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Giovanni Battista Giraldi

Italian dramatist and novelist; b. 1504; d. 1573

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Giraldi, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (surnamed CINTIO), Italian dramatist and novelist; b. at Ferrara, Italy, 1504; d. there, 1573. He studied philosophy and medicine in his native town. Under the patronage of the family ruling over his native region, he served for a while as secretary to the dukes of Ferrara, but wearying of his duties, he gave himself up to academic life as a professor in turn at the Universities of Mondovi, Turin, and Pavia,. Among his minor works there is a disquisition on the methods to be observed in the composition of epic, romance, drama, etc. (Discorsi intorno al compor romanzi, commedie e tragedie, ecc.), which shows him to be one of the leading literary critics of the time. He essayed the pastoral drama with the “Egle”, and the epic with the “Ercole”. His dramatic labors extended further, to the production of one comedy, the “Eudemoni”, and nine tragedies, among which are the “Didone”, the “Cleopatra”, the “Selene”, and his best play, the “Orbecche”. Even more than for the “Orbecche”, a rather gory piece, Giraldi is remembered for his collection of tales, the “Ecatommiti” (Hecatommithi). In this he feigns, therein imitating the framework of Boccaccio’s “DeCameron”, that a company of men and women, fleeing from the sack of Rome in 1527, take ship at Civitavecchia for Marseilles, and beguile the tedium of the journey by reciting a hundred tales, divided into ten decades. As a matter of fact there are 112 tales in the work. The style of the “Hecatommithi” has little to recommend it, being rather cold and colorless; and although the author announces his purpose of telling stories that shall stigmatize vice, and exalt virtue and religion, he does not wholly avoid the licentious and unbecoming. It is worthy of note that the seventh tale of the third decade tells the story of the Moor of Venice, later used in Shakespere’s “Othello”.

J. D. M. FORD


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