Torquato Tasso (1544–1595) was a prominent Italian poet and author of tragedies, dramas, dialogues, and treatises.
Born in Sorrento in 1544, Tasso was the son of the poet and courtier Bernardo Tasso and Porzia de’ Rossi, a Neapolitan noblewoman. His father served Ferrante Sanseverino, prince of Salerno, who was exiled in 1552. At the age of 10, Tasso left Sorrento to be with his father, who had followed Sanseverino in exile to Rome. Between 1560 and 1565, he spent time in both Padua and Bologna, where he studied law, philosophy and oratory. In 1565, he established himself in Ferrara. Classical literature and the literary circles of Urbino and Venice were important influences on his work. Both during and after his studies, Tasso developed and reworked his dialogues, poems, and prose works. In Ferrara, he had difficult relations with the Court and courtiers. Throughout the 1570s, his mental health declined and he suffered from episodes of paranoia and mood swings. This led to his confinement in the Santa Anna asylum in Ferrara from 1579 to 1586.
Tasso is best known for his epic poem, Gerusalemme liberata [Jerusalem Delivered] (1581), set during the First Crusade which aimed to reconquer Jerusalem. A highly prolific writer, he wrote close to two thousand lyric poems; a pastoral drama, L’Aminta; a tragedy, Re Torrismondo; a series of dialogues and discourses on love, virtue, nobility, courtly style, and beauty; and four books on poetics. He also wrote a discourse titled Della virtù femminile e donnesca [On Feminine Virtue].
Tasso died in 1595 at the monastery of Sant‘Onofrio in Rome before he could be crowned poet laureate.
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“Tasso, Torquato.” Treccani Enciclopedie on line. http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/torquato-tasso/ (accessed August 5, 2016).