GIRALDI CINTHIO, Giambattista

(1504-1573)
Giambattista Giraldi was a prolific and influential Italian author noted for a collection of short prose tales, nine tragedies, and numerous works of literary criticism. In keeping with a tradition in academic circles, Giraldi adopted a Latin name, Cynthius: thus the addition of "Cinzio" or "Cinthio" to his name. In his own time, he was often referred to simply as "II Cinzio."
Giraldi received a broad humanist education and was also trained as a phy­sician. In 1532 he was hired to teach medicine at the university in his native town of Ferrara, and in 1541 he assumed the professorship of rhetoric, a post he held until 1562. In addition to his teaching duties, Giraldi devoted much of his time to writing; he preferred the vernacular for most of his works.
Throughout his life, Giraldi wrote short tales, or novelle, which he ultimately published in 1565 as Gli hecatommithi (The Hundred Tales). This collection of tales is in the tradition of Boccaccio's Decameron; here the storytellers are passengers on a ship to Marseilles escaping the sack of Rome. Unlike Boccac­cio's work, however, Giraldi's stories exhibit an undercurrent of moral intent. The plots of several of the stories were used by playwrights, including William Shakespeare* in Measure for Measure and Othello.
Giraldi also based several of his own tragedies on these tales; the most influ­ential of these, Orbecche, appeared in 1541 and was the first Italian tragedy to be performed on the stage. Giraldi's admiration of the Senecan tradition is ev­ident in the play's emphasis on horror and violence. His other tragedies appear to have been composed for stage performance as well, in contrast to his con­temporaries' Greek tragedies that were written primarily for readership. As a protege of Duke Ercole II d'Este, Giraldi produced plays to provide entertain­ment for the ducal court. He also wrote several works of theoretical guidelines for comedy, tragedy, romance, and epic. His arguments on the epic placed him at the center of an ongoing literary debate in which he defended the contem­porary romance epic represented by Ariosto's* Orlando Furioso against the more traditional proponents of the Homeric epic, such as Gian Giorgio Trissino.* Although Giraldi's dramatic theory was not always in keeping with his own practice, he advocated the idea of tragedia mista, a concept similar to tragicomedy, or tragedy with a happy and morally satisfactory ending. His the­ories of drama had a significant impact on dramatic practice in the latter part of the sixteenth century both inside and outside of Italy.
Bibliography
M. Herrick, Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance, 1965.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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