts to restrict
itself to the unities of place and time, the better, according to
Castelvetro, it will be.[195] Moreover, Castelvetro was not merely the
first one to formulate the unities in their definitive form, but he was
also the first to insist upon them as inviolable laws of the drama; and
he refers to them over and over again in the pages of his commentary on
the _Poetics_.[196]

This then is the origin of the unities. Our discussion must have made it
clear how little they deserve the traditional title of Aristotelian
unities, or as a recent critic with equal inaccuracy calls them, the
Scaligerian unities (_unités scaligériennes_).[197] Nor were they, as we
have seen, first formulated in France, though this was the opinion of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thus Dryden says that "the
unity of place, however it might be practised by the ancients, was
never one of their rules: we neither find it in Aristotle, Horace, or
any who have written of it, till in our age the French poets first made
it a precept of the stage."[198] It may be said, therefore, that just as
the unity of action is _par excellence_ the Aristotelian unity, so the
unities of time and place are beyond a doubt the Italian unities. They
enter the critical literature of Europe from the time of Castelvetro,
and may almost be said to be the last contributions of Italy to literary
criticism. Two years after their formulation by Castelvetro they were
introduced into France, and a dozen years after this formulation, into
England. It was not until 1636, however, that they became fixed in
modern dramatic literature, as a result of the _Cid_ controversy. This
is approximately a hundred years after the first mention of the unity of
time in Italian criticism.

V. _Comedy_

The treatment of comedy in the literary criticism of this period is
entirely confined to a discussion and elaboration of the little that
Aristotle says on the subject of comedy in the _Poetics_. Aristotle, it
will be remembered, had distinguished tragedy from comedy in that the
former deals with the nobler, the latter with the baser, sort of
actions. Comedy is an imitation of characters of a lower type than those
of tragedy,--characters of a lower type indeed, but not in the full
sense of the word bad. "The ludicrous is merely a subdivision of the
ugly. It may be defined as a defect or ugliness which is not painful or
destructive. Thus, for example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted,
but does not cause pain."[199] From these few hints the Italian
theorists constructed a body of comic doctrine. There is, however, in
the critical literature of this period no attempt to explain the theory
of the indigenous Italian comedy, the _commedia dell' arte_. The
classical comedies of Plautus and Terence were the models, and
Aristotle's _Poetics_ the guide, of all the discussions on comedy during
the Renaissance. The distinction between the characters of comedy and
tragedy has already been explained in sufficient detail. All that
remains to be done in treating of comedy is to indicate as briefly as
possible such definitions of it as were formulated by the Renaissance,
and the special function which the Renaissance understood comedy to

According to Trissino (1563), the comic poet deals only with base
things, and for the single purpose of chastising them. As tragedy
attains its moral end through the medium of pity and fear, comedy does
so by means of the chastisement and vituperation of things that are base
and evil.[200] The comic poet, however, is not to deal with all sorts of
vices, but only such as give rise to ridicule, that is, the jocose
actions of humble and unknown persons. Laughter proceeds from a certain
delight or pleasure arising from the sight of objects of ugliness.
We do not laugh at a beautiful woman, a gorgeous jewel, or beautiful
music; but a distortion or deformity, such as a silly speech, an ugly
face, or a clumsy movement, makes us laugh. We do not laugh at the
benefits of others; the finder of a purse, for example, arouses not
laughter but envy. But we do laugh at some one who has fallen into the
mud, because, as Lucretius says, it is sweet to find in others some evil
not to be found in ourselves. Yet great evils, so far from causing us to
laugh, arouse pity and fear, because we are apprehensive lest such
things should happen to us. Hence we may conclude that a slight evil
which is neither sad nor destructive, and which we perceive in others
but do not believe to be in ourselves, is the primary cause of the
ludicrous.[201] In Maggi's treatise, _De Ridiculis_, appended to his
commentary on the _Poetics_, the Aristotelian conception of the
ridiculous is accepted, with the addition of the element of _admiratio_.
Maggi insists on the idea of suddenness or novelty; for we do not laugh
at painless ugliness if it be very familiar or long continued.[202]

According to Robortelli (1548), comedy, like all other forms of poetry,
imitates the manners and actions of men, and aims at producing laughter
and light-heartedness. But what produces laughter? The evil and obscene
merely disgust good men; the sad and miserable cause pity and fear. The
basis of laughter is therefore to be found in what is only slightly mean
or ugly (_subturpiculum_). The object of comedy, according to the
consensus of Renaissance opinion, is therefore to produce laughter for
the purpose of rendering the minor vices ridiculous. Muzio (1551) indeed
complains, as both Sidney and Ben Jonson do later, that the comic
writers of his day were more intent on producing laughter than on
depicting character or manners:--

      "Intenta al riso
    Più ch' a i costumi."

But Minturno points out that comedy is not to be contemned because it
excites laughter; for by comic hilarity the spectators are kept from
becoming buffoons themselves, and by the ridiculous light in which
amours are placed, are made to avoid such things in future. Comedy is
the best corrective of men's morals; it is indeed what Cicero calls it,
_imitatio vitæ, speculum consuetudinis, imago veritatis_. This phrase,
ascribed by Donatus to Cicero, runs through all the dramatic discussions
of the Renaissance,[203] and finds its echo in a famous passage in
_Hamlet_. Cervantes cites the phrase in _Don Quixote_;[204] and Il
Lasca, in the prologue to _L'Arzigoglio_, berates the comic writers of
his day after this fashion: "They take no account of the absurdities,
the contradictions, the inequalities, and the discrepancies of their
pieces; for they do not seem to know that comedy should be truth's
image, the ensample of manners, and the mirror of life."

This is exactly what Shakespeare is contending for when he makes Hamlet
caution the players not to "o'erstep the modesty of nature; for anything
so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first
and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature; to show
virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body
of the time his form and pressure."[205]

The high importance which Scaliger (1561) gives to comedy, and in fact
to satiric and didactic poetry in general, is one of many indications of
the incipient formation of neo-classical ideals during the Renaissance.
He regards as absurd the statement which he conceives Horace to have
made, that comedy is not really poetry; on the contrary, it is the true
form of poetry, and the first and highest of all, for its matter is
entirely invented by the poet.[206] He defines comedy as a dramatic poem
filled with intrigue (_negotiosum_), written in popular style, and
ending happily.[207] The characters in comedy are chiefly old men,
slaves, courtesans, all in humble station or from small villages. The
action begins rather turbulently, but ends happily, and the style is
neither high nor low. The typical themes of comedy are "sports,
banquets, nuptials, drunken carousals, the crafty wiles of slaves, and
the deception of old men."[208]

The theory of comedy in sixteenth-century Italy was entirely classical,
and the practice of the time agrees with its theory. There are indeed to
be heard occasional notes of dissatisfaction and revolt, especially in
the prologues of popular plays. Il Lasca, in the prologue to the
_Strega_, defiantly protests against the inviolable authority of
Aristotle and Horace, and in the prologue to his _Gelosia_ reserves the
right to copy the manner of his own time, and not those of Plautus and
Terence. Cecchi, Aretino, Gelli, and other comic writers give expression
to similar sentiments.[209] But on the whole these protests availed
nothing. The authors of comedy, and more especially the literary
critics, were guided by classical practice and classical theory.
Dramatic forms like the improvised _commedia dell' arte_ had marked
influence on the practice of European comedy in general, especially in
France, but left no traces of their influence on the literary criticism
of the Italian Renaissance.


[109] _Poet._ vi. 2.

[110] Daniello, p. 34.

[111] _Cf._ Horace, _Ars Poet._ 182 _sq._

[112] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 6.

[113] _Ibid._ ii. 30.

[114] Cited by Butcher, p. 220.

[115] _Poet._ iv. 7.

[116] Maggi, p. 64.

[117] Maggi, p. 154.

[118] Butcher, p. 220 _sq._

[119] Butcher, p. 219, n. 1.--Müller, ii. 394, attempts to harmonize the
definition of Theophrastus with that of Aristotle.

[120] Egger, _Hist. de la Critique_, p. 344, n. 2.

[121] Cloetta, i. 29. _Cf._ Antiphanes, cited by Egger, p. 72.

[122] Cloetta, p. 30.

[123] _Etymol._ viii. 7, 6.

[124] _Etymol._ xviii. 45 and 46.

[125] Cloetta, p. 28, and p. 31 _sq._

[126] _Epist._ xi. 10. _Cf._ Gelli's Lectures on the Divine Comedy, ed.
Negroni, 1887, i. 37 _sq._

[127] _Poet._ ix. 5-9.

[128] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 14.

[129] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 20.

[130] _Poet._ xi. 6.

[131] _Ars Poet._ 182-188.

[132] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 119.

[133] Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 6.

[134] Scaliger, i. 11; iii. 96.

[135] _Ibid._ vi. 6.

[136] _Ibid._ iii. 96.

[137] _Ibid._ i. 13.

[138] _De Poeta_, p. 43 _sq._

[139] _Ibid._ p. 173. _Cf._ Milton's phrase, "vain and amatorious poem."

[140] Dacier, 1692, p. xvii.

[141] _Poet._ vi. 19.

[142] _Poet._ xiv. 1.

[143] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 30.

[144] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 22, 23.

[145] _Ibid._ p. 57.

[146] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 35, 36.

[147] Twining, ii. 3.

[148] Butcher, ch. vi.

[149] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 12.

[150] _Ibid._ i. 66 _sq._

[151] Trissino, ii. 93 _sq._

[152] Robortelli, p. 52 _sq._

[153] Vettori, p. 56 _sq._, and Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 117 _sq._

[154] Maggi, p. 97 _sq._

[155] _Cf._ Shelley, _Defence of Poetry_, p. 35, "Tragedy delights by
affording a shadow of that pleasure which exists in pain," etc.

[156] _Lezzioni_, p. 660.

[157] Scaliger, _Poet._ vii. i. 3; iii. 96.

[158] _Arte Poetica_, p. 287.

[159] _Arte Poetica_, p. 77.

[160] Butcher, pp. 229, 230.

[161] _Opere_, v. 178.

[162] Butcher, p. 280 _sq._

[163] _Poet._ xiii. 2, 3.

[164] Daniello, p. 38.

[165] _Poet._ xiii. 7.

[166] _Della Vera Poetica_, cap. iii.

[167] _De Poeta_, p. 182 _sq._

[168] _Arte Poetica_, p. 118 _sq._; also in Scaliger and Giraldi Cintio.

[169] _Poet._ xv. 1-5.

[170] _Ars Poet._ 154 _sq._

[171] Muzio, p. 80.

[172] Pope, i. 165.

[173] _Poetica_, p. 36 _sq._

[174] Capriano, _op. cit._, cap. v.

[175] Cod. Magliabechiano, vii. 7, 715.

[176] Another expression of Jonson's, "small Latin and less Greek," may
perhaps be traced to Minturno's "poco del Latino e pochissimo del
Greco," _Arte Poetica_, p. 158.

[177] _Poet._ viii. 1-4.

[178] _Poet._ v. 4.

[179] Giraldi Cintio, ii. 10 _sq._

[180] Robortelli, pp. 50, 275, and appendix, p. 45. _Cf._ Luisino's
Commentary on Horace's _Ars Poetica_, 1554, p. 40.

[181] B. Segni, p. 170 v.

[182] Trissino, ii. 95.

[183] Brunetière, i. 69.

[184] Maggi, p. 94.

[185] Scaliger, iii. 96. So Robortelli, p. 53, speaks of tragedy as
representing things _quæ multum accedunt ad veritatem ipsam_.

[186] _E.g._ Lintilhac, _De Scal. Poet._ p. 32.

[187] _De Poeta_, pp. 185, 281.

[188] Vettori, p. 250.

[189] _Arte Poet._ pp. 71, 117.

[190] _Ibid._ p. 12.

[191] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 157, 170.

[192] _Ibid._ pp. 57, 109.

[193] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 534. _Cf._ Boileau, _Art Poét._ iii.

[194] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 179.

[195] _Ibid._ pp. 534, 535.

[196] Other allusions to the unities, besides those already mentioned,
will be found in Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 163-165, 168-171, 191, 397,
501, 527, 531-536, 692, 697, etc.

[197] Lintilhac, in the _Nouvelle Revue_, lxiv. 541.

[198] _Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, p. 31.

[199] _Poet._ v. 1. _Cf._ _Rhet._ iii. 18.

[200] Trissino, ii. 120. _Cf._ Butcher, p. 203 _sq._

[201] Trissino, ii. 127-130. Trissino seems to follow Cicero, _De Orat._
ii. 58 _sq._ It is to these Italian discussions of the ludicrous that
the theory of laughter formulated by Hobbes, and after him by Addison,
owes its origin. For Renaissance discussions of wit and humor before the
introduction of Aristotle's _Poetics_, _cf._ the third and fourth books
of Pontano's _De Sermone_, and the second book of Castiglione's

[202] Maggi, p. 307. _Cf._ Hobbes, _Human Nature_, 1650, ix. 13.

[203] _Cf._ B. Tasso, ii. 515; Robortelli, p. 2; etc.

[204] _Don Quix._ iv. 21.

[205] _Hamlet_, iii. 2.

[206] Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 2. Castiglione, in the second book of the
_Cortigiano_, says that the comic writer, more than any other, expresses
the true image of human life.

[207] _Poet._ i. 5.

[208] _Poet._ iii. 96.

[209] Symonds, _Ren. in Italy_, v. 124 _sq._, 533 _sq._



EPIC poetry was held in the highest esteem during the Renaissance and
indeed throughout the period of classicism. It was regarded by Vida as
the highest form of poetry,[210] and a century later, despite the
success of tragedy in France, Rapin still held the same opinion.[211]
The reverence for the epic throughout the Renaissance may be ascribed in
part to the mediæval veneration of Virgil as a poet, and his popular
apotheosis as prophet and magician, and also in part to the decay into
which dramatic literature had fallen during the Middle Ages in the hands
of the wandering players, the _histriones_ and the _vagantes_.
Aristotle[212] indeed had regarded tragedy as the highest form of
poetry; and as a result, the traditional reverence for Virgil and Homer,
and the Renaissance subservience to Aristotle, were distinctly at
variance. Trissino (1561) paraphrases Aristotle's argument in favor of
tragedy, but points out, notwithstanding this, that the whole world is
unanimous in considering Virgil and Homer greater than any tragic poet
before or after them.[213] Placed in this quandary, he concludes by
leaving the reader to judge for himself whether epic or tragedy be the
nobler form.

I. _The Theory of the Epic Poem_

Vida's _Ars Poetica_, written before 1520, although no edition prior to
that of 1527 is extant, is the earliest example in modern times of that
class of critical poems to which belong Horace's _Ars Poetica_,
Boileau's _Art Poétique_, and Pope's _Essay on Criticism_. Vida's poem
is entirely based on that of Horace; but he substitutes epic for
Horace's dramatic studies, and employs the _Æneid_ as the model of an
epic poem. The incompleteness of the treatment accorded to epic poetry
in Aristotle's _Poetics_ led the Renaissance to deduce the laws of
heroic poetry and of poetic artifice in general from the practice of
Virgil; and it is to this point of view that the critical works on the
_Æneid_ by Regolo (1563), Maranta (1564), and Toscanella (1566) owe
their origin. The obvious and even accidental qualities of Virgil's poem
are enunciated by Vida as fundamental laws of epic poetry. The precepts
thus given are purely rhetorical and pedagogic in character, and deal
almost exclusively with questions of poetic invention, disposition,
polish, and style. Beyond this Vida does not attempt to go. There is in
his poem no definition of the epic, no theory of its function, no
analysis of the essentials of narrative structure. In fact, no theory of
poetry in any real sense is to be found in Vida's treatise.

Daniello(1536) deals only very cursorily with epic poetry, but his
definition of it strikes the keynote of the Renaissance conception.
Heroic poetry is for him an imitation of the illustrious deeds of
emperors and other men magnanimous and valorous in arms,[214]--a
conception that goes back to Horace's

    "Res gestae regumque ducumque et tristia bella."[215]

Trissino (1563) first introduced the Aristotelian theory of the epic
into modern literary criticism; and the sixth section of his _Poetica_
is given up almost exclusively to the treatment of heroic poetry. The
epic agrees with tragedy in dealing with illustrious men and illustrious
actions. Like tragedy it must have a single action, but it differs from
tragedy in not having the time of the action limited or determined.
While unity of action is essential to the epic, and is indeed what
distinguishes it from narrative poems that are not really epics, the
Renaissance conceived of vastness of design and largeness of detail as
necessary to the grandiose character of the epic poem.[216] Thus Muzio

    "Il poema sovrano è una pittura
    De l' universo, e però in sè comprende
    Ogni stilo, ogni forma, ogni ritratto."

Trissino regards _versi sciolti_ as the proper metre for an heroic poem,
since the stanzaic form impedes the continuity of the narrative. In this
point he finds fault with Boccaccio, Boiardo, and Ariosto, whose
romantic poems, moreover, he does not regard as epics, because they do
not obey Aristotle's inviolable law of the single action. He also finds
fault with the romantic poets for describing the improbable, since
Aristotle expressly prefers an impossible probability to an improbable

Minturno's definition of epic poetry is merely a modification or
paraphrase of Aristotle's definition of tragedy. Epic poetry is an
imitation of a grave and noble deed, perfect, complete, and of proper
magnitude, with embellished language, but without music or dancing; at
times simply narrating and at other times introducing persons in words
and actions; in order that, through pity and fear of the things
imitated, such passions may be purged from the mind with both pleasure
and profit.[217] Here Minturno, like Giraldi Cintio, ascribes to epic
poetry the same purgation of pity and fear effected by tragedy. Epic
poetry he rates above tragedy, since the epic poet, more than any other,
arouses that admiration of great heroes which it is the peculiar
function of the poet to excite, and therefore attains the end of poetry
more completely than any other poet. This, however, is true only in the
highest form of narrative poetry; for Minturno distinguishes three
classes of narrative poets, the lowest, or _bucolici_, the mediocre, or
_epici_, who have nothing beyond verse, and the highest, or _heroici_,
who imitate the life of a single hero in noble verse.[218] Minturno
insists fundamentally on the unity of the epic action; and directly
against Aristotle's statement, as we have seen, he restricts the
duration of the action to one year. The license and prolixity of the
_romanzi_ led the defenders of the classical epic to this extreme of
rigid circumspection. According to Scaliger, the epic, which is the norm
by which all other poems may be judged and the chief of all poems,
describes _heroum genus_, _vita_, gesta_.[219] This is the Horatian
conception of the epic, and there is in Scaliger little or no trace of
the Aristotelian doctrine. He also follows Horace closely in forbidding
the narrative poet to begin his poem from the very beginning of his
story (_ab ovo_), and in various other details.

Castelvetro (1570) differs from Aristotle in regard to the unity of the
epic fable, on the ground that poetry is merely imaginative history, and
can therefore do anything that history can do. Poetry follows the
footsteps of history, differing merely in that history narrates what has
happened, while poetry narrates what has never happened but yet may
possibly happen; and therefore, since history recounts the whole life of
a single hero, without regard to its unity, there is no reason why
poetry should not do likewise. The epic may in fact deal with many
actions of one person, one action of a whole race, or many actions of
many people; it need not necessarily deal with one action of one person,
as Aristotle enjoins, but if it does so it is simply to show the
ingenuity and excellence of the poet.[220]

II. _Epic and Romance_

This discussion of epic unity leads to one of the most important
critical questions of the sixteenth century,--the question of the unity
of romance. Ariosto's _Orlando Furioso_ and Boiardo's _Orlando
Innamorato_ were written before the Aristotelian canons had become a
part of the critical literature of Italy. When it became clear that
these poems diverged from the fundamental requirements of the epic as
expounded in the _Poetics_, Trissino set out to compose an heroic poem
which would be in perfect accord with the precepts of Aristotle. His
_Italia Liberata_, which was completed by 1548, was the result of twenty
years of study, and it is the first modern epic in the strict
Aristotelian sense. With Aristotle as his guide, and Homer as his model,
he had studiously and mechanically constructed an epic of a single
action; and in the dedication of his poem to the Emperor Charles V. he
charges all poems which violate this primary law of the single action
with being merely bastard forms. The _romanzi_, and among them the
_Orlando Furioso_, in seemingly disregarding this fundamental
requirement, came under Trissino's censure; and this started a
controversy which was not to end until the commencement of the next
century, and in a certain sense may be said to remain undecided even to
this day.

The first to take up the cudgels in defence of the writers of the
_romanzi_ was Giraldi Cintio, who in his youth had known Ariosto
personally, and who wrote his _Discorso intorno al comporre dei
Romanzi_, in April, 1549. The grounds of his defence are twofold. In the
first place, Giraldi maintains that the romance is a poetic form of
which Aristotle did not know, and to which his rules therefore do not
apply; and in the second place, Tuscan literature, differing as it does
from the literature of Greece in language, in spirit, and in religious
feeling, need not and indeed ought not to follow the rules of Greek
literature, but rather the laws of its own development and its own
traditions. With Ariosto and Boiardo as models, Giraldi sets out to
formulate the laws of the _romanzi_. The _romanzi_ aim at imitating
illustrious actions in verse, with the purpose of teaching good morals
and honest living, since this ought to be the aim of every poet, as
Giraldi conceives Aristotle himself to have said.[221] All heroic poetry
is an imitation of illustrious actions, but Giraldi, like Castelvetro
twenty years later, recognizes several distinct forms of heroic poetry,
according as to whether it imitates one action of one man, many actions
of many men, or many actions of one man. The first of these is the epic
poem, the rules of which are given in Aristotle's _Poetics_. The second
is the romantic poem, after the manner of Boiardo and Ariosto. The third
is the biographical poem, after the manner of the _Theseid_ and similar
works dealing with the whole life of a single hero.

These forms are therefore to be regarded as three distinct and
legitimate species of heroic poetry, the first of them being an epic
poem in the strict Aristotelian sense, and the two others coming under
the general head of _romanzi_. Of the two forms of _romanzi_, the
biographical deals preferably with an historical subject, whereas the
noblest writers of the more purely romantic form, dealing with many
actions of many men, have invented their subject-matter. Horace says
that an heroic poem should not commence at the very beginning of the
hero's life; but it is difficult to understand, says Giraldi, why the
whole life of a distinguished man, which gives us so great and refined a
pleasure in the works of Plutarch and other biographers, should not
please us all the more when described in beautiful verse by a good
poet.[222] Accordingly, the poet who is composing an epic in the strict
sense should, in handling the events of his narrative, plunge
immediately _in medias res_. The poet dealing with many actions of many
men should begin with the most important event, and the one upon which
all the others may be said to hinge; whereas the poet describing the
life of a single hero should begin at the very beginning, if the hero
spent a really heroic youth, as Hercules for example did. The poem
dealing with the life of a hero is thus a separate _genre_, and one for
which Aristotle does not attempt to lay down any laws. Giraldi even goes
so far as to say that Aristotle[223] censured those who write the life
of Theseus or Hercules in a single poem, not because they dealt with
many actions of one man, but because they treated such a poem in exactly
the same manner as those who dealt with a single action of a single
hero,--an assertion which is of course utterly absurd. Giraldi then
proceeds to deal in detail with the disposition and composition of the
_romanzi_, which he rates above the classical epics in the efficacy of
ethical teaching. It is the office of the poet to praise virtuous
actions and to condemn vicious actions; and in this the writers of the
_romanzi_ are far superior to the writers of the ancient heroic

Giraldi's discourse on the _romanzi_ gave rise to a curious dispute with
his own pupil, Giambattista Pigna, who published a similar work,
entitled _I Romanzi_, in the same year (1554). Pigna asserted that he
had suggested to Giraldi the main argument of the discourse, and that
Giraldi had adopted it as his own. Without entering into the details of
this controversy, it would seem that the priority of Giraldi cannot
fairly be contested.[225] At all events, there is a very great
resemblance between the works of Giraldi and Pigna. Pigna's treatise,
however, is more detailed than Giraldi's. In the first book, Pigna deals
with the general subject of the _romanzi_; in the second he gives a life
of Ariosto, and discusses the _Furioso_, point by point; in the third he
demonstrates the good taste and critical acumen of Ariosto by comparing
the first version of the _Furioso_ with the completed and perfected
copy.[226] Both Pigna and Giraldi consider the _romanzi_ to constitute
a new _genre_, unknown to the ancients, and therefore not subject to
Aristotle's rules. Giraldi's sympathies were in favor of the
biographical form of the _romanzi_, and his poem, the _Ercole_ (1557),
recounts the whole life of a single hero. Pigna, who keeps closer to the
tradition of Ariosto, regards the biographical form as not proper to
poetry, because too much like history.

These arguments, presented by Giraldi and Pigna, were answered by
Speroni, Minturno, and others. Speroni pointed out that while it is not
necessary for the romantic poets to follow the rules prescribed by the
ancients, they cannot disobey the fundamental laws of poetry. "The
_romanzi_," says Speroni, "are epics, which are poems, or they are
histories in verse, and not poems."[227] That is, how does a poem differ
from a well-written historical narrative, if the former be without
organic unity?[228] As to the whole discussion, it may be said here,
without attempting to pass judgment on Ariosto, or any other writer of
_romanzi_, that unity of some sort every true poem must necessarily
have; and, flawless as the _Orlando Furioso_ is in its details, the
unity of the poem certainly has not the obviousness of perfect, and
especially classical, art. A work of art without organic unity may be
compared with an unsymmetrical circle; and, while the _Furioso_ is not
to be judged by any arbitrary or mechanical rules of unity, yet if it
has not that internal unity which transcends all mere external form, it
may be considered, as a work of art, hardly less than a failure; and
the farther it is removed from perfect unity, the more imperfect is the
art. "Poetry adapts itself to its times, but cannot depart from its own
fundamental laws."[229]

Minturno's answer to the defenders of the _romanzi_ is more detailed and
explicit than Speroni's, and it is of considerable importance because of
its influence on Torquato Tasso's conception of epic poetry. Minturno
does not deny--and in this his point of view is identical with
Tasso's--that it is possible to employ the matter of the _romanzi_ in
the composition of a perfect poem. The actions they describe are great
and illustrious, their knights and ladies are noble and illustrious,
too, and they contain in a most excellent manner that element of the
marvellous which is so important an element in the epic action. It is
the structure of the _romanzi_ with which Minturno finds fault. They
lack the first essential of every form of poetry,--unity. In fact, they
are little more than versified history or legend; and, while expressing
admiration for the genius of Ariosto, Minturno cannot but regret that he
so far yielded to the popular taste of his time as to employ the method
of the _romanzi_. He approves of the suggestion of Bembo, who had tried
to persuade Ariosto to write an epic instead of a romantic poem,[230]
just as later, and for similar reasons, Gabriel Harvey attempted to
dissuade Spenser from continuing the _Faerie Queene_. Minturno denies
that the Tuscan tongue is not well adapted to the composition of heroic
poetry; on the contrary, there is no form of poetry to which it is not
admirably fitted. He denies that the romantic poem can be distinguished
from the epic on the ground that the actions of knights-errant require a
different and broader form of narrative than do those of the classical
heroes. The celestial and infernal gods and demi-gods of the ancients
correspond with the angels, saints, anchorites, and the one God of
Christianity; the ancient sibyls, oracles, enchantresses, and divine
messengers correspond with the modern necromancers, fates, magicians,
and celestial angels. To the claim of the romantic poets that their
poems approximate closer to that magnitude which Aristotle enjoins as
necessary for all poetry, Minturno answers that magnitude is of no avail
without proportion; there is no beauty in the giant whose limbs and
frame are distorted. Finally, the _romanzi_ are said to be a new form of
poetry unknown to Aristotle and Horace, and hence not amenable to their
laws. But time, says Minturno, cannot change the truth; in every age a
poem must have unity, proportion, magnitude. Everything in nature is
governed by some specific law which directs its operation; and as it is
in nature so it is in art, for art tries to imitate nature, and the
nearer it approaches nature in her essential laws, the better it does
its work. In other words, as has already been pointed out, poetry adapts
itself to its times, but cannot depart from its own laws.

Bernardo Tasso, the father of Torquato, had originally been one of the
defenders of the classical epic; but he seems to have been converted to
the opposite view by Giraldi Cintio, and in his poem of the _Amadigi_ he
follows romantic models. His son Torquato, in his _Discorsi dell' Arte
Poetica_, originally written one or two years after the appearance of
Minturno's _Arte Poetica_, although not published until 1587, was the
first to attempt a reconciliation of the epic and romantic forms; and he
may be said to have effected a solution of the problem by the
formulation of the theory of a narrative poem which would have the
romantic subject-matter, with its delightful variety, and the epic form,
with its essential unity. The question at issue, as we have seen, is
that of unity; that is, does the heroic poem need unity? Tasso denies
that there is any difference between the epic poem and the romantic poem
as poems. The reason why the latter is more pleasing, is to be found in
the fact of the greater delightfulness of the themes treated.[231]
Variety in itself is not pleasing, for a variety of disagreeable things
would not please at all. Hence the perfect and at the same time most
pleasing form of heroic poem would deal with the chivalrous themes of
the _romanzi_, but would possess that unity of structure which,
according to the precepts of Aristotle and the practice of Homer and
Virgil, is essential to every epic. There are two sorts of unity
possible in art as in nature,--the simple unity of a chemical element,
and the complex unity of an organism like an animal or plant,--and of
these the latter is the sort of unity that the heroic poet should aim
at.[232] Capriano (1555) had referred to this same distinction, when he
pointed out that poetry ought not to be the imitation of a single act,
such as a single act of weeping in the elegy, or a single act of
pastoral life in the eclogue, for such a sporadic imitation is to be
compared to a picture of a single hand without the rest of the body; on
the contrary, poetry ought to be the representation of a number of
attendant or dependent acts, leading from a given beginning to a
suitable end.[233]

Having settled the general fact that the attractive themes of the
_romanzi_ should be employed in a perfect heroic poem, we may inquire
what particular themes are most fitted to the epic, and what must be the
essential qualities of the epic material.[234] In the first place, the
subject of the heroic poem must be historical, for it is not probable
that illustrious actions such as are dealt with in the epic should be
unknown to history. The authority of history gains for the poet that
semblance of truth necessary to deceive the reader and make him believe
that what the poet writes is true. Secondly, the heroic poem, according
to Tasso, must deal with the history, not of a false religion, but of
the true one, Christianity. The religion of the pagans is absolutely
unfit for epic material; for if the pagan deities are not introduced,
the poem will lack the element of the marvellous, and if they are
introduced it will lack the element of probability. Both the marvellous
and the _verisimile_ must exist together in a perfect epic, and
difficult as the task may seem, they must be reconciled. Another reason
why paganism is unfit for the epic is to be found in the fact that the
perfect knight must have piety as well as other virtues. In the third
place, the poem must not deal with themes connected with the articles of
Christian faith, for such themes would be unalterable, and would allow
no scope to the free play of the poet's inventive fancy. Fourthly, the
material must be neither too ancient nor too modern, for the latter is
too well known to admit of fanciful changes with probability, and the
former not only lacks interest but requires the introduction of strange
and alien manners and customs. The times of Charlemagne and Arthur are
accordingly best fitted for heroic treatment. Finally, the events
themselves must possess nobility and grandeur. Hence an epic should be a
story derived from some event in the history of Christian peoples,
intrinsically noble and illustrious, but not of so sacred a character as
to be fixed and immutable, and neither contemporary nor very remote. By
the selection of such material the poem gains the authority of history,
the truth of religion, the license of fiction, the proper atmosphere in
point of time, and the grandeur of the events themselves.[235]

Aristotle says that both epic and tragedy deal with illustrious actions.
Tasso points out that if the actions of tragedy and of epic poetry were
both illustrious in the same way, they would both produce the same
results; but tragic actions move horror and compassion, while epic
actions as a rule do not and need not arouse these emotions. The tragic
action consists in the unexpected change of fortune, and in the grandeur
of the events carrying with them horror and pity; but the epic action is
founded upon undertakings of lofty martial virtue, upon deeds of
courtesy, piety, generosity, none of which is proper to tragedy. Hence
the characters in epic poetry and in tragedy, though both of the same
regal and supreme rank, differ in that the tragic hero is neither
perfectly good nor entirely bad, as Aristotle says, while the epic hero
must have the very height of virtue, such as Æneas, the type of piety,
Amadis, the type of loyalty, Achilles, of martial virtue, and Ulysses,
of prudence.

Having formulated these theories of heroic poetry in his youth, Tasso
set out to carry them into practice, and his famous _Gerusalemme
Liberata_ was the result. This poem, almost immediately after its
publication, started a violent controversy, which raged for many years,
and which may be regarded as the legitimate outcome of the earlier
dispute in connection with the _romanzi_.[236] The _Gerusalemme_ was in
fact the centre of critical activity during the latter part of the
century. Shortly after its publication, Camillo Pellegrino published a
dialogue, entitled _Il Caraffa_ (1583), in which the _Gerusalemme_ is
compared with the _Orlando Furioso_, much to the advantage of the
former. Pellegrino finds fault with Ariosto on account of the lack of
unity of his poem, the immoral manners imitated, and various
imperfections of style and language; and in all of these things, unity,
morality, and style, he finds Tasso's poem perfect. This was naturally
the signal for a heated and long-continued controversy. The Accademia
della Crusca had been founded at Florence, in 1582, and it seems that
the members of the new society felt hurt at some sarcastic remarks
regarding Florence in one of Tasso's dialogues. Accordingly, the head of
the academy, Lionardo Salviati, in a dialogue entitled _L' Infarinato_,
wrote an ardent defence of Ariosto; and an acrid and undignified dispute
between Tasso and Salviati was begun.[237] Tasso answered the Accademia
della Crusca in his _Apologia_; and at the beginning of the next
century, Paolo Beni, the commentator on Aristotle's _Poetics_, published
his _Comparazione di Omero, Virgilio, e Torquato_, in which Tasso is
rated above Homer, Virgil, and Ariosto, not only in dignity, in beauty
of style, and in unity of fable, but in every other quality that may be
said to constitute perfection in poetry. Before dismissing this whole
matter, it should be pointed out that the defenders of Aristotle had
absolutely abandoned the position of Giraldi and Pigna, that the
_romanzi_ constitute a _genre_ by themselves, and are therefore not
subject to Aristotle's law of unity. The question as Giraldi had stated
it was this: Does every poem need to have unity? The question as
discussed in the Tasso controversy had changed to this form: What is
unity? It was taken for granted by both sides in the controversy that
every poem must have organic unity; and the authority of Aristotle, in
epic as in dramatic poetry, was henceforth supreme. It was to the
authority of Aristotle that Tasso's opponents appealed; and Salviati,
merely for the purpose of undermining Tasso's pretensions, wrote an
extended commentary on the _Poetics_, which still lies in Ms. at
Florence, and which has been made use of in the present essay.[238]


[210] Pope, i. 133.

[211] Rapin, 1674, ii. 2.

[212] _Poet._ xxvi.

[213] Trissino, ii. 118 _sq._

[214] Daniello, p. 34.

[215] _Ars Poet._ 73.

[216] Trissino, ii. 112 _sq._

[217] _Arte Poetica_, p. 9.

[218] _De Poeta_, pp. 105, 106.

[219] _Poet._ iii. 95.

[220] Castelvetro, _Poetica_, p. 178 _sq._

[221] Giraldi Cintio, i. 11, 64.

[222] Giraldi Cintio, i. 24.

[223] _Poet._ viii. 2.

[224] Giraldi, i. 66 _sq._

[225] _Cf._ Tiraboschi, vii. 947 _sq._, and Giraldi, ii. 153 _sq._
Pigna's own words are cited in Giraldi, i. p. xxiii.

[226] Canello, p. 306 _sq._

[227] Speroni, v. 521.

[228] _Cf._ Minturno, _De Poeta_, p. 151.

[229] Minturno, _Arte Poetica_, p. 31. For various opinions on the unity
of the _Orlando Furioso_, _cf._ Canello, p. 106, and Foffano, p. 59

[230] _Arte Poetica_, p. 31.

[231] T. Tasso, xii. 219 _sq._

[232] T. Tasso, xii. 234.

[233] _Della Vera Poetica_, cap. iii.

[234] T. Tasso, xii. 199 _sq._

[235] T. Tasso, xii. 208.

[236] Accounts of this famous controversy will be found in Tiraboschi,
Canello, Serassi, etc.; but the latest and most complete is that given
in the twentieth chapter of Solerti's monumental _Vita di Torquato
Tasso_, Torino, 1895.

[237] Nearly all the important documents of the Tasso controversy are
reprinted in Rosini's edition of Tasso, _Opere_, vols. xviii.-xxiii.

[238] The question of unity was also raised in another controversy of
the second half of the sixteenth century. A passage in Varchi's
_Ercolano_ (1570), rating Dante above Homer, started a controversy on
the _Divine Comedy_. The most important outcome of this dispute was
Mazzoni's _Difesa di Dante_ (1573), in which a whole new theory of
poetry is expounded in order to defend the great Tuscan poet.



THE growth of classicism in Renaissance criticism was due to three
causes,--humanism, or the imitation of the classics, Aristotelianism, or
the influence of Aristotle's _Poetics_, and rationalism, or the
authority of the reason, the result of the growth of the modern spirit
in the arts and sciences. These three causes are at the bottom of
Italian classicism, as well as of French classicism during the
seventeenth century.

