Guarini, BATTISTA, Italian poet, b. at Ferrara, 1538; d. at Venice, October 7, 1612. His father, Francesco Guarini, was a great-grandson of the famous humanist, Guarino da Verona, who had founded the fortunes of the family at Ferrara in the fifteenth century. Battista’s early life, divided between Padua and his native city, was mainly academic, until, in 1567, he entered the court of Alfonso II, the last Duke of Ferrara. He was employed as a diplomatist, notably in the unsuccessful negotiations (1574 and 1575) for obtaining for Alfonso the crown of Poland. Excepting for occasional intervals, during which he was employed by the Dukes of Savoy and Mantua, he spent most of his time in the service of the Duke of Ferrara, until the death of Alfonso (1597) and the devolution of the duchy to the Holy See. Later, Guarini frequented the courts of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Duke of Urbino. His last years were mostly passed at Rome and Venice, where he was surrounded by admirers and enjoyed great fame as a poet. Guarini’s domestic life was stormy and unhappy. His daughter, Anna Guarini, was murdered by her husband, Ercole Trotti, with the assistance of one of the poet’s own sons. His own conduct towards the latter was the reverse of exemplary, and his whole career was embittered by his quarrels and perpetual lawsuits with them and others.
Guarini’s literary reputation is almost entirely based upon his “Pastor Fido” (The Faithful Shepherd), a lyrical pastoral drama written to rival the “Aminta” of his friend and contemporary, Tasso. This “pastoral tragi-comedy” is a masterpiece of the kind that Fletcher’s “Faithful Shepherdess” has made familiar to English readers and marks the culmination of the pastoral poetry of the Italian Renaissance. In an age of conflict and intrigue, men turned with pleasure to these artificial pictures of the loves of shepherds and nymphs, and found a refuge from reality in the sentimental world of an imaginary Arcadia. Written with considerable dramatic power, its main charm lies in the lyrical portions. It was published at the end of 1589, dedicated to Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy, and was frequently represented with success on the stage. Guarini also wrote a collection of lyrical poems, “Rime”; a comedy, “Idropica”; “Il Secretario”, a dialogue; and a political treatise, “II Trattato della Politica Liberty”, in support of the Medicean rule in Florence. His letters were printed in his lifetime. During Tasso’s confinement, Guarini saw an edition of his rival’s “Rime” through the press, per sola pieta, as he puts it.
EDMUND G. GARDNER