SiStan ChapLee

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Notes on "Romeo and Juliet" (1)

Since Shakespeare's works have been examined from one cardinal point to another during the centuries, these notes -- that will be published on Saturdays -- do not claim to originality. They will simply stress some interesting details in Romeo and Juliet from the point of view of either the acting or Renaissance culture and everyday life. The quotations are taken from the Alexander Text of the play.

The Prologue

Line 9  The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love
like a meteor, which was considered a sign of ill omen

Act I
Scene i

Lady Montague: A very rare appearance in the play. She will even die in the end. N.B. In general, the Montague family will be given a much lesser role than the Capulets.

Lines 128-30  . . . sun . . . begin to draw . . .
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed
a Baroque agudeza (witty subtlety): the Sun wakes up before dawn

Lines 132-3  And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out
see the current social phenomenon called hikikomori

[Rosaline]: We will not even see her.

Line 208  Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold
with a hint at Danaë, and sperm

Lines 215-6  She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair
Romeo should mean "to trouble herself with making me happy," but the opposite is what Rosaline actually does

Line 218  Do I live dead that live to tell it now
see Coleridge's Ancient Mariner

Friday, September 29, 2017

[GBM] The apple is cast

by ilTM and Selkis, from Giambologna

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: And finally, Paris breaks down.

2.153 to 2.154, line 2

She stopped—a flame came out of her eyes
capable of melting Caucasian glaciers;
so that he, forgetting all other beauties
against such incomparable beauty,
forced by the power of that great god     Love
who defeats all hearts, breaks all shelters,     see Dante, Inferno 17.2
kissed the apple, looked into her eyes
and, in awe handing it to her, said,
"O super-beautiful, you over the most
beautiful in heaven most beautiful Venus. . ."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The omen

Suddenly, General Argantes is approached by his brother Norandin, whose death had just been described! (see) It may depend on the fact that either Tasso—while trying to manage the many brothers of Argantes on stage—confused a name with another, or revealed Norandin's death in advance for dramatic purposes, then went back to the main course of events. But the text structure in not clear at all: Norandin's words and actions in fact flow without a break from his horse ride towards the ships to his death, to his speech to Argantes. It might have been interpreted, too, as a classical epic scene in which a dead warrior appears to a living one, but this is not the case as Norandin is seen by Argantes as his brother in the flesh. Anyway, here is his message:

[GC 17: 105.7 - 107.8]

. . .  "Now yield to my advice, let
somebody replace you in your great peril.
You are tired, perhaps; we all are,
after the fights of one day and another,
so, we could leave this place to the rocks     = to itself
and the mob, and go away from here.
And, I won't hide, even against your
prohibition, and being mocked for this,
that Heaven, dreams, and omens I fear.
Ah, may this not be our last assault!"
He meant to add more, but surly-eyed,
fierce, Argantes looked at him and said,
"Norandin, I do dislike the cowards;
if Heaven established right today as     inshallah
the day of my death or doom, here I am.
I don't care about stars, fixed or errant,     (*)
nor about spectres and night dreams.
You—are you not ashamed of yourself?"

(*) During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church 'officially' denied and attacked astrology. See here an interesting story about this.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 1046-1139