I. _Humanism_

The progress of humanism may be distinguished by an arbitrary but more
or less practical division into four periods. The first period was
characterized by the discovery and accumulation of classical literature,
and the second period was given up to the arrangement and translation of
the works thus discovered. The third period is marked by the formation
of academies, in which the classics were studied and humanized, and
which as a result produced a special cult of learning. The fourth and
last period is marked by the decline of pure erudition, and the
beginning of æsthetic and stylistic scholarship.[239] The practical
result of the revival of learning and the progress of humanism was thus
the study and imitation of the classics. To this imitation of classical
literature all that humanism gave to the modern world may be ultimately
traced. The problem before us, then, is this: What was the result of
this imitation of the classics, in so far as it regards the literary
criticism of the Renaissance?

In the first place, the imitation of the classics resulted in the study
and cult of external form. Elegance, polish, clearness of design, became
objects of study for themselves; and as a result we have the formation
of æsthetic taste, and the growth of a classic purism, to which many of
the literary tendencies of the Renaissance may be traced.[240] Under Leo
X. and throughout the first half of the sixteenth century, the
intricacies of style and versification were carefully studied. Vida was
the first to lay down laws of imitative harmony;[241] Bembo, and after
him Dolce and others, studied the poetic effect of different sounds, and
the onomatopoeic value of the various vowels and consonants;[242]
Claudio Tolomei attempted to introduce classical metres into the
vernacular;[243] Trissino published subtle and systematic researches in
Tuscan language and versification.[244] Later, the rhetorical treatises
of Cavalcanti (1565), Lionardi (1554), and Partenio (1560), and the more
practical manuals of Fanucci (1533), Equicola (1541), and Ruscelli
(1559), all testify to the tremendous impulse which the imitation of the
classics had given to the study of form both in classical and vernacular

In Vida's _Ars Poetica_ there are abundant evidences of the rhetorical
and especially the puristic tendencies of modern classicism. The
mechanical conception of poetic expression, in which imagination,
sensibility, and passion are subjected to the elaborate and intricate
precepts of art, is everywhere found in Vida's poem. Like Horace, Vida
insists on long preparation for the composition of poetry, and warns the
poet against the indulgence of his first impulses. He suggests as a
preparation for the composition of poetry, that the poet should prepare
a list of phrases and images for use whenever occasion may demand.[245]
He impresses upon the poet the necessity of euphemistic expressions in
introducing the subject of his poem; for example, the name of Ulysses
should not be mentioned, but he should be referred to as one who has
seen many men and many cities, who has suffered shipwreck on the return
from Troy, and the like.[246] In such mechanical precepts as these, the
rhetoric of seventeenth-century classicism is anticipated. Its
restraint, its purity, its mechanical side, are everywhere visible in
Vida. A little later, in Daniello, we find similar puristic tendencies.
He requires the severe separation of _genres_, decorum and propriety of
characterization, and the exclusion of everything disagreeable from the
stage. In Partenio's _Della Imitatione Poetica_ (1560), the poet is
expressly forbidden the employment of the ordinary words in daily
use,[247] and elegance of form is especially demanded. Partenio regards
form as of superior importance to subject or idea; for those who hear or
read poetry care more for beauty of diction than for character or even

It is on merely rhetorical grounds that Partenio distinguishes excellent
from mediocre poetry. The good poet, unlike the bad one, is able to give
splendor and dignity to the most trivial idea by means of adornments of
diction and disposition. This conception seems to have particularly
appealed to the Renaissance; and Tasso gives expression to a similar
notion when he calls it the poet's noblest function "to make of old
concepts new ones, to make of vulgar concepts noble ones, and to make
common concepts his own."[249] In a higher and more ideal sense, poetry,
according to Shelley, "makes familiar objects be as if they were not

It is in keeping with this rhetorical ideal of classicism that Scaliger
makes _electio et sui fastidium_ the highest virtues of the poet.[251]
All that is merely popular (_plebeium_) in thought and expression is to
be minutely avoided; for only that which proceeds from solid erudition
is proper to art. The basis of artistic creation is imitation and
judgment; for every artist is at bottom somewhat of an echo.[252] Grace,
decorum, elegance, splendor are the chief excellences of poetry and the
life of all excellence lies in measure, that is, moderation and
proportion. It is in the spirit of this classical purism that Scaliger
minutely distinguishes the various rhetorical and grammatical figures,
and carefully estimates their proper place and function in poetry. His
analysis and systematization of the figures were immediately accepted by
the scholars and grammarians of his time, and have played a large part
in French education ever since. Another consequence of Scaliger's
dogmatic teaching, the Latinization of culture, can only be referred to
here in passing.[253]

A second result of the imitation of the classics was the paganization of
Renaissance culture. Classic art is at bottom pagan, and the Renaissance
sacrificed everything in order to appear classical.[254] Not only did
Christian literature seem contemptible when compared with classic
literature, but the mere treatment of Christian themes offered numerous
difficulties in itself. Thus Muzio declares that the ancient fables are
the best poetic materials, since they permit the introduction of the
deities into poetry, and a poem, being something divine, should not
dispense with the association of divinity.[255] To bring the God of
Israel into poetry, to represent him, as it were, in the flesh,
discoursing and arguing with men, was sacrilege; and to give the events
of poetic narrative divine authoritativeness, the pagan deities became
necessities of Renaissance poetry. Savonarola, in the fifteenth century,
and the Council of Trent, in the sixteenth, reacted against the
paganization of literature, but in vain. Despite the Council of Trent,
despite Tasso and Du Bartas, the pagan gods held sway over Parnassus
until the very end of the classical period; and in the seventeenth
century, as will be seen, Boileau expressly discourages the treatment of
Christian themes, and insists that the ancient pagan fables alone must
form the basis of neo-classical art.

A third result of the imitation of the classics was the development of
applied, or concrete, criticism. If the foundations of literature, if
the formation of style, can result only from a close and judicious
imitation of classical literature, this problem confronts us: Which
classical authors are we to imitate? An answer to this question involves
the application of concrete criticism. A reason must be given for one's
preferences; in other words, they must be justified on principle. The
literary controversies of the humanists, the disputes on the subject of
imitation, of Ciceronianism, and what not, all tended in this direction.
The judgment of authors was dependent more or less on individual
impressions. But the longer these controversies continued, the nearer
was the approach to a literary criticism, justified by appeals to
general principles, which became more and more fixed and determined; so
that the growth of principles, or criteria of judgment in matters of
literature, is in reality coterminous with the history of the growth of

But one of the most important consequences of the imitation of the
classics was that this imitation became a dogma of criticism, and
radically changed the relations of art and nature in so far as they
touch letters and literary criticism. The imitation of the classics
became, in a word, the basis of literary creation. Vida, for example,
affirms that the poet must imitate classical literature, for only by
such imitation is perfection attainable in modern poetry. In fact, this
notion is carried to such an extreme that the highest originality
becomes for Vida merely the ingenious translation of passages from the
classic poets:--

    "Haud minor est adeo virtus, si te audit Apollo,
    Inventa Argivûm in patriam convertere vocem,
    Quam si tute aliquid intactum inveneris ante."[257]

Muzio, echoing Horace, urges the poet to study the classics by day and
by night; and Scaliger, as has been seen, makes all literary creation
depend ultimately on judicious imitation: "Nemo est qui non aliquid de
Echo." As a result, imitation gradually acquired a specialized and
almost esoteric meaning, and became in this sense the starting-point of
all the educational theories of the later humanists. The doctrine of
imitation set forth by John Sturm, the Strasburg humanist, was
particularly influential.[258] According to Sturm, imitation is not the
servile copying of words and phrases; it is "a vehement and artistic
application of mind," which judiciously uses and transfigures all that
it imitates. Sturm's theory of imitation is not entirely original, but
comes through Agricola and Melanchthon from Quintilian.[259] Quintilian
had said that the greater part of art consists in imitation; but for the
humanists imitation became the chief and almost the only element of
literary creation, since the literature of their own time seemed so
vastly inferior to that of the ancients.

The imitation of the classics having thus become essential to literary
creation, what was to be its relation to the imitation of nature? The
ancient poets seemed to insist that every writer is at bottom an
imitator of nature, and that he who does not imitate nature diverges
from the purpose and principle of art. A lesson coming from a source so
authoritative as this could not be left unheeded by the writers of the
Renaissance, and the evolution of classicism may be distinguished by the
changing point of view of the critics in regard to the relations between
nature and art. This evolution may be traced in the neo-classical period
through three distinct stages, and these three stages may be indicated
by the doctrines respectively of Vida, Scaliger, and Boileau.

Vida says that it is the first essential of literary art to imitate the
classics. This, however, does not prevent him from warning the poet that
it is his first duty to observe and copy nature:--

    "Præterea haud lateat te, nil conarier artem,
    Naturam nisi ut assimulet, propiusque sequatur."

For Vida, however, as for the later classicists, nature is synonymous
with civilized men, perhaps even further restricted to the men of the
city and the court; and the study of nature was hardly more for him than
close observation of the differences of human character, more especially
of the external differences which result from diversity of age, rank,
sex, race, profession, and which may be designated by the term
_decorum_.[260] The imitation of nature even in this restricted sense
Vida requires on the authority of the ancients. The modern poet should
imitate nature because the great classical poets have always
acknowledged her sway:--

    "Hanc unam vates sibi proposuere magistram."

Nature has no particular interest for Vida in itself. He accepts the
classics as we accept the Scriptures; and nature is to be imitated and
followed because the ancients seem to require it.

In Scaliger this principle is carried one stage farther. The poet
creates another nature and other fortunes as if he were another
God.[261] Virgil especially has created another nature of such beauty
and perfection that the poet need not concern himself with the
realities of life, but can go to the second nature created by Virgil for
the subject-matter of his imitation. "All the things which you have to
imitate, you have according to another nature, that is, Virgil."[262] In
Virgil, as in nature, there are the most minute details of the
foundation and government of cities, the management of armies, the
building and handling of ships, and in fact all the secrets of the arts
and sciences. What more can the poet desire, and indeed what more can he
find in life, and find there with the same certainty and accuracy?
Virgil has created a nature far more perfect than that of reality, and
one compared with which the actual world and life itself seem but pale
and without beauty. What Scaliger stands for, then, is the substitution
of the world of art instead of life as the object of poetic imitation.
This point of view finds expression in many of the theorists of his
time. Partenio, for example, asserts that art is a firmer and safer
guide than nature; with nature we can err, but scarcely with art, for
art eradicates from nature all that is bad, while nature mingles weeds
with flowers, and does not distinguish vices from virtues.[263]

Boileau carries the neo-classical ideal of nature and art to its
ultimate perfection. According to him, nothing is beautiful that is not
true, and nothing is true that is not in nature. Truth, for classicism,
is the final test of everything, including beauty; and hence to be
beautiful poetry must be founded on nature. Nature should therefore be
the poet's sole study, although for Boileau, as for Vida, nature is one
with the court and the city. Now, in what way can we discover exactly
how to imitate nature, and perceive whether or not we have imitated it
correctly? Boileau finds the guide to the correct imitation of nature,
and the very test of its correctness, in the imitation of the classics.
The ancients are great, not because they are old, but because they are
true, because they knew how to see and to imitate nature; and to imitate
antiquity is therefore to use the best means the human spirit has ever
found for expressing nature in its perfection.[264] The advance of
Boileau's theory on that of Vida and Scaliger is therefore that he
founded the rules and literary practice of classical literature on
reason and nature, and showed that there is nothing arbitrary in the
authority of the ancients. For Vida, nature is to be followed on the
authority of the classics; for Boileau, the classics are to be followed
on the authority of nature and reason. Scaliger had shown that such a
poet as Virgil had created another nature more perfect than that of
reality, and that therefore we should imitate this more beautiful nature
of the poet. Boileau, on the contrary, showed that the ancients were
simply imitating nature itself in the closest and keenest manner, and
that by imitating the classics the poet was not imitating a second and
different nature, but was being shown in the surest way how to imitate
the real and only nature. This final reconciliation of the imitation of
nature and the imitation of the classics was Boileau's highest
contribution to the literary criticism of the neo-classical period.

II. _Aristotelianism_

The influence of Aristotle's _Poetics_ is first visible in the dramatic
literature of the early sixteenth century. Trissino's _Sofonisba_
(1515), usually accounted the first regular modern tragedy, Rucellai's
_Rosmunda_ (1516), and innumerable other tragedies of this period, were
in reality little more than mere attempts at putting the Aristotelian
theory of tragedy into practice. The Aristotelian influence is evident
in many of the prefaces of these plays, and in a few contemporary works
of scholarship, such as the _Antiquæ Lectiones_ (1516) of Cælius
Rhodiginus, whom Scaliger called _omnium doctissimus præceptor noster_.
At the same time, the _Poetics_ did not immediately play an important
part in the critical literature of Italy. From the time of Petrarch,
Aristotle, identified in the minds of the humanists with the mediæval
scholasticism so obnoxious to them, had lost somewhat of his supremacy;
and the strong Platonic tendencies of the Renaissance had further
contributed to lower the prestige of Aristotelianism among the
humanists. At no time of the Renaissance, however, did Aristotle lack
ardent defenders, and Filelfo, for example, wrote in 1439, "To defend
Aristotle and the truth seems to me one and the same thing."[265] In the
domain of philosophy the influence of Aristotle was temporarily
sustained by the liberal Peripateticism of Pomponazzi; and numerous
others, among them Scaliger himself, continued the traditions of a
modernized Aristotelianism. From this time, however, Aristotle's
position as the supreme philosopher was challenged more and more; and he
was regarded by the advanced thinkers of the Renaissance as the
representative of the mediæval obscurantism that opposed the progress of
modern scientific investigation.

But whatever of Aristotle's authority was lost in the domain of
philosophy was more than regained in the domain of literature. The
beginning of the Aristotelian influence on modern literary theory may be
said to date from the year 1536, in which year Trincaveli published a
Greek text of the _Poetics_, Pazzi his edition and Latin version, and
Daniello his own _Poetica_. Pazzi's son, in dedicating his father's
posthumous work, said that in the _Poetics_ "the precepts of poetic art
are treated by Aristotle as divinely as he has treated every other form
of knowledge." In the very year that this was said, Ramus gained his
Master's degree at the University of Paris by defending victoriously the
thesis that Aristotle's doctrines without exception are all false.[266]
The year 1536 may therefore be regarded as a turning-point in the
history of Aristotle's influence. It marks the beginning of his
supremacy in literature, and the decline of his dictatorial authority in

Between the year 1536 and the middle of the century the lessons of
Aristotle's _Poetics_ were being gradually learned by the Italian
critics and poets. By 1550 the whole of the _Poetics_ had been
incorporated in the critical literature of Italy, and Fracastoro could
say that "Aristotle has received no less fame from the survival of his
_Poetics_ than from his philosophical remains."[267] According to
Bartolommeo Ricci, in a letter to Prince Alfonso, son of Hercules II.,
Duke of Ferrara, Maggi was the first person to interpret Aristotle's
_Poetics_ in public.[268] These lectures were delivered some time before
April, 1549. As early as 1540, Bartolommeo Lombardi, the collaborator of
Maggi in his commentary on the _Poetics_, had intended to deliver public
lectures on the _Poetics_ before a Paduan academy, but died before
accomplishing his purpose.[269] Numerous public readings on the subject
of Aristotle and Horace followed those of Maggi,--among them those by
Varchi, Giraldi Cintio, Luisino, and Trifone Gabrielli; and the number
of public readings on topics connected with literary criticism, and on
the poetry of Dante and Petrarch, increased greatly from this time.

The number of commentaries on the _Poetics_ itself, published during the
sixteenth century, is really remarkable. The value of these commentaries
in general is not so much that they add anything to the literary
criticism of the Renaissance, but that their explanations of Aristotle's
meaning were accepted by contemporary critics, and became in a way the
source of all the literary arguments of the sixteenth century. Nor was
their influence restricted merely to this particular period. They were,
one might almost say, living things to the critics and poets of the
classical period in France. Racine, Corneille, and other distinguished
writers possessed copies of these commentaries, studied them carefully,
cited them in their prefaces and critical writings, and even annotated
their own copies of the commentaries with marginal notes, of which some
may be seen in the modern editions of their works. In the preface to
Rapin's _Réflexions sur l'Art Poétique_ (1674) there is a history of
literary criticism, which is almost entirely devoted to these Italian
commentators; and writers like Chapelain and Balzac eagerly argued and
discussed their relative merits.

Several of these Italian commentators have been alluded to already.[270]
The first critical edition of the _Poetics_ was that of Robortelli
(1548), and this was followed by those of Maggi (1550) and Vettori
(1560), both written in Latin, and both exhibiting great learning and
acumen. The first translation of the _Poetics_ into the vernacular was
that by Segni (1549), and this was followed by the Italian commentaries
of Castelvetro (1570) and Piccolomini (1575). Tasso, after comparing the
works of these two commentators, concluded that while Castelvetro had
greater erudition and invention, Piccolomini had greater maturity of
judgment, more learning, perhaps, with less erudition, and certainly
learning more Aristotelian and more suited to the interpretation of the
_Poetics_.[271] The two last sections of Trissino's _Poetica_, published
in 1563, are little more than a paraphrase and transposition of
Aristotle's treatise. But the curious excesses into which admiration of
Aristotle led the Italian scholars may be gathered from a work published
at Milan in 1576, an edition of the _Poetics_ expounded in verse,
Baldini's _Ars Poetica Aristotelis versibus exposita_. The _Poetics_ was
also adapted for use as a practical manual for poets and playwrights in
such works as Riccoboni's brief _Compendium Artis Poeticæ Aristotelis ad
usum conficiendorum poematum_ (1591). The last of the great Italian
commentaries on the _Poetics_ to have a general European influence was
perhaps Beni's, published in 1613; but this carries us beyond the
confines of the century. Besides the published editions, translations,
and commentaries, many others were written which may still be found in
Ms. in the libraries of Italy. Reference has already been made to
Salviati's (1586). There are also two anonymous commentaries dating from
this period in Ms. at Florence,--one in the Magliabechiana and the other
in the Riccardiana. The last work which may be mentioned here is
Buonamici's _Discorsi Poetici in difesa d' Aristotele_, in which
Aristotle is ardently defended against the attacks of his detractors.

It was in Italy during this period that the literary dictatorship of
Aristotle first developed, and it was Scaliger to whom the modern world
owes the formulation of the supreme authority of Aristotle as a critical
theorist. Fracastoro had likened the importance of Aristotle's _Poetics_
to that of his philosophical treatises. Trissino had followed Aristotle
verbally and almost literally. Varchi had spoken of years of
Aristotelian study as an essential prerequisite for every one who
entered the field of literary criticism. Partenio, a year before the
publication of Scaliger's _Poetics_, had asserted that everything
relating to tragedy and epic poetry had been settled by Aristotle and
Horace. But Scaliger went farther still. He was the first to regard
Aristotle as the perpetual lawgiver of poetry. He was the first to
assume that the duty of the poet is first to find out what Aristotle
says, and then to obey these precepts without question. He distinctly
calls Aristotle the perpetual dictator of all the arts: "Aristoteles
imperator noster, omnium bonarum artium dictator perpetuus."[272] This
is perhaps the first occasion in modern literature in which Aristotle is
definitely regarded as a literary dictator, and the dictatorship of
Aristotle in literature may, therefore, be dated from the year 1561.

But Scaliger did more than this. He was the first apparently to attempt
to reconcile Aristotle's _Poetics_, not only with the precepts of Horace
and the definitions of the Latin grammarians, but with the whole
practice of Latin tragedy, comedy, and epic poetry. It was in the light
of this reconciliation, or concord of Aristotelianism with the Latin
spirit, that Aristotle became for Scaliger a literary dictator. It was
not Aristotle that primarily interested him, but an ideal created by
himself, and founded on such parts of the doctrine of Aristotle as
received confirmation from the theory or practice of Roman literature;
and this new ideal, harmonizing with the Latin spirit of the
Renaissance, became in the course of time one of the foundations of
classicism. The influence of Aristotelianism was further augmented by
the Council of Trent, which gave to Aristotle's doctrine the same degree
of authority as Catholic dogma.

All these circumstances tended to favor the importance of Aristotle in
Italy during the sixteenth century, and as a result the literary
dictatorship of Aristotle was by the Italians foisted on Europe for two
centuries to come. From 1560 to 1780 Aristotle was regarded as the
supreme authority in letters throughout Europe. At no time, even in
England, during and after that period, was there a break in the
Aristotelian tradition, and the influence of the _Poetics_ may be found
in Sidney and Ben Jonson, in Milton and Dryden, as well as in Shelley
and Coleridge. Lessing, even in breaking away from the classical
practice of the French stage, defended his innovations on the authority
of Aristotle, and said of the _Poetics_, "I do not hesitate to
acknowledge, even if I should therefore be held up to scorn in these
enlightened times, that I consider the work as infallible as the
Elements of Euclid."[273] In 1756, a dozen years before Lessing, one of
the precursors of the romantic movement in England, Joseph Warton, had
also said of the _Poetics_, "To attempt to understand poetry without
having diligently digested this treatise would be as absurd and
impossible as to pretend to a skill in geometry without having studied

One of the first results of the dictatorship of Aristotle was to give
modern literature a body of inviolable rules for the drama and the epic;
that is, the dramatic and heroic poets were restricted to a certain
fixed form, and to certain fixed characters. Classical poetry was of
course the ideal of the Renaissance, and Aristotle had analyzed the
methods which these works had employed. The inference seems to have been
that by following these rules a literature of equal importance could be
created. These formulæ were at the bottom of classical literature, and
rules which had created such literatures as those of Greece and Rome
could hardly be disregarded. As a result, these rules came to be
considered more and more as essentials, and finally, almost as the very
tests of literature; and it was in consequence of their acceptance as
poetic laws that the modern classical drama and epic arose. The first
modern tragedies and the first modern epics were hardly more than such
attempts at putting the Aristotelian rules into practice. The cult of
form during the Renaissance had produced a reaction against the
formlessness and invertebrate character of mediæval literature. The
literature of the Middle Ages was infinitely inferior to that of the
ancients; mediæval literature lacked form and structure, classical
literature had a regular and definite form. Form then came to be
regarded as the essential difference between the perfect literatures of
Greece and Rome, and the imperfect and vulgar literature of the Middle
Ages; and the deduction from this was that, to be classical, the poet
must observe the form and structure of the classics. Minturno indeed
says that "the precepts given of old by the ancient masters, and now
repeated by me here, are to be regarded merely as common usage, and not
as inviolable laws which must serve under all circumstances."[275] But
this was not the general conception of the Renaissance. Muzio, for
example, specifically says:--

    "Queste legge ch' io scrivo e questi esempi
    Sian, lettore, al tuo dir perpetua norma;"

and in another place he speaks of a precept he has given, as "vera,
ferma, e inevitabil legge."[276] Scaliger goes still further than this;
for, according to him, even the classics themselves are to be judged by
these standards and rules. "It seems to me," says Scaliger, "that we
ought not to refer everything back to Homer, just as though he were the
norm, but Homer himself should be referred to the norm."[277] In the
modern classical period somewhat later, these rules were found to be
based on reason:--

    "These rules of old, discovered not devised,
    Are nature still, but nature methodized."[278]

But during the Renaissance they were accepted _ex cathedra_ from
classical literature.

The formulation of a fixed body of critical rules was not the only
result of the Aristotelian influence. One of the most important of these
results, as has appeared, was the rational justification of imaginative
literature. With the introduction of Aristotle's _Poetics_ into modern
Europe the Renaissance was first able to formulate a systematic theory
of poetry; and it is therefore to the rediscovery of the _Poetics_ that
we may be said to owe the foundation of modern criticism. It was on the
side of Aristotelianism that Italian criticism had its influence on
European letters; and that this influence was deep and widespread, our
study of the critical literatures of France and England will in part
show. The critics with whom we have been dealing are not merely dead
provincial names; they influenced, for two whole centuries, not only
France and England, but Spain, Portugal, and Germany as well.

Literary criticism, in any real sense, did not begin in Spain until the
very end of the sixteenth century, and the critical works that then
appeared were wholly based on those of the Italians. Rengifo's _Arte
Poética Española_ (1592), in so far as it deals with the theory of
poetry, is based on Aristotle, Scaliger, and various Italian
authorities, according to the author's own acknowledgment. Pinciano's
_Philosophia Antigua Poética_ (1596) is based on the same authorities.
Similarly, Cascales, in his _Tablas Poéticas_ (1616), gives as his
authorities Minturno, Giraldi Cintio, Maggi, Riccoboni, Castelvetro,
Robortelli, and his own countryman Pinciano. The sources of these and
all other works written at this period are Italian; and the following
passage from the _Egemplar Poético_, written about 1606 by the Spanish
poet Juan de la Cueva, is a good illustration, not only of the general
influence of the Italians on Spanish criticism, but of the high
reverence in which the individual Italian critics were held by Spanish
men of letters:--

    "De los primeros tiene Horacio el puesto,
    En numeros y estilo soberano,
    Qual en su Arte al mundo es manifesto.
    Escaligero [_i.e._ Scaliger] hace el paso llano
    Con general enseñamiento y guia,
    Lo mismo el docto Cintio [_i.e._ Giraldi Cintio] y Biperano.[279]
    Maranta[280] es egemplar de la Poesia,
    Vida el norte, Pontano[281] el ornamento,
    La luz Minturno qual el sol del dia....
    Acuden todos a colmar sus vasos
    Al oceano sacro de Stagira [_i.e._ Aristotle],
    Donde se afirman los dudosos pasos,
    Se eterniza la trompa y tierna lira."[282]

The influence of the Italians was equally great in Germany. From
Fabricius to Opitz, the critical ideas of Germany were almost all
borrowed, directly or indirectly, from Italian sources. Fabricius in his
_De Re Poetica_ (1584) acknowledges his indebtedness to Minturno,
Partenio, Pontanus, and others, but above all to Scaliger; and most of
the critical ideas by which Opitz renovated modern German literature go
back to Italian sources, through Scaliger, Ronsard, and Daniel Heinsius.
No better illustration of the influence of the Italian critics upon
European letters could be afforded than that given by Opitz's _Buch von
der deutschen Poeterei_.[283]

The influence of Italian criticism on the critical literature of France
and England will be more or less treated in the remaining portions of
this essay. It may be noted here, however, that in the critical writings
of Lessing there is represented the climax of the Italian tradition in
European letters, especially on the side of Aristotelianism. Shelley
represents a similar culmination of the Italian tradition in England.
His indebtedness to Sidney and Milton, who represent the Italian
influence in the Elizabethan age, and especially to Tasso, whom he
continually cites, is very marked. The debt of modern literature to
Italian criticism is therefore not slight. In the half century between
Vida and Castelvetro, Italian criticism formulated three things: a
theory of poetry, a rigid form for the epic, and a rigid form for the
drama. These rigid forms for drama and epic governed the creative
imagination of Europe for two centuries, and then passed away. But while
modern æsthetics for over a century has studied the processes of art,
the theory of poetry, as enunciated by the Italians of the sixteenth
century, has not diminished in value, but has continued to pervade the
finer minds of men from that time to this.

III. _Rationalism_

The rationalistic temper may be observed in critical literature almost
at the very beginning of the sixteenth century. This spirit of
rationalism is observable throughout the Renaissance; and its general
causes may be looked for in the liberation of the human reason by the
Renaissance, in the growth of the sciences and arts, and in the reaction
against mediæval sacerdotalism and dogma. The causes of its development
in literary criticism may be found not only in these but in several
other influences of the period. The paganization of culture, the growth
of rationalistic philosophies, with their all-pervading influence on
arts and letters, and moreover the influence of Horace's _Ars Poetica_,
with its ideal of "good sense," all tended to make the element of reason
predominate in literature and in literary criticism.

In Vida the three elements which are at the bottom of classicism, the
imitation of the classics, the imitation of nature, and the authority of
reason, may all be found. Reason is for him the final test of all

    "Semper nutu rationis eant res."[284]

The function of the reason in art is, first, to serve as a standard in
the choice and carrying out of the design, a bulwark against the
operation of mere chance,[285] and secondly, to moderate the expression
of the poet's own personality and passion, a bulwark against the morbid
subjectivity which is the horror of the classical temperament.[286]

It has been said of Scaliger that he was the first modern to establish
in a body of doctrine the principal consequences of the sovereignty of
the reason in literature.[287] That was hardly his aim, and certainly
not his attainment. But he was, at all events, one of the first modern
critics to affirm that there is a standard of perfection for each
specific form of literature, to show that this standard may be arrived
at _a priori_ through the reason, and to attempt a formulation of such
standard for each literary form. "Est in omni rerum genere unum primum
ac rectum ad cuius tum norman, tum rationem cætera dirigenda sunt."[288]
This, the fundamental assumption of Scaliger's _Poetics_, is also one of
the basic ideas of classicism. Not only is there a standard, a norm, in
every species of literature, but this norm can be definitely formulated
and defined by means of the reason; and it is the duty of the critic to
formulate this norm, and the duty of the poet to study and follow it
without deviating from the norm in any way. Even Homer, as we have seen,
is to be judged according to this standard arrived at through the
reason. Such a method cuts off all possibility of novelty of form or
expression, and holds every poet, ancient or modern, great or small,
accountable to one and the same standard of perfection.

The growth and influence of rationalism in Italian criticism may be best
observed by the gradual effect which its development had on the element
of Aristotelianism. In other words, rationalism changed the point of
view according to which the Aristotelian canons were regarded in the
Italian Renaissance. The earlier Italian critics accepted their rules
and precepts on the authority of Aristotle alone. Thus Trissino, at the
beginning of the fifth section of his _Poetica_, finished in 1549,
although begun about twenty years before, says, "I shall not depart from
the rules and precepts of the ancients, and especially Aristotle."[289]
Somewhat later, in 1553, Varchi says, "Reason _and_ Aristotle are my
_two_ guides."[290] Here the element of the reason first asserts
itself, but there is no intimation that the Aristotelian canons are in
themselves reasonable. The critic has two guides, the individual reason
and the Aristotelian rules, and each of these two guides is to serve
wherever the other is found wanting. This same point of view is found a
decade later in Tasso, who says that the defenders of the unity of the
epic poem have made "a shield of the authority of Aristotle, nor do they
lack the arms afforded by the reason;"[291] and similarly, in 1583, Sir
Philip Sidney says that the unity of time is demanded "both by
Aristotle's precept and common reason."[292] Here both Tasso and Sidney,
while contending that the particular law under discussion is in itself
reasonable, speak of Aristotle's _Poetics_ and the reason as separate
and distinct authorities, and fail to show that Aristotle himself based
all his precepts upon the reason. In Denores, a few years later, the
development is carried one stage farther in the direction of the
ultimate classical attitude, as when he speaks of "reason and
Aristotle's _Poetics_, which is indeed founded on naught save
reason."[293] This is as far as Italian criticism ever went. It was the
function of neo-classicism in France, as will be seen, to show that such
a phrase as "reason _and_ Aristotle" is a contradiction in itself, that
the Aristotelian canons and the reason are ultimately reducible to the
same thing, and that not only what is in Aristotle will be found
reasonable, but all that reason dictates for literary observance will be
found in Aristotle.

Rationalism produced several very important results in literature and
literary criticism during the sixteenth century. In the first place, it
tended to give the reason a higher place in literature than imagination
or sensibility. Poetry, it will be remembered, was often classified by
Renaissance critics as one of the logical sciences; and nothing could be
in greater accord with the neo-classical ideal than the assertion of
Varchi and others that the better logician the poet is, the better he
will be as a poet. Sainte-Beuve gives Scaliger the credit of having
first formulated this theory of literature which subordinates the
creative imagination and poetic sensibility to the reason;[294] but the
credit or discredit of originating it does not belong exclusively to
Scaliger. This tendency toward the apotheosis of the reason was diffused
throughout the sixteenth century, and does not characterize any
individual author. The Italian critics of this period were the first to
formulate the classical ideal that the standard of perfection may be
conceived of by the reason, and that perfection is to be attained only
by the realization of this standard.

The rationalistic spirit also tended to set the seal of disapprobation
on extravagances of any sort. Subjectivity and individualism came to be
regarded more and more, at least in theory, as out of keeping with
classical perfection. Clearness, reasonableness, sociableness, were the
highest requirements of art; and any excessive expression of the poet's
individuality was entirely disapproved of. Man, not only as a reasonable
being, but also as a social being, was regarded as the basis of
literature. Boileau's lines:--

    "Que les vers ne soient pas votre éternel emploi;
    Cultivez vos amis, soyez homme de foi;
    C'est peu d'être agréable et charmant dans un livre,
    Il faut savoir encore et converser et vivre,"[295]

were anticipated in Berni's _Dialogo contra i Poeti_, written in 1526,
though not published until 1537. This charming invective is directed
against the fashionable literature of the time, and especially against
all professional poets. Writing from the standpoint of a polished and
rationalistic society, Berni lays great stress on the fact that poetry
is not to be taken too seriously, that it is a pastime, a recreation for
cultured people, a mere bagatelle; and he professes to despise those who
spend all their time in writing verses. The vanity, the uselessness, the
extravagances, and the ribaldry of the professional poets receive his
hearty contempt; only those who write verses for pastime merit
approbation. "Are you so stupid," he cries, "as to think that I call any
one who writes verses a poet, and that I regard such men as Vida,
Pontano, Bembo, Sannazaro, as mere poets? I do not call any one a poet,
and condemn him as such, unless he does nothing but write verses, and
wretched ones at that, and is good for nothing else. But the men I have
mentioned are not poets by profession."[296] Here the sentiments
expressed are those of a refined and social age,--the age of Louis XIV.
no less than that of Leo X.

The irreligious character of neo-classic art may also be regarded as one
of the consequences of this rationalistic temper. The combined effect of
humanism, essentially pagan, and rationalism, essentially sceptical, was
not favorable to the growth of religious feeling in literature.
Classicism, the result of these two tendencies, became more and more
rationalistic, more and more pagan; and in consequence, religious poetry
in any real sense ceased to flourish wherever the more stringent forms
of classicism prevailed. In Boileau these tendencies result in a certain
distinct antagonism to the very forms of Christianity in literature:--

    "C'est donc bien vainement que nos auteurs déçus,
    Bannissant de leurs vers ces ornemens reçus,
    Pensent faire agir Dieu, ses saints et ses prophètes,
    Comme ces dieux éclos du cerveau des poëtes;
    Mettent à chaque pas le lecteur en enfer;
    N'offrent rien qu'Astaroth, Belzébuth, Lucifer.
    De la foi d'un chrétien les mystères terribles
    D'ornemens égayés ne sont point susceptibles;
    L'Évangile à l'esprit n'offre de tous côtés
    Que pénitence à faire et tourmens mérités;
    Et de vos fictions le mélange coupable
    Même à ses vérités donne l'air de la fable."[297]


[239] Symonds, ii. 161, based on Voigt.

[240] _Cf._ Woodward, p. 210 _sq._

[241] Hallam, _Lit. of Europe_, i. 8. 1. _Cf._ Pope, i. 182: "Omnia sed
numeris vocum concordibus aptant," etc.

[242] Bembo, _Le Prose_, 1525; Dolce, _Osservationi_, 1550, lib. iv.;

[243] _Versi e Regole de la Nuova Poesia Toscana_, 1539.

[244] Trissino, _Poetica_, lib. i.-iv., 1529; Tomitano, _Della Lingua
Toscana_, 1545; etc.

[245] Pope, i. 134. _Cf._ De Sanctis, ii. 153 _sq._

[246] Pope, i. 152.

[247] Partenio, p. 80.

[248] _Ibid._ p. 95.

[249] _Opere_, xi. 51.

[250] _Defence_, p. 13.

[251] _Poet._ v. 3.

[252] _Poet._ v. 1; vi. 4.

[253] _Cf._ Brunetière, p. 53.

[254] Symonds, ii. 395 _sq._

[255] Muzio, p. 94.

[256] _Cf._ Dennis, _Select Works_, 1718, ii. 417 _sq._

[257] Pope, i. 167.

[258] Laas, _Die Paedagogik des Johannes Sturm_, Berlin, 1872, p. 65

[259] _Inst. Orat._ x. 2.

[260] Pope, i. 165.

[261] _Poet._ i. 1.

[262] _Poet._ iii. 4.

[263] Partenio, p. 39 _sq._

[264] _Cf._ Brunetière, p. 102 _sq._, and Lanson, _Hist. de la Litt.
fr._, p. 494 _sq._

[265] _Lettres grecques_, ed. Legrand, 1892, p. 31.

[266] "Quæcunque ab Aristotele dicta sint falsa et commentitia esse;"
Bayle, _Dict._ s. v. Ramus, note C.

[267] Fracastoro, i. 321.

[268] Tiraboschi, vii. 1465.

[269] Maggi, dedication.

[270] In an appendix to this essay will be found an excerpt from
Salviati's unpublished commentary on the _Poetics_, giving his judgment
of the commentators who had preceded him.

[271] Tasso, xv. 20.

[272] _Poet._ vii. ii. 1.

[273] _Hamburg. Dramat._ 101-104.

[274] _Essay on Pope_, 3d ed., i. 171.

[275] _Arte Poetica_, p. 158.

[276] Muzio, pp. 81 v., 76 v.

[277] _Poet._ i. 5.

[278] Pope, _Essay on Criticism_, 88.

[279] Viperano, author of _De Poetica libri tres_, Antwerp, 1579.

[280] Maranta, author of _Lucullanæ Quæstiones_, Basle, 1564.

