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Thursday, February 4, 2016

When Tasso said, "Poker!"


This wonderful selection of Torquato Tasso's Dialogues (ed. by Ettore Mazzali, Turin: Einaudi, 1976, pages 382 divided in two volumes), belonging to the latest part of the poet's life, includes:

* Il messaggiero on angels and "demons" in the original Greek sense of the word, plus an appendix on human messengers / ambassadors, and politics in general. Tasso introduces to us the "spirit" who used to talk to him when he was in prison, but after all, he himself realizes that it was only a cultural workshop taking place in his own mind. Anyway, the Neo-Platonic views on demons he expressed here were accused of heresy;
* Il padre di famiglia on the duties of the perfect husband, father, and landowner;
* Il Malpiglio secondo on the endless number of, and the endless differences between philosophical schools;
* Il Cataneo overo de gli idoli on the use of heathen mythology in Christian literature; when Tasso finally states that it is illicit, he lies shamelessly;
* La Molza on the best definition of love;
* Il Gonzaga secondo on games, especially with cards; with a hint at the modern Theory of Games;
* Il Cataneo overo de le conclusioni amorose on the origin of love and, consequently, on the meaning of destiny, fate, fortune, and chance -- that turns out to be the true subject of the whole dialogue;
* Il Minturno on the essence of beauty, with interesting critical remarks about Ariosto's Orlando Furioso;
* Discorso dell'arte del dialogo, precisely a "discourse on the art of dialogue," whose master is considered Plato with his works midway between dialectics and poetry.