The Battle of Zama in a painting of about 1521

To what possible purpose
does the elephant’s odd
trunk or nose exist?
Since it’s a behemoth bigger
[1050] than most animals
it inherited the trunk
as a weapon, note well.
It functions as a neck
insofar as the true one
cannot extend to the soil
and could not be longer.
Therefore the elephant
fetches fruits by using it
and because it is a cable
[1060] too, it can accumulate
nearly a lake inside;
it then sprays rivers
as a Berninian fountain
in Renaissance Rome.
Like an artistic spring
with a faun’s face on
which out of its mouth
or perhaps its penis
pours water everywhere,
[1070] so good Ganesha
gathers his humor first
then his nose imitates
a gorgeous geyser.
This nose often works
as a multitasking hand
twining and stretching.
When a quiet elephant
walks through a flock
of simple-minded sheep
[1080] it does not disturb
them and passes peacefully;
but it grips Gradassoes
lifts them in midair and
smashes them merciless
like a projectile that loads
a catapult then crashes
according to kinetics.
Short is the elephant’s neck
otherwise too weighty
[1090] for its balloon body
that stands on rough feet
which appear inarticulate
and the legs like pillars
of a basilican skeleton.
The beast bends them
when it must sit down
but turning on one side
because of its big mass
(impossible to sit upright)
[1100] so that it always has
to lean left or right.
Only its knees it can
bend, similarly to men:
its paralyzed elbows
force it to find props
against the trees and
sleep hard and deep. . .
look! the trunk collapses!
But often it’s been cut
[1110] by mean smugglers
in search of ivory
to be transformed into
African handicrafts.
The elephant crashes
after the falling tree
like a building broken by
a treacherous earthquake
then resting in ruins.
Prevented from picking
[1120] itself up, it trumpets
stabbed in its belly—
because its bristly back
is spear-proof—and
dies with dire moans.
Its Atlas-like shoulders
can transport towers
stuffed with soldiers
while it knocks down
every enemy it meets
[1130] like a living fort;
Hannibal and Indians
thus put armies to rout
made arms red with blood
trampled on infantry.
This pachyderm, provided
hunts and wars allow,
lives three centuries
and exerts its religion
by adoring Artemis.

(to be continued on Oct. 1)

Friday, September 22, 2017

[GBM] Dating Agency Venus

Leda by a Renaissance painter,
Francesco Ubertini called "Bacchiacca"

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: In this second phase of the beauty contest, each goddess -- in addition to showing herself naked to Paris -- makes a promise. Juno says she will make him the "ruler of whole Asia," basically the Sultan! But, on closer inspection, she is not promising much insofar as Paris is already a son of powerful Priam, though currently in exile. Minerva says she will turn him into an invincible warrior. In retrospect, that would have proved useless since, in the future War of Troy, Paris, though 'weak,' would kill no less than Achilles. He anyway, like Adonis (into whose story his own story has been inserted) later on, does not seem to be interested in such gifts. And now, again, it is the turn of Venus. She stresses that Paris, yeah, is of royal origin, therefore he needs a mate better than any peasant or wood nymph. He deserves the most beautiful woman in the world. He deserves Helen.


"Jupiter left Leda's womb pregnant
with this new sun I am talking about
when, soft and swift, onto her he flew
transfigured into a fair, noble swan.
White and pure she is, as it becomes
a girl born of a bird so white;
smooth, delicate, as bred and fed
inside the frail shell of an egg."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The first assault

[GC 17: 102]

The Syrians, raising their dry shields     i.e. wood. Then edited: heavy
and frightful shouts around Argantes,
now uncertainly attack the firm wall,
the sea and the coast echoing the sound.
Against the children of cruel Ducat     Argantes & Co.
and their faithful, unfaithful to Christ,
from the towers our men threw stones,
driving them away from guarded places.     chiostri (*)

(*) literally, "cloisters," a term often employed by Tasso as a more solemn synonym of "place." See Dante, Inferno 29: 40 and Purgatorio 7: 21 (both times chiostra).

Monday, September 18, 2017


Again some materials on the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, that is much more interesting to "see" through the eyes of its contemporaries (e.g. here) than those of modern authors, who often are either Catholic or anti-Catholic fundamentalists. Renaissance poets and artists could make something epic, even witty, out of that event. For example, let's have a look at a painting by Paolo Veronese (above, left) nominally titled Perseus freeing Andromeda, of the years 1576-78. It strikes the eye that in the background a big city rises, which 'suspiciously' recalls Constantinople. In fact, the jaws of the "Orc" look the same as in the painting The Battle of Lepanto by El Greco (above, right).
Though, well, incidentally, the main reason why I love this work of Veronese so much is the monster's flipper, possibly one of the most impressive pieces of science fiction in art history.