[281] Three writers of the Renaissance bore this name: G. Pontano, the
famous Italian humanist and Latin poet, who died in 1503; P. Pontano, of
Bruges, the author of an _Ars Versificatoria_, published in 1520; and J.
Pontanus, a Bohemian Jesuit, author of _Institutiones Poeticæ_, first
published at Ingolstadt in 1594, and several times reprinted.

[282] Sedano, _Parnaso Español_, Madrid, 1774, viii. 40, 41.

[283] _Cf._ Berghoeffer, _Opitz' Buch von der Poeterei_, 1888, and
Beckherrn, _Opitz, Ronsard, und Heinsius_, 1888. The first reference to
Aristotle's _Poetics_, north of the Alps, is to be found in Luther's
_Address to the Christian Nobles of the German Nation_, 1520. Schosser's
_Disputationes de Tragoedia_, published in 1559, two years before
Scaliger's work appeared, is entirely based on Aristotle's _Poetics_.

[284] Pope, i. 155.

[285] _Loc. cit._, beginning, "Nec te fors inopina regat."

[286] Pope, i. 164, beginning, "Ne tamen ah nimium."

[287] Lintilhac, in _Nouvelle Revue_, lxiv. 543.

[288] Scaliger, _Poet._ iii. 11.

[289] Trissino, ii. 92.

[290] Varchi, p. 600.

[291] Tasso, xii. 217.

[292] _Defense of Poesy_, p. 48.

[293] _Discorso_, 1587, p. 39 v.

[294] _Causeries du Lundi_, iii. 44.

[295] _Art Poét._ iv. 121.

[296] Berni, p. 249.

[297] _Art Poét._ iii. 193. _Cf._ Dryden, _Discourse on Satire_, in
_Works_, xiii. 23 _sq._



IN the Italian critical literature of the sixteenth century there are to
be found the germs of romantic as well as classical criticism. The
development of romanticism in Renaissance criticism is due to various
tendencies, of ancient, of mediæval, and of modern origin. The ancient
element is Platonism; the mediæval elements are Christianity, and the
influence of the literary forms and the literary subject-matter of the
Middle Ages; and the modern elements are the growth of national life and
national literatures, and the opposition of modern philosophy to

I. _The Ancient Romantic Element_

As the element of reason is the predominant feature of neo-classicism,
so the element of imagination is the predominant feature of romanticism;
and according as the reason or the imagination predominates in
Renaissance literature, there results neo-classicism or romanticism,
while the most perfect art finds a reconciliation of both elements in
the imaginative reason. According to the faculty of reason, when made
the basis of literature, the poet is, as it were, held down to earth,
and art becomes the mere reasoned expression of the truth of life. By
the faculty of imagination, the poet is made to create a new world of
his own,--a world in which his genius is free to mould whatever its
imagination takes hold of. This romantic doctrine of the freedom of
genius, of inspiration and the power of imagination, in so far as it
forms a part of Renaissance criticism, owes its origin to Platonism. The
influence of the Platonic doctrines among the humanists has already been
alluded to. Plato was regarded by them as their leader in the struggle
against mediævalism, scholasticism, and Aristotelianism. The
Aristotelian dialectic of the Middle Ages appealed exclusively to the
reason; Platonism gave opportunities for the imagination to soar to
vague and sublime heights, and harmonize with the divine mysteries of
the universe. As regards poetry and imaginative literature in general,
the critics of the Renaissance appealed from the Plato of the _Republic_
and the _Laws_ to the Plato of the _Ion_, the _Phædrus_, and the
_Symposium_. Beauty being the subject-matter of art, Plato's praise of
beauty was transferred by the Renaissance to poetry, and his praise of
the philosopher was transferred to the poet.

The Aristotelian doctrine defines beauty according to its relations to
the external world; that is, poetry is an imitation of nature, expressed
in general terms. The Platonic doctrine, on the contrary, is concerned
with poetry, or beauty, in so far as it concerns the poet's own nature;
that is, the poet is divinely inspired and is a creator like God.
Fracastoro, as has been seen, makes the Platonic rapture, the delight in
the true and essential beauty of things, the true tests of poetic power.
In introducing this Platonic ideal of poetic beauty into modern literary
criticism, he defines and distinguishes poetry according to a subjective
criterion; and it is according to whether the objective or the
subjective conception of art is insisted upon, that we have the classic
spirit or the romantic spirit. The extreme romanticists, like the
Schlegels and their contemporaries in Germany, entirely eliminate the
relation of poetry to the external world, and in this extreme form
romanticism becomes identified with the exaggerated subjective idealism
of Fichte and Schelling. The extreme classicists entirely eliminate the
poet's personality; that is, poetry is merely reasoned expression, a
perfected expression of what all men can see in nature, for the poet has
no more insight into life--no more imagination--than any ordinary,
judicious person.

The effects of this Platonic element upon Renaissance criticism were
various. In the first place, it was through the Platonic influence that
the relation of beauty to poetry was first made prominent.[298]
According to Scaliger, Tasso, Sidney, another world of beauty is created
by the poet,--a world that possesses beauty in its perfection as this
world never can. The reason alone leaves no place for beauty; and
accordingly, for the neo-classicists, art was ultimately restricted to
moral and psychological observation. Moreover, Platonism raised the
question of the freedom of genius and of the imagination. Of all men,
only the poet, as Sidney and others pointed out, is bound down and
restricted by no laws. But if poetry is a matter of inspiration, how can
it be called an art? If genius alone suffices, what need is there of
study and artifice? For the extreme romanticists of this period, genius
alone was accounted sufficient to produce the greatest works of poetry;
for the extreme classicists, studious and labored art unaided by genius
fulfilled all the functions of poetic creation; but most of the critics
of the sixteenth century seem to have agreed with Horace that genius, or
an inborn aptitude, is necessary to begin with, but that it needs art
and study to regulate and perfect it. Genius cannot suffice without
restraint and cultivation.

Scaliger, curiously, reconciles both classic and romantic elements. The
poet, according to Scaliger, is inspired, is in fact a creator like God;
but poetry is an imitation (that is, re-creation) of nature, according
to certain fixed rules obtained from the observation of the anterior
expression of nature in great art. It is these rules that make poetry an
art; and these rules form a distinct neo-classic element imposed on the
Aristotelian doctrine.

II. _Mediæval Elements_

The Middle Ages contributed to the poetic ideal of the Renaissance two
elements: romantic themes and the Christian spirit. The forms and
subjects of mediæval literature are distinctly romantic. Dante's _Divine
Comedy_ is an allegorical vision; it is almost unique in form, and has
no classical prototype.[299] The tendency of Petrarchism was also in the
direction of romanticism. Its "conceits" and its subjectivity led to an
unclassical extravagance of thought and expression; and the
Petrarchistic influence made lyric poetry, and accordingly the criticism
of lyric poetry, more romantic than any other form of literature or
literary criticism during the period of classicism. It was for this
reason that there was little lyricism in the classical period, not only
in France, but wherever the classic temper predominated. The themes of
the _romanzi_ are also mediæval and romantic; but while they are
mediæval contributions to literature,[300] they became contributions to
literary criticism only after the growth of national life and the
development of the feeling of nationality, both distinctly modern.

Some reference has already been made to the paganization of culture by
the humanists. But with the growth of that revival of Christian
sentiment which led to the Reformation, there were numerous attempts to
reconcile Christianity with pagan culture.[301] Such men as Ficino and
Pico della Mirandola attempted to harmonize Christianity and Platonic
philosophy; and under the great patron of letters, Pope Leo X., there
were various attempts to harmonize Christianity with the classic spirit
in literature. In such poems as Vida's _Christiad_ and Sannazaro's _De
Partu Virginis_, Christianity is covered with the drapery of paganism or

The first reaction against this paganization of culture was, as has been
seen, effected by Savonarola. This reaction was reënforced, in the next
century, by the influence and authority of the Council of Trent; and
after the middle of the sixteenth century the Christian ideal plays a
prominent part in literary criticism. The spirit of both Giraldi Cintio
and Minturno is distinctly Christian. For Giraldi the _romanzi_ are
Christian, and hence superior to the classical epics. He allows the
introduction of pagan deities only into epics dealing with the ancient
classical subjects; but Tasso goes further, and says that no modern
heroic poet should have anything to do with them. According to Tasso,
the heroes of an heroic poem must be Christian knights, and the poem
itself must deal with a true, not a false, religion. The subject is not
to be connected with any article of Christian faith or dogma, because
that was fixed by the Council of Trent; but paganism in any form is
altogether unfit for a modern epic. Tasso even goes so far as to assert
that piety shall be numbered among the virtues of the knightly heroes of
epic poetry. At the same time also, Lorenzo Gambara wrote his work, _De
Perfecta Poeseos Ratione_, to prove that it is essential for every poet
to exclude from his poems, not only everything that is wicked or
obscene, but also everything that is fabulous or that deals with pagan
divinities.[302] It was to this religious reaction that we owe the
Christian poetry of Tasso, Du Bartas, and Spenser. But humanism was
strong, and rationalism was rife; and the religious revival was hardly
more than temporary. Neo-classicism throughout Europe was essentially

III. _Modern Elements_

The literature of the Middle Ages constitutes, as it were, one vast body
of European literature; only with the Renaissance did distinctly
national literatures spring into existence. Nationalism as well as
individualism was subsequent to the Renaissance; and it was at this
period that the growth of a national literature, of national life,--in a
word, patriotism in its widest sense,--was first effected.

The linguistic discussions and controversies of the sixteenth century
prepared the way for a higher appreciation of national languages and
literatures. These controversies on the comparative merits of the
classical and vernacular tongues had begun in the time of Dante, and
were continued in the sixteenth century by Bembo, Castiglione, Varchi,
Muzio, Tolomei, and many others; and in 1564 Salviati summed up the
Italian side of the question in an oration in which he asserted that
the Tuscan, or, as he called it, the Florentine language and the
Florentine literature are vastly superior to any other language or
literature, whether ancient or modern. However extravagant this claim
may appear, the mere fact that Salviati made such a claim at all is
enough to give him a place worthy of serious consideration in the
history of Italian literature. The other side of the controversy finds
its extremest expression in a treatise of Celio Calcagnini addressed to
Giraldi Cintio, in which the hope is expressed that the Italian
language, and all the literature composed in that language, would be
absolutely abandoned by the world.[303]

In Giraldi Cintio we find the first traces of purely national criticism.
His purpose, in writing the discourse on the _romanzi_, was primarily to
defend Ariosto, whom he had known personally in his youth. The point of
view from which he starts is that the _romanzi_ constitute a new form of
poetry of which Aristotle did not know, and to which, therefore,
Aristotle's rules do not apply. Giraldi regarded the romantic poems of
Ariosto and Boiardo both as national and as Christian works; and Italian
literature is thus for the first time critically distinguished from
classical literature in regard to language, religion, and nationality.
In Giraldi's discourse there is no apparent desire either to underrate
or to disregard the _Poetics_ of Aristotle; the fact was simply that
Aristotle had not known the poems which deal with many actions of many
men, and hence it would be absurd to demand that such poems should
conform to his rules. The _romanzi_ deal with phases of poetry, and
phases of life, which Aristotle could not be expected to understand.

A similar feeling of the distinct nationality of Italian literature is
to be found in many of the prefaces of the Italian comedies of this
period. Il Lasca, in the preface of the _Strega_ (_c._ 1555), says that
"Aristotle and Horace knew their own times, but ours are not the same at
all. We have other manners, another religion, and another mode of life;
and it is therefore necessary to make comedies after a different
fashion." As early as 1534, Aretino, in the prologue of his
_Cortegiana_, warned his audience "not to be astonished if the comic
style is not observed in the manner required, for we live after a
different fashion in modern Rome than they did in ancient Athens."
Similarly, Gelli, in the dedication of the _Sporta_ (1543), justifies
the use of language not to be found in the great sources of Italian
speech, on the ground that "language, together with all other natural
things, continually varies and changes."[304]

Although there is in Giraldi Cintio no fundamental opposition to
Aristotle, it is in his discourse on the _romanzi_ that there may be
found the first attempt to wrest a province of art from Aristotle's
supreme authority. Neither Salviati, who had rated the Italian language
above all others, nor Calcagnini, who had regarded it as the meanest of
all, had understood the discussion of the importance of the Tuscan
tongue to be concerned with the question of Aristotle's literary
supremacy. It was simply a national question--a question as to the
national limits of Aristotle's authority, just as was the case in the
several controversies connected with Tasso, Dante, and Guarini's _Pastor
Fido_.[305] Castelvetro, in his commentary on the _Poetics_, differs
from Aristotle on many occasions, and does not hesitate even to refute
him. Yet his reverence for Aristotle is great; his sense of Aristotle's
supreme authority is strong; and on one occasion, where Horace,
Quintilian, and Cicero seem to differ from Aristotle, Castelvetro does
not hesitate to assert that they could not have seen the passage of the
_Poetics_ in question, and that, in fact, they did not thoroughly
understand the true constitution of a poet.[306]

The opposition to Aristotelianism among the humanists has already been
alluded to. This opposition increased more and more with the development
of modern philosophy. In 1536 Ramus had attacked Aristotle's authority
at Paris. A few years later, in 1543, Ortensio Landi, who had been at
the Court of France for some time, published his _Paradossi_, in which
it is contended that the works which pass under the name of Aristotle
are not really Aristotle's at all, and that Aristotle himself was not
only an ignoramus, but also the most villanous man of his age. "We have,
of our own accord," he says, "placed our necks under the yoke, putting
that vile beast of an Aristotle on a throne, and depending on his
conclusions as if he were an oracle."[307] It is the philosophical
authority of Aristotle that Landi is attacking. His attitude is not that
of a humanist, for Cicero and Boccaccio do not receive more respectful
treatment at his hands than Aristotle does. Landi, despite his mere
eccentricities, represents the growth of modern free thought and the
antagonism of modern philosophy to Aristotelianism.

The literary opposition and the philosophical opposition to
Aristotelianism may be said to meet in Francesco Patrizzi, and, in a
less degree, in Giordano Bruno. Patrizzi's bitter Antiperipateticism is
to be seen in his _Nova de Universis Philosophia_ (1591), in which the
doctrines of Aristotle are shown to be false, inconsistent, and even
opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. His literary antagonism
to Aristotle is shown in his remarkable work, _Della Poetica_, published
at Ferrara in 1586. This work is divided into two parts,--the first
historical, _La Deca Istoriale_, and the second controversial, _La Deca
Disputata_. In the historical section he attempts to derive the norm of
the different poetic forms, not from one or two great works as Aristotle
had done, but from the whole history of literature. It is thus the first
work in modern times to attempt the philosophical study of literary
history, and to trace out the evolution of literary forms. The second or
controversial section is directed against the _Poetics_ of Aristotle,
and in part also against the critical doctrines of Torquato Tasso. In
this portion of his work Patrizzi sets out to demonstrate--_per istoria,
e per ragioni, e per autorità de' grandi antichi_--that the accepted
critical opinions of his time were without foundation; and the _Poetics_
of Aristotle himself he exhibits as obscure, inconsistent, and entirely
unworthy of credence.

Similar antagonism to the critical doctrines of Aristotle is to be found
in passages scattered here and there throughout the works of Giordano
Bruno. In the first dialogue of the _Eroici Furori_, published at London
in 1585, while Bruno was visiting England, he expresses his contempt for
the mere pedants who judge poets by the rules of Aristotle's _Poetics_.
His contention is that there are as many sorts of poets as there are
human sentiments and ideas, and that poets, so far from being
subservient to rules, are themselves really the authors of all critical
dogma. Those who attack the great poets whose works do not accord with
the rules of Aristotle are called by Bruno stupid pedants and beasts.
The gist of his argument may be gathered from the following passage:--

     "TANS. Thou dost well conclude that poetry is not born in
     rules, or only slightly and accidentally so; the rules are
     derived from the poetry, and there are as many kinds and sorts
     of true rules as there are kinds and sorts of true poets.

     CIC. How then are the true poets to be known?

     TANS. By the singing of their verses; in that singing they give
     delight, or they edify, or they edify and delight together.

     CIC. To whom then are the rules of Aristotle useful?

     TANS. To him who, unlike Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and others,
     could not sing without the rules of Aristotle, and who, having
     no Muse of his own, would coquette with that of Homer."[308]

A similar antagonism to Aristotle and a similar literary individualism
are to be found in a much later work by Benedetto Fioretti, who under
the pseudonym of Udeno Nisieli published the five volumes of his
_Proginnasmi Poetici_ between 1620 and 1639.[309] Just before the close
of the sixteenth century, however, the _Poetics_ had obtained an ardent
defender against such attacks in the person of Francesco Buonamici, in
his _Discorsi Poetici_; and three years later, in 1600, Faustino Summo
published a similar defence of Aristotle. The attacks on Aristotle's
literary dictatorship were of little avail; it was hardly necessary even
to defend him. For two centuries to come he was to reign supreme on the
continent of Europe; and in Italy this supremacy was hardly disturbed
until the days of Goldoni and Metastasio.


[298] De Sanctis, ii. 193 _sq._

[299] _Cf._ Bosanquet, _Hist. of Æsthetic_, p. 152 _sq._

[300] _Cf._ Foffano, p. 151 _sq._

[301] Symonds, ii. 470.

[302] Baillet, iii. 70.

[303] Tiraboschi, vii. 1559.

[304] Several similar extracts from Italian comic prologues may be found
in Symonds, v. 533 _sq._

[305] Foffano, p. 154 _sq._

[306] _Poetica_, p. 32.

[307] _Paradossi_, Venetia, 1545, ii. 29.

[308] _Opere_, ii. 315 (Williams's translation).

[309] _Cf._ the diverse opinions of Tiraboschi, viii. 516, and Hallam,
_Lit. of Europe_, pt. iii. ch. 7.






LITERARY criticism in France, while beginning somewhat later than in
Italy, preceded the birth of criticism in England and in Spain by a
number of years. Critical activity in nearly all the countries of
western Europe seems to have been ushered in by the translation of
Horace's _Ars Poetica_ into the vernacular tongues. Critical activity in
Italy began with Dolce's Italian version of the _Ars Poetica_ in 1535;
in France, with the French version of Pelletier in 1545; in England,
with the English version of Drant in 1567; and in Spain, with the
Spanish versions of Espinel and Zapata in 1591 and 1592, respectively.
Two centuries of literary discussion had prepared the way for criticism
in Italy; and lacking this period of preparation, French criticism
during the sixteenth century was necessarily of a much more practical
character than that of Italy during the same age. The critical works of
France, and of England also, were on the whole designed for those whose
immediate intention it was to write verse themselves. The disinterested
and philosophic treatment of æsthetic problems, wholly aside from all
practical considerations, characterized much of the critical activity of
the Italian Renaissance, but did not become general in France until the
next century. For this reason, in the French and English sections of
this essay, it will be necessary to deal with various rhetorical and
metrical questions which in the Italian section could be largely
disregarded. In these matters, as in the more general questions of
criticism, it will be seen that sixteenth-century Italy furnished the
source of all the accepted critical doctrines of western Europe. The
comparative number of critical works in Italy and in France is also
noteworthy. While those of the Italian Renaissance may be counted by the
score, the literature of France during the sixteenth century, exclusive
of a few purely rhetorical treatises, hardly offers more than a single
dozen. It is evident, therefore, that the treatment of French criticism
must be more limited in extent than that of Italian criticism, and
somewhat different in character.

The literature of the sixteenth century in France is divided into two
almost equal parts by Du Bellay's _Défense et Illustration de la Langue
française_, published in 1549. In no other country of Europe is the
transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance so clearly marked as
it is in France by this single book. With the invasion of Italy by the
army of Charles VIII. in 1494, the influence of Italian art, of Italian
learning, of Italian poetry, had received its first impetus in France.
But over half a century was to elapse before the effects of this
influence upon the creative literature of France was universally and
powerfully felt. During this period the activity of Budæus, Erasmus,
Dolet, and numerous other French and foreign humanists strengthened the
cause and widened the influence of the New Learning. But it is only with
the birth of the Pléiade that modern French literature may be said to
have begun. In 1549 Du Bellay's _Défense_, the manifesto of the new
school, appeared. Ronsard's _Odes_ were published in the next year; and
in 1552 Jodelle inaugurated French tragedy with his _Cléopâtre_, and
first, as Ronsard said,

    "Françoisement chanta la grecque tragédie."

The _Défense_ therefore marks a distinct epoch in the critical as well
as the creative literature of France. The critical works that preceded
it, if they may be called critical in any real sense, did not attempt to
do more than formulate the conventional notions of rhetorical and
metrical structure common to the French poets of the later Middle Ages.
The Pléiade itself, as will be more clearly understood later, was also
chiefly concerned with linguistic and rhetorical reforms; and as late as
1580 Montaigne could say that there were more poets in France than
judges and interpreters of poetry.[310] The creative reforms of the
Pléiade lay largely in the direction of the formation of a poetic
language, the introduction of new _genres_, the creation of new
rhythms, and the imitation of classical literature. But with the
imitation of classical literature there came the renewal of the ancient
subjects of inspiration; and from this there proceeded a high and
dignified conception of the poet's office. Indeed, many of the more
general critical ideas of the Pléiade spring from the desire to justify
the function of poetry, and to magnify its importance. The new school
and its epigones dominate the second half of the sixteenth century; and
as the first half of the century was practically unproductive of
critical literature, a history of French Renaissance criticism is hardly
more than an account of the poetic theories of the Pléiade.

The series of rhetorical and metrical treatises that precede Du Bellay's
_Défense_ begins with _L'Art de dictier et de fere chançons, balades,
virelais et rondeaulx_, written by the poet Eustache Deschamps in 1392,
over half a century after the similar work of Antonio da Tempo in
Italy.[311] Toward the close of the fifteenth century a work of the same
nature, the _Fleur de Rhétorique_, by an author who refers to himself as
L'Infortuné, seems to have had some influence on later treatises. Three
works of this sort fall within the first half of the sixteenth century:
the _Grand et vrai Art de pleine Rhétorique_ of Pierre Fabri, published
at Rouen in 1521; the _Rhétorique metrifiée_ of Gracien du Pont,
published at Paris in 1539; and the _Art Poétique_ of Thomas Sibilet,
published at Paris in 1548. The second part of Fabri's _Rhétorique_
deals with questions of versification--of rhyme, rhythm, and the complex
metrical form of such poets as Crétin, Meschinot, and Molinet, in whom
Pasquier found _prou de rime et équivoque, mais peu de raison_. As the
_Rhétorique_ of Fabri is little more than an amplification of the
similar work of L'Infortuné, so the work of Gracien du Pont is little
more than a reproduction of Fabri's. Gracien du Pont is still chiefly
intent on _rime équivoquée_, _rime entrelacée_, _rime retrograde_, _rime
concatenée_, and the various other mediæval complexities of
versification. Sibilet's _Art Poétique_ is more interesting than any of
its predecessors. It was published a year before the _Défense_ of Du
Bellay, and discusses many of the new _genres_ which the latter
advocates. Sibilet treats of the sonnet, which had recently been
borrowed from the Italians by Mellin de Saint-Gelais, the ode, which had
just been employed by Pelletier, and the epigram, as practised by Marot.
The eclogue is described as "Greek by invention, Latin by usurpation,
and French by imitation." But one of the most interesting passages in
Sibilet's book is that in which the French morality is compared with the
classical drama. This passage exhibits perhaps the earliest trace of the
influence of Italian ideas on French criticism; it will be discussed
later in connection with the dramatic theories of this period.

It is about the middle of the sixteenth century, then, that the
influence of Italian criticism is first visible. The literature of Italy
was read with avidity in France. Many educated young Frenchmen
travelled in Italy, and several Italian men of letters visited France.
Girolamo Muzio travelled in France in 1524, and again in 1530 with
Giulio Camillo.[312] Aretino mentions the fact that a Vincenzo Maggi was
at the Court of France in 1548, but it has been doubted whether this was
the author of the commentary on the _Poetics_.[313] In 1549, after the
completion of the two last parts of his _Poetica_, dedicated to the
Bishop of Arras, Trissino made a tour about France.[314] Nor must we
forget the number of Italian scholars called to Paris by Francis I.[315]
The literary relations between the two countries do not concern us here;
but it is no insignificant fact that the great literary reforms of the
Pléiade should take place between 1548 and 1550, the very time when
critical activity first received its great impetus in Italy. This
Italian influence is just becoming apparent in Sibilet, for whom the
poets between Jean le Maire de Belges and Clément Marot are the chief
models, but who is not wholly averse to the moderate innovations derived
by France from classical antiquity and the Italian Renaissance.

M. Brunetière, in a very suggestive chapter of his History of French
Criticism, regards the _Défense_ of Du Bellay, the _Poetics_ of
Scaliger, and the _Art Poétique_ of Vauquelin de la Fresnaye as the most
important critical works in France during the sixteenth century.[316]
It may indeed be said that Du Bellay's _Défense_ (1549) is not in any
true sense a work of literary criticism at all; that Scaliger's
_Poetics_ (1561) is the work, not of a French critic, but of an Italian
humanist; and that Vauquelin's _Art Poétique_ (not published until
1605), so far as any influence it may have had is concerned, does not
belong to the sixteenth century, and can hardly be called important. At
the same time these three works are interesting documents in the
literary history of France, and represent three distinct stages in the
development of French criticism in the sixteenth century. Du Bellay's
work marks the beginning of the introduction of classical ideals into
French literature; Scaliger's work, while written by an Italian and in
Latin, was composed and published in France, and marks the introduction
of the Aristotelian canons into French criticism; and Vauquelin's work
indicates the sum of critical ideas which France had gathered and
accepted in the sixteenth century.

With Du Bellay's _Défense et Illustration de la Langue française_ (1549)
modern literature and modern criticism in France may be said to begin.
The _Défense_ is a monument of the influence of Italian upon French
literary and linguistic criticism. The purpose of the book, as its title
implies, is to defend the French language, and to indicate the means by
which it can approach more closely to dignity and perfection. The
fundamental contention of Du Bellay is, first, that the French language
is capable of attaining perfection; and, secondly, that it can only hope
to do so by imitating Greek and Latin. This thesis is propounded and
proved in the first book of the _Défense_; and the second book is
devoted to answering the question: By what specific means is this
perfection, based on the imitation of the perfection of Greek and Latin,
to be attained by the French tongue? Du Bellay contends that as the
diversity of language among the different nations is ascribable entirely
to the caprice of men, the perfection of any tongue is due exclusively
to the diligence and artifice of those who use it. It is the duty,
therefore, of every one to set about consciously to improve his native
speech. The Latin tongue was not always as perfect as it was in the days
of Virgil and Cicero; and if these writers had regarded language as
incapable of being polished and enriched, or if they had imagined that
their language could only be perfected by the imitation of their own
national predecessors, Latin would never have arrived at a higher state
of perfection than that of Ennius and Crassus. But as Virgil and Cicero
perfected Latin by imitating Greek, so the French tongue can only be
made beautiful by imitating Greek, Latin, and Italian, all of which have
attained a certain share of perfection.[317]

At the same time, two things must be guarded against. The French tongue
cannot be improved by merely translating the classic and Italian
tongues. Translation has its value in popularizing ideas; but by mere
translation no language or literature can hope to attain perfection. Nor
is a mere bald imitation sufficient; but, in Du Bellay's oft-cited
phrase, the beauties of these foreign tongues "must be converted into
blood and nourishment."[318] The classics have "blood, nerves, and
bones," while the older French writers have merely "skin and
color."[319] The modern French writer should therefore dismiss with
contempt the older poets of France, and set about to imitate the Greeks,
Latins, and Italians. He should leave off composing rondeaux, ballades,
virelays, and such _épiceries_, which corrupt the taste of the French
language, and serve only to show its ignorance and poverty; and in their
stead he should employ the epigram, which mingles, in Horace's words,
the profitable with the pleasant, the tearful elegy, in imitation of
Ovid and Tibullus, the ode, one of the sublimest forms of poetry, the
eclogue, in imitation of Theocritus, Virgil, and Sannazaro, and the
beautiful sonnet, an Italian invention no less learned than
pleasing.[320] Instead of the morality and the farce, the poet should
write tragedies and comedies; he should attempt another _Iliad_ or
_Æneid_ for the glory and honor of France. This is the gist of Du
Bellay's argument in so far as it deals in general terms with the French
language and literature. The six or seven concluding chapters treat of
more minute and detailed questions of language and versification. Du
Bellay advises the adoption of classical words as a means of enriching
the French tongue, and speaks with favor of the use of rhymeless verse
in imitation of the classics. The _Défense_ ends with an appeal to the
reader not to fear to go and despoil Greece and Rome of their treasures
for the benefit of French poetry.[321]

From this analysis it will be seen that the _Défense_ is really a
philological polemic, belonging to the same class as the long series of
Italian discussions on the vulgar tongue which begins with Dante, and
which includes the works of Bembo, Castiglione, Varchi, and others. It
is, as a French critic has said, a combined pamphlet, defence, and _ars
poetica_;[322] but it is only an _ars poetica_ in so far as it advises
the French poet to employ certain poetic forms, and treats of rhythm and
rhyme in a concluding chapter or two. But curiously enough, the source
and inspiration of Du Bellay's work have never been pointed out. The
actual model of the _Défense_ was without doubt Dante's _De Vulgari
Eloquio_, which, in the Italian version of Trissino, had been given to
the world for the first time in 1529, exactly twenty years before the
_Défense_. The two works, allowing for the difference in time and
circumstance, resemble each other closely in spirit and purpose as well
as in contents and design. Du Bellay's work, like Dante's, is divided
into two books, each of which is again divided into about the same
number of chapters. The first book of both works deals with language in
general, and the relations of the vulgar tongue to the ancient and
modern languages; the second book of both works deals with the
particular practices of the vulgar tongue concerning which each author
is arguing. Both works begin with a somewhat similar theory of the
origin of language; both works close with a discussion of the
versification of the vernacular. The purpose of both books is the
justification of the vulgar tongue, and the consideration of the means
by which it can attain perfection; the title of _De Vulgari Eloquio_
might be applied with equal force to either treatise. The _Défense_, by
this justification of the French language on rational if not entirely
cogent and consistent grounds, prepared the way for critical activity in
France; and it is no insignificant fact that the first critical work of
modern France should have been based on the first critical work of
modern Italy. Thirty years later, Henri Estienne, in his _Précellence du
Langage françois_, could assert that French is the best language of
ancient or modern times, just as Salviati in 1564 had claimed that
preëminent position for Italian.[323]

It is not to be expected that so radical a break with the national
traditions of France as was implied by Du Bellay's innovations would be
left unheeded by the enemies of the Pléiade. The answer came soon, in an
anonymous pamphlet, entitled _Le Quintil Horatian sur la Défense et
Illustration de la Langue françoise_. Until a very few years ago, this
treatise was ascribed to a disciple of Marot, Charles Fontaine. But in
1883 an autograph letter of Fontaine's was discovered, in which he
strenuously denies the authorship of the _Quintil Horatian_; and more
recent researches have shown pretty conclusively that the real author
was a friend of Fontaine's, Barthélemy Aneau, head of the College of
Lyons.[324] The _Quintil Horatian_ was first published in 1550, the year
after the appearance of the _Défense_.[325] The author informs us that
he had translated the whole of Horace's _Ars Poetica_ into French verse
"over twenty years ago, before Pelletier or any one else," that is,
between 1525 and 1530.[326] This translation was never published, but
fragments of it are cited in the _Quintil Horatian_. The pamphlet itself
takes up the arguments of Du Bellay step by step, and refutes them. The
author finds fault with the constructions, the metaphors, and the
neologisms of Du Bellay. Aneau's temperament was dogmatic and pedagogic;
his judgment was not always good; and modern French critics cannot
forgive him for attacking Du Bellay's use of such a word as _patrie_.

But it is not entirely just to speak of the _Quintil Horatian_, in the
words of a modern literary historian, as full of futile and valueless
criticisms. The author's minute linguistic objections are often
hypercritical, but his work represents a natural reaction against the
Pléiade. His chief censure of the _Défense_ was directed against the
introduction of classical and Italian words into the French language.
"Est-ce là défense et illustration," he exclaims, "ou plus tost offense
et dénigration?" He charges the Pléiade with having contemned the
classics of French poetry; the new school advocated the disuse of the
complicated metrical forms merely because they were too difficult. The
sonnet, the ode, and the elegy he dismisses as useless innovations. The
object of poetry, according to Horace, is to gladden and please, while
the elegy merely saddens and brings tears to the eyes. "Poetry," he
says, "is like painting; and as painting is intended to fill us with
delight, and not to sadden us, so the mournful elegy is one of the
meanest forms of poetry." Aneau is unable to appreciate the high and
sublime conception of the poet's office which the Pléiade first
introduced into French literature; for him the poet is a mere versifier
who amuses his audience. He represents the general reaction of the
national spirit against the classical innovations of the Pléiade; and
the _Quintil Horatian_ may therefore be called the last representative
work of the older school of poetry.

It was at about this period that Aristotle's _Poetics_ first influenced
French criticism. In one of the concluding chapters of the _Défense_ Du
Bellay remarks that "the virtues and vices of a poem have been
diligently treated by the ancients, such as Aristotle and Horace, and
after them by Hieronymus Vida."[327] Horace is mentioned and cited in
numerous other places, and the influence of the general rhetorical
portions of the _Ars Poetica_ is very marked throughout the _Défense_;
there are also many traces of the influence of Vida. But there is no
evidence whatsoever of any knowledge of Aristotle's _Poetics_. Of its
name and importance Du Bellay had probably read in the writings of the
Italians, but of its contents he knew little or nothing. There is indeed
no well-established allusion to the _Poetics_ in France before this
time. None of the French humanists seems to have known it. Its title is
cited by Erasmus in a letter dated February 27, 1531, and it was
published by him without any commentary at Basle in the same year,
though Simon Grynæus appears to have been the real editor of this work.
An edition of the _Poetics_ was also published at Paris in 1541, but
does not seem to have had any appreciable influence on the critical
activity of France. Several years after the publication of the
_Défense_, in the satirical poem, _Le Poëte Courtisan_, written shortly
after his return from Italy in 1555, Du Bellay shows a somewhat more
definite knowledge of the contents of the _Poetics_:--

    "Je ne veux point ici du maistre d'Alexandre [_i.e._ Aristotle],
    Touchant l'art poétic, les preceptes t'apprendre
    Tu n'apprendras de moy comment jouer il faut
    Les miseres des rois dessus un eschaffaut:
    Je ne t'enseigne l'art de l'humble comoedie
    Ni du Méonien la muse plus hardie:
    Bref je ne monstre ici d'un vers horacien
    Les vices et vertus du poëme ancien:
    Je ne depeins aussi le poëte du Vide."[328]

In 1555 Guillaume Morel, the disciple of Turnebus, published an edition
of Aristotle's _Poetics_ at Paris. It is interesting to note, however,
that the reference in the _Défense_ is the first allusion to the
_Poetics_ to be found in the critical literature of France; by 1549 the
Italian Renaissance, and Italian criticism, had come into France for
good. In 1560, the year before the publication of Scaliger's _Poetics_,
Aristotle's treatise had acquired such prominence that in a volume of
selections from Aristotle's works, published at Paris in that year,
_Aristotelis Sententiæ_, the selections from the _Poetics_ are placed at
the head of the volume.[329] In 1572 Jean de la Taille refers his
readers to what "the great Aristotle in his _Poetics_, and after him
Horace though not with the same subtlety, have said more amply and
better than I."[330]

The influence of Scaliger's _Poetics_ on the French dramatic criticism
of this period has generally been overestimated. Scaliger's influence in
France was not inconsiderable during the sixteenth century, but it was
not until the very end of the century that he held the dictatorial
position afterward accorded to him. No edition of his _Poetics_ was ever
published at Paris. The first edition appeared at Lyons, and subsequent
editions appeared at Heidelberg and Leyden. It was in Germany, in Spain,
and in England that his influence was first felt; and it was largely
through the Dutch scholars, Heinsius and Vossius, that his influence was
carried into France in the next century. It is a mistake to say that he
had any primary influence on the formulation and acceptance of the
unities of time and place in French literature; there is in his
_Poetics_, as has been seen, no such definite and formal statement of
the unities as may be found in Castelvetro, in Jean de la Taille, in Sir
Philip Sidney, or in Chapelain. At the same time, while Scaliger's
_Poetics_ did not assume during the sixteenth century the dictatorial
supremacy it attained during the seventeenth, and while the particular
views enunciated in its pages had no direct influence on the current of
sixteenth-century ideas, it certainly had an indirect influence on the
general tendency of the critical activity of the French Renaissance.
This indirect influence manifests itself in the gradual Latinization of
culture during the second half of the sixteenth century, and, as will be
seen later, in the emphasis on the Aristotelian canons in French
dramatic criticism. Scaliger was a personal friend of several members of
the Pléiade, and there is every reason to believe that he wielded
considerable, even if merely indirect, influence on the development of
that great literary movement.

