Giovanni Battista Giraldi - Encyclopedia

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GIOVANNI BATTISTA GIRALDI (1 5 0 41 573), surnamed CYNTHIUS, CINTHIO or CINTIO, Italian novelist and poet, born at Ferrara in November 1504, was educated at the university of his native town, where in 1525 he became professor of natural philosophy, and, twelve years afterwards, succeeded Celio Calcagnini in the chair of belles-lettres. Between 1542 and 1560 he acted as private secretary, first to Ercole II. and afterwards to Alphonso II. of Este; but having, in connexion with a literary quarrel in which he had got involved, lost the favour of his patron in the latter year, he removed to Mondovi, where he remained as a teacher of literature till 1568. Subsequently, on the invitation of the senate of Milan, he occupied the chair of rhetoric at Pavia till 1573, when, in search of health, he returned to his native town, where on the 30th of December he died. Besides an epic entitled Ercole (1557), in twenty-six cantos, Giraldi wrote nine tragedies, the best known of which, Orbecche, was produced in 1541. The sanguinary and disgusting character of the plot of this play, and the general poverty of its style, are, in the opinion of many of its critics, almost fully redeemed by occasional bursts of genuine and impassioned poetry; of one scene in the third act in particular it has even been affirmed that, if it alone were sufficient to decide the question, the Orbecche would be the finest play in the world. Of the prose works of Giraldi the most important is the Hecatommithi or Ecatomiti, a collection of tales told somewhat after the manner of Boccaccio, but still more closely resembling the novels of Giraldi's contemporary Bandello, only much inferior in workmanship to the productions of either author in vigour, liveliness and local colour. Something, but not much, however, may be said in favour of their professed claim to represent a higher standard of morality. Originally published at Monteregale, Sicily, in 1565, they were frequently reprinted in Italy, while a French translation by Chappuys appeared in 1583 and one in Spanish in 1590. They have a peculiar interest to students of English literature, as having furnished, whether directly or indirectly, the plots of Measure for Measure and Othello. That of the latter, which is to be found in the Hecatommithi (iii. 7), is conjectured to have reached Shakespeare through the French translation; while that of the former (Hecat. viii. 5) is probably to be traced to Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra (1578), an adaptation of Cinthio's story, and to his Heptamerone (1582), which contains a direct English translation. To Giraldi also must be attributed the plot of Beaumont and Fletcher's Custom of the Country.

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