The Battle of Lepanto is dealt with in one of the new sections added by Torquato Tasso to his Jerusalem-poem, i.e. shifting from Gerusalemme Liberata to the Conquistata. Giovan Battista Marino too provides a description of the sea war event in his Adone. Both passages belong to the later parts of the respective poems, so it will take a while for us to get there, "if God helps us, and the devil does not put his tail on it" (Emperor Charles V).

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 989-1045

Darwinism, by ilTM + Selkis (and D. G. Rossetti)

How could curiosity lead
[990] me absolutely astray?
We were wondering about
providence in Day Six.
Providence, not selection
made the animals that
finish off the food chain
little less than infertile
while plentifully prolific
are harmless herbivores
which all too easily
[1000] turn into titbits.
Dozens of babies are born
of a hare, a pair each time
of a mountain goat and
twins of a wild sheep
for a fruitful offspring
means more survivors
after the lions lunch.
While a lioness scarcely
bears one, that rips her
[1010] belly with its claws
as a cub born to kill
thru a splattering uterus.
The viper also violates
its mother’s meatuses
by breaking her body.
Paying attention to
animal anatomy you see
Shaddai didn’t shape
too much nor too less.
[1020] He fixed the fangs
within the whole mouth
of fierce flesh-eaters
but partially empty are
the jaws of herbivores
that ruminate tranquil
in their lazy lifestyle.
All those biological bags
and digestive systems
like food refineries
[1030] to fuel the physical,
the pure and the impure
that ends up expelled
are not pastime toys
but tools indispensable
to sustain existence
either enduring or brief.
The camel’s neck extends
up to reaching the earth
and grazing the grass.
[1040] A short neck is shown
by lions tigers and bears
and all other orders that
don’t process the plants
and don’t go grazing
but are blood bandits. 

(to be continued on Sept. 24)

Friday, September 15, 2017

[GBM] Triple sun-bathing

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: The judge's reaction to the divine lap dance show. The vision of three suns recalls some natural/psychological phenomena already described by ancient authors, but also implies a mischievous reuse of Christian imagery (see e.g. Dante, Paradiso 33.76-78, 100-102, 112-117; Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato / The 7 Days of CryAction 1.12, here).


Paris himself in those extreme joys 
cannot live, no, except via his eyes.     but see lines below
Such an excess of light, he, shocked, fears
it may steal his sight and life at once.     pun: vista/vita
His eyes are not enough to so many rays,
his heart not enough to bear three suns.
A tripled flash forcibly shuts his eyes—
one sun in the sky, three on earth he sees.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Shakespeare for Italian actors

A new, 'free and easy' Italian translation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has just been published by Grazia Cavasino (go to the online shop). As indicated in the book flaps, the translation's target is the stage, so as to prove useful, i.e. both flowing and effective, for acting. In order to do so, it plays with the different speech levels, from the still existing refined Renaissance words to the everyday people's, even gross usage via the musical/sung forms.
So, G. Cavasino makes us agree, more and more, with a remark made many decades ago by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: that is that, paradoxically, the true language and manners of Italians in the Renaissance were rendered much better by Shakespeare than by the 16th century Italian poets, who tended to shape their own texts on the basis of classical models. (According to one of the many revisionistic theories, in fact, the real authors of the plays 'under the name' of the Bard should have been two Italian exiles. Or, is this nothing more than our scholars' envy?)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


The Muslims prepare to attack the Christian fort near the harbor of Jaffa, in five squads. Meanwhile one of Argantes' brothers, Norandin (all of these are fictional characters), rides back to the Muslim ships in order to ask for more help, but. . .