The last expression of the poetic theories of the Pléiade is to be found
in the didactic poem of Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, _L'Art Poétique
françois, où l'on peut remarquer la perfection et le défaut des
anciennes et des modernes poésies_. This poem, though not published
until 1605, was begun in 1574 at the command of Henry III., and,
augmented by successive additions, was not yet complete by 1590.
Vauquelin makes the following explicit acknowledgment of his
indebtedness to the critical writers that preceded him:--

    "Pour ce ensuivant les pas du fils de Nicomache [_i.e._ Aristotle],
    Du harpeur de Calabre [_i.e._ Horace], et tout ce que remache
    Vide et Minturne aprés, j'ay cet oeuvre apresté."[331]

Aristotle, Horace, Vida, and Minturno are thus his acknowledged models
and sources. Nearly the whole of Horace's _Ars Poetica_ he has
translated and embodied in his poem; and he has borrowed from Vida a
considerable number of images and metaphors.[332] His indebtedness to
Aristotle and to Minturno brings up several intricate questions. It has
been said that Vauquelin simply mentioned Minturno in order to put
himself under the protection of a respectable Italian authority.[333] On
the contrary, exclusive of Horace, Ronsard, and Du Bellay, the whole of
whose critical discussions he has almost incorporated into his poem,
Minturno is his chief authority, his model, and his guide. In fact, it
was probably from Minturno that he derived his entire knowledge of the
Aristotelian canons; it is not Aristotle, but Minturno's conception of
Aristotle, that Vauquelin has adhered to. Many points in his poem are
explained by this fact; here only one can be mentioned. Vauquelin's
account, in the second canto of his _Art Poétique_, of the origin of
the drama from the songs at the altar of Bacchus at the time of the
vintage, is undoubtedly derived from Minturno.[334] It may have been
observed that during the Renaissance there were two distinct conceptions
of the origin of poetry. One, which might be called ethical, was derived
from Horace, according to whom the poet was originally a lawgiver, or
divine prophet; and this conception persists in modern literature from
Poliziano to Shelley. The other, or scientific conception, was
especially applied to the drama, and was based on Aristotle's remarks on
the origin of tragedy; this attempt to discover some scientific
explanation for poetic phenomena may be found in the more rationalistic
of Renaissance critics, such as Scaliger and Viperano. Vauquelin de la
Fresnaye, the disciple of Ronsard and the last exponent of the critical
doctrines of the Pléiade, thus represents the incorporation of the body
of Italian ideas into French criticism.

With Vauquelin de la Fresnaye and De Laudun Daigaliers (1598) the
history of French criticism during the sixteenth century is at an end.
The critical activity of this period, as has already been remarked, is
of a far more practical character than that of Italy. Literary criticism
in France was created by the exigencies of a great literary movement;
and throughout the century it never lost its connection with this
movement, or failed to serve it in some practical way. The poetic
criticism was carried on by poets, whose desire it was to further a
cause, to defend their own works, or to justify their own views. The
dramatic criticism was for the most part carried on by dramatists,
sometimes even in the prefaces of their plays. In the sixteenth century,
as ever since, the interrelation of the creative and the critical
faculties in France was marked and definite. But there was, one might
almost say, little critical theorizing in the French Renaissance.
Excepting, of course, Scaliger, there was even nothing of the
deification of Aristotle found in Italian criticism. To take notice of a
minute but significant detail, there was no attempt to explain
Aristotle's doctrine of _katharsis_, the source of infinite controversy
in Italy. There was no detailed and consistent discussion of the theory
of the epic poem. All these things may be found in seventeenth-century
France; but their home was sixteenth-century Italy.


[310] _Essais_, i. 36.

[311] On these early works, see Langlois, _De Artibus Rhetoricæ
Rhythmicæ_, Parisiis, 1890.

[312] Tiraboschi, vii. 350.

[313] _Ibid._ vii. 1465.

[314] Morsolin, _Trissino_, p. 358.

[315] Egger, _Hellénisme_, ch. vii.

[316] Brunetière, i. 43.

[317] _Cf._ Horace, _Ars Poet._ 53 _sq._

[318] _Défense_, i. 7.

[319] _Ibid._ ii. 2.

[320] _Ibid._ ii. 4.

[321] _Cf._ Vida, in Pope, i. 167.

[322] Lanson, _op. cit._, p. 274.

[323] _Cf._ T. Tasso, xxiii. 97.

[324] H. Chamard, "Le Date et l'Auteur du Quintil Horatian," in the
_Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France_, 1898, v. 59 _sq._

[325] _Ibid._ v. 54 _sq._

[326] _Ibid._ v. 62; 63, n. 1.

[327] _Défense_, ii. 9.

[328] Du Bellay, p. 120.

[329] Parisiis, apud Hieronymum de Marnaf, 1560.

[330] Robert, appendix iii.

[331] _Art Poét._ i. 63.

[332] Pellissier, pp. 57-63.

[333] Lemercier, _Étude sur Vauquelin_, 1887, p. 117, and Pellissier, p.

[334] Minturno, _Arte Poetica_, p. 73; _De Poeta_, p. 252. _Cf._
Vauquelin, Pellissier's introduction, p. xliv.



IT is in keeping with the practical character of the literary criticism
of this period that the members of the Pléiade did not concern
themselves with the general theory of poetry. Until the very end of the
century there is not to be found any systematic poetic theory in France.
It is in dramatic criticism that this period has most to offer, and the
dramatic criticism is peculiarly interesting because it foreshadows in
many ways the doctrines upon which were based the dramas of Racine and

I. _The Poetic Art_

In Du Bellay's _Défense_ there is no attempt to formulate a consistent
body of critical doctrine; but the book exhibits, in a more or less
crude form, all the tendencies for which the Pléiade stands in French
literature. The fundamental idea of the _Défense_ is that French poetry
can only hope to reach perfection by imitating the classics. The
imitation of the classics implies, in the first place, erudition on the
part of the poet; and, moreover, it requires intellectual labor and
study. The poet is born, it is true; but this only refers to the ardor
and joyfulness of spirit which naturally excite him, but which, without
learning and erudition, are absolutely useless. "He who wishes poetic
immortality," says Du Bellay, "must spend his time in the solitude of
his own chamber; instead of eating, drinking, and sleeping, he must
endure hunger, thirst, and long vigils."[335] Elsewhere he speaks of
silence and solitude as _amy des Muses_. From all this there arises a
natural contempt for the ignorant people, who know nothing of ancient
learning: "Especially do I wish to admonish him who aspires to a more
than vulgar glory, to separate himself from such inept admirers, to flee
from the ignorant people,--the people who are the enemies of all rare
and antique learning,--and to content himself with few readers,
following the example of him who did not demand for an audience any one
beside Plato himself."[336]

In the _Art Poétique_ of Jacques Pelletier du Mans, published at Lyons
in 1555, the point of view is that of the Pléiade, but more mellow and
moderate than that of its most advanced and radical members. The
treatise begins with an account of the antiquity and excellence of
poetry; and poets are spoken of as originally the _maîtres et
réformateurs de la vie_. Poetry is then compared with oratory and with
painting, after the usual Renaissance fashion; and Pelletier agrees with
Horace in regarding the combined power of art and nature as necessary
to the fashioning of a poet. His conception of the latter's office is
not unlike that of Tasso and Shelley, "It is the office of the poet to
give novelty to old things, authority to the new, beauty to the rude,
light to the obscure, faith to the doubtful, and to all things their
true nature, and to their true nature all things." Concerning the
questions of language, versification, and the feeling for natural
scenery, he agrees fundamentally with the chief writers of the Pléiade.

The greatest of these, Ronsard, has given expression to his views on the
poetic art in his _Abrégé de l'Art Poétique françois_ (1565), and later
in the two prefaces of his epic of the _Franciade_. The chief interest
of the _Abrégé_ in the present discussion is that it expounds and
emphasizes the high notion of the poet's office introduced into French
poetry by the Pléiade. Before the advent of the new school, mere skill
in the complicated forms of verse was regarded as the test of poetry.
The poet was simply a _rimeur_; and the term "_poète_," with all that it
implies, first came into use with the Pléiade. The distinction between
the versifier and the poet, as pointed out by Aristotle and insisted
upon by the Italians, became with the Pléiade almost vital. Binet, the
disciple and biographer of Ronsard, says of his master that "he was the
mortal enemy of versifiers, whose conceptions are all debased, and who
think they have wrought a masterpiece when they have transposed
something from prose into verse."[337] Ronsard's own account of the
dignity and high function of poetry must needs be cited at length:--

     "Above all things you will hold the Muses in reverence, yea, in
     singular veneration, and you will never let them serve in
     matters that are dishonest, or mere jests, or injudicious
     libels; but you will hold them dear and sacred, as the
     daughters of Jupiter, that is, God, who by His holy grace has
     through them first made known to ignorant people the
     excellencies of His majesty. For poetry in early times was only
     an allegorical theology, in order to make stupid men, by
     pleasant and wondrously colored fables, know the secrets they
     could not comprehend, were the truth too openly made known to
     them.... Now, since the Muses do not care to lodge in a soul
     unless it is good, holy, and virtuous, you should try to be of
     a good disposition, not wicked, scowling, and cross, but
     animated by a gentle spirit; and you should not let anything
     enter your mind that is not superhuman and divine. You should
     have, in the first place, conceptions that are high, grand,
     beautiful, and not trailing upon the ground; for the principal
     part of poetry consists of invention, which comes as much from
     a beautiful nature as from the reading of good and ancient
     authors. If you undertake any great work, you will show
     yourself devout and fearing God, commencing it either with His
     name or by any other which represents some effects of His
     majesty, after the manner of the Greek poets ... for the Muses,
     Apollo, Mercury, Pallas, and other similar deities, merely
     represent the powers of God, to which the first men gave
     several names for the diverse effects of His incomprehensible

In this eloquent passage the conception of the poet as an essentially
moral being,--a doctrine first enunciated by Strabo, and repeated by
Minturno and others,--and Boccaccio's notion of poetry as originally an
allegorical theology, are both introduced into French criticism.
Elsewhere Ronsard repeats the mediæval concept that poets

                        "d'un voile divers
    Par fables ont caché le vray sens de leurs vers."[339]

It will be seen also that for Ronsard, poetry is essentially a matter of
inspiration; and in the poem just quoted, the _Discours à Jacques
Grévin_, he follows the Platonic conception of divine inspiration or
madness. A few years later Montaigne said of poetry that "it is an
easier matter to frame it than to know it; being base and humble, it may
be judged by the precepts and art of it, but the good and lofty, the
supreme and divine, are beyond rules and above reason. It hath no
community with our judgment, but ransacketh and ravisheth the

In his various critical works Ronsard shows considerable indebtedness to
the Italian theorists, especially to Minturno. He does not attempt any
formal definition of poetry, but its function is described as follows:
"As the end of the orator is to persuade, so that of the poet is to
imitate, invent, and represent the things that are, that can be, or that
the ancients regarded as true."[341] The concluding clause of this
passage is intended to justify the modern use of the ancient mythology;
but the whole passage seems primarily to follow Scaliger[342] and
Minturno.[343] It is to be observed that verse is not mentioned in this
definition as an essential requirement of poetry. It was indeed a
favorite contention of his, and one for which he was indebted to the
Italians, that all who write in verse are not poets. Lucan and Silius
Italicus have robed history with the raiment of verse; but according to
Ronsard they would have done better in many ways to have written in
prose. The poet, unlike the historian, deals with the verisimilar and
the probable; and while he cannot be responsible for falsehoods which
are in opposition to the truth of things, any more than the historian
can, he is not interested to know whether or not the details of his
poems are actual historical facts. Verisimilitude, and not fact, is
therefore the test of poetry.

In Vauquelin de la Fresnaye may be found most of the Aristotelian
distinctions in regard to imitation, harmony, rhythm, and poetic theory
in general; but these distinctions he derived, as has already been said,
not directly from Aristotle, but in all probability from Minturno.
Poetry is defined as an art of imitation:--

    "C'est un art d'imiter, un art de contrefaire
    Que toute poësie, ainsi que de pourtraire."[344]

Verse is described as a heaven-sent instrument, the language of the
gods; and its value in poetry consists in clarifying and making the
design compact.[345] But it is not an essential of poetry; Aristotle
permits us to poetize in prose; and the romances of Heliodorus and
Montemayor are examples of this poetic prose.[346] The object of poetry
is that it shall cause delight, and unless it succeeds in this it is
entirely futile:--

    "C'est le but, c'est la fin des vers que resjouir:
    Les Muses autrement ne les veulent ouir."

As it is the function of the orator to persuade and the physician to
cure, and as they fail in their offices unless they effect these ends,
so the poet fails unless he succeeds in pleasing.[347] This comparison
is a favorite one with the Italian critics. A similar passage has
already been cited from Daniello; and the same notion is thus expressed
by Lodovico Dolce: "The aim of the physician is to cure diseases by
means of medicine; the orator's to persuade by force of his arguments;
and if neither attains this end, he is not called physician or orator.
So if the poet does not delight, he is not a poet, for poetry delights
all, even the ignorant."[348]

But delight, according to Vauquelin, is merely the means of directing us
to higher things; poetry is a delightful means of leading us to

    "C'est pourquoy des beaus vers la joyeuse alegresse
    Nous conduit aux vertus d'une plaisante addresse."[349]

Vauquelin, like Scaliger, Tasso, Sidney, compares the poet with God, the
great Workman, who made everything out of nothing.[350] The poet is a
divinely inspired person, who, _sans art, sans sçavoir_, creates works
of divine beauty. Vauquelin's contemporary, Du Bartas, has in his
_Uranie_ expressed this idea in the following manner:--

    "Each art is learned by art; but Poesie
    Is a mere heavenly gift, and none can taste
    The dews we drop from Pindus plenteously,
    If sacred fire have not his heart embraced.

    "Hence is't that many great Philosophers,
    Deep-learned clerks, in prose most eloquent,
    Labor in vain to make a graceful verse,
    Which many a novice frames most excellent."[351]

While this is the accepted Renaissance doctrine of inspiration,
Vauquelin, in common with all other followers of the Pléiade, was fully
alive to the necessity of artifice and study in poetry; and he agrees
with Horace in regarding both art and nature as equally necessary to the
making of a good poet. It is usage that makes art, but art perfects and
regulates usage:--

    "Et ce bel Art nous sert d'escalier pour monter
    A Dieu."[352]

II. _The Drama_

Dramatic criticism in France begins as a reaction against the drama of
the Middle Ages. The mediæval drama was formless and inorganic, without
art or dignity. The classical drama, on the other hand, possessed both
form and dignity; and the new school, perceiving this contrast, looked
to the Aristotelian canons, as restated by the Italians, to furnish the
dignity and art which the tragedy of Greece and Rome possessed, and
which their own moralities and farces fundamentally lacked. In the first
reference to dramatic literature in French criticism, the mediæval and
classical dramas are compared after this fashion; but as Sibilet (1548),
in whose work this passage appears, wrote a year or so before the advent
of the Pléiade, the comparison is not so unfavorable to the morality and
the farce as it became in later critics. "The French morality," says
Sibilet, "represents, in certain distinct traits, Greek and Latin
tragedy, especially in that it treats of grave and momentous deeds
(_faits graves et principaus_); and if the French had always made the
ending of the morality sad and dolorous, the morality would be a
tragedy. But in this, as in all things, we have followed our natural
taste or inclination, which is to take from foreign things not all we
see, but only what we think will be useful to us and of national
advantage; for in the morality we treat, as the Greeks and Romans do in
their tragedies, the narration of deeds that are illustrious,
magnanimous, and virtuous, or true, or at least verisimilar; but we do
otherwise in what is useful to the information of our manners and life,
without subjecting ourselves to any sorrow or pleasure of the
issue."[353] It would seem that Sibilet regards the morality as lacking
nothing but the unhappy ending of classical tragedy. At the same time
this passage exhibits perhaps the first trace of Aristotelianism in
French critical literature; for Sibilet specifies several characteristic
features of Greek and Latin tragedy, which he could have found only in
Aristotle or in the Italians. In the first place, tragedy deals only
with actions that are grave, illustrious, and for the most part
magnanimous or virtuous. In the second place, the actions of tragedy are
either really true, that is, historical, or if not true, have all the
appearance of truth, that is, they are verisimilar. Thirdly, the end of
tragedy is always sad and dolorous. Fourthly, tragedy performs a useful
function, which is connected in some way with the reformation of manners
and life; and, lastly, the effect of tragedy is connected with the
sorrow or pleasure brought about by the catastrophe. These distinctions
anticipate many of those found later in Scaliger and in the French

In Du Bellay (1549) we find no traces of dramatic theory beyond the
injunction, already noted, that the French should substitute classical
tragedy and comedy for the old morality and farce. A few years later,
however, in Pelletier (1555), there appears an almost complete system of
dramatic criticism. He urges the French to attempt the composition of
tragedy and comedy. "This species of poetry," he says, "will bring honor
to the French language, if it is attempted,"--a remark which illustrates
the innate predisposition of the French for dramatic poetry.[354] He
then proceeds to distinguish tragedy from comedy much in the same manner
as Scaliger does six years later. It is to be remembered that
Pelletier's _Art Poétique_ was published at Lyons in 1555, while
Scaliger's _Poetics_ was published at the same place in 1561. Pelletier
may have known Scaliger personally; but it is more probable that
Pelletier derived his information from the same classical and
traditional sources as did Scaliger. At all events, Pelletier
distinguishes tragedy from comedy in regard to style, subject,
characters, and ending in exact Scaligerian fashion. Comedy has nothing
in common with tragedy except the fact that neither can have more or
less than five acts. The style and diction of comedy are popular and
colloquial, while those of tragedy are most dignified and sublime. The
comic characters are men of low condition, while those of tragedy are
kings, princes, and great lords. The conclusion of comedy is always
joyous, that of tragedy is always sorrowful and heart-rending. The
themes of tragedy are deaths, exiles, and unhappy changes of fortune;
those of comedy are the loves and passions of young men and young women,
the indulgence of mothers, the wiles of slaves, and the diligence of

By this time, then, Aristotle's theory of tragedy, as restated by the
Italians, had become part of French criticism. The actual practice of
the French drama had been modified by the introduction of these rules;
and they had played so important a part that Grévin, in his _Bref
Discours pour l'Intelligence de ce Théâtre_, prefixed to his _Mort de
César_ (1562), could say that French tragedy had already attained
perfection, even when regarded from the standpoint of the Aristotelian
canons. "Our tragedies," says Grévin, "have been so well polished that
there is nothing left now to be desired,--I speak of those which are
composed according to the rules of Aristotle and Horace." Grévin's
_Discours_ was published the year after Scaliger's _Poetics_, but shows
no indication of Scaligerian influence. His definition of tragedy is
based on a most vague and incomplete recollection of Aristotle,
"Tragedy, as Aristotle says in his _Poetics_, is an imitation or
representation of some action that is illustrious and great in itself,
such as the death of Cæsar." He shows his independence or his ignorance
of Scaliger by insisting on the inferiority of Seneca, whom Scaliger had
rated above all the Greeks; and he shows his independence of the
ancients by substituting a crowd of Cæsar's soldiers for the singers of
the older chorus, on the ground that there ought not to be singing in
the representation of tragedy any more than there is in actual life
itself, for tragedy is a representation of truth or of what has the
appearance of truth. There are in Grévin's _Discours_ several
indications that the national feeling had not been entirely destroyed by
the imitation of the classics; but a discussion of this must be left for
a later chapter.

In Jean de la Taille's _Art de Tragédie_, prefixed to his _Saül le
Furieux_ (1572), a drama in which a biblical theme is fashioned after
the manner of classical tragedy, there is to be found the most explicit
and distinct antagonism to the old, irregular moralities, which are not
modelled according to the true art and the pattern of the ancients. They
are but _amères épiceries_--words that recall Du Bellay. But curiously
enough, Jean de la Taille differs entirely from Grévin, and asserts
positively that France had as yet no real tragedies, except possibly a
few translated from the classics. Waging war, as he is, against the
crude formlessness of the national drama, perfect construction assumes
for him a very high importance. "The principal point in tragedy," he
says, "is to know how to dispose and fashion it well, so that the plot
is well intertwined, mingled, interrupted, and resumed, ... and that
there is nothing useless, without purpose, or out of place." For Jean de
la Taille, as for most Renaissance writers, tragedy is the least popular
and the most elegant and elevated form of poetry, exclusive of the epic.
It deals with the pitiful ruin of great lords, with the inconstancy of
fortune, with banishment, war, pestilence, famine, captivity, and the
execrable cruelty of tyrants.[356] The end of tragedy is in fact to move
and to sting the feelings and the emotions of men. The characters of
tragedy--and this is the Aristotelian conception--should be neither
extremely bad, such men as by their crimes merit punishment, nor
perfectly good and holy, like Socrates, who was wrongfully put to death.
Invented or allegorical characters, such as Death, Avarice, or Truth,
are not to be employed. At the same time, Jean de la Taille, like
Grévin, is not averse to the use of scriptural subjects in tragedy,
although he cautions the poet against long-winded theological
discussions. The Senecan drama was his model in treating of tragedy, as
it was indeed that of the Renaissance in general; and tragedy approached
more and more closely to the oratorical and sententious manner of the
Latin poet. Ronsard, for example, asserts that tragedy and comedy are
entirely _didascaliques et enseignantes_, and should be enriched by
numerous excellent and rare _sentences_ (_sententiæ_), "for in a few
words the drama must teach much, being the mirror of human life."[357]
Similarly, Du Bellay advises poets to embellish their poetry with grave
_sentences_, and Pelletier praises Seneca principally because he is

Vauquelin, in his _Art Poétique_, gives a metrical paraphrase of
Aristotle's definition of tragedy:--

    "Mais le sujet tragic est un fait imité
    De chose juste et grave, en ses vers limité;
    Auquel on y doit voir de l'affreux, du terrible,
    Un fait non attendu, qui tienne de l'horrible,
    Du pitoyable aussi, le coeur attendrissant
    D'un tigre furieux, d'un lion rugissant."[358]

The subject of tragedy should be old, and should be connected with the
fall of great tyrants and princes;[359] and in regard to the number of
acts, the number of interlocutors on the stage, the _deus ex machina_,
and the chorus,[360] Vauquelin merely paraphrases Horace. Comedy is
defined as the imitation of an action which by common usage is accounted
wicked, but which is not so wicked that there is no remedy for it; thus,
for example, a man who has seduced a young girl may recompense her by
taking her in marriage.[361] Hence while the actions of tragedy are
"virtuous, magnificent, and grand, royal, and sumptuous," the incidents
of comedy are actually and ethically of a lower grade.[362] For
tragi-comedy Vauquelin has nothing but contempt. It is, in fact, a
bastard form, since the tragedy with a happy ending serves a similar but
more dignified purpose. Vauquelin, like Boileau and most other French
critics after him, follows Aristotle at length in the description of
dramatic recognitions and reversals of fortune.[363] Most of the other
Aristotelian distinctions are also to be found in his work.

In the _Art Poétique françois_ of Pierre de Laudun, Sieur d'Aigaliers,
published in 1598, these distinctions reappear in a more or less
mutilated form. In the fifth and last book of this treatise, De Laudun
follows the Italian scholars, especially Scaliger and Viperano. He does
not differ essentially from Scaliger in the definition of tragedy, in
the division into acts and the place of the chorus, in the discussion of
the characters and subjects of tragedy, and in the distinction between
tragedy and comedy.[364] His conception of tragedy is in keeping with
the usual Senecan ideal; it should be adorned by frequent _sentences_,
allegories, similitudes, and other ornaments of poetry. The more cruel
and sanguinary the tragic action is, the more excellent it will be; but
at the same time, much that makes the action cruel is to be enacted only
behind the stage. Like Pelletier, he objects to the introduction of all
allegorical and invented characters, or even gods and goddesses, on the
ground that these are not actual beings, and hence are out of keeping
with the theme of tragedy, which must be real and historical. De Laudun
has also something to say concerning the introduction of ghosts in the
tragic action; and his discussion is peculiarly interesting when we
remember that it was almost at this very time, in England, that the
ghost played so important a part in the Shakespearian drama. "If the
ghosts appear before the action begins," says De Laudun, "they are
permissible; but if they appear during the course of the action, and
speak to the actors themselves, they are entirely faulty and
reprehensible." De Laudun borrowed from Scaliger the scheme of the ideal
tragedy: "The first act contains the complaints; the second, the
suspicions; the third, the counsels; the fourth, the menaces and
preparations; the fifth, the fulfilment and effusion of blood."[365] But
despite his subservience to Scaliger, he is not afraid to express his
independence of the ancients. We are not, he says, entirely bound to
their laws, especially in the number of actors on the stage, which
according to classic usage never exceeded three; for nowadays,
notwithstanding the counsels of Aristotle and Horace, an audience has
not the patience to be satisfied with only two or three persons at one

The history of the dramatic unities in France during the sixteenth
century demands some attention. That they had considerable effect on the
actual practice of dramatic composition from the very advent of the
Pléiade is quite obvious; for in the first scene of the first French
tragedy, the _Cléopâtre_ of Jodelle (1552), there is an allusion to the
unity of time, which Corneille was afterward to call the _règle des

    "Avant que ce soleil, qui vient ores de naître,
    Ayant tracé son jour chez sa tante se plonge,
    Cléopâtre mourra!"

In 1553 Mellin de Saint-Gelais translated Trissino's _Sofonisba_ into
French, and the influence of the Italian drama became fixed in France.
But the first distinct formulation of the unities is to be found in Jean
de la Taille's _Art de Tragédie_ (1572). His statement of the unity is
explicit, "Il faut toujours représenter l'histoire ou le jeu en un même
jour, en un même temps, et en un même lieu."[366] Jean de la Taille was
indebted for this to Castelvetro, who two years before had stated them
thus, "La mutatione tragica non può tirar con esso seco se non una
giornata e un luogo."[367] The unity of time was adopted by Ronsard
about this same time in the following words:--

     "Tragedy and comedy are circumscribed and limited to a short
     space of time, that is, to one whole day. The most excellent
     masters of this craft commence their works from one midnight to
     another, and not from sunrise to sunset, in order to have
     greater compass and length of time. On the other hand, the
     heroic poem, which is entirely of a martial character (_tout
     guerrier_), comprehends only the actions of one whole

This passage is without doubt borrowed from Minturno (1564):--

     "Whoever regards well the works of the most admired ancient
     authors will find that the materials of scenic poetry terminate
     in one day, or do not pass beyond the space of two days; just
     as the action of the epic poem, however great and however long
     it may be, does not occupy more than one year."[369]

Minturno, it will be remembered, was the first to limit the action of
the heroic poem to one year. In another passage he deduces the rule from
the practice of Virgil and Homer;[370] but Ronsard seems to think that
Virgil himself has not obeyed this law. We have already alluded to the
influence of Minturno on the Pléiade. Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, who
explicitly acknowledges his indebtedness to Minturno, also follows him
in limiting the action of the drama to one day and that of the epic to
one year:--

    "Or comme eux l'heroic suivant le droit sentier,
    Doit son oeuvre comprendre au cours d'un an entier;
    Le tragic, le comic, dedans une journee
    Comprend ce que fait l'autre au cours de son annee:
    Le theatre jamais ne doit estre rempli
    D'un argument plus long que d'un jour accompli."[371]

The two last lines of this passage bear considerable resemblance to
Boileau's famous statement of the unities three-quarters of a century

Toward the end of the sixteenth century, then, the unity of time, and in
a less degree the unity of place, had become almost inviolable laws of
the drama. But at this very period strong notes of revolt against the
tyranny of the unities begin to be heard. Up to this time the classical
Italian drama had been the pattern for French playwrights; but the
irregular Spanish drama was now commencing to exert considerable
influence in France, and with this Spanish influence came the Spanish
opposition to the unities. In 1582 Jean de Beaubreuil, in the preface of
his tragedy of _Régulus_, had spoken with contempt of the rule of
twenty-four hours as _trop superstitieux_. But De Laudun was probably
the first European critic to argue formally against it. The concluding
chapter of his _Art Poétique_ (1598) gives five different reasons why
the unity of time should not be observed in the drama. The chapter is
entitled, "Concerning those who say that the action of tragedy must
conclude in a single day;" and De Laudun begins by asserting that this
opinion had never been sustained by any good author. This is fairly
conclusive evidence that De Laudun had never directly consulted
Aristotle's _Poetics_, but was indebted for his knowledge of Aristotle
to the Italians, and especially to Scaliger. The five arguments which he
formulates against the unity of time are as follows:--

     "In the first place, this law, if it is observed by any of the
     ancients, need not force us to restrict our tragedies in any
     way, since we are not bound by their manner of writing or by
     the measure of feet and syllables with which they compose their
     verses. In the second place, if we were forced to observe this
     rigorous law, we should fall into one of the greatest of
     absurdities, by being obliged to introduce impossible and
     incredible things in order to enhance the beauty of our
     tragedies, or else they would lack all grace; for besides being
     deprived of matter, we could not embellish our poems with long
     discourses and various interesting events. In the third place,
     the action of the _Troades_, an excellent tragedy by Seneca,
     could not have occurred in one day, nor could even some of the
     plays of Euripides or Sophocles. In the fourth place, according
     to the definition already given [on the authority of
     Aristotle], tragedy is the recital of the lives of heroes, the
     fortune and grandeur of kings, princes, and others; and all
     this could not be accomplished in one day. Besides, a tragedy
     must contain five acts, of which the first is joyous, and the
     succeeding ones exhibit a gradual change, as I have already
     indicated above; and this change a single day would not suffice
     to bring about. In the fifth and last place, the tragedies in
     which this rule is observed are not any better than the
     tragedies in which it is not observed; and the tragic poets,
     Greek and Latin, or even French, do not and need not and cannot
     observe it, since very often in a tragedy the whole life of a
     prince, king, emperor, noble, or other person is
     represented;--besides a thousand other reasons which I could
     advance if time permitted, but which must be left for a second

The history of the unity of time during the next century does not
strictly concern us here; but it may be well to point out that it was
through the offices of Chapelain, seconded by the authority of Cardinal
Richelieu, that it became fixed in the dramatic theory of France. In a
long letter, dating from November, 1630, and recently published for the
first time, Chapelain sets out to answer all the objections made against
the rule of twenty-four hours. It is sustained, he says, by the practice
of the ancients and the universal consensus of the Italians; but his own
proof is based on reason alone. It is the old argument of
_vraisemblance_, as found in Maggi, Scaliger, and especially
Castelvetro, whom Chapelain seems in part to follow. By 1635 he had
formulated the whole theory of the three unities and converted Cardinal
Richelieu to his views. In the previous year Mairet's _Sophonisbe_, the
first "regular" French tragedy, had been produced. In 1636 the famous
_Cid_ controversy had begun. By 1640 the battle was gained, and the
unities became a part of the classic theory of the drama throughout
Europe. A few years later their practical application was most
thoroughly indicated by the Abbé d'Aubignac, in his _Pratique du
Théâtre_; and they were definitely formulated for all time by Boileau in
the celebrated couplet:--

    "Qu'en un lieu, qu'en un jour, un seul fait accompli
    Tienne jusqu'à la fin le théâtre rempli."[374]

III. _Heroic Poetry_

It was the supreme ambition of the Pléiade to produce a great French
epic. In the very first manifesto of the new school, Du Bellay urges
every French poet to attempt another _Iliad_ or _Æneid_ for the honor
and glory of France. For Pelletier (1555) the heroic poem is the one
that really gives the true title of poet; it may be compared to the
ocean, and all other forms to rivers.[375] He seems to be following
Giraldi Cintio's discourse on the _romanzi_, published the year before
his own work, when he says that the French poet should write a
_Heracleid_, the deeds of Hercules furnishing the mightiest and most
heroic material he can think of.[376] At the same time Virgil is for him
the model of an epic poet; and his parallel between Homer and Virgil
bears striking resemblance to the similar parallel in Capriano's _Della
Vera Poetica_, published in the very same year as his own treatise.[377]
Like Capriano, Pelletier censures the superfluous exuberance, the
loquaciousness, the occasional indecorum, and the inferiority in
eloquence and dignity of Homer when compared with the Latin poet.

It was Ronsard's personal ambition to be the French Virgil, as in lyric
poetry he had been proclaimed the French Pindar. For twenty years he
labored on the _Franciade_, but never finished it. In the two prefaces
which he wrote for it, the first in 1572, and the second (published
posthumously) about 1584, he attempts to give expression to his ideal of
the heroic poet. In neither of them does he succeed in formulating any
very definite or consistent body of epic theory. They are chiefly
interesting in that they indicate the general tendencies of the Pléiade,
and show Ronsard's own rhetorical principles, and his feeling for
nature and natural beauty. The passage has already been cited in which
he speaks of the heroic poem as entirely of a martial character, and
limits its action to the space of one year. It has also been seen that
for him, as for the Italians, verisimilitude, and not fact, is the test
of poetry. At the same time, the epic poet is to avoid anachronisms and
misstatements of fact. Such faults do not disturb the reader so much
when the story is remote in point of time; and the poet should therefore
always use an argument, the events of which are at least three or four
hundred years old. The basis of the work should rest upon some old story
of past times and of long-established renown, which has gained the
credit of men.[378] This notion of the antiquity of the epic fable had
been accepted long ago by the Italians. It is stated, for example, in
Tasso's _Discorsi dell' Arte Poetica_, written about 1564, though not
published until 1587, fifteen years after Tasso had visited Ronsard in

Vauquelin de la Fresnaye has the Pléiade veneration for heroic poetry;
but he cannot be said to exhibit any more definite conception of its
form and function. For him the epic is a vast and magnificent narration,
a world in itself, wherein men, things, and thoughts are wondrously

    "C'est un tableau du monde, un miroir qui raporte
    Les gestes des mortels en differente sorte....
    Car toute poësie il contient en soyméme,
    Soit tragique ou comique, ou soit autre poëme."[379]

With this we may compare what Muzio had said in 1551:--

    "Il poema sovrano è una pittura
    De l' universo, e però in sè comprende
    Ogni stilo, ogni forma, ogni ritratto."

But despite this very vague conception of the epic in the French
Renaissance, there was, as has been said, a high veneration for it as a
form, and for its masters, Homer and especially Virgil. This accounts
for the large number of attempts at epic composition in France during
the next century. But beyond the earlier and indefinite notion of heroic
poetry the French did not get for a long time to come. Even for Boileau
the epic poem was merely the _vaste récit d'une longue action_.[380]


[335] _Défense_, ii. 3.

[336] _Ibid._ ii. 11.

[337] Ronsard, vii. 310, 325.

[338] Ronsard, vii. 37 _sq._

[339] Ronsard, vi. 311 _sq._

[340] _Essais_, i. 36, Florio's translation.

[341] Ronsard, vii. 322. _Cf._ Aristotle, _Poet._ ix. 1-4; xxv. 6, 7.

[342] _Poet._ iii. 24.

[343] _De Poeta_, pp. 44, 47.

[344] _Art Poét._ i. 187.

[345] _Ibid._ i. 87 _sq._

[346] _Art Poét._ ii. 261.

[347] _Ibid._ i. 697 _sq._

[348] _Osservationi_, Vinegia, 1560, p. 190.

[349] _Art Poét._ i. 744.

[350] _Art Poét._ i. 19. _Cf._ Tasso, cited by Shelley, _Defence_, p.
42, "No one merits the name of creator except God and the poet."

[351] Sylvester's _Du Bartas_, 1641, p. 242.

[352] _Art Poét._ i. 149.

[353] Sibilet, _Art Poét._ ii. 8.

[354] Pelletier, _Art Poét._ ii. 7.

[355] _Ibid._

[356] Robert, app. iii.

[357] Ronsard, iii. 18 _sq._

[358] _Art Poét._ iii. 153.

[359] _Ibid._ ii. 1113, 441.

[360] _Art Poét._ ii. 459.

[361] _Ibid._ iii. 143.

[362] _Ibid._ iii. 181.

[363] _Ibid._ iii. 189 _sq._

[364] Robert, app. iv.

[365] _Art Poét._ v. 6.

[366] Robert, app. iii.

[367] _Poetica_, p. 534.

[368] Ronsard, iii. 19.

[369] _Arte Poetica_, p. 71.

[370] _Ibid._ p. 12; _De Poeta_, p. 149.

[371] _Art Poét._ ii. 253.

[372] Boileau, _Art Poét._ iii. 45.

[373] Arnaud, app. iii.

[374] _Art Poét._ iii. 45.

[375] _Art Poét._ ii. 8.

[376] _Ibid._ i. 3.

[377] _Ibid._ i. 5. _Cf._ Capriano, cap. v.

[378] Ronsard, iii. 23, 29.

[379] Vauquelin, _Art Poét._ i. 471, 503.

[380] Boileau, _Art Poét._ iii. 161.



THE principle for which the Pléiade stood was, like that of humanism,
the imitation of the classics; and the Pléiade was the first to
introduce this as a literary principle into France. This means, as
regards French literature, in the first place, the substitution of the
classical instead of its own national tradition; and, secondly, the
substitution of the imitation of the classics for the imitation of
nature itself. In making these vital substitutions, Du Bellay and his
school have been accused of creating once and for all the gulf that
separates French poetry from the national life.[381] This accusation is
perhaps unfair to the Pléiade, which insisted on the poet's going
directly to nature, which emphasized most strongly the sentiment for
natural scenery and beauty, and which first declared the importance of
the artisan and the peasant as subjects for poetry. But there can be but
little doubt that the separation of poetry from the national life was
the logical outcome of the doctrines of the Pléiade. In disregarding the
older French poets and the evolution of indigenous poetry, in
formulating an ideal of the poet as an unsociable and ascetic
character, it separated itself from the natural tendencies of French
life and letters, and helped to effect the final separation between
poetry and the national development.

