Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Carlo Gozzi

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Italian author, born at Venice, 1720; died 1806. He spent in military service three years that ensued upon the completion of his school studies. Then impelled by real necessity, since the family means had been wasted away, he, like his brother Gasparo, directed his attention to literature. He became a member of the Accademia dei Granelleschi, whose conservative feelings with regard to the native literary traditions he shared, and ere long began an attack upon the dramatic methods of both of the leading playwrights of the time, Chiari and Goldoni. The ignorance and the bombast of the former had excited his ire, while the reform advocated by Goldoni seemed to him undesirable, inasmuch as it involved the abolishment of the eminently Italian commedia dell' arte. To illustrate his own views as to what was likely to be a popular form of the drama in Venice, he began the composition of his "Fiabe", for whose improbable plots he derived inspiration from various collections of fantastic tales, such as those contained in the Italian "Cunto de li cunti" of Basile, the "Cabinet des fées", and Oriental compilations. From Spanish plays of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries he also drew no little matter, and withal he freely used his own fancy and indulged lavishly his own satirical powers. There is little order, and hardly any subordination to rule in his "Fiabe", which, it should be said, differ from the commedie dell' arte, whose manner they were intended to continue, in that they are often written out in full and are not merely sketchy scenarii. They preserve the stock characters of the commedie dell' arte, such as Truffaldino, Brighella, and Pantalone, and make them speak in dialect, a fact which stood in the way of their diffusion outside of the Venetian region; and they jumble together the heroic and the grotesque, the serious and the ridiculous, the real and the fantastic, bringing on the scene devils, necromancers, knights, fairies, monsters, and like figures. The high degree of popularity attained by the "Fiabe" in the author's time, and it was enough to enable him to drive Goldoni from Venice, is explained by the presence in them of many elements of contemporaneous and topical interest. At home they later fell into oblivion in so far as theatrical repertories are concerned; for some time they continued to attract attention abroad, as is evinced by the consideration given to them by Goethe, by Schiller, who made a version of one of them, the "Turandot", by Schopenhauer, by Wagner, by Mme de Staël, and others. As J. A. Symonds has said of them, and as Wagner seemed to apprehend, they have in them good material for operatic libretti. He prepared some plays based on Spanish dramas in opposition to the spread of the sentimental drama as represented by the drame larmoyant and tragédie bourgeoise of French origin. Among other works we have from him a chivalrous and romantic poem of satiric import, practically a mock-heroic, the "Marfisa bizzarra"; the almanac entitled "Tartana degl'Influssi", which has attacks on Goldoni and Chiari; and the autobiographical "Memorie della sua vita". This last rather entertaining document was called forth by the strictures put upon him by a rival, Pietro Antonio Gratarol, whom he had previously forced from Venice by the ridicule which he had brought upon him in a comedy, the "Droghe d'amore". The "Memorie" have been translated into English by J. A. Symonds (London, 1890). The "Fiabe" have been edited by E. Masi (Bologna, 1885), with a bibliography of all Gozzi's writings, while his other works may be found in the edition published at Venice in 1802.

J.D.M. FORD