[GC 17: 95.7 - 96.8]

But, on his superb horse's back, he cannot
avoid an untimely end in a hard death.
He would not see again the high walls
of Aelia and of the embellished palace     A. Capitolina (Jerusalem)
that he had occupied as his own home;
in vain had he hoped in a happy return—
a dark whirl of war tore him away
as we see a fir, an ash being uprooted.
He fell where a cruel spear pierced him,
a man who opposes his fate in vain.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 932-988

by Raphael, ilTM, and Selkis

I have till now neglected
(not even one tiny word)
the illustrious horses
the comrades of knights
in jousts and army jobs
sharing their vicissitudes.
You verily are warriors
stirred by the trumpets
[940] you partake in pursuits
that give gold and glory.
It was seen in Pisa and
Olympia every four years
and in Thebes and Troy
in Greek games and wars
like Marathon and Leuctra
Pharsalia and surroundings;
carrying knights on your
strong backs in battle as
[950] one mighty monster
you created the centaurs.
Who could fittingly tell
about your enterprises?
You poured precious
blood with your riders
but even—incredibly—
shed sorrowful tears
because of their death.
You partook in the triumphs
[960] of heroes and emperors,
Bucephala (now Jalalpur)
was named after a steed.
Not Neptune’s trident
was your obstetrician
no potter produced you:
God’s vigorous voice
trumpeted your birth
even before bothering
about Adam.
[970] That voice obviously
obeyed by Nature now
perpetuates your race.
But may your majestic
almost-human spirit be
edified by Jesus Christ
who on a Palm sunny day
held a donkey dearer
leaving you to the leaders
of the ruling countries.
[980] Let power and pomp
and mundane magnificence
yield to humbleness
to the silent suffering
of the donkey dignified
in Bethlehem as behooved
by the heavenly King
who has no horses and
no equine escutcheons. . .

(to be continued on Sept. 17)

Friday, September 8, 2017

[GBM] Bodies of evidence

Minerva by Paolo Barbieri

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: In the end, all three goddesses accept to strip in front of Paris. A cosmic event, that affects the whole Nature.


As finally those three models of
perfection put down their clothes,
and, of their immortally beautiful bodies,
the most hidden parts were exhibited,
among their own shadows novel lights     "their" i.e. of the caverns
were seen by the most secret caverns;     allusion
and no created thing in the environs
failed to feel love's power in itself.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

War balances

The Battle of Lepanto in a cartoon
by G. A. Sartorio, about 1930

Now, in Tasso's fictional narrative of the First Crusade, two Christian knights both called Robert (respectively from Frisia and Normandy), volunteer to go and defend the harbor of Joppe/Jaffa. Meanwhile Argantes, one of the main leaders of the Muslim army, attacks a fort that has been built by the Crusaders near the harbor -- by piling up their very ships. This whole, long section did not exist in the Gerusalemme Liberata, it was added in the Conquistata after the model of the Iliad. This serves two purposes: 1. Giving Tasso's poem a Homeric solemnity, and

2. Counterbalancing the war, so that, while the Christian army besieges the Muslim army in Jerusalem, the opposite occurs in Jaffa. This sort of "fairness doctrine" or "equal treatment" played a key role in Renaissance literature, worldview, and practice. The actual Battle of Lepanto, 1571, did not aim at 'destroying Islam' but simply at re-establishing the military balance in the Mediterranean Sea by "showing that Turkey was not unbeatable," as reminded by a Christian soldier who had been there: Miguel De Cervantes. Argantes speaks:

[GC 17: 90.7b - 91.6]

". . . I will not come back
without glory and booty, O fellows!
I hope I'll adorn the Asian coast and farthest
territories with enemy spoils, rather,
by depriving the Franks of the den     i.e. Westerners
where their extreme hope now lies.
You just follow me, and I feel that
the slow, the scared will become bold!"

Monday, September 4, 2017

Renaissance born again

It occurred in this blog to call Salvador Dalí "the last Renaissance artist," but it would have been more exact to say "the first artist of the New Renaissance," as he loved to define himself. This qualifying side of his art emerged clearly thanks to an exhibition held in Pisa, Italy, between late 2016 and early 2017, that was devoted to Dali's Dream of Classicism. The link with Greek art was provided precisely by the 15th-16th century Italian masters. The exhibition, and all the more so the catalog that includes a greater number of works, shows the deep influence that the the whole bundle of the most significant Renaissance artists had on his paintings, even on his lifestyle: Piero Della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Vannucci il Perugino, Raffaello/Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Luca Signorelli, Benvenuto Cellini, Michelangelo. Some materials published here are virtually impossible to be found elsewhere, e.g. the book pictures diligently divided by Dalí into squares so as to being able to reproduce the works (or, have them reproduced) on a larger scale on canvas before modifying them for his own purposes.