I. _Classical Elements_

It was to Du Bellay (1549) that France owes the introduction of
classical ideas into French literature. He was the first to regard the
imitation of the classics as a literary principle, and to advise the
poet, after the manner of Vida, to purloin all the treasures of Greek
and Latin literature for the benefit of French poetry. Moreover, he
first formulated the aristocratic conception of the poet held by the
Pléiade. The poet was advised to flee from the ignorant people, to bury
himself in the solitude of his own chamber, to dream and to ponder, and
to content himself with few readers. "Beyond everything," says Du
Bellay, "the poet should have one or more learned friends to whom he can
show all his verses; he should converse not only with learned men, but
with all sorts of workmen, mechanics, artists, and others, in order to
learn the technical terms of their arts, for use in beautiful
descriptions."[382] This was a favorite theory of the Pléiade, which
like some of our own contemporary writers regarded the technical arts as
important subjects of inspiration. But the essential point at the bottom
of all these discussions is a high contempt for the opinion of the
vulgar in matters of art.

The _Quintil Horatian_ (1550) represents, as has already been seen, a
natural reaction against the foreign and classical innovations of the
Pléiade. Du Bellay's advice, "Prens garde que ce poëme soit eslogné du
vulgaire,"--advice insisted upon by many of the rhetoricians of the
Italian Renaissance,--receives considerable censure; on the contrary,
says the author of the _Quintil_, the poet must be understood and
appreciated by all, unlearned as well as learned, just as Marot was. The
_Quintil_ was, in fact, the first work to insist on definiteness and
clearness in poetry, as these were afterward insisted on by Malherbe and
Boileau. Like Malherbe, and his disciple Deimier, the author of the
_Académie de l'Art Poétique_ (1610), in which the influence of the
_Quintil_ is fully acknowledged, the author of the _Quintil_ objects to
all forms of poetic license, to all useless metaphors that obscure the
sense, to all Latinisms and foreign terms and locutions.[383] Du Bellay
had dwelt on the importance of a knowledge of the classical and Italian
tongues, and had strongly advised the French poet to naturalize as many
Latin, Greek, and even Spanish and Italian terms as he could. The
_Quintil_ is particularly bitter against all such foreign innovations.
The poet need not know foreign tongues at all; without this knowledge he
can be as good a poet as any of the _græcaniseurs, latiniseurs, et
italianiseurs en françoys_. This protest availed little, and Du
Bellay's advice in regard to the use of Italian terms was so well
followed that several years later, in 1578, Henri Estienne vigorously
protested against the practice in his _Dialogues du Nouveau Langage
françois italianisé_. As Ronsard and Du Bellay represent the foreign
elements that went to make up classicism in France, so the author of the
_Quintil Horatian_ may be said to represent in his humble way certain
enduring elements of the _esprit gaulois_. He represents the national
traditions, and he prepares the way for the two great bourgeois poets of
France,--Boileau, with his "Tout doit tendre au bon sens," and Molière,
with his bluff cry, "Je suis pour le bon sens."

According to Pelletier (1555), French poetry is too much like colloquial
speech; in order to equal classical literature, the poets of France must
be more daring and less popular.[384] Pelletier's point of view is here
that of the Pléiade, which aimed at a distinct poetic language, diverse
from ordinary prose speech. But he is thoroughly French, and in complete
accord with the author of the _Quintil Horatian_, in his insistence on
perfect clearness in poetry. "Clearness," he says, "is the first and
worthiest virtue of a poem."[385] Obscurity is the chief fault of
poetry, "for there is no difference between not speaking at all and not
being understood."[386] For these reasons he is against all unnecessary
and bombastic ornament; the true use of metaphors and comparisons of all
sorts is "to explain and represent things as they really are."
Similarly, Ronsard, while recognizing the value of comparisons,
rightfully used, as the very nerves and tendons of poetry, declares that
if instead of perfecting and clarifying, they obscure or confuse the
idea, they are ridiculous.[387] Obscurity was the chief danger, and
indeed the chief fault, of the Pléiade; and it is no small merit that
both Ronsard and Pelletier perceived this fact.

The Pléiade exhibits the classic temper in its insistence on study and
art as essential to poetry; but it was not in keeping with the doctrines
of later French classicists in so far as it regarded the poetic labors
as of an unsociable and even ascetic character. In this, as has been
seen, Ronsard is a true exponent of the doctrines of the new school. But
on the whole the classic spirit was strong in him. He declares that the
poet's ideas should be high and noble, but not fantastic. "They should
be well ordered and disposed; and while they seem to transcend those of
the vulgar, they should always appear to be easily conceived and
understood by any one."[388] Here Du Bellay's aristocratic conception of
poetry is modified so as to become a very typical statement of the
principle underlying French classicism. Again, Ronsard points out, as
Vida and other Italian critics had done before, that the great classical
poets seldom speak of things by their bare and naked names. Virgil does
not, for example, say, "It was night," or "It was day," but he uses some
such circumlocution as this:--

    "Postera Phoebea lustrabat lampade terras."

The unfortunate results of the excessive use of such circumlocutions
are well exemplified in the later classicists of France. Ronsard perhaps
foresaw this danger, and wisely says that circumlocution, if not used
judiciously, makes the style inflated and bombastic. In the first
preface to the _Franciade_, he expresses a decided preference for the
naïve facility of Homer over the artful diligence of Virgil.[389] In the
second preface, however, written a dozen years later, and published
posthumously as revised by his disciple Binet, there is interesting
evidence, in the preëminence given to Virgil, of the rapidity with which
the Latinization of culture was being effected at this period. "Our
French authors," says Ronsard, "know Virgil far better than they know
Homer or any other Greek writer." And again, "Virgil is the most
excellent and the most rounded, the most compact and the most perfect of
all poets."[390] Of the naïve facility of Homer we hear absolutely

We are now beginning to enter the era of rules. Ronsard did not
undervalue the "rules and secrets" of poetry; and Vauquelin de la
Fresnaye calls his own critical poem _cet Art de Règles
recherchées_.[391] In regard to the imitation of the classics, Vauquelin
agrees heart and soul with the Pléiade that the ancients

                        "nous ont desja tracé
    Un sentier qui de nous ne doit estre laissé."[392]

Nothing, indeed, could be more classical than his comparison of poetry
to a garden symmetrically laid out and trimmed.[393] Moreover, like the
classicists of the next century, he affirms, as does Ronsard also, that
art must fundamentally imitate and resemble nature.[394]

The imitation of the classics had also a decided effect on the technique
of French verse and on the linguistic principles of the Pléiade.
Enjambement (the carrying over into another line of words required to
complete the sense) and hiatus (the clash of vowels in a line) were both
employed in Latin and Greek verse, and were therefore permitted in
French poetry by the new school. Ronsard, however, anticipated the
reforms of Malherbe and the practice of French classic verse, in
forbidding both hiatus and enjambement, though in a later work of his
this opinion is reversed. He was also probably the first to insist on
the regular alternation of masculine and feminine rhymes in verse. This
had never been strictly adhered to in practice, or required by stringent
rule, before Ronsard, but has become the invariable usage of French
poetry ever since. Ronsard regards this device as a means of making
verse keep tune more harmoniously with the music of instruments. It was
one of the favorite theories of the Pléiade that poetry is intended, not
to be read, but to be recited or sung, and that the words and the notes
should be coupled lovingly together. Poetry without an accompaniment of
vocal or instrumental music exhibits but a small part of its harmony or
perfection; and while composing verses, the poet should always
pronounce them aloud, or rather sing them, in order to test their
melody.[395] This conception of music "married to immortal verse"
doubtless came from Italy, and is connected with the rise of operatic
music. De Laudun (1598) differs from the members of the Pléiade in
forbidding the use of words newly coined or taken from the dialects of
France, and in objecting to the use of enjambement and hiatus. It is
evident, therefore, that while the influence of the Pléiade is visible
throughout De Laudun's treatise, his disagreement with Ronsard and Du
Bellay on a considerable number of essential points shows that by the
end of the century the supremacy of the Pléiade had begun to wane.

The new school also attempted to introduce classical metres into French
poetry. The similar attempt at using the ancient versification in Italy
has already been incidentally referred to.[396] According to Vasari,
Leon Battista Alberti, in his epistle,

    "Questa per estrema miserabile pistola mando,"

was the first to attempt to reduce the vernacular versification to the
measure of the Latins.[397] In October, 1441, the _Scena dell' Amicizia_
of Leonardo Dati was composed and recited before the Accademia Coronaria
at Florence.[398] The first two parts of this piece are written in
hexameters, the third in Sapphics, the fourth in sonnet form and rhymed.
The prologues of Ariosto's comedies, the _Negromante_ and the
_Cassaria_, are also in classical metres. But the remarkable collection
of Claudio Tolomei, _Versi e Regole de la Nuova Poesia Toscana_,
published at Rome in 1539, marked an epoch in sixteenth-century letters.
In this work the employment of classical metres in the vulgar tongue is
defended, and rules for their use given; then follows a collection of
Italian verse written after this fashion by a large number of scholars
and poets, among them Annibal Caro and Tolomei himself. This group of
scholars had formed itself into an esoteric circle, the Accademia della
Nuova Poesia; and from the tone of the verses addressed to Tolomei by
the members of this circle, it would seem that he regarded himself, and
was regarded by them, as the founder and expositor of this poetic
innovation.[399] Luigi Alamanni, whose life was chiefly spent at the
Court of France, published in 1556 a comedy, _La Flora_, written in
classical metres; and two years later Francesco Patrizzi published an
heroic poem, the _Eridano_, written in hexameters, with a defence of the
form of versification employed.[400]

This learned innovation spread throughout western Europe.[401] In
France, toward the close of the fifteenth century, according to Agrippa
d'Aubigné, a certain Mousset had translated the _Iliad_ and the
_Odyssey_ into French hexameters; but nothing else is known either of
Mousset or of his translations. As early as 1500 one Michel de
Bouteauville, the author of an _Art de métrifier françois_, wrote a poem
in classical distichs on the English war. Sibilet (1548) accepted the
use of classical metres, though with some distrust, for to him rhyme
seemed as essential to French poetry as long and short syllables to
Greek and Latin. In 1562 Ramus, in his _Grammar_, recommended the
ancient versification, and expressed his regret that it had not been
accepted with favor by the public. In the same year Jacques de la Taille
wrote his treatise, _La Manière de faire des Vers en françois comme en
grec et en latin_, but it was not published until 1573, eleven years
after his death. His main object in writing the book was to show that it
is not as difficult to employ quantity in French verse as some people
think, nor even any more difficult than in Greek and Latin.[402] In
answer to the objection that the vulgar tongues are by their nature
incapable of quantity, he argues, after the manner of Du Bellay, that
such things do not proceed from the nature of a language, but from the
labor and diligence of those who employ it. He is tired of vulgar
rhymes, and is anxious to find a more ingenious and more difficult path
to Parnassus. He then proceeds to treat of quantity and measure in
French, of feet and verse, and of figures and poetic license.[403]

The name most inseparably connected with the introduction of classical
metres into France in the sixteenth century is that of Jean Antoine de
Baïf. This young member of the Pléiade, after publishing several
unsuccessful volumes of verse, visited Italy, and was present at the
Council of Trent in 1563. In Italy he doubtless learnt of the metrical
innovations then being employed; and upon his return, without any
apparent knowledge of Jacques de la Taille's as yet unpublished
treatise, he set about to make a systematic reform in French
versification. His purpose was to bring about a more perfect unison
between poetry and music; and in order to accomplish this, he adopted
classical metres, based as they were on a musical prosody, and accepted
the phonetic reforms of Ramus. He also established, no doubt in
imitation of the Accademia della Nuova Poesia, the Académie de Poésie et
de Musique, authorized by letters patent from Charles IX. in November,
1570.[404] The purpose of this academy was to encourage and establish
the metrical and musical innovations advocated by Baïf and his friends.
On the death of Charles IX. the society's existence was menaced; but it
was restored, with a broader purpose and function, as the Académie du
Palais, by Guy du Faur de Pibrac in 1576, under the protection of Henry
III., and it continued to nourish until dispersed by the turmoils of the
League about 1585. But Baïf's innovations were not entirely without
fruit. A similar movement, and a not dissimilar society, will be found
somewhat later in Elizabethan England.

II. _Romantic Elements_

Some of the romantic elements in the critical theory of the Pléiade have
already been indicated. The new movement started, in Du Bellay's
_Défense_, with a high conception of the poet's office. It emphasized
the necessity, on the part of the poet, of profound and solitary study,
of a refined and ascetic life, and of entire separation from vulgar
people and pleasures. Du Bellay himself is romantic in that he decides
against the _traditions de règles_,[405] deeming the good judgment of
the poet sufficient in matters of taste; but the reason of this was that
there were no rules which he would have been willing to accept. It took
more than a century for the French mind to arrive at the conclusion that
reason and rules, in matters of art, proceed from one and the same

The feeling for nature and for natural beauty is very marked in all the
members of the Pléiade. Pelletier speaks of war, love, agriculture, and
pastoral life as the chief themes of poetry.[406] He warns the poet to
observe nature and life itself, and not depend on books alone; and he
dwells on the value of descriptions of landscapes, tempests, and
sunrises, and similar natural scenes.[407] The feeling for nature is
even more intense in Ronsard; and like Pelletier, he urges the poet to
describe in verse the rivers, forests, mountains, winds, the sea, gods
and goddesses, sunrise, night, and noon.[408] In another place the poet
is advised to embellish his work with accounts of trees, flowers, and
herbs, especially those dignified by some medicinal or magical virtues,
and with descriptions of rivers, towns, forests, mountains, caverns,
rocks, harbors, and forts. Here the appreciation of natural beauty as
introduced into modern Europe by the Italian Renaissance--the feeling
for nature in its wider aspects, the broad landscape, the distant
prospect--first becomes visible in France. "In the painting or rather
imitation of nature," says Ronsard, "consists the very soul of heroic

Ronsard also gives warning that ordinary speech is not to be banished
from poetry, or too much evaded, for by doing so the poet is dealing a
death-blow to "naïve and natural poetry."[409] This sympathy for the
simple and popular forms of poetry as models for the poetic artist is
characteristic of the Pléiade. There is a very interesting passage in
Montaigne, in which the popular ballads of the peasantry are praised in
a manner that recalls the famous words of Sir Philip Sidney concerning
the old song of Percy and Douglas,[410] and which seems to anticipate
the interest in popular poetry in England two centuries later:--

     "Popular and purely natural and indigenous poetry has a certain
     native simplicity and grace by which it may be favorably
     compared with the principal beauty of perfect poetry composed
     according to the rules of art; as may be seen in the
     villanelles of Gascony, and in songs coming from nations that
     have no knowledge of any science, not even of writing. But
     mediocre poetry, which is neither perfect nor popular, is held
     in disdain by every one, and receives neither honor nor

The Pléiade, as has already been intimated, accepted without reserve the
Platonic doctrine of inspiration. By 1560 a considerable number of the
Platonic dialogues had already been translated into French. Dolet had
translated two of the spurious dialogues; Duval, the _Lysis_ in 1547;
and Le Roy, the _Phædo_ in 1553 and the _Symposium_ in 1559. The thesis
of Ramus in 1536 had started an anti-Aristotelian tendency in France,
and the literature of the French Renaissance became impregnated with
Platonism.[412] It received the royal favor of Marguerite de Navarre,
and its influence became fixed in 1551, by the appointment of Ramus to a
professorship in the Collège de France. Ronsard, Vauquelin, Du Bartas,
all give expression to the Platonic theory of poetic inspiration. The
poet must feel what he writes, as Horace says, or his reader will never
be moved by his verses; and for the Pléiade, the excitement of high
emotions in the reader or hearer was the test or touchstone of

The national and Christian points of view never found expression in
France during the sixteenth century in so marked a manner as in Italy.
There are, indeed, traces of both a national and a Christian criticism,
but they are hardly more than sporadic. Thus, it has been seen that
Sibilet, as early as 1548, had clearly perceived the distinguishing
characteristic of the French genius. He had noted that the French have
only taken from foreign literature what they have deemed useful and of
national advantage; and only the other day a distinguished French critic
asserted in like manner that the high importance of French literature
consists in the fact that it has taken from the other literatures of
Europe the things of universal interest and disregarded the accidental
picturesque details. Distinct traces of a national point of view may be
found in the dramatic criticism of this period. Thus Grévin, in his
_Bref Discours_ (1562), attempts to justify the substitution of a crowd
of Cæsar's soldiers for the singers of the ancient chorus, in one of his
tragedies, on the following grounds:--

     "If it be alleged that this practice was observed throughout
     antiquity by the Greeks and Latins, I reply that it is
     permitted to us to attempt some innovation of our own,
     especially when there is occasion for it, or when the grace of
     the poem is not diminished thereby. I know well that it will be
     answered that the ancients employed the chorus of singers to
     divert the audience, made gloomy perhaps by the cruelties
     represented in the play. To this I reply that diverse nations
     require diverse manners of doing things, and that among the
     French there are other means of doing this without interrupting
     the continuity of a story."[414]

The Christian point of view, on the other hand, is found in Vauquelin de
la Fresnaye, who differs from Ronsard and Du Bellay in his preference
for scriptural themes in poetry. The Pléiade was essentially pagan,
Vauquelin essentially Christian. The employment of the pagan divinities
in modern poetry seemed to him often odious, for the times had changed,
and the Muses were governed by different laws. The poet should attempt
Christian themes; and indeed the Greeks themselves, had they been
Christians, would have sung the life and death of Christ. In this
passage Vauquelin is evidently following Minturno, as the latter was
afterward followed by Corneille:--

    "Si les Grecs, comme vous, Chrestiens eussent escrit,
    Ils eussent les hauts faits chanté de Iesus Christ....
    Hé! quel plaisir seroit-ce à cette heure de voir
    Nos poëtes Chrestiens, les façons recevoir
    Du tragique ancien? Et voir à nos misteres
    Les Payens asservis sous les loix salutaires
    De nos Saints et Martyrs? et du vieux testament
    Voir une tragedie extraite proprement?"[415]

Vauquelin's opinion here is out of keeping with the general theory of
the Pléiade, especially in that his suggestions imply a return to the
mediæval mystery and morality plays. The _Uranie_ of Du Bartas is
another and more fervid expression of this same ideal of Christian
poetry. In the _Semaines_, Du Bartas himself composed the typical
biblical poem; and tragedies on Christian or scriptural subjects were
composed during the French Renaissance from the time of Buchanan and
Beza to that of Garnier and Montchrestien. But Vauquelin's ideal was not
that of the later classicism; and Boileau, as has been seen, distinctly
rejects Christian themes from modern poetry.

Although the linguistic and prosodic theories of the Pléiade partly
anticipate both the theory and the practice of later classicism, the
members of the school exhibit numerous deviations from what was
afterward accepted as inviolable law in French poetry. The most
important of these deviations concerns the use of words from the various
French dialects, from foreign tongues, and from the technical and
mechanical arts. A partial expression of this theory of poetic language
has already been seen in Du Bellay's _Défense et Illustration_, in which
the poet is urged to use the more elegant technical dialectic terms.
Ronsard gives very much the same advice. The best words in all the
French dialects are to be employed by the poet; for it is doubtless to
the number of the dialects of Greece that we may ascribe the supreme
beauty of its language and literature. The poet is not to affect too
much the language of the court, since it is often very bad, being the
language of ladies and of young gentlemen who make a profession of
fighting well rather than of speaking well.[416] Unlike Malherbe and
his school, Ronsard allows a certain amount of poetic license, but only
rarely and judiciously. It is to poetic license, he says, that we owe
nearly all the beautiful figures with which poets, in their divine
rapture, enfranchising the laws of grammar, have enriched their works.
"This is that birthright," said Dryden, a century later, in the preface
of his _State of Innocence and the Fall of Man_, "which is derived to us
from our great forefathers, even from Homer down to Ben; and they who
would deny it to us have, in plain terms, the fox's quarrel to the
grapes--they cannot reach it." Vauquelin de la Fresnaye follows Ronsard
and Du Bellay in urging the use of new and dialect words, the employment
of terms and comparisons from the mechanic arts, and the various other
doctrines by which the Pléiade is distinguished from the school of
Malherbe. How these useless linguistic innovations were checked and
banished from the French language forever will be briefly alluded to in
the next chapter.


[381] Brunetière, i. 45.

[382] _Défense_, ii. 11.

[383] _Cf._ Rucktäschel, p. 10 _sq._

[384] _Art Poét._ i. 3.

[385] _Ibid._ i. 9.

[386] _Ibid._ i. 10.

[387] Ronsard, iii. 26 _sq._

[388] _Ibid._ vii. 323.

[389] Ronsard, iii. 9 _sq._

[390] _Ibid._ iii. 23, 26.

[391] _Art Poét._ iii. 1151.

[392] _Ibid._ i. 61.

[393] _Art Poét._ i. 22 _sq._

[394] _Ibid._ i. 813. _Cf._ Ronsard, ii. 12.

[395] Ronsard, vii. 320, 332.

[396] The early Italian poetry written in classical metres has been
collected by Carducci, _La Poesia Barbara nei Secoli XV e XVI_, Bologna,

[397] Carducci, p. 2.

[398] _Ibid._ p. 6 _sq._

[399] Carducci, pp. 55, 87, etc.

[400] _Ibid._ pp. 327, 443. _Cf._ Du Bellay, _Défense_, ii. 7.

[401] For the history of classical metres in France, _cf._ Egger,
_Hellénisme en France_, p. 290 _sq._, and Darmesteter and Hatzfeld,
_Seizième Siècle en France_, p. 113 _sq._

[402] Estienne Pasquier, in his _Recherches de la France_, vii. 11,
attempts to prove that the French language is capable of employing
quantity in its verse, but does not decide whether quantity or rhymed
verse is to be preferred.

[403] _Cf._ Rucktäschel, p. 24 _sq._, and Carducci, p. 413 _sq._

[404] This academy has been made the subject of an excellent monograph
by É. Fremy, _L'Académie des Derniers Valois_, Paris, n. d. The statutes
of the academy will be found on page 39 of this work, and the
letters-patent granted to it by Charles IX. on page 48.

[405] _Défense_, ii. 11.

[406] _Art Poét._ i. 3.

[407] _Art Poét._ ii. 10; i. 9.

[408] Ronsard, vii. 321, 324.

[409] _Ibid._ iii. 17 _sq._

[410] Sidney, _Defence_, p. 29.

[411] _Essais_, i. 54.

[412] _Cf._ the _Revue d'Hist. litt. de la France_, 1896, iii. 1 _sq._

[413] Ronsard, iii. 28; Du Bellay, _Défense_, ii. 11.

[414] Arnaud, app. ii.

[415] Vauquelin, _Art Poét._ iii. 845; _cf._ iii. 33; i. 901.

[416] Ronsard, vii. 322.



I. _The Romantic Revolt_

IT is a well-known fact that between 1600 and 1630 there was a break in
the national evolution of French literature. This was especially so in
the drama, and in France the drama is the connecting link between
century and century. The dramatic works of the sixteenth century had
been fashioned after the regular models borrowed by the Italians from
Seneca. The change that came was a change from Italian classical to
Spanish romantic models. The note of revolt was beginning to be heard in
Grévin, De Laudun, and others. The seventeenth century opened with the
production of Hardy's irregular drama, _Les Amours de Théagène et
Cariclée_ (1601), and the influence of the Spanish romantic drama and
the Italian pastoral, dominant for over a quarter of a century, was
inaugurated in France.

The logic of this innovation was best expounded in Spain, and it was
there that arguments in favor of the romantic and irregular drama were
first formulated. The two most interesting defences of the Spanish
national drama are doubtless the _Egemplar Poético_ of Juan de la Cueva
(1606) and Lope de Vega's _Arte Nuevo de Hacer Comedias_ (1609). Their
inspiration is at bottom the same. Their authors were both classicists
at heart, or rather classicists in theory, yet with differences. Juan de
la Cueva's conception of poetry is entirely based on the precepts of the
Italians, except in what regards the national drama, for here he is a
partisan and a patriot. He insists that the difference of time and
circumstance frees the Spanish playwright from all necessity of
imitating the ancients or obeying their rules. "This change in the
drama," he says, "was effected by wise men, who applied to new
conditions the new things they found most suitable and expedient; for we
must consider the various opinions, the times, and the manners, which
make it necessary for us to change and vary our operations."[417] His
theory of the drama was entirely opposed to his conception of the other
forms of poetry. According to this standpoint, as a recent writer has
put it, "the theatre was to imitate nature, and to please; poetry was to
imitate the Italians, and satisfy the orthodox but minute critic."[418]
Lope de Vega, writing three years later, does not deny the universal
applicability of the Aristotelian canons, and even acknowledges that
they are the only true rules. But the people demand romantic plays, and
the people, rather than the poet's literary conscience, must be
satisfied by the playwright. "I myself," he says, "write comedies
according to the art invented by those whose sole object it is to obtain
the applause of the crowd. After all, since it is the public who pays
for these stupidities, why should we not serve what it wants?"[419]

Perhaps the most interesting of all the expositions of the theory of the
Spanish national drama is a defence of Lope de Vega's plays by one
Alfonso Sanchez, published in 1618 in France, or possibly in Spain with
a false French imprint. The apology of Sanchez is comprehended in six
distinct propositions. First, the arts have their foundation in nature.
Secondly, a wise and learned man may alter many things in the existing
arts. Thirdly, nature does not obey laws, but gives them. Fourthly, Lope
de Vega has done well in creating a new art. Fifthly, in his writings
everything is adjusted to art, and that a real and living art. Lastly,
Lope de Vega has surpassed all the ancient poets.[420] The following
passage may be extracted from this treatise, if only to show how little
there was of novelty in the tenets of the French romanticists two
centuries later:--

     "Is it said that we have no infallible art by which to adjust
     our precepts? But who can doubt it? We have art, we have
     precepts and rules which bind us, and the principal precept is
     to imitate nature, for the works of poets express the nature,
     the manners, and the genius of the age in which they write....
     Lope de Vega writes in conformity with art, because he follows
     nature. If, on the contrary, the Spanish drama adjusted itself
     to the rules and laws of the ancients, it would proceed
     against the requirements of nature, and against the foundations
     of poetry.... The great Lope has done things over and above the
     laws of the ancients, but never against these laws."

Another Spanish writer defines art as "an attentive observation of
examples graded by experience, and reduced to method and the majesty of

It was this naturalistic conception of the poetic art, and especially of
the drama, that obtained in France during the first thirty years of the
seventeenth century. The French playwrights imitated the Spanish drama
in practice, and from the Spanish theorists seemed to have derived the
critical justification of their plays. Hardy himself, like Lope de Vega,
argues that "everything which is approved by usage and the public taste
is legitimate and more than legitimate." Another writer of this time,
François Ogier, in the preface of the second edition of Jean de
Schelandre's remarkable drama of _Tyr et Sidon_ (1628), argues for
intellectual independence of the ancients much in the same way as
Giraldi Cintio, Pigna, and the other partisans of the _romanzi_ had done
three-quarters of a century before. The taste of every nation, he says,
is quite different from any other. "The Greeks wrote for the Greeks, and
in the judgment of the best men of their time they succeeded. But we
should imitate them very much better by giving heed to the tastes of our
own country, and the genius of our own language, than by forcing
ourselves to follow step by step both their intention and their
expression." This would seem to be at bottom Goethe's famous statement
that we can best imitate the Greeks by trying to be as great men as they
were. It is interesting to note, in all of these early critics, traces
of that historical criticism which is usually regarded as the discovery
of our own century. But after all, the French like the Spanish
playwrights were merely beginning to practise what the Italian
dramatists in their prefaces, and some of the Italian critics in their
treatises, had been preaching for nearly a century.

The Abbé d'Aubignac speaks of Hardy as "arresting the progress of the
French theatre"; and whatever practical improvements the French theatre
owes to him, there can be little doubt that for a certain number of
years the evolution of the classical drama was partly arrested by his
efforts and the efforts of his school. But during this very period the
foundations of the great literature that was to come were being built on
classical lines; and the continuance of the classical tradition after
1630 was due to three distinct causes, each of which will be discussed
by itself as briefly as possible. These three causes were the reaction
against the Pléiade, the second influx of the critical ideas of the
Italian Renaissance, and the influence of the rationalistic philosophy
of the period.

II. _The Reaction against the Pléiade_

The reaction against the Pléiade was effected, or at least begun, by
Malherbe. Malherbe's power or message as a poet is of no concern here;
in his rôle of grammarian and critic he accomplished certain important
and widespread reforms in French poetry. These reforms were connected
chiefly, if not entirely, with the external or formal side of poetry.
His work was that of a grammarian, of a prosodist--in a word, that of a
purist. He did not, indeed, during his lifetime, publish any critical
work, or formulate any critical system. But the reforms he executed were
on this account no less influential or enduring. His critical attitude
is to be looked for in the memoirs of his life written by his disciple
Racan, and in his own _Commentaire sur Desportes_, which was not
published in its entirety until very recently.[422] This commentary
consists of a series of manuscript notes written by Malherbe about the
year 1606 in the margins of a copy of Desportes. These notes are of a
most fragmentary kind; they seldom go beyond a word or two of
disapproval, such as _faible_, _mal conçu_, _superflu_, _sans jugement_,
_sottise_, or _mal imaginé_; and yet, together with a few detached
utterances recorded in his letters and in the memoirs by Racan, they
indicate quite clearly the critical attitude of Malherbe and the reforms
he was bent on bringing about.

These reforms were, in the first place, largely linguistic. The Pléiade
had attempted to widen the sphere of poetic expression in French
literature by the introduction of words from the classics, from the
Italian and even the Spanish, from the provincial dialects, from the old
romances, and from the terminology of the mechanic arts. All these
archaisms, neologisms, Latinisms, compound words, and dialectic and
technical expressions, Malherbe set about to eradicate from the French
language. His object was to purify French, and, as it were, to
centralize it. The test he set up was actual usage, and even this was
narrowed down to the usage of the court. Ronsard had censured the
exclusive use of courtly speech in poetry, on the ground that the
courtier cares more about fighting well than about speaking or writing
well. But Malherbe's ideal was the ideal of French classicism--the ideal
of Boileau, Racine, and Bossuet. French was to be no longer a hodgepodge
or a patois, but the pure and perfect speech of the king and his court.
Malherbe, while thus reacting against the Pléiade, made no pretensions
of returning to the linguistic usages of Marot; his test was present
usage, his model the living language.[423] At the same time his reforms
in language, as in other things, represent a reaction against foreign
innovations and a return to the pure French idiom. They were in the
interest of the national traditions; and it is this national element
which is his share in the body of neo-classical theory and practice. His
reforms were all in the direction of that verbal and mechanical
perfection, the love of which is innate in the French nature, and which
forms the indigenous or racial element in French classicism. He
eliminated from French verse hiatus, enjambement, inversions, false and
imperfect rhymes, and licenses or cacophonies of all kinds. He gave it,
as has been said, mechanical perfection,--

    "Et réduisit la Muse aux règles du devoir."

For such a man--_tyran des mots et des syllabes_, as Balzac called
him--the higher qualities of poetry could have little or no meaning. His
ideals were propriety, clearness, regularity, and force. These, as
Chapelain perceived at the time, are oratorical rather than purely
poetic qualities; yet for these, all the true qualities that go to make
up a great poet were to be sacrificed. Of imagination and poetic
sensibility he takes no account whatsoever. After the verbal perfection
of the verse, the logical unity of the poem was his chief interest.
Logic and reason are without doubt important things, but they cannot
exist in poetry to the exclusion of imagination. By eliminating
inspiration, as it were, Malherbe excluded the possibility of lyrical
production in France throughout the period of classicism. He hated
poetic fictions, since for him, as for Boileau, only actual reality is
beautiful. If he permitted the employment of mythological figures, it
was because they are reasonable and universally intelligible symbols.
The French mind is essentially rational and logical, and Malherbe
reintroduced this native rationality into French poetry. He set up
common sense as a poetic ideal, and made poetry intelligible to the
average mind. The Pléiade had written for a learned literary coterie;
Malherbe wrote for learned and unlearned alike. For the Pléiade, poetry
had been a divine office, a matter of prophetic inspiration; for
Malherbe, it was a trade, a craft, to be learnt like any other. Du
Bellay had said that "it is a well-accepted fact, according to the most
learned men, that natural talents without learning can accomplish more
in poetry than learning without natural talents." Malherbe, it has been
neatly said, would have upheld the contrary doctrine that "learning
without natural talents can accomplish more than natural talents without
learning."[424] After all, eloquence was Malherbe's ideal; and as the
French are by nature an eloquent rather than a poetic people, he
deserves the honor of having first shown them how to regain their true
inheritance. In a word, he accomplished for classical poetry in France
all that the national instinct, the _esprit gaulois_, could accomplish
by itself. Consistent structural laws for the larger poetic forms he
could not give; these France owes to Italy. Nor could he appreciate the
high notion of abstract perfection, or the classical conception of an
absolute standard of taste--that of several expressions or several ways
of doing something, one way and only one is the right one; this France
owes to rationalistic philosophy. Malherbe seems almost to be echoing
Montaigne when he says in a letter to Balzac:--

     "Do you not know that the diversity of opinions is as natural
     as the difference of men's faces, and that to wish that what
     pleases or displeases us should please or displease everybody
     is to pass the limits where it seems that God in His
     omnipotence has commanded us to stop?"[425]

With this individualistic expression of the questions of opinion and
taste, we have but to compare the following passage from La Bruyère to
indicate how far Malherbe is still from the classic ideal:--

     "There is a point of perfection in art, as of excellence or
     maturity in nature. He who is sensible of it and loves it has
     perfect taste; he who is not sensible of it and loves this or
     that else on either side of it has a faulty taste. There is
     then a good and a bad taste, and men dispute of tastes not
     without reason."[426]

III. _The Second Influx of Italian Ideas_

The second influx of Italian critical ideas into France came through two
channels. In the first place, the direct literary relations between
Italy and France during this period were very marked. The influence of
Marino, who lived for a long time at Paris and published a number of his
works there, was not inconsiderable, especially upon the French
concettists and _précieux_. Two Italian ladies founded and presided over
the famous Hotel de Rambouillet,--Julie Savelli, Marquise de Pisani, and
Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet. It was partly to the
influence of the Accademia della Crusca that the foundation of the
French Academy was due. Chapelain and Ménage were both members of the
Italian society, and submitted to it their different opinions on a verse
of Petrarch. Like the Accademia della Crusca, the French Academy
purposed the preparation of a great dictionary; and each began its
existence by attacking a great work of literature, the _Gerusalemme
Liberata_ in the case of the Italian society, Corneille's _Cid_ in the
case of the French. The regency of Marie de Medici, the supremacy of
Mazarin, and other political events, all conspired to bring Italy and
France into the closest social and literary relationship.

But the two individuals who first brought into French literature and
naturalized the primal critical concepts of Italy were Chapelain and
Balzac. Chapelain's private correspondence indicates how thorough was
his acquaintance with the critical literature of Italy. "I have a
particular affection for the Italian language," he wrote in 1639 to
Balzac.[427] Of the _Cid_, he says that "in Italy it would be considered
barbarous, and there is not an academy which would not banish it beyond
the confines of its jurisdiction."[428] Speaking of the greatness of
Ronsard, he says that his own opinion was in accord with that of "two
great savants beyond the Alps, Speroni and Castelvetro";[429] and he had
considerable correspondence with Balzac on the subject of the
controversy between Caro and Castelvetro in the previous century. In a
word, he knew and studied the critics and scholars of Italy, and was
interested in discussing them. Balzac's interest, on the other hand, was
rather toward Spanish literature; but he was the agent of the Cardinal
de la Valette at Rome, and it was on his return to France that he
published the first collection of his letters. The influence of both
Chapelain and Balzac on French classicism was considerable. During the
sixteenth century, literary criticism had been entirely in the hands of
learned men. Chapelain and Balzac vulgarized the critical ideas of the
Italian Renaissance, and made them popular, human, but inviolable.
Balzac introduced into France the fine critical sense of the Italians;
Chapelain introduced their formal rules, and imposed the three unities
on French tragedy. Together they effected a humanizing of the classical
ideal, even while subjecting it to rules.

