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Thursday, September 8, 2016

What's the hell in the casting?




Devils, witches & Co. became major characters of Italian literature in the Renaissance. "Are you kidding?" someone may say, "What about the Divine Comedy!" It actually offered something different: those people and critters were all shown in hell, that is in a context that was not everyday life. In the 16th century, on the contrary, characters belonging to the realms of the supernatural, magic, fantasy, horror started to "play a role" side by side with human personages in events that were -- at least -- fictionally described as historical. Satan, wizards, monsters of all types could be "seen," and sided with or fought, in common environments; they also developed personalities of their own. Ludovico Ariosto, for example, enjoyed creating pretty and clever witches. Torquato Tasso had a darker and more 'Michelangiolesque' outlook, so that he 'sculpted' a powerful king of hell who would inspire no less than Milton's Satan. While Dante's "Dis" in Inferno 34 had been reduced to a brainless machine, Tasso's Satan speaks theatrically and takes part in the vicissitudes of men by sending his 'soldiers' and 'spies' to the battlefield (the First Crusade).