The Spanish painter subjected his past colleagues to the same treatment to which they had subjected the ancient Greek themes. Particularly striking are some paintings in which details from Michelangelo's sculptures or sketches have been reworked in a different context, giving them a surprising meaning. For example, the famous Moses is struck with lightning by -- himself? -- and therefore resembles, at the same time, Zeus and the Tower of Babel, and/or the Tower in the Tarot deck. See René Thom's Catastrophe Theory, followed by Dalí in his late years. Adam's head, from the Sistine Chapel, turns into a sort of night spirit. The Palestrina Pietà now looks like a brawny, two-headed Venus being born from the sea. In the big-sized Searching for the Fourth Dimension, 1979, many "quotes" from Renaissance artists are rearranged within a typical Dalinian setting.

The catalog also includes Dali's illustrations for the Divine Comedy, of 1950-52. For some surreal reason, the captions are crazy.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The 7 Days of CryAction 6: 845-931

Kommissar/Commissario/Inspector Rex

Is any memory firm as
that belonging to dogs?
Or, is there any greater
example of thankfulness
than a dog’s who dares
[850] attack a thief
and wreck his robbery?
He is ready to die with
his owners, or for them,
and save their lives
by sacrificing himself.
Often before a court
a four-footed friend
accused the culprits by
barking and was believed
[860] so that the sentence
fell on the right fellow.
In Antioch—stories tell—
in a solitary place a man
(owning a dog) lay dead
at the uncertain hour
that divides day and night
and calls the employees
to their job or to the joy
of a deserved rest. The
[870] murderer, a mercenary
as violent as Vanni Fucci
imagined he could hide
his crime under the cloak
of tenebrous night;
the same mantle he
put on and went away.
The dead man remained
pale in his own plasma.
People came to peep
[880] as the dog dismally
mourned his own master.
Meanwhile the murderer
sullied by his sin but
simulating innocence
paced back to the place
cos he intended to chat
scot-free about the “feat”
(beware of blah blahs!).
Joining the onlookers he
[890] displayed a long face
and viewed the victim.
Then the brave beast
stopped suddenly to wail
and jumped for justice
with frightening fangs
and growling low made
all people perplexed.
To stress his trustworthiness
he stopped the contractor
[900] by dint of teeth
till the killer shocked
could no longer offload
the guilt of that gruesome
effect of his hate nor
silence the suspicions
emerging in all minds.
No witness will defend
him against a dumb dog:
He is tied and executed.
[910] This is one thousandth
of the deeds of dogs
often beautifully buried
together with their lords
or put on the same pyre
or among slaying soldiers
expressing big exploits.
They got rid of tyrants
so lets make monuments
to canine champions
[920] carving their conquests;
after wars and wanderings
they triumphed together
with human partners and
hurried back home.
Greece greeted them
so did innumerable islands.
Wilderness witnessed
their valiant victories,
their heads were honored,
[930] thousands of trophies
were hunted with their aid.

(to be continued on Sept. 10)

Friday, September 1, 2017

[GBM] The best evidence rule

The Judgment of Paris in G. B. Marino's version: Now Paris has a hard time trying to choose the most beautiful among Juno, Minerva, and Venus. So -- surely following a cue from the poet -- he establishes a new rule: The three goddesses will have to show themselves naked to him. Juno and Minerva make "as if" they will not absolutely accept, at first. Venus takes her chance.


But the sea's daughter, who in courteous     a true court. . . esan
acts has grace and boldness as needed,
"I'll be the first to untie my covering,"     arnesi, usually "armor"
cries, "and unveil the most unknown parts,
so that it will be clearly seen and shown
that not only beautiful eyes and cheeks
I have, but there exists a correspondence
between exterior and hidden beauties!"     see Orlando Furioso 7.14