It was to the same Italian influences that France owed the large number
of artificial epics that appeared during this period. About ten epics
were published in the fifteen years between 1650 and 1665.[430] The
Italians of the sixteenth century had formulated a fixed theory of the
artificial epic; and the nations of western Europe rivalled one another
in attempting to make practical use of this theory. It is to this that
the large number of Spanish epics in the sixteenth century and of French
epics in the seventeenth may be ascribed. Among the latter we may
mention Scudéry's _Alaric_, Lemoyne's _Saint Louis_, Saint-Amant's
_Moyse Sauvé_, and Chapelain's own epic, _La Pucelle_, awaited by the
public for many years, and published only to be damned forever by

The prefaces of all these epics indicate clearly enough their
indebtedness to the Italians. They were indeed scarcely more than
attempts to put the rules and precepts of the Italian Renaissance into
practice. "I then consulted the masters of this art," says Scudéry, in
the preface of _Alaric_, "that is to say, Aristotle and Horace, and
after them Macrobius, Scaliger, Tasso, Castelvetro, Piccolomini, Vida,
Vossius, Robortelli, Riccoboni, Paolo Beni, Mambrun, and several others;
and passing from theory to practice I reread very carefully the _Iliad_
and the _Odyssey_, the _Æneid_, the _Pharsalia_, the _Thebaid_, the
_Orlando Furioso_, and the _Gerusalemme Liberata_, and many other epic
poems in diverse languages." Similarly, Saint-Amant, in the preface of
his _Moyse Sauvé_, says that he had rigorously observed "the unities of
action and place, which are the principal requirements of the epic; and
besides, by an entirely new method, I have restricted my subject not
only within twenty-four hours, the limit of the dramatic poem, but
almost within half of that time. This is more than even Aristotle,
Horace, Scaliger, Castelvetro, Piccolomini, and all the other moderns
have ever required." It is obvious that for these epic-makers the rules
and precepts of the Italians were the final tests of heroic poetry.
Similarly, the Abbé d'Aubignac, at the beginning of his _Pratique du
Théâtre_, advises the dramatic poet to study, among other writers,
"Aristotle, Horace, Castelvetro, Vida, Heinsius, Vossius, and Scaliger,
of whom not a word should be lost." From the Italians also came the
theory of poetry in general as held throughout the period of classicism,
and expounded by the Abbé d'Aubignac, La Mesnardière, Corneille,
Boileau, and numerous others; and it is hardly necessary to repeat that
Rapin, tracing the history of criticism at the beginning of his
_Réflexions sur la Poétique_, deals with scarcely any critics but the

Besides the direct influence of the Italian critics, another influence
contributed its share to the sum of critical ideas which French
classicism owes to the Italian Renaissance. This was the tradition of
Scaliger, carried on by the Dutch scholars Heinsius and Vossius. Daniel
Heinsius was the pupil of Joseph Scaliger, the illustrious son of the
author of the _Poetics_; and through Heinsius the dramatic theories of
the elder Scaliger influenced classical tragedy in France. The treatise
of Heinsius, _De Tragoediæ Constitutione_, published at Leyden in 1611,
was called by Chapelain "the quintessence of Aristotle's _Poetics_"; and
Chapelain called Heinsius himself "a prophet or sibyl in matters of
criticism."[431] Annoted by Racine, cited as an infallible authority by
Corneille, Heinsius's work exercised a marked influence on French
tragedy by fixing upon it the laws of Scaliger; and later the works of
Vossius coöperated with those of Heinsius in widening the sphere of the
Italian influence. It is evident, therefore, that while French
literature had already during the sixteenth century taken from the
Italian Renaissance its respect for antiquity and its admiration for
classical mythology, the seventeenth century owed to Italy its
definitive conception of the theory of poetry, and especially certain
rigid structural laws for tragedy and epic. It may be said without
exaggeration that there is not an essential idea or precept in the works
of Corneille and D'Aubignac on dramatic poetry, or of Le Bossu and
Mambrun on epic poetry, that cannot be found in the critical writings of
the Italian Renaissance.

IV. _The Influence of Rationalistic Philosophy_

The influence of rationalistic philosophy on the general attitude of
classicism manifested itself in what may be called the gradual
rationalization of all that the Renaissance gave to France. The process
thus effected is most definitely exhibited in the evolution of the rules
which France owed to Italy. It has already been shown how the rules and
precepts of the Italians had originally been based on authority alone,
but had gradually obtained a general significance of their own,
regardless of their ancient authority. Somewhat later, in England, the
Aristotelian canons were defended by Ben Jonson on the ground that
Aristotle understood the causes of things, and that what others had
done by chance or custom, Aristotle did by reason alone.[432] By this
time, then, the reasonableness of the Aristotelian canons was distinctly
felt, although they were still regarded as having authoritativeness in
themselves; and it was first in the French classicists of the
seventeenth century that reason and the ancient rules were regarded as
one and inseparable.

Rationalism, indeed, is to be found at the very outset of the critical
activity of the Renaissance; and Vida's words, already cited, "Semper
nutu rationis eant res," represent in part the attitude of the
Renaissance mind toward literature. But the "reason" of the earlier
theorists was merely empirical and individualistic; it did not differ
essentially from Horace's ideal of "good sense." In fact, rationalism
and humanism, while existing together throughout the Renaissance, were
never to any extent harmonized; and extreme rationalism generally took
the form of an avowed antagonism to Aristotle. The complete
rationalization of the laws of literature is first evident toward the
middle of the seventeenth century. "The rules of the theatre," says the
Abbé d'Aubignac, at the beginning of his _Pratique du Théâtre_, "are
founded, not on authority, but on reason," and if they are called the
rules of the ancients, it is simply "because the ancients have admirably
practised them." Similarly, Corneille, in his discourse _Des Trois
Unités_, says that the unity of time would be arbitrary and tyrannical
if it were merely required by Aristotle's _Poetics_, but that its real
prop is the natural reason; and Boileau sums up the final attitude of
classicism in these words:--

    "Aimez donc la _raison_; que toujours vos écrits
    Empruntent _d'elle seule_ et leur lustre et leur prix."[433]

Here the rationalizing process is complete, and the actual requirements
of authority become identical with the dictates of the reason.

The rules expounded by Boileau, while for the most part the same as
those enunciated by the Italians, are no longer mere rules. They are
laws dictated by abstract and universal reason, and hence inevitable and
infallible; they are not tyrannical or arbitrary, but imposed upon us by
the very nature of the human mind. This is not merely, as we have said,
the good nature and the good sense, in a word, the sweet reasonableness,
of such a critic as Horace.[434] There is more than this in the
classicists of the seventeenth century. Good sense becomes
universalized, becomes, in fact, as has been said, not merely an
empirical notion of good sense, but the abstract and universal reason
itself. From this follows the absolute standard of taste at the bottom
of classicism, as exemplified in the passage already cited from La
Bruyère, and in such a line as this from Boileau:--

    "La raison pour marcher n'a souvent qu'une voie."[435]

This rationalization of the Renaissance rules of poetry was effected
by contemporary philosophy; if not by the works and doctrines
of Descartes himself, at least by the general tendency of the
human mind at this period, of which these works and doctrines are the
most perfect expressions. Boileau's _Art Poétique_ has been aptly called
the _Discours de la Méthode_ of French poetry. So that while the
contribution of Malherbe and his school to classicism lay in the
insistence on clearness, propriety, and verbal and metrical perfection,
and the contribution of the Italian Renaissance lay in the infusion of
respect for classical antiquity and the imposition of a certain body of
fixed rules, the contribution of contemporary philosophy lay in the
rationalization or universalization of these rules, and in the
imposition of an abstract and absolute standard of taste.

But Cartesianism brought with it certain important limitations and
deficiencies. Boileau himself is reported to have said that "the
philosophy of Descartes has cut the throat of poetry;"[436] and there
can be no doubt that this is the exaggerated expression of a certain
inevitable truth. The excessive insistence on the reason brought with it
a corresponding undervaluation of the imagination. The rational and
rigidly scientific basis of Cartesianism was forced on classicism; and
reality became its supreme object and its final test:--

    "Rien n'est beau que le vrai."

Reference has already been made to various disadvantages imposed on
classicism by the very nature of its origin and growth; but the most
vital of all these disadvantages was the influence of the Cartesian
philosophy or philosophic temper. With the scientific basis thus imposed
on literature, its only safeguard against extinction was the vast
influence of a certain body of fixed rules, which literature dared not
deviate from, and which it attempted to justify on the wider grounds of
philosophy. These rules, then, the contribution of Italy, saved poetry
in France from extinction during the classical period; and of this a
remarkable confirmation is to be found in the fact that not until the
rationalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was superseded
in France, did French literature rid itself of this body of Renaissance
rules. Cartesianism, or at least the rationalistic spirit, humanized
these rules, and imposed them on the rest of Europe. But though
quintessentialized, they remained artificial, and circumscribed the
workings of the French imagination for over a century.


[417] Sedano, _Parnaso Español_, viii. 61.

[418] Hannay, _Later Renaissance_, 1898, p. 39.

[419] Menéndez y Pelayo, iii. 434.

[420] _Ibid._ iii. 447 _sq._

[421] Menéndez y Pelayo, iii. 464.

[422] The _Commentaire_ is printed entire in Lalanne's edition of
Malherbe, Paris, 1862, vol. iv. The critical doctrine of Malherbe has
been formulated by Brunot, _Doctrine de Malherbe_, pp. 105-236.

[423] _Cf._ Horace, _Ars Poet._ 71, 72.

[424] Brunot, p. 149.

[425] _Oeuvres_, Lalanne's edition, iv. 91.

[426] _Caractères_, "Des Ouvrages de l'Esprit."

[427] _Lettres_, i. 413. The references are to the edition by Tamizey de
Larroque, Paris, 1880-1883.

[428] _Ibid._ i. 156.

[429] _Ibid._ i. 631 _sq._

[430] These epics have been treated at length by Duchesne, _Histoire des
Poèmes Épiques français du XVII Siècle_, Paris, 1870.

[431] _Lettres_, i. 269, 424. On the theories of Heinsius, see Zerbst,
_Ein Vorläufer Lessings in der Aristotelesinterpretation_, Jena, 1887.

[432] _Discoveries_, p. 80.

[433] _Art Poét._ i. 37.

[434] _Cf._ Brunetière, _Études Critiques_, iv. 136; and Krantz, p. 93

[435] _Art Poét._ i. 48.

[436] Reported by J. B. Rousseau, in a letter to Brossette, July 21,






LITERARY criticism in England during the Elizabethan age was neither so
influential nor so rich and varied as the contemporary criticism of
Italy and France. This fact might perhaps be thought insufficient to
affect the interest or patriotism of English-speaking people, yet the
most charming critical monument of this period, Sidney's _Defence of
Poesy_, has been slightingly referred to by the latest historian of
English poetry. Such interest and importance as Elizabethan criticism
possesses must therefore be of an historical nature, and lies in two
distinct directions. In the first place, the study of the literature of
this period will show, not only that there was a more or less complete
body of critical doctrine during the Renaissance, but also that
Englishmen shared in this creation, or inheritance, of the Renaissance
as truly as did their continental neighbors; and on the other hand this
study may be said to possess an interest in itself, in so far as it will
make the growth of classicism in England intelligible, and will indicate
that the formation of the classic ideal had begun before the
introduction of the French influence. In neither case, however, can
early English criticism be considered wholly apart from the general body
of Renaissance doctrine; and its study loses in importance and
perspicuity according as it is kept distinct from the consideration of
the critical literature of France, and especially of Italy.

English criticism, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
passed through five more or less distinct stages of development. The
first stage, characterized by the purely rhetorical study of literature,
may be said to begin with Leonard Coxe's _Arte or Crafte of Rhetoryke_,
a hand-book for young students, compiled about 1524, chiefly from one of
the rhetorical treatises of Melanchthon.[437] This was followed by
Wilson's _Arte of Rhetorike_ (1553), which is more extensive and
certainly more original than Coxe's manual, and which has been called by
Warton "the first book or system of criticism in our language." But the
most important figure of this period is Roger Ascham. The educational
system expounded in his _Scholemaster_, written between 1563 and 1568,
he owed largely to his friend, John Sturm, the Strasburg humanist, and
to his teacher, Sir John Cheke, who had been Greek lecturer at the
University of Padua; but for the critical portions of this work he seems
directly indebted to the rhetorical treatises of the Italians.[438] Yet
his obligations to the Italian humanists did not prevent the expression
of his stern and unyielding antagonism to the romantic Italian spirit
as it influenced the imaginative literature of his time. In studying
early English literature it must always be kept in mind that the Italian
Renaissance influenced the Elizabethan age in two different directions.
The Italianization of English poetry had been effected, or at least
begun, by the publication of Tottel's _Miscellany_ in 1557; on this, the
creative side of English literature, the Italian influence was
distinctly romantic. The influence of the Italian humanists, on the
other hand, was directly opposed to this romantic spirit; even in their
own country they had antagonized all that was not classical in tendency.
Ascham, therefore, as a result of his humanistic training, became not
only the first English man of letters, but also the first English

The first stage of English criticism, then, was entirely given up to
rhetorical study. It was at this time that English writers first
attained the appreciation of form and style as distinguishing features
of literature; and it was to this appreciation that the formation of an
English prose style was due. This period may therefore be compared with
the later stages of Italian humanism in the fifteenth century; and the
later humanists were the masters and models of these early English
rhetoricians. Gabriel Harvey, as a Ciceronian of the school of Bembo,
was perhaps their last representative.

The second stage of English criticism--a period of classification and
especially of metrical studies--commences with Gascoigne's _Notes of
Instruction concerning the making of Verse_,[439] published in 1575, and
modelled apparently on Ronsard's _Abrégé de l'Art Poétique françois_
(1565). Besides this brief pamphlet, the first work on English
versification, this stage also includes Puttenham's _Arte of English
Poesie_, the first systematic classification of poetic forms and
subjects, and of rhetorical figures; Bullokar's _Bref Grammar_, the
first systematic treatise on English grammar; and Harvey's _Letters_ and
Webbe's _Discourse of English Poetrie_, the first systematic attempts to
introduce classical metres into English poetry. This period was
characterized by the study and classification of the practical questions
of language and versification; and in this labor it was coöperating with
the very tendencies which Ascham had been attempting to counteract. The
study of the verse-forms introduced into England from Italy helped
materially to perfect the external side of English poetry; and a similar
result was obtained by the crude attempts at quantitative verse
suggested by the school of Tolomei. The Italian prosodists were thus,
directly or indirectly, the masters of the English students of this era.

The representative work of the third stage--the period of philosophical
and apologetic criticism--is Sir Philip Sidney's _Defence of Poesy_,
published posthumously in 1595, though probably written about 1583.
Harington's _Apologie of Poetrie_, Daniel's _Defence of Ryme_, and a few
others, are also contemporary treatises. These works, as their titles
indicate, are all defences or apologies, and were called forth by the
attacks of the Puritans on poetry, especially dramatic poetry, and the
attacks of the classicists on English versification and rhyme. Required
by the exigencies of the moment to defend poetry in general, these
authors did not attempt to do so on local or temporary grounds, but set
out to examine the fundamental grounds of criticism, and to formulate
the basic principles of poetry. In this attempt they consciously or
unconsciously sought aid from the critics of Italy, and thus commenced
in England the influence of the Italian theory of poetry. How great was
their indebtedness to the Italians the course of the present study will
make somewhat clear; but it is certainly remarkable that this
indebtedness has never been pointed out before. Speaking of Sidney's
_Defence of Poesy_, one of the most distinguished English authorities on
the Renaissance says: "Much as the Italians had recently written upon
the theory of poetry, I do not remember any treatise which can be said
to have supplied the material or suggested the method of this
apology."[440] On the contrary, the doctrines discussed by Sidney had
been receiving very similar treatment from the Italians for over half a
century; and it can be said without exaggeration that there is not an
essential principle in the _Defence of Poesy_ which cannot be traced
back to some Italian treatise on the poetic art. The age of which Sidney
is the chief representative is therefore the first period of the
influence of Italian critics.

The fourth stage of English criticism, of which Ben Jonson is, as it
were, the presiding genius, occupies the first half of the seventeenth
century. The period that preceded it was in general romantic in its
tendencies; that of Jonson leaned toward a strict though never servile
classicism. Sidney's contemporaries had studied the general theory of
poetry, not for the purpose of enunciating rules or dogmas of criticism,
but chiefly in order to defend the poetic art, and to understand its
fundamental principles. The spirit of the age was the spirit, let us
say, of Fracastoro; that of Jonson was, in a moderate form, the spirit
of Scaliger or Castelvetro. With Jonson the study of the art of poetry
became an inseparable guide to creation; and it is this element of
self-conscious art, guided by the rules of criticism, which
distinguishes him from his predecessors. The age which he represents is
therefore the second period of the influence of Italian criticism; and
the same influence also is to be seen in such critical poems as
Suckling's _Session of the Poets_, and the _Great Assises holden in
Parnassus_, ascribed to Wither, both of which may be traced back to the
class of critical poetry of which Boccalini's _Ragguagli di Parnaso_ is
the type.[441]

The fifth period, which covers the second half of the seventeenth
century, is characterized by the introduction of French influence, and
begins with Davenant's letter to Hobbes, and Hobbes's answer, both
prefixed to the epic of _Gondibert_ (1651). These letters, written while
Davenant and Hobbes were at Paris, display many of the characteristic
features of the new influence,--the rationalistic spirit, the stringent
classicism, the restriction of art to the imitation of nature, with the
further limitation of nature to the life of the city and the court, and
the confinement of the imagination to what is called "wit." This
specialized sense of the word "wit" is characteristic of the new age, of
which Dryden, in part the disciple of Davenant, is the leading figure.
The Elizabethans used the term in the general sense of the
understanding,--wit, the mental faculty, as opposed to will, the faculty
of volition. With the neo-classicists it was used sometimes to
represent, in a limited sense, the imagination,[442] more often,
however, to designate what we should call fancy,[443] or even mere
propriety of poetic expression;[444] but whatever its particular use, it
was always regarded as of the essence of poetic art.

With the fifth stage of English criticism this essay is not concerned.
The history of literary criticism in England will be traced no farther
than 1650, when the influence of France was substituted for that of
Italy. This section deals especially with the two great periods of
Italian influence,--that of Sidney and that of Ben Jonson. These two men
are the central figures, and their names, like those of Dryden, Pope,
and Samuel Johnson, represent distinct and important epochs in the
history of literary criticism.


[437] _Cf._ _Mod. Lang. Notes_, 1898, xiii. 293.

[438] _Cf._ Ascham, _Works_, ii. 174-191.

[439] The _Reulis and Cautelis of Scottis Poesie_ by James VI. of
Scotland is wholly based on Gascoigne's treatise.

[440] J. A. Symonds, _Sir Philip Sidney_, p. 157. _Cf._ also, Sidney,
_Defence_, Cook's introduction, p. xxvii.

[441] _Cf._ Foffano, p. 173 _sq._ In Spain, Lope de Vega's _Laurel de
Apolo_ and Cervantes' _Viage del Parnaso_ belong to the same class of

[442] _Cf._ Dryden, ded. epist. to the _Annus Mirabilis_.

[443] Addison, _Spectator_, no. 62.

[444] Dryden, preface to the _State of Innocence_.



THOSE who have some acquaintance, however superficial, with the literary
criticism of the Italian Renaissance will find an account of the
Elizabethan theory of poetry a twice-told tale. In England, as in
France, criticism during this period was of a more practical character
than in Italy; but even for the technical questions discussed by the
Elizabethans, some prototype, or at least some equivalent, may be found
among the Italians. The first four stages of English criticism have
therefore little novelty or original value; and their study is chiefly
important as evidence of the gradual application of the ideas of the
Renaissance to English literature.

The writers of the first stage, as might be expected, concerned
themselves but little with the theory of poetry, beyond repeating here
and there the commonplaces they found in the Italian rhetoricians. Yet
it is interesting to note that as early as 1553, Wilson, in the third
book of his _Rhetoric_, gives expression to the allegorical conception
of poetry which in Italy had held sway from the time of Petrarch and
Boccaccio, and which, more than anything else, colored critical theory
in Elizabethan England. The ancient poets, according to Wilson, did not
spend their time inventing meaningless fables, but used the story merely
as a framework for contents of ethical, philosophic, scientific, or
historical import; the trials of Ulysses, for example, were intended to
furnish a lively picture of man's misery in this life. The poets are, in
fact, wise men, spiritual legislators, reformers, who have at heart the
redressing of wrongs; and in accomplishing this end,--either because
they fear to rebuke these wrongs openly, or because they doubt the
expediency or efficacy of such frankness with ignorant people,--they
hide their true meaning under the veil of pleasant fables. This theory
of poetic art, one of the commonplaces of the age, may be described as
the great legacy of the Middle Ages to Renaissance criticism.

The writers of the second stage were, in many cases, too busy with
questions of versification and other practical matters to find time for
abstract theorizing on the art of poetry. A long period of rhetorical
and metrical study had helped to formulate a rhetorical and technical
conception of the poet's function, aptly exemplified in the sonnet
describing the perfect poet prefixed to King James's brief treatise on
Scotch poetry.[445] The marks of a perfect poet are there given as
skilfulness in the rhetorical figures, quick wit, as shown in the use of
apt and pithy words, and a good memory;--a merely external view of the
poet's gifts, which takes no account of such essentials as imagination,
sensibility, and knowledge of nature and human life.

Webbe's _Discourse of English Poetrie_ (1586) gives expression to a
conception of the object of poetry which is the logical consequence of
the allegorical theory, and which was therefore almost universally
accepted by Renaissance writers. The poet teaches by means of the
allegorical truth hidden under the pleasing fables he invents; but his
first object must be to make these fables really pleasing, or the reader
is deterred at the outset from any acquaintance with the poet's works.
Poetry is therefore a delightful form of instruction; it pleases and
profits together; but first of all it must delight, "for the very sum
and chiefest essence of poetry did always for the most part consist in
delighting the readers or hearers."[446] The poet has the highest
welfare of man at heart; and by his sweet allurements to virtue and
effective caveats against vice, he gains his end, not roughly or
tyrannically, but, as it were, with a loving authority.[447] From the
very beginnings of human society poetry has been the means of civilizing
men, of drawing them from barbarity to civility and virtue. If it be
objected that this art--or rather, from the divine origin of its
inspiration, this more than art--has ever been made the excuse for the
enticing expression of obscenity and blasphemy, Webbe has three answers.
In the first place, poetry is to be moralized, that is, to be read
allegorically. The _Metamorphoses_ of Ovid, for example, will become,
when so understood, a fount of ethical teaching; and Harington, a few
years later, actually explains in detail the allegorical significance of
the fourth book of that poem.[448] This was a well-established
tradition, and indeed a favorite occupation, of the Middle Ages; and the
_Ovide Moralisé_, a long poem by Chrétien Le Gouais, written about the
beginning of the fourteenth century, and the equally long Ovidian
commentary of Pierre Berçuire, are typical examples of this
practice.[449] In the second place, the picture of vices to be found in
poetry is intended, not to entice the reader to imitate them, but rather
to deter sensible men from doing likewise by showing the misfortune that
inevitably results from evil. Moreover, obscenity is in no way
essentially connected with poetic art; it is to the abuse of poetry, and
not to poetry itself, that we must lay all blame for this fault.

A still higher conception of the poet's function is to be found in
Puttenham's _Arte of English Poesie_ (1589). The author of this treatise
informs us that he had lived at the courts of France, Italy, and Spain,
and knew the languages of these and other lands; and the results of his
travels and studies are sufficiently shown in his general theory of
poetry. His conception of the poet is directly based on that of
Scaliger. Poetry, in its highest form, is an art of "making," or
creation; and in this sense the poet is a creator like God, and forms a
world out of nothing. In another sense, poetry is an art of imitation,
in that it presents a true and lively picture of everything set before
it. In either case, it can attain perfection only by a divine instinct,
or by a great excellence of nature, or by vast observation and
experience of the world, or indeed by all these together; but whatever
the source of its inspiration, it is ever worthy of study and praise,
and its creators deserve preëminence and dignity above all other
artificers, scientific or mechanical.[450] The poets were the first
priests, prophets, and legislators of the world, the first philosophers,
scientists, orators, historians, and musicians. They have been held in
the highest esteem by the greatest men from the very first; and the
nobility, antiquity, and universality of their art prove its preëminence
and worth. With such a history and such a nature, it is sacrilege to
debase poetry, or to employ it upon any unworthy subject or for ignoble
purpose. Its chief themes should therefore be such as these: the honor
and glory of the gods, the worthy deeds of noble princes and great
warriors, the praise of virtue and the reproof of vice, instruction in
moral doctrine or scientific knowledge, and finally, "the common solace
of mankind in all the travails and cares of this transitory life," or
even for mere recreation alone.[451]

This is the sum of poetic theorizing during the second stage of English
criticism. Yet it was at this very time that the third, or apologetic,
period was prepared for by the attacks which the Puritans directed
against poetry, and especially the drama. Of these attacks, Gosson's,
as the most celebrated, may be taken as the type. Underlying the rant
and exaggerated vituperation of his _Schoole of Abuse_ (1579), there is
a basis of right principles, and some evidence at least of a spirit not
wholly vulgar. He was a moral reformer, an idealist, who looked back
with regret toward "the old discipline of England," and contrasted it
with the spirit of his own day, when Englishmen seemed to have "robbed
Greece of gluttony, Italy of wantonness, Spain of pride, France of
deceit, and Dutchland of quaffing."[452] The typical evidences of this
moral degradation and effeminacy he found in poetry and the drama; and
it is to this motive that his bitter assault on both must be ascribed.
He specifically insists that his intention was not to banish poetry, or
to condemn music, or to forbid harmless recreation to mankind, but
merely to chastise the abuse of all these.[453] He praises plays which
possess real moral purpose and effect, and points out the true use and
the worthy subjects of poetry much in the same manner as Puttenham does
a few years later.[454] But he affirms, as Plato had done hundreds of
years before, and as a distinguished French critic has done only the
other day, that art contains within itself the germ of its own
disintegration; and he shows that in the English poetry of his own time
this disintegration had already taken place. The delights and ornaments
of verse, intended really to make moral doctrine more pleasing and less
abstruse and thorny, had become, with his contemporaries, mere alluring
disguises for obscenity and blasphemy.

In the first of the replies to Gosson, Lodge's _Defence of Poetry,
Musick, and Stage Plays_, written before either of the treatises of
Webbe and Puttenham, are found the old principles of allegorical and
moral interpretation,--principles which to us may seem well worn, but
which to the English criticism of that time were novel enough. Lodge
points out the efficacy of poetry as a civilizing factor in primitive
times, and as a moral agency ever since. If the poets have on occasion
erred, so have the philosophers, even Plato himself, and
grievously.[455] Poetry is a heavenly gift, and is to be contemned only
when abused and debased. Lodge did not perceive that his point of view
was substantially the same as his opponent's; and indeed, throughout the
Elizabethan age, there was this similarity in the point of view of those
who attacked and those who defended poetry. Both sides admitted that not
poetry, but its abuse, is to be disparaged; and they differed chiefly in
that one side insisted almost entirely on the ideal perfection of the
poetic art, while the other laid stress on the debased state into which
it had fallen. A dual point of view was attempted in a work, licensed in
January, 1600, which pretended to be "a commendation of true poetry, and
a discommendation of all bawdy, ribald, and paganized poets."[456] This
Puritan movement against the paganization of poetry corresponds to the
similar movement started by the Council of Trent in Catholic countries.

The theory of poetry during the second stage of English criticism was in
the main Horatian, with such additions and modifications as the early
Renaissance had derived from the Middle Ages. The Aristotelian canons
had not yet become a part of English criticism. Webbe alludes to
Aristotle's dictum that Empedocles, having naught but metre in common
with Homer, was in reality a natural philosopher rather than a
poet;[457] but all such allusions to Aristotle's _Poetics_ were merely
incidental and sporadic. The introduction of Aristotelianism into
England was the direct result of the influence of the Italian critics;
and the agent in bringing this new influence into English letters was
Sir Philip Sidney. His _Defence of Poesy_ is a veritable epitome of the
literary criticism of the Italian Renaissance; and so thoroughly is it
imbued with this spirit, that no other work, Italian, French, or
English, can be said to give so complete and so noble a conception of
the temper and the principles of Renaissance criticism. For the general
theory of poetry, its sources were the critical treatises of
Minturno[458] and Scaliger.[459] Yet without any decided novelty of
ideas, or even of expression, it can lay claim to distinct originality
in its unity of feeling, its ideal and noble temper, and its adaptation
to circumstance. Its eloquence and dignity will hardly appear in a mere
analysis, which pretends to give only the more important and fundamental
of its principles; but such a summary--and this is quite as
important--will at least indicate the extent of its indebtedness to
Italian criticism.

In all that relates to the antiquity, universality, and preëminence of
poetry, Sidney apparently follows Minturno. Poetry, as the first
light-giver to ignorance, flourished before any other art or science.
The first philosophers and historians were poets; and such supreme works
as the _Psalms_ of David and the _Dialogues_ of Plato are in reality
poetical. Among the Greeks and the Romans, the poet was regarded as a
sage or prophet; and no nation, however primitive or barbarous, has been
without poets, or has failed to receive delight and instruction from

But before proceeding to defend an art so ancient and universal, it is
necessary to define it; and the definition which Sidney gives agrees
substantially with what might be designated Renaissance Aristotelianism.
"Poetry," says Sidney,[461] "is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle
termeth it in his word [Greek: mimêsis], that is to say, a representing,
counterfeiting, or figuring forth; to speak metaphorically, a speaking
picture,[462] with this end,--to teach and delight."[463] Poetry is,
accordingly, an art of imitation, and not merely the art of versifying;
for although most poets have seen fit to apparel their poetic inventions
in verse, verse is but the raiment and ornament of poetry, and not one
of its causes or essentials.[464] "One may be a poet without versing,"
says Sidney, "and a versifier without poetry."[465] Speech and reason
are the distinguishing features between man and brute; and whatever
helps to perfect and polish speech deserves high commendation. Besides
its mnemonic value, verse is the most fitting raiment of poetry because
it is most dignified and compact, not colloquial and slipshod. But with
all its merits, it is not an essential of poetry, of which the true test
is this,--feigning notable images of vices and virtues, and teaching

In regard to the object, or function, of poetry, Sidney is at one with
Scaliger. The aim of poetry is accomplished by teaching most
delightfully a notable morality; or, in a word, by delightful
instruction.[466] Not instruction alone, or delight alone, as Horace
had said, but instruction made delightful; and it is this dual function
which serves not only as the end but as the very test of poetry. The
object of all arts and sciences is to lift human life to the highest
altitudes of perfection; and in this respect they are all servants of
the sovereign, or architectonic, science, whose end is well-doing and
not well-knowing only.[467] Virtuous action is therefore the end of all
learning;[468] and Sidney sets out to prove that the poet, more than any
one else, conduces to this end.

This is the beginning of the apologetic side of Sidney's argument. The
ancient controversy--ancient even in Plato's days--between poetry and
philosophy is once more reopened; and the question is the one so often
debated by the Italians,--shall the palm be given to the poet, to the
philosopher, or to the historian? The gist of Sidney's argument is that
while the philosopher teaches by precept alone, and the historian by
example alone, the poet conduces most to virtue because he employs both
precept and example. The philosopher teaches virtue by showing what
virtue is and what vice is, by setting down, in thorny argument, and
without clarity or beauty of style, the bare rule.[469] The historian
teaches virtue by showing the experience of past ages; but, being tied
down to what actually happened, that is, to the particular truth of
things and not to general reason, the example he depicts draws no
necessary consequence. The poet alone accomplishes this dual task. What
the philosopher says should be done is by the poet pictured most
perfectly in some one by whom it has been done, thus coupling the
general notion with the particular instance. The philosopher, moreover,
teaches the learned only; the poet teaches all, and is, in Plutarch's
phrase, "the right popular philosopher,"[470] for he seems only to
promise delight, and moves men to virtue unawares. But even if the
philosopher excel the poet in teaching, he cannot move his readers as
the poet can, and this is of higher importance than teaching; for what
is the use of teaching virtue if the pupil is not moved to act and
accomplish what he is taught?[471] On the other hand, the historian
deals with particular instances, with vices and virtues so commingled
that the reader can find no pattern to imitate. The poet makes history
reasonable; he gives perfect examples of vices and virtues for human
imitation; he makes virtue succeed and vice fail, as history can but
seldom do. Poetry, therefore, conduces to virtue, the end of all
learning, better than any other art or science, and so deserves the palm
as the highest and the noblest form of human wisdom.[472]

The basis of Sidney's distinction between the poet and the historian is
the famous passage in which Aristotle explains why poetry is more
philosophic and of more serious value than history.[473] The poet deals,
not with the particular, but with the universal,--with what might or
should be, not with what is or has been. But Sidney, in the assertion of
this principle, follows Minturno[474] and Scaliger,[475] and goes
farther than Aristotle would probably have gone. All arts have the works
of nature as their principal object, and follow nature as actors follow
the lines of their play. Only the poet is not tied to such subjects, but
creates another nature better than ever nature itself brought forth.
For, going hand in hand with nature, and being enclosed not within her
limits, but only by the zodiac of his own imagination, he creates a
golden world for nature's brazen; and in this sense he may be compared
as a creator with God.[476] Where shall you find in life such a friend
as Pylades, such a hero as Orlando, such an excellent man as Æneas?

Sidney then proceeds to answer the various objections that have been
made against poetry. These objections, partly following Gosson and
Cornelius Agrippa,[477] and partly his own inclinations, he reduces to
four.[478] In the first place, it is objected that a man might spend his
time more profitably than by reading the figments of poets. But since
teaching virtue is the real aim of all learning, and since poetry has
been shown to accomplish this better than all other arts or sciences,
this objection is easily answered. In the second place, poetry has been
called the mother of lies; but Sidney shows that it is less likely to
misstate facts than other sciences, for the poet does not publish his
figments as facts, and, since he affirms nothing, cannot ever be said to
lie.[479] Thirdly, poetry has been called the nurse of abuse, that is to
say, poetry misuses and debases the mind of man by turning it to
wantonness and by making it unmartial and effeminate. But Sidney argues
that it is man's wit that abuses poetry, and not poetry that abuses
man's wit; and as to making men effeminate, this charge applies to all
other sciences more than to poetry, which in its description of battles
and praise of valiant men notably stirs courage and enthusiasm. Lastly,
it is pointed out by the enemies of poetry that Plato, one of the
greatest of philosophers, banished poets from his ideal commonwealth.
But Plato's _Dialogues_ are in reality themselves a form of poetry; and
it argues ingratitude in the most poetical of philosophers, that he
should defile the fountain which was his source.[480] Yet though Sidney
perceives how fundamental are Plato's objections to poetry, he is
inclined to believe that it was rather against the abuse of poetry by
the contemporary Greek poets that Plato was chiefly cavilling; for poets
are praised in the _Ion_, and the greatest men of every age have been
patrons and lovers of poetry.

In the dozen years or so which elapsed between the composition and the
publication of the _Defence of Poesy_, during which time it seems to
have circulated in manuscript, a number of critical works appeared, and
the indebtedness of several of them to Sidney's book is considerable.
This is especially so of the _Apologie of Poetrie_ which Sir John
Harington prefixed to his translation of the _Orlando Furioso_ in 1591.
This brief treatise includes an apology for poetry in general, for the
_Orlando Furioso_ in particular, and also for his own translation. The
first section, which alone concerns us here, is almost entirely based on
the _Defence of Poesy_. The distinguishing features of poetry are
imitation, or fiction, and verse.[481] Harington disclaims all intention
of discussing whether writers of fiction and dialogue in prose, such as
Plato and Xenophon, are poets or not, or whether Lucan, though writing
in verse, is to be regarded as an historiographer rather than as a
poet;[482] so that his argument is confined to the element of imitation,
or fiction. He treats poetry rather as a propædeutic to theology and
moral philosophy than as one of the fine arts. All human learning may be
regarded by the orthodox Christian as vain and superfluous; but poetry
is one of the most effective aids to the higher learning of God's
divinity, and poets themselves are really popular philosophers and
popular divines. Harington then takes up, one by one, the four specific
charges of Cornelius Agrippa, that poetry is a nurse of lies, a pleaser
of fools, a breeder of dangerous errors, and an enticer to wantonness;
and answers them after the manner of Sidney. He differs from Sidney,
however, in laying particular stress on the allegorical interpretation
of imaginative literature. This element is minimized in the _Defence of
Poesy_; but Harington accepts, and discusses in detail, the mediæval
conception of the three meanings of poetry, the literal, the moral, and
the allegorical.[483] The death-knell of this mode of interpreting
literature was sounded by Bacon, who, while not asserting that all the
fables of poets are but meaningless fictions, declared without
hesitation that the fable had been more often written first and the
exposition devised afterward, than the moral first conceived and the
fable merely framed to give expression to it.[484]

This passage occurs in the second book of the _Advancement of Learning_
(1605), where Bacon has briefly stated his theory of poetry. His point
of view does not differ essentially from that of Sidney, though the
expression is more compact and logical. The human understanding,
according to Bacon, includes the three faculties of memory, imagination,
and reason, and each of these faculties finds typical expression in one
of the three great branches of learning, memory in history, reason in
philosophy, and imagination in poetry.[485] The imagination, not being
tied to the laws of matter, may join what nature has severed and sever
what nature has joined; and poetry, therefore, while restrained in the
measure of words, is in all things else extremely licensed. It may be
defined as feigned history, and in so far as its form is concerned, may
be either in prose or in verse. Its source is to be found in the
dissatisfaction of the human mind with the actual world; and its purpose
is to satisfy man's natural longing for more perfect greatness,
goodness, and variety than can be found in the nature of things. Poetry
therefore invents actions and incidents greater and more heroic than
those of nature, and hence conduces to magnanimity; it invents actions
more agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, more just in
retribution, more in accordance with revealed providence, and hence
conduces to morality; it invents actions more varied and unexpected, and
hence conduces to delectation. "And therefore it was ever thought to
have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise the mind,
by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas
reason doth buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things."[486] For
the expression of affections, passions, corruptions, and customs, the
world is more indebted to poets than to the works of philosophers, and
for wit and eloquence no less than to orators and their orations. It is
for these reasons that in rude times, when all other learning was
excluded, poetry alone found access and admiration.

This is pure idealism of a romantic type; but in his remarks on allegory
Bacon was foreshadowing the development of classicism, for from the time
of Ben Jonson the allegorical mode of interpreting poetry ceased to
have any effect on literary criticism. The reason for this is obvious.
The allegorical critics regarded the plot, or fable,--to use a simile so
often found in Renaissance criticism--as a mere sweet and pleasant
covering for the wholesome but bitter pill of moral doctrine. The
neo-classicists, limiting the sense and application of Aristotle's
definition of poetry as an imitation of life, regarded the fable as the
medium of this imitation, and the more perfect according as it became
more truly and more minutely an image of human life. In criticism,
therefore, the growth of classicism is more or less coextensive with the
growth of the conception of the fable, or plot, as an end in itself.

