TRISSINO, Gian Giorgio

(1478-1550)
Gian Giorgio Trissino was a prolific and influential man of letters in sixteenth-century Italy. He was a poet, literary theorist, and dramatist; his most significant contribution to literary history was his play Sofonisba, the first modern Italian tragedy.
From an important noble family in Vicenza, Trissino received a fine humanist education and was particularly devoted to Greek studies. He moved to Rome in 1514, where he enjoyed the favor of the papal courts of Leo X,* Clement VII, and Paul III. In 1515 he wrote a play based on Livy's account of the Carthag­inian princess, Sofonisba. This was considered the first Italian tragedy influenced by Greek models. In addition to its adherence to Greek tragic forms, the literary significance of Sofonisba was in its use of unrhymed verse in place of rhymed stanzas. Although Sofonisba was not performed on stage until after Trissino's death, it was very popular among readers and scholars, undergoing several re-printings. Trissino later wrote a comedy, I simillimi (The Look-alikes, 1548), modeled after Plautus's Menaechmi.
Trissino divided his time between Rome and Vicenza, where he had a villa designed by his friend, the architect Andrea Palladio.* In 1529 he published the first part of his important work of literary criticism, Poetics, dealing with pros­ody and linguistics; the last part of the work appeared much later, in 1563. Trissino was also involved in the current literary debate about the use of the vernacular in literature; he wrote a treatise on language and a work urging the reform of the Italian alphabet.
In 1547 he completed the first nine books of his epic, La Italia liberata da Gotthi (Italy Liberated from the Goths), which he dedicated to Emperor Charles V.* The following year the remaining eighteen books were published. Critical of the episodic chivalric romance embodied in Ludovico Ariosto's* Orlando Furioso, Trissino strove to re-create a heroic epic in the style of Homer. Al­though Trissino considered Italia liberata his finest achievement, readers then and now have found it tedious and pedantic. His literary legacy instead derives from his drama and his literary criticism.
Bibliography
T. G. Griffith, "Theory and Practice in the Writings of Giangiorgio Trissino," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 69 (1986).
M. Herrick, Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance, 1965.
Jo Eldridge Carney

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

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