This vaguely defines the change which comes over the spirit of criticism
about the beginning of the seventeenth century, and which is exemplified
in the writings of Ben Jonson. His definition of poetry does not differ
substantially from that of Sidney, but seems more directly

     "A poet, _poeta_, is ... a maker, or feigner; his art, an art
     of imitation or feigning; expressing the life of men in fit
     measure, numbers, and harmony; according to Aristotle from the
     word [Greek: poiein], which signifies to make or feign. Hence
     he is called a poet, not he which writeth in measure only, but
     that feigneth and formeth a fable, and writes things like the
     truth; for the fable and fiction is, as it were, the form and
     soul of any poetical work or poem."[487]

Poetry and painting agree in that both are arts of imitation, both
accommodate all they invent to the use and service of nature, and both
have as their common object profit and pleasure; but poetry is a higher
form of art than painting, since it appeals to the understanding, while
painting appeals primarily to the senses.[488] Jonson's conception of
his art is thus essentially noble; of all arts it ranks highest in
dignity and ethical importance. It contains all that is best in
philosophy, divinity, and the science of politics, and leads and
persuades men to virtue with a ravishing delight, while the others but
threaten and compel.[489] It therefore offers to mankind a certain rule
and pattern of living well and happily in human society. This conception
of poetry Jonson finds in Aristotle;[490] but it is to the Italians of
the Renaissance, and not to the Stagyrite, that these doctrines really

Jonson ascribes to the poet himself a dignity no less than that of his
craft. Mere excellence in style or versification does not make a poet,
but rather the exact knowledge of vices and virtues, with ability to
make the latter loved and the former hated;[491] and this is so far
true, that to be a good poet it is necessary, first of all, to be a
really good man.[492] A similar doctrine has already been found in many
critical writers of the sixteenth century; but perhaps the noblest
expression of this conception of the poet's consecrated character and
office occurs in the original quarto edition of Jonson's _Every Man in
his Humour_, in which the "reverend name" of poet is thus exalted:--

    "I can refell opinion, and approve
    The state of poesy, such as it is,
    Blessed, eternal, and most true divine:
    Indeed, if you will look on poesy,
    As she appears in many, poor and lame,
    Patched up in remnants and old worn-out rags,
    Half-starved for want of her peculiar food,
    Sacred invention; then I must confirm
    Both your conceit and censure of her merit:
    But view her in her glorious ornaments,
    Attired in the majesty of art,
    Set high in spirit with the precious taste
    Of sweet philosophy; and, which is most,
    Crowned with the rich traditions of a soul,
    That hates to have her dignity prophaned
    With any relish of an earthly thought,
    Oh then how proud a presence doth she bear!
    Then is she like herself, fit to be seen
    Of none but grave and consecrated eyes."[493]

Milton also gives expression to this consecrated conception of the poet.
Poetry is a gift granted by God only to a few in every nation;[494] but
he who would partake of the gift of eloquence must first of all be
virtuous.[495] It is impossible for any one to write well of laudable
things without being himself a true poem, without having in himself the
experience and practice of all that is praiseworthy.[496] Poets are the
champions of liberty and the "strenuous enemies of despotism";[497] and
they have power to imbreed and cherish in a people the seeds of virtue
and public civility, to set the affections in right tune, and to allay
the perturbations of the mind.[498] Poetry, which at its best is
"simple, sensuous, and passionate," describes everything that passes
through the brain of man,--all that is holy and sublime in religion, all
that in virtue is amiable and grave. Thus by means of delight and the
force of example, those who would otherwise flee from virtue are taught
to love her.


[445] Haslewood, ii. 103.

[446] Haslewood, ii. 28.

[447] _Ibid._ ii. 42.

[448] Haslewood, ii. 128.

[449] _Hist. Litt. de la France_, xxix. 502-525.

[450] Puttenham, p. 19 _sq._

[451] _Ibid._ p. 39.

[452] Gosson, p. 34.

[453] _Ibid._ p. 65.

[454] _Ibid._ pp. 25, 40.

[455] Lodge, _Defence_ (_Shakespeare Soc. Publ._), p. 6.

[456] Arber, _Transcript of the Stat. Reg._, iii. 154.

[457] Haslewood, ii. 28.

[458] Sidney's acquaintance with Minturno is proved beyond doubt, even
were such proof necessary, by the list of poets (_Defence_, pp. 2, 3)
which he has copied from Minturno's _De Poeta_, pp. 14, 15.

[459] Scaliger's _Poetics_ is specifically mentioned and cited by Sidney
four or five times; but these citations are far from exhausting his
indebtedness to Scaliger.

[460] _Defence_, p. 2 _sq._; _cf._ Minturno, _De Poeta_, pp. 9, 13.

[461] _Defence_, p. 9.

[462] This ancient phrase had become, as has been seen, a commonplace
during the Renaissance. _Cf._, _e.g._, Dolce, _Osservationi_, 1560, p.
189; Vauquelin, _Art Poét._ i. 226; Camoens, _Lusiad._ vii. 76.

[463] Sidney's classification of poets, _Defence_, p. 9, is borrowed
from Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 3.

[464] _Defence_, p. 11. _Cf._ Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 23, 190.

[465] _Defence_, p. 33. _Cf._ Ronsard, _Oeuvres_, iii. 19, vii. 310; and
Shelley, _Defence of Poetry_, p. 9: "The distinction between poets and
prose writers is a vulgar error."

[466] _Defence_, pp. 47, 51. _Cf._ Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 1, and vii. i.
2: "Poetæ finem esse, docere cum delectatione."

[467] Aristotle, _Ethics_, i. 1; Cicero, _De Offic._ i. 7.

[468] This was the usual attitude of the humanists; _cf._ Woodward, p.
182 _sq._

[469] _Cf._ Daniello, p. 19; Minturno, _De Poeta_, p. 39.

[470] _Defence_, p. 18.

[471] _Ibid._ p. 22. _Cf._ Minturno, _De Poeta_, p. 106; Varchi,
_Lezzioni_, p. 576.

[472] That is, the highest form of _human_ wisdom, for Sidney, as a
Christian philosopher, naturally leaves revealed religion out of the

[473] _Poet._ ix. 1-4.

[474] _De Poeta_, p. 87 _sq._

[475] _Poet._ i. 1.

[476] _Defence_, pp. 7, 8.

[477] _De Van. et Incert. Scient._ cap. v.

[478] _Defence_, p. 34 _sq._

[479] _Cf._ Boccaccio, _Gen. degli Dei_, p. 257 _sq._; and Haslewood,
ii. 127.

[480] _Defence_, pp. 3, 41; _cf._ Daniello, p. 22.

[481] Haslewood, ii. 129.

[482] _Ibid._ ii. 123.

[483] Haslewood, ii. 127.

[484] Bacon, _Works_, vi. 204-206.

[485] _Cf._ _Anglia_, 1899, xxi. 273.

[486] _Works_, vi. 203.

[487] _Discoveries_, p. 73. Jonson's distinction between poet (_poeta_),
poem (_poema_), and poesy (_poesis_), was derived from Scaliger or

[488] _Discoveries_, p. 49.

[489] _Ibid._ p. 34.

[490] _Ibid._ p. 74.

[491] _Ibid._ p. 34.

[492] _Works_, i. 333.

[493] _Works_, i. 59, _n._

[494] Milton, _Prose Works_, ii. 479.

[495] _Ibid._ iii. 100.

[496] _Ibid._ iii. 118.

[497] _Prose Works_, i. 241.

[498] _Ibid._ ii. 479.



DRAMATIC criticism in England began with Sir Philip Sidney. Casual
references to the drama can be found in critical writings anterior to
the _Defence of Poesy_; but to Sidney belongs the credit of having first
formulated, in a more or less systematic manner, the general principles
of dramatic art. These principles, it need hardly be said, are those
which, for half a century or more, had been undergoing discussion and
modification in Italy and France, and of which the ultimate source was
the _Poetics_ of Aristotle. Dramatic criticism in England was thus, from
its very birth, both Aristotelian and classical, and it remained so for
two centuries. The beginnings of the Elizabethan drama were almost
contemporary with the composition of the _Defence of Poesy_, and the
decay of the drama with Jonson's _Discoveries_. Yet throughout this
period the romantic drama never received literary exposition. The great
Spanish drama had its critical champions and defenders, the Elizabethan
drama had none. It was, perhaps, found to be a simpler task to echo the
doctrines of others, than to formulate the principles of a novel
dramatic form. But the true explanation has already been suggested. The
sources of the dramatic criticism were the writings of the Italian
critics, and these were entirely classical. In creative literature,
however, the Italian Renaissance influenced the Elizabethans almost
entirely on the romantic side. This, perhaps, suffices to explain the
lack of fundamental coördination between dramatic theory and dramatic
practice during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Ascham,
writing twenty years before Sidney, indicated "Aristotle's precepts and
Euripides' example" as the criteria of dramatic art;[499] and in spirit
these remained the final tests throughout the Elizabethan age.

I. _Tragedy_

In Webbe's _Discourse of English Poetrie_ we find those general
distinctions between tragedy and comedy which had been common throughout
the Middle Ages from the days of the post-classic grammarians. Tragedies
express sorrowful and lamentable histories, dealing with gods and
goddesses, kings and queens, and men of high estate, and representing
miserable calamities, which become worse and worse until they end in the
most woful plight that can be devised. Comedies, on the other hand,
begin doubtfully, become troubled for a while, but always, by some lucky
chance, end with the joy and appeasement of all concerned.[500] This
distinction is said to be derived from imitation of the _Iliad_ and the
_Odyssey_; and in this, as well in his fanciful account of the origins
of the drama, Webbe seems to have had a vague recollection of Aristotle.
Puttenham's account of dramatic development is scarcely more
Aristotelian;[501] yet in its general conclusions it agrees with those
in the _Poetics_. His conception of tragedy and comedy is similar to
Webbe's. Comedy expresses the common behavior and manner of life of
private persons, and such as are of the meaner sort of men.[502] Tragedy
deals with the doleful falls of unfortunate and afflicted princes, for
the purpose of reminding men of the mutability of fortune, and of God's
just punishment of a vicious life.[503]

The Senecan drama and the Aristotelian precepts were the sources of
Sidney's theory of tragedy. The oratorical and sententious tragedies of
Seneca had influenced dramatic theory and practice throughout Europe
from the very outset of the Renaissance. Ascham, indeed, preferred
Sophocles and Euripides to Seneca, and cited Pigna, the rival of Giraldi
Cintio, in confirmation of his opinion;[504] but this, while an
indication of Ascham's own good taste, is an exceptional verdict, and in
direct opposition to the usual opinion of contemporary critics. Sidney,
in his account of the English drama, could find but one tragedy modelled
as it should be on the Senecan drama.[505] The tragedy of _Gorboduc_,
however, has one defect that provokes Sidney's censure,--it does not
observe the unities of time and place. In all other respects, it is an
ideal model for English playwrights to imitate. Its stately speeches and
well-sounding phrases approach almost to the height of Seneca's style;
and in teaching most delightfully a notable morality, it attains the
very end of poetry.

The ideal tragedy--and in this Sidney closely follows the Italians--is
an imitation of a noble action, in the representation of which it stirs
"admiration and commiseration,"[506] and teaches the uncertainty of the
world and the weak foundations upon which golden roofs are built. It
makes kings fear to be tyrants, and tyrants manifest their tyrannical
humors. Sidney's censure of the contemporary drama is that it outrages
the grave and weighty character of tragedy, its elevated style, and the
dignity of the personages represented, by mingling kings and clowns, and
introducing the most inappropriate buffoonery. There are, indeed, one or
two examples of tragi-comedy in ancient literature, such as Plautus's
_Amphitryon_;[507] but never do the ancients, like the English, match
hornpipes and funerals.[508] The English dramas are neither true
comedies nor true tragedies, and disregard both the rules of poetry and
honest civility. Tragedy is not tied to the laws of history, and may
arrange and modify events as it pleases; but it is certainly bound by
the rules of poetry. It is evident, therefore, that the _Defence of
Poesy_, as a French writer has observed, "gives us an almost complete
theory of neo-classic tragedy, a hundred years before the _Art Poétique_
of Boileau: the severe separation of poetic forms, the sustained dignity
of language, the unities, the _tirade_, the _récit_, nothing is

Ben Jonson pays more attention to the theory of comedy than to that of
tragedy; but his conception of the latter does not differ from Sidney's.
The parts, or divisions, of comedy and tragedy are the same, and both
have on the whole a common end, to teach and delight; so that comic as
well as tragic poets were called by the Greeks [Greek: didaskaloi].[510]
The external conditions of the drama require that it should have the
equal division into acts and scenes, the true number of actors, the
chorus, and the unities.[511] But Jonson does not insist on the strict
observance of these formal requirements, for the history of the drama
shows that each successive poet of importance has gradually and
materially altered the dramatic structure, and there is no reason why
the modern poet may not do likewise. Moreover, while these requirements
may have been regularly observed in the ancient state and splendor of
dramatic poetry, it is impossible to retain them now and preserve any
measure of popular delight. The outward forms of the ancients,
therefore, may in part be disregarded; but there are certain essentials
which must be observed by the tragic poet in whatsoever age he may
flourish. These are, "Truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity
and height of elocution, fulness and frequency of sentence."[512] In
other words, Jonson's model is the oratorical and sententious tragedy of
Seneca, with its historical plots and its persons of high estate.

In the address, "Of that Sort of Dramatic Poem which is called Tragedy,"
prefixed to _Samson Agonistes_, Milton has minutely adhered to the
Italian theory of tragedy. After referring to the ancient dignity and
moral effect of tragedy,[513] Milton acknowledges that, in the modelling
of his poem, he has followed the ancients and the Italians as of
greatest authority in such matters. He has avoided the introduction of
trivial and vulgar persons and the intermingling of comic and tragic
elements; he has used the chorus, and has observed the laws of
verisimilitude and decorum. His explanation of the peculiar effect of
tragedy--the purgation of pity and fear--has already been referred to in
the first section of this essay.[514]

II. _Comedy_

The Elizabethan theory of comedy was based on the body of rules and
observations which the Italian critics, aided by a few hints from
Aristotle, had deduced from the practice of Plautus and Terence. It
will, therefore, be unnecessary to dwell at any great length on the
doctrines of Sidney and Ben Jonson, who are the main comic theorists of
this period. Sidney defines comedy as "an imitation of the common errors
of our life," which are represented in the most ridiculous and scornful
manner, so that the spectator is anxious to avoid such errors himself.
Comedy, therefore, shows the "filthiness of evil," but only in "our
private and domestical matters."[515] It should aim at being wholly
delightful, just as tragedy should be maintained by a well-raised
admiration. Delight is thus the first requirement of comedy; but the
English comic writers err in thinking that delight cannot be obtained
without laughter, whereas laughter is neither an essential cause nor an
essential effect of delight. Sidney then distinguishes delight from
laughter almost exactly after the manner of Trissino.[516] The great
fault of English comedy is that it stirs laughter concerning things that
are sinful, _i.e._ execrable rather than merely ridiculous--forbidden
plainly, according to Sidney, by Aristotle himself--and concerning
things that are miserable, and rather to be pitied than scorned. Comedy
should not only produce delightful laughter, but mixed with it that
delightful teaching which is the end of all poetry.

Ben Jonson, like Sidney, makes human follies or errors the themes of
comedy, which should be

                    "an image of the times,
    And sport with human follies, not with crimes,
    Except we make them such, by loving still
    Our popular errors, when we know they're ill;
    I mean such errors as you'll all confess
    By laughing at them, they deserve no less."[517]

In depicting these human follies, it is the office of the comic poet to
imitate justice, to improve the moral life and purify language, and to
stir up gentle affections.[518] The moving of mere laughter is not
always the end of comedy; in fact, Jonson interprets Aristotle as
asserting that the moving of laughter is a fault in comedy, a kind of
turpitude that depraves a part of man's nature.[519] This conclusion is
based on an interpretation of Aristotle which has persisted almost to
the present day. In the _Poetics_, [Greek: to geloion], the ludicrous,
is said to be the subject of comedy;[520] and many critics have thought
that Aristotle intended by this to distinguish between the risible and
the ridiculous, between mere laughter and laughter mixed with contempt
or disapprobation.[521] The nature and the source of one of the most
important elements in Jonson's theory of comedy, his doctrine of
"humours," have been briefly discussed in the first section of this
essay. It will suffice here to define a "humour" as an absorbing
singularity of character,[522] and to note that it grew out of the
conception of _decorum_ which played so important a part in poetic
theory during the Italian Renaissance.

III. _The Dramatic Unities_

Before leaving the theory of the drama, there is one further point to be
discussed,--the doctrine of the unities. It has been seen that the
unities of time and place were, in Italy, first formulated together by
Castelvetro in 1570, and in France by Jean de la Taille in 1572. The
first mention of the unities in England is to be found, a dozen years
later, in the _Defence of Poesy_, and it cannot be doubted that Sidney
derived them directly from Castelvetro. Sidney, in discussing the
tragedy of _Gorboduc_, finds it "faulty in time and place, the two
necessary companions of all corporal actions; for where the stage should
always represent but one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it
should be, both by Aristotle's precept and common reason, but one day,
there [_i.e._ in _Gorboduc_] is both many days and many places
inartificially imagined."[523] He also objects to the confusions of the
English stage, where on one side Africa and on the other Asia may be
represented, and where in an hour a youth may grow from boyhood to old
age.[524] How absurd this is, common sense, art, and ancient examples
ought to teach the English playwright; and at this day, says Sidney,
the ordinary players in Italy will not err in it. If indeed it be
objected that one or two of the comedies of Plautus and Terence do not
observe the unity of time, let us not follow them when they err but when
they are right; it is no excuse for us to do wrong because Plautus on
one occasion has done likewise.

The law of the unities does not receive such rigid application in
England as is given by Sidney until the introduction of the French
influence nearly three quarters of a century later. Ben Jonson is
considerably less stringent in this respect than Sidney. He lays
particular stress on the unity of action, and in the _Discoveries_
explains at length the Aristotelian conception of the unity and
magnitude of the fable. "The fable is called the imitation of one entire
and perfect action, whose parts are so joined and knit together, as
nothing in the structure can be changed, or taken away, without
impairing or troubling the whole, of which there is a proportionable
magnitude in the members."[525] Simplicity, then, should be one of the
chief characteristics of the action, and nothing receives so much of
Jonson's censure as "monstrous and forced action."[526] As to the unity
of time, Jonson says that the action should be allowed to grow until
necessity demands a conclusion; the argument, however, should not exceed
the compass of one day, but should be large enough to allow place for
digressions and episodes, which are to the fable what furniture is to a
house.[527] Jonson does not formally require the observance of the
unity of place, and even acknowledges having disregarded it in his own
plays; but he does not favor much change of scene on the stage. In the
prologue of _Volpone_, he boasts that he has followed all the laws of
refined comedy,

    "As best critics have designed;
    The laws of time, place, persons he observeth,
    From no needful rule he swerveth."

Milton observes the unity of time in the _Samson Agonistes_: "The
circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends is,
according to ancient rule and best example, within the space of
twenty-four hours."

With the introduction of the French influence, the unities became fixed
requirements of the English drama, and remained so for over a century.
Sir Robert Howard, in the preface of his tragedy, _The Duke of Lerma_,
impugned their force and authority; but Dryden, in answering him,
pointed out that to attack the unities is really to contend against
Aristotle, Horace, Ben Jonson, and Corneille.[528] Farquhar, however, in
his _Discourse upon Comedy_ (1702), argued with force and wit against
the unities of time and place, and scoffed at all the legislators of
Parnassus, ancient and modern,--Aristotle, Horace, Scaliger, Vossius,
Heinsius, D'Aubignac, and Rapin.

IV. _Epic Poetry_

The Elizabethan theory of heroic poetry may be dismissed briefly. Webbe
refers to the epic as "that princely part of poetry, wherein are
displayed the noble acts and valiant exploits of puissant captains,
expert soldiers, wise men, with the famous reports of ancient
times;"[529] and Puttenham defines heroic poems as "long histories of
the noble gests of kings and great princes, intermeddling the dealings
of gods, demi-gods, and heroes, and weighty consequences of peace and
war."[530] The importance of this form of poetry, according to
Puttenham, is largely historical, in that it sets forth an example of
the valor and virtue of our forefathers.[531] Sidney is scarcely more
explicit.[532] He asserts that heroic poetry is the best and noblest of
all forms; he shows that such characters as Achilles, Æneas, and Rinaldo
are shining examples for all men's imitation; but of the nature or
structure of the epic he says nothing.

The second part of Harington's _Apologie of Poetrie_ is given up to a
defence of the _Orlando Furioso_, and here the Aristotelian theory of
the epic appears for the first time in English criticism. Harington,
taking the _Æneid_ as the approved model of all heroic poetry, first
shows that Ariosto has followed closely in Virgil's footsteps, but is to
be preferred even to Virgil in that the latter pays reverence to false
deities, while Ariosto has the advantage of the Christian spirit. But
since some critics, "reducing all heroical poems unto the method of
Homer and certain precepts of Aristotle," insist that Ariosto is wanting
in art, Harington sets out to prove that the _Orlando Furioso_ may not
only be defended by the example of Homer, but that it has even followed
very strictly the rules and precepts of Aristotle.[533] In the first
place, Aristotle says that the epic should be based on some historical
action, only a short part of which, in point of time, should be treated
by the poet; so Ariosto takes the story of Charlemagne, and does not
exceed a year or so in the compass of the argument.[534] Secondly,
Aristotle holds that nothing that is utterly incredible should be
invented by the poet; and nothing in the _Orlando_ exceeds the
possibility of belief. Thirdly, epics, as well as tragedies, should be
full of [Greek: peripeteia], which Harington interprets to mean "an
agnition of some unlooked for fortune either good or bad, and a sudden
change thereof"; and of this, as well as of apt similitudes and passions
well expressed, the _Orlando_ is really full.

In conclusion, it may be observed that epic poetry did not receive
adequate critical treatment in England until after the introduction of
the French influence. The rules and theories of the Italian Renaissance,
restated in the writings of Le Bossu, Mambrun, Rapin, and Vossius, were
thus brought into English criticism, and found perhaps their best
expression in Addison's essays on _Paradise Lost_. Such epics as
Davenant's _Gondibert_, Chamberlayne's _Pharonnida_, Dryden's _Annus
Mirabilis_, and Blackmore's _Prince Arthur_, like the French epics of
the same period, doubtless owed their inspiration to the desire to put
into practice the classical rules of heroic poetry.[535]


[499] _Scholemaster_, p. 139.

[500] Haslewood, ii. 40.

[501] Puttenham, p. 47 _sq._

[502] _Ibid._ p. 41.

[503] _Ibid._ p. 49.

[504] Ascham, _Works_, ii. 189.

[505] _Defence_, p. 47 _sq._

[506] _Defence_, p. 28. This is the Elizabethan equivalent for
Aristotle's _katharsis_ of "pity and terror."

[507] _Cf._ Scaliger, _Poet._ i. 7.

[508] _Defence_, p. 50.

[509] Breitinger, p. 37.

[510] _Discoveries_, p. 81.

[511] _Works_, i. 69.

[512] _Works_, i. 272.

[513] _Cf._ Bacon, _De Augm. Scient._ iii. 13; and Ascham,
_Scholemaster_, p. 130.

[514] He seems also to allude to the theory of _katharsis_ in the
_Reason of Church Government_; _Prose Works_, ii. 479.

[515] _Defence_, p. 28.

[516] _Ibid._ p. 50 _sq._ _Cf._ Trissino, _Opere_, ii. 127 _sq._; and
Cicero, _De Orat._ ii. 58 _sq._

[517] _Works_, i. 2.

[518] _Ibid._ i. 335.

[519] _Discoveries_, p. 82.

[520] _Poet._ v. 1.

[521] _Cf._ Twining, i. 320 _sq._, and Kames, _Elements of Criticism_,
vol. i. chap. 7.

[522] _Cf._ Jonson, _Works_, i. 67 and 31.

[523] _Defence_, p. 48; _cf._ Castelvetro, _Poetica_, pp. 168, 534.

[524] _Cf._ Whetstone, _Promos and Cassandra_ (1578), cited in Ward,
_Dram. Lit._ i. 118; also, Jonson, _Works_, i. 2, 70; Cervantes, _Don
Quix._ i. 48; Boileau, _Art Poét._ iii. 39. In the theory of the drama,
Sidney's point of view coincides very closely with that of Cervantes.

[525] _Discoveries_, p. 83.

[526] _Works_, i. 337.

[527] _Discoveries_, p. 85.

[528] _Essay of Dram. Poesy_, p. 118.

[529] Haslewood, ii. 45.

[530] Puttenham, p. 40.

[531] _Ibid._ p. 54.

[532] _Defence_, p. 30.

[533] Haslewood, ii. 140 _sq._

[534] _Cf._ Minturno, _Arte Poetica_, p. 71; and Ronsard, _Oeuvres_,
iii. 19.

[535] _Cf._ Dryden, _Discourse on Satire_, in _Works_, xiii. 37.



I. _Introductory: Romantic Elements_

IT were no less than supererogation to adduce evidences of the romantic
spirit of the age of Shakespeare. No period in English literature is
more distinctly romantic; and although in England criticism is less
affected by creative literature, and has had less effect upon it, than
in France, it is only natural to suppose that Elizabethan criticism
should be as distinctly romantic as the works of imagination of which it
is presumably an exposition. As early as Wilson's _Rhetoric_ we find
evidences of that independence of spirit in questions of art which seems
typical of the Elizabethan age; and none of the writers of this period
exhibits anything like the predisposition of the French mind to submit
instinctively to any rule, or set of rules, which bears the stamp of
authority. From the outset the element of nationality colors English
criticism, and this is especially noticeable in the linguistic
discussions of the age. At the very time when Sidney was writing the
_Defence of Poesy_, Spenser's old teacher, Mulcaster, wrote: "I love
Rome, but London better; I favor Italy, but England more; I honor the
Latin, but I worship the English."[536] It is this spirit which pervades
what may be called the chief expression of the romantic temper in
Elizabethan criticism,--Daniel's _Defence of Rhyme_ (1603), written in
answer to Campion's attack on rhyme in the _Observations in the Art of
English Poesy_. The central argument of Daniel's defence is that the use
of rhyme is sanctioned both by custom and by nature--"custom that is
before all law, nature that is above all art."[537] He rebels against
that conception which would limit

    "Within a little plot of Grecian ground
    The sole of mortal things that can avail;"

and he shows that each age has its own perfections and its own usages.
This attempt at historical criticism leads him into a defence of the
Middle Ages; and he does not hesitate to assert that even classical
verse had its imperfections and deficiencies. In the minutiæ of metrical
criticism, also, he is in opposition to the neo-classic tendencies of
the next age; and his favorable opinion of _enjambement_ and his
unfavorable comments on the heroic couplet[538] drew from Ben Jonson an
answer, never published, in which the latter attempted to prove that the
couplet is the best form of English verse, and that all other forms are
forced and detestable.[539]

II. _Classical Metres_

Daniel's _Defence of Rhyme_ may be said to have dealt a death-blow to a
movement which for over half a century had been a subject of controversy
among English men of letters. In reading the critical works of this
period, it is impossible not to notice the remarkable amount of
attention paid by the Elizabethans to the question of classical metres
in the vernacular. The first organized attempt to introduce the
classical versification into a modern language was, as Daniel himself
points out,[540] that of Claudio Tolomei in 1539. The movement then
passed into France; and classical metres were adopted by Baïf in
practice, and defended by Jacques de la Taille in theory. In England the
first recorded attempt at the use of quantity in the vernacular was that
of Thomas Watson, from whose unpublished translation of the _Odyssey_ in
the metre of the original Ascham has cited a single distich:--

    "All travellers do gladly report great prayse of Ulysses,
    For that he knew many mens maners, and saw many cities."[541]

This was probably written between 1540 and 1550; toward the close of the
preceding century, we are told, a certain Mousset had already translated
the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ into French hexameters.

Ascham was the first critical champion of the use of quantity in English
verse.[542] Rhyme, he says, was introduced by the Goths and Huns at a
time when poetry and learning had ceased to exist in Europe; and
Englishmen must choose either to imitate these barbarians or to follow
the perfect Grecians. He acknowledges that the monosyllabic character of
the English language renders the use of the dactyl very difficult, for
the hexameter "doth rather trot and hobble than run smoothly in our
English tongue;" but he argues that English will receive the _carmen
iambicum_ as naturally as Greek or Latin. He praises Surrey's blank
verse rendering of the fourth book of the _Æneid_, but regrets that, in
disregarding quantity, it falls short of the "perfect and true
versifying." An attempt to put Ascham's theories into practice was made
by Thomas Blenerhasset in 1577; but the verse of his _Complaynt of
Cadwallader_, though purporting to be "a new kind of poetry," is merely
an unrhymed Alexandrine.[543]

In 1580, however, five letters which had passed between Spenser and
Gabriel Harvey appeared in print as _Three proper, and wittie, familiar
Letters_ and _Two other very commendable Letters_; and from this
correspondence we learn that an organized movement to introduce
classical metres into English had been started. It would seem that for
several years Harvey had been advocating the use of quantitative verse
to several of his friends; but the organized movement to which reference
has just been made seems to have been started independently by Thomas
Drant, who died in 1578. Drant had devised a set of rules and precepts
for English classical verse; and these rules, with certain additions and
modifications, were adopted by a coterie of scholars and courtiers,
among them being Sidney, Dyer, Greville, and Spenser, who thereupon
formed a society, the Areopagus,[544] independent of Harvey, but
corresponding with him regularly. This society appears to have been
modelled on Baïf's Académie de Poésie et de Musique, which had been
founded in 1570 for a similar purpose, and which Sidney doubtless became
acquainted with when at Paris in 1572.

From the correspondence published in 1580, it becomes evident that
Harvey's and Drant's systems of versification were almost antipodal.
According to Drant's system, the quantity of English words was to be
regulated entirely by the laws of Latin prosody,--by position,
diphthong, and the like. Thus, for example, the penult of the word
_carpenter_ was regarded as long by Drant because followed by two
consonants. Harvey, who was unacquainted with Drant's rules before
apprised of them by Spenser in the published letters, follows a more
normal and logical system. To him, accent alone is the best of quantity,
and the law of position cannot make the penult of _carpenter_ or
_majesty_ long. "The Latin is no rule for us," says Harvey;[545] and
often where position and diphthong fall together, as in the penult of
_merchaundise_, we must pronounce the syllable short. In all such
matters, the use, custom, propriety, or majesty of our speech must be
accounted the only infallible and sovereign rule of rules.

It was not, then, Harvey's purpose to Latinize our tongue. His intention
was apparently twofold,--to abolish rhyme, and to introduce new metres
into English poetry. Only a few years before, Gascoigne had lamented
that English verse had only one form of metre, the iambic.[546] Harvey,
in observing merely the English accent, can scarcely be said to have
introduced quantity into our verse, but was simply adapting new metres,
such as dactyls, trochees, and spondees, to the requirements of English

Drant's and Harvey's rules therefore constitute two opposing systems.
According to the former, English verse is to be regulated by Latin
prosody regardless of accent; according to the latter, by accent
regardless of Latin prosody. By neither system can quantity be
successfully attempted in English; and a distinguished classical scholar
of our own day has indicated what is perhaps the only method by which
this can be accomplished.[547] This method may be described as the
harmonious observance of both accent and position; all accented
syllables being generally accounted long, and no syllable which violates
the Latin law of position being used when a short syllable is required
by the scansion. These three systems, with more or less variation, have
been employed throughout English literature. Drant's system is followed
in the quantitative verse of Sidney and Spenser; Harvey's method is that
employed by Longfellow in _Evangeline_; and Tennyson's beautiful
classical experiments are practical illustrations of the method of
Professor Robinson Ellis.

In 1582, Richard Stanyhurst published at Leyden a translation of the
first four books of the _Æneid_ into English hexameters. From Ascham he
seems to have derived his inspiration, and from Harvey his metrical
system. Like Harvey he refuses to be bound by the laws of Latin
prosody,[548] and follows the English accent as much as possible. But in
one respect his translation is unique. Harvey, in his correspondence
with Spenser, had suggested that the use of quantitative verse in
English necessitated the adoption of a certain uniformity in spelling;
and the curious orthography of Stanyhurst was apparently intended as a
serious attempt at phonetic reform. Spelling reform had been agitated in
France for some time; and in Baïf's _Etrennes de Poésie françoise_
(1574), we find French quantitative verse written according to the
phonetic system of Ramus.

Webbe's _Discourse of English Poetrie_ is really a plea in favor of
quantitative verse. His system is based primarily on Latin prosody, but
reconciled with English usage. The Latin rules are to be followed when
the English and Latin words agree; but no word is to be used that
notoriously impugns the laws of Latin prosody, and the spelling of
English words should, when possible, be altered to conform to the
ancient rules. The difficulty of observing the law of position in the
middle of English words may be obviated by change in spelling, as in the
word _mournfully_, which should be spelled _mournfuly_; but where
this is impossible, the law of position is to be observed, despite the
English accent, as in _royalty_. Unlike Ascham, Webbe regards the
hexameter as the easiest of all classical metres to use in English.[549]

Puttenham is not averse to the use of classical metres, but as a
conservative he considers all sudden innovations dangerous.[550] The
system he adopts is not unlike Harvey's. Sidney's original enthusiasm
for quantitative verse soon abated; and in the _Defence of Poesy_ he
points out that although the ancient versification is better suited to
musical accompaniment than the modern, both systems cause delight, and
are therefore equally effective and valuable; and English is more fitted
than any other language to use both.[551] Campion, like Ascham, regards
English polysyllables as too heavy to be used as dactyls; so that only
trochaic and iambic verse can be suitably employed in English
poetry.[552] He suggests eight new forms of verse. The English accent is
to be diligently observed, and is to yield to nothing save the law of
position; hence the second syllable of _Trumpington_ is to be
accounted long.[553] In observing the law of position, however, the
sound, and not the spelling, is to be the test of quantity; thus,
_love-sick_ is pronounced _love-sik_, _dangerous_ is pronounced
_dangerus_, and the like.[554]

III. _Other Evidences of Classicism_

With Campion's _Observations_ (1602) the history of classical metres in
England may be said to close, until the resuscitation of quantitative
verse in the present century. Daniel's _Defence of Rhyme_ effectually
put an end to this innovation; but the strong hold which the movement
seems to have had during the Elizabethan age is interesting evidence of
the classical tendencies of the period. Ben Jonson has usually been
regarded as the forerunner of neo-classicism in England; but long before
his influence was felt, classical tendencies may be observed in English
criticism. Thus Ascham's conservatism and aversion to singularity in
matters of art are distinctly classical. "He that can neither like
Aristotle in logic and philosophy, nor Tully in rhetoric and eloquence,"
says Ascham, "will from these steps likely enough presume by like pride
to mount higher to the misliking of graver matters; that is, either in
religion to have a dissentious head, or in the commonwealth to have a
factious heart."[555] His insistence that it is no slavery to be bound
by the laws of art, and the stress he lays on perfection of style, are
no less classical.[556]

Similar tendencies may be observed in the writers that follow Ascham.
Harvey's strictures on the _Faerie Queene_ were inspired by two
influences. As a humanist, he looked back with contempt on mediæval
literature in general, its superstitions, its fairy lore, and the like.
As a classicist in art, he preferred the regular, or classic, form of
the epic to the romantic, or irregular form; and his strictures may be
compared in this respect with those of Bembo on the _Orlando_ or those
of Salviati on the _Gerusalemme_. So Harington attempts to make the
_Orlando_ chime with the laws of Aristotle, and Sidney attempts to force
these laws on the English drama. So also Sidney declares that genius,
without "art, imitation, and exercise," is as nothing, and censures his
contemporaries for neglecting "artificial rules and imitative
patterns."[557] So Webbe attempts to find a fixed standard or criterion
by which to judge good and bad poets, and translates Fabricius's summary
of the rules of Horace as a guide for English poetry.[558]

English criticism, therefore, may be said to exhibit classical
tendencies from its very beginning. But it is none the less true that
before Ben Jonson there was no systematic attempt to force, as it were,
the classic ideal on English literature. In Spain, as has been seen,
Juan de la Cueva declared that poetry should be classical and imitative,
while the drama should be romantic and original. Sidney, on the
contrary, sought to make the drama classical, while allowing freedom of
imagination and originality of form to the non-dramatic poet. Ben
Jonson was the first complete and consistent English classicist; and his
classicism differs from that of the succeeding age rather in degree than
in kind.

Bacon's assertion that poetry is restrained in the measure of words, but
in all other points extremely licensed,[559] is characteristic of the
Elizabethan point of view. The early critics allowed extreme license in
the choice and treatment of material, while insisting on strict
regularity of expression. Thus Sidney may advocate the use of classical
metres, but this does not prevent him from celebrating the freedom of
genius and the soaring heights of the imagination. There is nothing of
these things in Ben Jonson. He, too, celebrates the nobility and power
of poetry, and the dignity of the poet's office; but nowhere does he
speak of the freedom of the imagination or the force of genius.
Literature for him was not an expression of personality, not a creation
of the imagination, but an image of life, a picture of the world. In
other words, he effected what may be called an objectification of the
literary ideal.

In the second place, this image of life can be created only by conscious
effort on the part of the artist. For the creation of great poetry,
genius, exercise, imitation, and study are all necessary, but to these
art must be added to make them perfect, for only art can lead to
perfection.[560] It is this insistence on art as a distinct element,
almost as an end in itself, that distinguishes Jonson from his
predecessors; and nowhere is his ideal of art expressed as pithily as in
the address to the reader prefixed to the _Alchemist_ (1612):--

     "In Poetry, especially in Plays, ... the concupiscence of
     dances and of antics so reigneth, as to run away from nature,
     and be afraid of her, is the only point of art that tickles the
     spectators. But how out of purpose, and place, do I name art?
     When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it,
     and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of
     all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms,
     when they understand not the things, think to get off wittily
     with their ignorance. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned,
     and sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent
     vice of judgment. For they commend writers as they do fencers
     or wrestlers; who, if they come in robustiously, and put for it
     with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver
     fellows; when many times their own rudeness is the cause of
     their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all
     that boisterous force the foil. I deny not but that these men,
     who always seek to do more than enough, may some time happen on
     some thing that is good and great; but very seldom; and when it
     comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill.... But I
     give thee warning, that there is a great difference between
     those that, to gain the opinion of copy [_i.e._ copiousness],
     utter all they can, however unfitly; and those that use
     election and a mean[561] [_i.e._ selection and moderation]. For
     it is only the disease of the unskilful to think rude things
     greater than polished; or scattered more numerous than

Literature, then, aims at presenting an image of life through the medium
of art; and the guide to art, according to Jonson, is to be found in
the rules of criticism. Thus, for example, success in comedy is to be

    "By observation of those comic laws
    Which I, your master, first did teach the age;"[563]

and elsewhere, it will be remembered, Jonson boasts that he had swerved
from no "needful law." But though art can find a never-failing guide and
monitor in the rules of criticism, he does not believe in mere servile
adherence to the practice or theory of classical literature. The
ancients are to be regarded as guides, not commanders.[564] In short,
the English mind was not yet prepared to accept the neo-classic ideal in
all its consequences; and absolute subservience to ancient authority
came only with the introduction of the French influence.

This is, perhaps, best indicated by the history of Aristotle's influence
in English criticism from Ascham to Milton. The first reference to the
_Poetics_ in England is to be found in Ascham's _Scholemaster_.[565]
There we are told that Ascham, Cheke, and Watson had many pleasant talks
together at Cambridge, comparing the poetic precepts of Aristotle and
Horace with the examples of Euripides, Sophocles, and Seneca. In
Sidney's _Defence of Poesy_, Aristotle is cited several times; and in
the drama, his authority is regarded by Sidney as almost on a par with
that of the "common reason."[566] Harington was not satisfied until he
had proved that the _Orlando_ agrees substantially with Aristotle's
requirements. Jonson wrote a commentary on Horace's _Ars Poetica_, with
elucidations from Aristotle, in which

    "All the old Venusine [_i.e._ Horace], in poetry,
    And lighted by the Stagyrite [_i.e._ Aristotle], could spy,
    Was there made English;"[567]

but the manuscript was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1623. Yet
Jonson was aware how ridiculous it is to make any author a
dictator.[568] His admiration for Aristotle was great; but he
acknowledges that the Aristotelian rules are useless without natural
talent, and that a poet's liberty cannot be bound within the narrow
limits prescribed by grammarians and philosophers.[569] At the same
time, he points out that Aristotle was the first critic, and the first
of all men to teach the poet how to write. The Aristotelian authority is
not to be contemned, since Aristotle did not invent his rules, but,
taking the best things from nature and the poets, converted them into a
complete and consistent code of art. Milton, also, had a sincere
admiration for "that sublime art which [is taught] in Aristotle's
_Poetics_, in Horace, and the Italian commentaries of Castelvetro,
Tasso, Mazzoni, and others."[570] But despite all this, the English
independence of spirit never failed; and before the French influence we
can find no such thing in English criticism as the literary
dictatorship of Aristotle.[571]

To conclude, then, it would seem that by the middle of the sixteenth
century there had grown up in Italy an almost complete body of poetic
rules and theories. This critical system passed into France, England,
Spain, Germany, Portugal, and Holland; so that by the beginning of the
seventeenth century there was a common body of Renaissance doctrine
throughout western Europe. Each country, however, gave this system a
national cast of its own; but the form which it received in France
ultimately triumphed, and modern classicism therefore represents the
supremacy of the French phase, or version, of Renaissance
Aristotelianism. A number of modern writers, among them Lessing and
Shelley, have returned more or less to the original Italian form. This
is represented, in Elizabethan criticism, by Sidney; Ben Jonson
represents a transitional phase, and Dryden and Pope the final form of
French classicism.


[536] Morley, _English Writers_, ix. 187.

[537] Haslewood, ii. 197.

[538] _Ibid._ ii. 217.

[539] Jonson, _Works_, iii. 470. _Cf._ Gascoigne's comments on
_enjambement_, in Haslewood, ii. 11.

[540] Haslewood, ii. 205.

[541] _Scholemaster_, p. 73.

[542] _Ibid._ p. 145 _sq._

[543] _Cf._ Haslewood, ii. p. xxii. The treatises of Gascoigne (1575)
and King James VI. (1584) contain no reference to quantitative verse.

[544] _Cf._ Pulci, _Morgante Maggiore_, xxv. 117.

[545] Haslewood, ii. 280.

[546] Haslewood, ii. 5.

[547] R. Ellis, _Poems and Fragments of Catullus translated in the
original metres_, London, 1871, p. xiv. _sq._

[548] Stanyhurst, p. 11 _sq._

[549] Haslewood, ii. 69.

[550] Puttenham, p. 126 _sq._

[551] _Defence_, p. 55.

[552] Haslewood, ii. 167.

[553] Haslewood, ii. 186.

[554] _Cf._ Ellis, _op. cit._, p. xvi.

[555] _Scholemaster_, p. 93.

[556] _Ibid._ pp. 118, 121.

[557] _Defence_, p. 46.

[558] Haslewood, ii. 19, 85 _sq._

[559] _Works_, vi. 202.

[560] _Discoveries_, p. 78.

[561] _Cf._ Scaliger, _Poet._ v. 3, where the highest virtue of a poet
is said to be _electio et sui fastidium_; and vi. 4, where it is said
that the "life of all excellence lies in measure."

[562] _Works_, ii. 3; _cf._ _Discoveries_, pp. 22-27.

[563] _Works_, iii. 297.

[564] _Discoveries_, p. 7.

[565] _Scholemaster_, p. 139.

[566] _Defence_, p. 48.

[567] _Works_, iii. 321; _cf._ i. 335, iii. 487.

[568] _Discoveries_, p. 66.

[569] _Ibid._ p. 78 _sq._

[570] _Works_, iii. 473.

[571] The chapter on poetry in Peacham's _Compleat Gentleman_ (1622) is
interesting chiefly because of its indebtedness to Scaliger, who is
called by Peacham (p. 91) "the prince of all learning and the judge of
judgments, the divine Julius Cæsar Scaliger." This constitutes him a
literary arbiter if not dictator. In the _Great Assises holden in
Parnassus_ (1645), Scaliger is proclaimed one of the lords of Parnassus,
in company with Bacon, Sidney, Erasmus, Budæus, Heinsius, Vossius,
Casaubon, Mascardo, Pico della Mirandola, Selden, Grotius, and others.




 DATE |ITALY              |DATE  |FRANCE          |DATE     |ENGLAND
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1527 | Vida: _De Arte    |      |                | c. 1524 | Cox:
      | Poetica_.         |      |                |         | _Rhetoric_.
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1529 | Trissino:         |      |                |         |
      | _Poetica_,        |      |                |         |
      | pts. i.-iv.       |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1535 | Dolce:            |      |                |         |
      | trans. of         |      |                |         |
      | Horace's          |      |                |         |
      | _Ars Poetica_.    |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1536 | Pazzi: transl.    |      |                |         |
      | of Aristotle's    |      |                |         |
      | _Poetics_.        |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1536 | Daniello:         |      |                |         |
      | _Poetica_.        |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1539 | Tolomei:          | 1545 | Pelletier:     |         |
      | _Versi e Regole   |      | trans. of      |         |
      | della Nuova       |      | Horace's _Ars  |         |
      | Poesia_.          |      | Poetica_.      |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1548 | Robortelli:       | 1548 | Sibilet: _Art  |         |
      | ed. of            |      | Poétique_.     |         |
      | Aristotle's       |      |                |         |
      | _Poetics_.        |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1549 | Segni: transl.    | 1549 | Du Bellay:     |         |
      | of Aristotle's    |      | _Défense et    |         |
      | _Poetics_.        |      | Illustration_. |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1550 | Maggi: ed. of     |      |                |  1553   | Wilson:
      | Aristotle's       |      |                |         | _Rhetoric_.
      | _Poetics_.        |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1551 | Muzio: _Arte      |      |                |         |
      | Poetica_.         |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1554 | Giraldi           | 1554 | Pelletier:     |         |
      | Cintio:           |      | _Art           |         |
      | _Discorsi_.       |      | Poétique_.     |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1559 | Minturno: _De     | 1555 | Morel: ed. of  |         |
      | Poeta_.           |      | Aristotle's    |         |
      |                   |      | _Poetics_.     |         |
 1560 | Vettori: ed.      |      |                |  1567   | Drant:
      | of Aristotle's    | 1560 | Pasquier:      |         | transl. of
      | _Poetics_.        |      | _Recherches_.  |         | Horace's
      |                   |      |                |         | _Ars Poetica_.
 1561 | Scaliger:         | 1561 | [Scaliger:     |  1570   | Ascham:
      | _Poetics_.        |      | _Poetics_.]    |         | _Scholemaster_.
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1563 | Trissino:         |      |                |  1575   | Gascoigne:
      | _Poetica_,        |      |                |         | _Notes of
      | pts. v., vi.      |      |                |         | Instruction_.
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1564 | Minturno:         |      |                |         |
      | _Arte             |      |                |         |
      | Poetica_.         |      |                |  1579   | Gosson:
      |                   |      |                |         | _School
 1570 | Castelvetro:      | 1565 | Ronsard:       |         | of Abuse_.
      | ed. of            |      | _Abrégé        |         |
      | Aristotle's       |      | de l'Art       |  1579   | Lodge:
      | _Poetics_.        |      | Poétique_.     |         | _Reply to
      |                   |      |                |         | Gosson_.
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1575 | Piccolomini:      | 1572 | Jean de la     |  1580   | Harvey and
      | ed. of            |      | Taille:        |         | Spenser:
      | Aristotle's       |      | preface of     |         | _Letters_.
      | _Poetics_.        |      | _Saül_.        |         |
      |                   |      |                | c. 1583 | Sidney:
 1579 | Viperano:         | 1572 | Ronsard:       |         | _Defence
      | _De Arte          |      | preface of     |         | of Poesy_
      | Poetica_.         |      | _Franciade_.   |         | (publ. 1595).
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1586 | Patrizzi:         |      |                |  1585   | James VI.:
      | _Della            |      |                |         | _Reulis and
      | Poetica_.         |      |                |         | Cautelis_.
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1587 | T. Tasso:         | 1573 | Jacques de la  |         |
      | _Discorsi         |      | Taille:        |  1586   | Webbe:
      | dell'             |      | treatise       |         | _Discourse
      | Arte Poetica_.    |      | on French      |         | of English
      |                   |      | classical      |         | Poetrie_.
 1588 | Denores:          |      | metres.        |         |
      | _Poetica_.        |      |                |         |
      |                   |      |                |         |
 1597 | Buonamici:        | 1598 | De Laudun:     |  1589   | Puttenham:
      | _Discorsi         |      | _Art           |         | _Arte of
      | Poetici_.         |      | Poétique       |         | English
      |                   |      | françois_.     |         | Poesie_.
 1598 | Ingegneri:        |      |                |         |
      | _Poesia           |  --  | Vauquelin:     |         |
      | Rappresentativa_. |      | _Art           |  1591   | Harington:
      |                   |      | Poétique_.     |         | _Apologie
 1600 | Summo: _Discorsi  |      |                |         | of
      | Poetici_.         |      |                |         | Poetrie_.



THE following is Lionardo Salviati's account of the commentators on
Aristotle's _Poetics_ up to 1586. The passage is cited from an
unpublished Ms. at Florence (Cod. Magliabech. ii. ii. II.), beginning at
fol. 371. The title of the Ms. is _Parafrasi e Commento della Poetica
d'Aristotile_; and at fol. 370 it is dated January 28, 1586.


[Sidenote: =Averroës.=] Averroe primo di tutti quelli interpreti della
Poetica che a nostri tempi sono pervenuti, fece intorno a esso una breve
Parafrasi, nella quale come che pure alcune buone considerationi si
ritrovino, tutta via per la diversità e lontananza de costumi, che tra
greco havea, e tra gli arabi poca notizia havendone, pochissima ne potè
dare altrui. [Sidenote: =Valla.=] Appresso hebbe voglia Giorgio Valla di
tradur questo libro in latino, ma o che la copia del testo greco lo
ingannasse, o che verso di sè fusse l'opera malagevole per ogni guisa
massimamente in quei tempi, egli di quella impresa picciola lode si
guadagnò. [Sidenote: =Pazzi.=] Il che considerando poi Alessandro de
Pazzi, huomo delle lingue intendente, et ingegnoso molto, alla medesima
cura si diede, et ci lasciò la latina traduzzione, che in tutti i
latini comenti fuorch'in quello del Vettorio si leggie. E per ciò che
dotto huomo era, et hebbe copia di ottimi testi scritti a penna, diede
non poca luce a questa opera, e più anche fatto havrebbe se da la morte
stato non fusse sopravenuto. [Sidenote: =Robortelli.=] Ma Francesco
Rubertello a tempi nostri, nelli studj delle lingue esercitatissimo,
conoscendo che di maggior aviso li faceva mestieri, non solamente purgò
il testo di molte macchie che accecato il tenevano, ma il primo fu
ancora, che con distese dichiarationi, et con innumerabili esempli di
poeti greci e latini, fece opera di illustrarlo. [Sidenote: =Segni.=]
Vulgarizzollo appresso Bernardo Segni in questo nostro Idioma, et con
alcune sue brevi annotationi lo diede in luce. E nella tradutione per
alcune proprie voci et ai greci vocaboli ottimamente corrisposero, non
se n' uscì anche egli senza commendazione. Ma con molto maggior grido et
applauso, il comento del [Sidenote: =Maggi.=] Maggio, chiarissimo
filosopho, fu dal mondo ricevuto; perciochè havendo egli con somma
gloria nella continua lettura della Philosophia i suoi anni trapassati,
con l' ordine principalmente giovò a questo libro, e col mostrarne la
continuatione et in non pochi luoghi soccorse il Rubertello. E se si
fusse alquanto meno ardente contro di lui dimonstrato, nè così vago
stato fusse di contrapporseli, sarebbe alcuna volta per avventura uscito
fuor più libero il parer suo, e più saldo. [Sidenote: =Vettori.=] A lato
a quel del Maggio fu la latina traduzione et comento di Pier Vettori
pubblicato, il quale essendo oltre ad ogni altro, delle antiche
scritture diligentissimo osservatore, e nella cognitione delle lingue
havendosi sì come io stimo a tempi nostri, il primo luogo guadagnato,
hauta commodità, et in gran numero di preziosi et antichi esemplarj
scritti a mano, in ogni parte, ma nella correzzione del testo
spetialmente e nella traduzione, ha fatto sì che poco più avanti pare
che di lume a questo libro possa desiderarsi. [Sidenote:
=Castelvetro.=] Pur non di manco a questi anni di nuovo, da un dotto
huomo in questa lingua volgarizzato et esposto, et più a lungo che alcun
altro che ciò habbia fin quì adoprato ancor mai. Questo sarà da me per
tutto ovunque mi convenga nominarlo, il comento vulgare appellato, e per
più brevità con quelle due prime lettere C. V. in questa guisa lo
noterò. Nel qual comento hanno senza alcun fallo di sottilissimi
avvedimenti, ma potrebb' essere, sì come io credo, più sincero. Perciò
che io stimo, che dove egli dal vero si diparte, il faccia per
emulazione per lo più per dimostrarsi di sottil sentimento e per non
dire come li altri. È la costui tradutione, fuorchè in alcune parti dove
egli secondo che io avviso volontariamente erra, tra le toscane la
migliore. E sono le sue parole et in essa e nell' espositione molto
pure, et in puro volgare fiorentino, quanto comporta la materia l'una e
l'altra è dettata. Ultimamente la traduzzione, e con essa l'annotazione
di [Sidenote: =Piccolomini.=] Mgr. Alessandro Piccolomini sono uscite in
stampa, il quale havendosi con molte altre sue opere d' astrologia e di
filosofia e di rettorica parte composte, parte volgarizzate, non picciol
nome e molta riputazione acquistata, creder si può altrettanto doverli
della presente faticha avvenire. Dietro a sì chiari interpreti non per
emulatione, la quale tra me e sì fatti huomini [Sidenote: =Salviati.=]
non potrebbe haver luogo, ma per vaghezza che io pure havrei di dover
ancor io, se io potessi a questa impresa, alcun aiuto arrecare dopo lo
studio di dieci anni che io ci ho spesi, scendo, quantunque timido, in
questo campo, più con accesa volontà, che con speranza, o vigore
desideroso che avanti che venirmi gloria per false opinioni, sieno i
miei difetti discretamente da savio giudice gastigati.


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  Abu-Baschar, 16.

  Académie de Poésie et de Musique, 224, 300.

  Accademia della Crusca, 123.

  Accademia della Nuova Poesia, 222, 224.

  Addison, 295.

  Æschylus, 96.

  Agricola, 132.

  Agrippa, Cornelius, 7, 273, 275.

  Alamanni, Luigi, 222.

  Alberti, Leon Battista, 221.

  Alexander of Aphrodisias, 78.

  Ambrose of Milan, 7.

  Aneau, Barthélemy, 182 _sq._

  Aphthonius, 27.

  Aquinas, Thomas, 6, 15.

  Areopagus, 300.

  Aretino, 106, 163.

  Ariosto, 109, 112 _sq._, 115 _sq._, 123, 162, 222, 293 _sq._

  Aristophanes, 11.

  Aristotle, _passim_, especially 16 _sq._, 136 _sq._, 164 _sq._, 183
  _sq._, 308 _sq._; _Poetics_, _passim_; _Rhetoric_, 86.

  Ascham, 254 _sq._, 283 _sq._, 298 _sq._, 302 _sq._; _Scholemaster_, 254.

  Aubignac, Abbé d', 210, 223, 236, 245 _sq._; _Pratique du Théâtre_, 210,

  Averroës, 16, 24, 26, 314.

  Bacon, Francis, 276 _sq._, 306; _Advancement of Learning_, 276.

  Bacon, Roger, 16.

  Baïf, J. A. de, 224 _sq._, 298, 300.

  Baldini, _Ars Poetica Aristotelis_, 140.

  Balzac, Guez de, 139, 239 _sq._

  Bartas, Salluste du, 130, 161, 197, 227, 230.

  Beaubreuil, Jean de, 208.

  Bellay, Joachim du, 172 _sq._, 182 _sq._, 199 _sq._, 210 _sq._; _Défense
  et Illustration_, 172, 177 _sq._

  Bembo, 117, 126, 153, 161, 180, 255, 305.

  Beni, Paolo, 36, 92, 123, 140, 244.

  Bernays, 80.

  Berni, _Dialogo contra i Poeti_, 9, 153.

  Beza, 230.

  Binet, 192, 219.

  Blackmore, 295.

  Blenerhasset, Thomas, 299.

  Boccaccio, 8, 13, 16, 35, 165, 193, 261; _De Genealogia Deorum_, 9.

  Boccalini, _Ragguagli di Parnaso_, 258.

  Boileau, 39, 48, 108, 130 _sq._, 153, 208 _sq._, 245 _sq._, 286; _Art
  Poétique_, 108, 249.

  Bossuet, 7, 238.

  Bouteauville, Michel de, 223.

  Breitinger, H., 90.

  Brunetière, 93, 176.

  Bruni, Lionardo, 10, 12; _De Studiis et Literis_, 10.

  Bruno, Giordano, 165 _sq._

  Buchanan, 230.

  Budæus, 173, 310 _n._

  Bullokar, 256.

  Buonamici, _Discorsi Poetici_, 140, 167.

  Butcher, S. H., 26 _n._, 40, 64, 75.

  Calcagnini, 162 _sq._

  Cammillo, Giulio, 32, 176.

  Campanella, 26 _sq._

  Campion, _Observations in the Art of English Poesy_, 297, 304.

  Capriano, 83, 87, 120; _Della Vera Poetica_, 42, 211.

  Caro, Annibal, 222.

  Cascales, 146.

  Castelvetro, 44 _sq._, 55, 316, _et passim_.

  Castiglione, 103, 161, 180.

  Cavalcanti, 127.

  Cecchi, 106.

  Cervantes, 36, 104, 258 _n._, 290 _n._

  Chamberlayne, 295.

  Chapelain, 139, 186, 210, 239 _sq._

  Cheke, Sir John, 254, 308.

  Chrétien Le Gouais, 264.

  Cicero, 16, 30, 54, 104, 164, 178.

  Coleridge, 54, 56, 142.

  Corneille, 75, 84, 90, 101, 139, 206, 210, 229, 245.

  Council of Trent, 15, 130, 142, 160, 224, 268, 292.

  Coxe, Leonard, 254.

  Cueva, Juan de la, 146, 233, 305; _Egemplar Poético_, 146, 234.

  Dacier, 63, 70, 75.

  Daniel, _Defence of Rhyme_, 257, 297 _sq._, 304.

  Daniello, 20, 28, 48, 61, 82, 137, 196.

  Dante, 8, 16, 51, 66, 109, 138, 180 _sq._

  Dati, Leonardo, 221.

  Davenant, 259, 295.

  Deimier, 216.

  Denores, 151.

  Descartes, 249.

  Deschamps, Eustache, 174.

  Desportes, 237.

  Diomedes, 64 _sq._

  Dolce, Lodovico, 126, 171, 196.

  Dolet, 173, 227.

  Donatus, 104.

  Drant, Thomas, 171, 300 _sq._

  Dryden, 53, 75, 100, 142, 231, 259, 295, 310.

  Duval, 227.

  Dyer, 300.

  Ellis, Robinson, 301 _sq._

  Equicola, 58, 127.

  Erasmus, 173, 184.

  Espinel, 171.

  Estienne, Henri, 181, 217.

  Euanthius-Donatus, 65.

  Euripides, 284, 308.

  Fabri, Pierre, 174 _sq._

  Fabricius, 147, 305.

  Fanucci, 127.

  Farquhar, 292.

  Fichte, 157.

  Ficino, 160.

  Filelfo, 32, 136.

  Fioretti, Benedetto, 167.

  _Fleur de Rhétorique_, 174.

  Fontaine, Charles, 181 _sq._

  Fracastoro, 22, 31 _sq._, 40 _sq._, 141, 157, 258; _Naugerius_, 31.

  Fulgentius, 7, 8.

  Gabrielli, Trifone, 138.

  Gambara, _De Perfecta Poeseos Ratione_, 161.

  Garnier, 230.

  Gascoigne, 256, 301.

  Gelli, 106, 163.

  Giraldi Cintio, 49, 62, 67, 76, 83, 91, 110 _sq._, 123, 138, 146, 162,
  211, 235, 284.

  Goldoni, 167.

  Gosson, 7, 266 _sq._, 273.

  Gracien du Pont, 174 _sq._

  _Great Assises holden in Parnassus_, 258, 310 _n._

  Gregory the Great, 8.

  Greville, Fulke, 300.

  Grévin, 201 _sq._, 228, 232.

  Grynæus, 184.

  Guarini, _Pastor Fido_, 164.

  Guarino, _De Ordine Docendi_, 10.

  Hardy, Alexandre, 232, 235 _sq._

  Harington, 275, 293, 305, 308; _Apologie of Poetrie_, 257, 275, 293.

  Harvey, Gabriel, 117, 255, 299 _sq._, 303 _sq._

  Heinsius, Daniel, 147, 185, 245, 292; _De Tragoediæ Constitutione_, 245.

  Heliodorus, 36, 196.

  Hermann, 16.

  Hermogenes, 32; _Idea_, 32.

  Hilary of Poitiers, 7.

  Hobbes, 103 _n._, 259.

  Homer, 4, 6, 18, _et passim_.

  Horace, 11, 16, _et passim_; _Ars Poetica_, _passim_.

  Howard, Sir Robert, 292.

  Isidore of Seville, 5, 11, 65.

  James VI. of Scotland, 262.

  Jodelle, 173, 206.

  Johannes Januensis de Balbis, 66.

  John of Salisbury, 11.

  Johnson, Samuel, 79, 260.

  Jonson, Ben, 54, 88 _sq._, 104, 142, 246, 258, 278 _sq._, 288 _sq._,
  297, 304 _sq._

  La Bruyère, 241, 248.

  Lamartine, 48.

  La Mesnardière, 245.

  Landi, Ortensio, 164, 165; _Paradossi_, 164.

  Lasca, Il, 104, 106, 163.

  Laudun, Pierre de, 188, 204, 221, 233; _Art Poétique_, 208.

  Le Bossu, 246, 294.

  Lemoyne, 244.

  Leo X., 126, 154, 160.

  Le Roy, 227.

  Lessing, 75, 79, 142, 147, 310.

  Lionardi, Alessandro, 43, 127.

  Livy, 29, 37.

  Lodge, _Defence of Poetry, Musick, and Stage Plays_, 267.

  Lombardi, 138.

  Longfellow, 302.

  Lucan, 195, 275.

  Lucian, 35.

  Lucretius, 45.

  Luisino, 138.

  Luther, 147 _n._

  Macrobius, 244.

  Maggi, 27, 49, 63, 78, 314, _et passim_.

  Mairet, 210.

  Malherbe, 216, 220, 231, 236 _sq._; _Commentaire sur Desportes_, 237.

  Mambrun, 244, 246, 294.

  Mantinus of Tortosa, 16.

  Mantuan, 9.

  Maranta, 108, 146.

  Marguerite de Navarre, 227.

  Marino, 241.

  Marot, 175, 216, 238.

  Mascardo, 310 _n._

  Maximus of Tyre, 6.

  Mazzoni, Jacopo, 309; _Difesa di Dante_, 124 _n._

  Melanchthon, 132, 254.

  Mellin de Saint-Gelais, 175, 206.

  Ménage, 241.

  Metastasio, 167.

  Michele, A., 36.

  Milton, 54, 70 _n._, 80 _sq._, 142, 147, 280, 287, 292, 308 _sq._

  Minturno, 21, 52, 269, _et passim_; _Arte Poetica_, 119;
  _De Poeta_, 21.

  Mirandola, Pico della, 160, 310 _n._

  Molière, 217.

  Montaigne, 173, 194, 226 _sq._, 240.

  Montchrestien, 230.

  Montemayor, 196.

  Morel, Guillaume, 184.

  Mousset, 223, 298.

  Mulcaster, 296.

  Musæus, 88.

  Muzio, 38, 58, 87, 104, 129, 144, 161, 213; _Arte Poetica_, 50.

  Nisieli, Udeno, _v._ Fioretti, Benedetto.

  Nores, J. de, _v._ Denores.

  Ogier, François, 235.

  Opitz, _Buch von der deutschen Poeterei_, 147.

  Ovid, 179, 263.

  Palingenius, 39.

  Partenio, 127, 134, 141, 147; _Della Imitatione Poetica_, 128.

  Pasquier, 223 _n._

  Patrizzi, 165 _sq._, 222; _Della Poetica_, 165.

  Pazzi, Alessandro de', 17, 137, 314.

  Peacham, _Compleat Gentleman_, 310 _n._

  Pellegrino, Camillo, 122 _sq._

  Pelletier, 171, 175, 182, 191, 199 _sq._, 205, 211, 217, 225.

  Petrarch, 8, 16, 58, 138, 261.

  Philo Judæus, 7.

  Pibrac, Guy du Faur de, 225.

  Piccolomini, Æneas Sylvius, 12.

  Piccolomini, Alessandro, 139 _sq._, 244, 316.

  Pierre Berçuire, 264.

  Pigna, G. B., 115 _sq._, 123, 235, 284.

  Pinciano, 146.

  Pindar, 211.

  Pisani, Marquise de, 241.

  Plato, 4 _sq._, 14, 78, _et passim_, especially 156 _sq._

  Plautus, 85, 102, 285, 291.

  Plutarch, 27, 42, 114.

  Poliziano, 13 _sq._, 188; _Sylvæ_, 13.

  Pomponazzi, 137.

  Pontano, G., 103 _n._, 146 _n._, 153.

  Pontano, P., 146 _n._

  Pontanus, J., 146 _n._, 147.

  Pope, Alexander, 260, 310; _Essay on Criticism_, 108.

  Prynne, 7.

  Puttenham, 264 _sq._, 284, 293; _Arte of English Poesie_, 256, 264.

  _Quintil Horatian_, 181 _sq._, 216 _sq._

  Quintilian, 16, 54, 132, 164.

  Racan, 237.

  Racine, 75, 139, 238, 245.

  Rambouillet, Marquise de, 241.

  Ramus, 137, 164, 223 _sq._, 227.

  Rapin, 75, 106, 245, 292, 294; _Réflexions sur l'Art Poétique_, 139.

  Regolo, 108.

  Rengifo, 145.

  _Rhetores Græci_, 17.

  Rhodiginus, 136.

  Ricci, B., 138.

  Riccoboni, 140, 146, 244.

  Richelieu, 209 _sq._

  Robortelli, 17, 25, 29 _sq._, 63, 77, 91, 103, 139, 244, 315.

  Ronsard, 54, 147, 173, 187 _sq._, 206, 211, 218 _sq._, 226 _sq._, 231,

  Rucellai, 136.

  Ruscelli, 58, 127.

  Sackville, _Gorboduc_, 284, 290.

  Saint-Amant, 244.

  Sainte-Beuve, 152.

  Salviati, Lionardo, 88 _sq._, 123 _sq._, 139 _n._, 140, 162, 181, 305,
  314, 316.

  Sanchez, Alfonso, 234.

  Sannazaro, 35, 153, 160, 179, 234.

  Savonarola, 6, 13 _sq._, 24, 27, 130, 160.

  Scaliger, Joseph Justus, 245.

  Scaliger, Julius Cæsar, 14, 36 _sq._, 43, 58, 131 _sq._, 310 _n._, _et
  passim_; _Poetics_, 150, 176, _et passim_.

  Schelandre, J. de, 235.

  Schelling, 157.

  Schlegel, 157.

  Schosser, _Disputationes de Tragoedia_, 147 _n._

  Scudéry, 244.

  Segni, A., 42 _n._

  Segni, B., 17, 92, 139, 315.

  Selden, 310 _n._

  Seneca, 62, 69, 85, 201, 232, 284 _sq._, 308.

  Shaftesbury, 54.

  Shakespeare, 46, 56, 79, 104 _sq._, 205, 296.

  Shelley, 12, 54, 128, 142, 147, 188, 192, 310.

  Sibilet, 174 _sq._, 223; _Art Poétique_, 175.

  Sidney, Sir Philip, 34, 51, 104, 142, _et passim_; _Defence of Poesy_,
  268 _sq._, _et passim_.

  Silius Italicus, 195.

  Simonides, 42.

  Sophocles, 62, 284, 308.

  Spenser, 117, 161, 296, 299, 302, 305.

  Speroni, Sperone, 75, 81, 116 _sq._, 242.

  Stanyhurst, Richard, 302.

  Strabo, 24, 27, 47, 54, 193.

  Sturm, John, 132, 254.

  Suckling, _Session of the Poets_, 258.

  Suetonius, _De Poetis_, 65.

  Summo, Faustino, 36, 167.

  Surrey, 299.

  Symonds, J. A., 257.

  Taille, Jacques de la, 223 _sq._, 298.

  Taille, Jean de la, 185 _sq._, 201 _sq._, 290; _Art de Tragédie_, 201,

  Tasso, Bernardo, 17, 22, 55, 119.

  Tasso, Torquato, 8, 34, 37, 56, 117, 119 _sq._, 128, 130, 139, 151,
  192, 309; _Discorsi dell'Arte Poetica_, 119, 213; _Apologia_, 123.

  Tempo, Antonio di, 174.

  Tennyson, 302.

  Terence, 85, 106, 287, 291.

  Tertullian, 5.

  Theocritus, 179.

  Theophrastus, 64 _sq._

  Tibullus, 179.

  Tolomei, Claudio, 126, 161, 222, 256, 298.

  Tomitano, 43.

  Toscanella, 108.

  Tottel's _Miscellany_, 255.

  Trincaveli, 137.

  Trissino, 58, 92 _sq._, 102, 106, 112, 126, 136, 176, 206, 288;
  _Poetica_, 76, 92, 109, 140, 150.

  Turnebus, 184.

  Twining, 80.

  Valla, Giorgio, 17, 314.

  Varchi, 27, 34, 41, 50, 124 _n._, 138, 141, 150, 161, 180.

  Vauquelin de la Fresnaye, 48, 176 _sq._, 186, 196, 203, 207, 212, 219,
  227 _sq._

  Vega, Lope de, 233 _sq._, 258 _n._

  Vettori, 37 _n._, 77, 97, 139, 315.

  Vida, 13, 87, 106, 126 _sq._, 131 _sq._, 148, 160, 183, 187, 215, 218,
  244, 247.

  Viperano, 146 _n._, 188, 204.

  Virgil, 18, 30, 87, 106, _et passim_.

  Voltaire, 95.

  Vossius, 185, 244 _sq._, 292, 294, 310 _n._

  Warton, Joseph, 143.

  Warton, Thomas, 254.

  Watson, Thomas, 298, 308.

  Webbe, William, 268, 284, 293, 302, 305; _Discourse of English Poetrie_,
  256, 263, 283.

  Wilson, _Rhetoric_, 254, 261, 296.

  Wither, 258.

  Woodberry, G. E., 12 _n._

  Xenophon, 30, 275.

  Zabarella, 26 _sq._

  Zapata, 171.


_Being a Thirteenth Century French Version of EGIDIO COLONNA'S treatise,
"De Regimine Principium." From the Kerr MS._



_Instructor in the University of Pennsylvania; Sometime Fellow of
Columbia University._

8vo. Cloth. $3.00, net.

       *       *       *       *       *

This treatise, "On the Education of Princes," was prepared in Latin
about the year 1285, by the preceptor of the boy prince Philip the Fair
(afterward Philip IV. of France), and on the accession of the youthful
king was by him ordered translated into French for the benefit of the
general public. Numerous editions in the original Latin were published
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but the French version has
never before appeared in print. The work covers a wide range of topics,
educational and social, discussed in the spirit of enlightened mediæval
scholarship. It is believed that, in its present accessible form, it
will be found to constitute an interesting chapter in the history of
educational ideas.


"To professional scholars and to those interested in the study of
political science in the Middle Ages it will have unusual interest."


"The work will appeal not only to the limited number of professional
scholars for whom the edition is primarily intended, but beyond that to
the wider circle of those interested in the study of the Middle Ages and
in the evolution of pedagogy and of political economy."


"The edition of Colonna's 'De Regimine Principium,' of which Dr.
Molenaer has given us an excellent thirteenth-century French version,
will interest students of widely differing tastes."

       *       *       *       *       *





_A volume of Essays on Classical Subjects contributed by a number of Dr.
Drisler's former pupils, in commemoration of the fiftieth year of his
official connection with Columbia College._

8vo. Cloth. $4.00, net.

       *       *       *       *       *


    On the Meaning of 'Nauta' and 'Viator' in Horace, Sat. i. 5. 11-23.

    Anaximander on the Prolongation of Infancy in Man. A Note on the
      History of the Theory of Evolution.

    Of Two Passages in Euripides' Medea.

    The Preliminary Military Service of the Equestrian Cursus Honorum.

    References to Zoroaster in Syriac and Arabic Literature.

    Literary Frauds among the Greeks.

    Henotheism in the Rig-Veda.

    On Plato and the Attic Comedy.

    Herodotus vii. 61, or the Arms of the Ancient Persian Illustrated from
      Iranian Sources.

    Archaism in Aulus Gellius.

    On Certain Parallelisms between the Ancient and the Modern Drama.

    Ovid's Use of Colour and Colour-Terms.

    A Bronze of Polyclitan Affinities in the Metropolitan Museum.

    Geryon in Cyprus.

    Hercules, Hydra, and Crab.

    Onomatopoetic Words in Latin.

    Notes on the Vedic Deity Pusan.

    The So-Called Medusa Ludovisi.

    Aristotle and the Arabs.

    Iphigenia in Greek and French Tragedy.

    Gargettus: an Attic Deme.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The circumstances of the issue of this handsome volume give it an
emotional interest which makes it a volume separate and distinct among
the collected records of the investigations of scholars. The studies
themselves, for the most part, appeal in the first instance to
specialists, but many of them have a much wider interest. The book is a
credit to American scholarship, as well as a fit tribute to the honored
name of Professor Drisler."--_The Outlook_.

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


  Footnote 30: ad nostras was changed to ad nostra ("Jacuit liber hic
  neglectus, ad nostra").

  Page 26: [Greek: tôn euantiôn] was changed to [Greek: tôn enantiôn].

  Page 218: Postero was changed to Postera (Postera Phoebea lustrabat
  lampade terras).

  Page 229: sulutaires was changed to salutaires (sous les loix

  Part I, Chapter IV:
  Trissino (1561): Appendix A does not list Trissino in 1561.

  Part II, Chapter I:
  The two subsections listed in the Table of Contents do not
  appear in the text.

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