Home  »  library  »  BIOS  »  Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803)

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803)

Alfieri, Vittorio, Count (äl-fē-ā’rē). A celebrated Italian dramatist; born at Asti in Piedmont, Jan. 17, 1749; died at Florence, Oct. 8, 1803. He came into his vast paternal inheritance at the age of 14; and two or three years afterward began a series of travels which extended over nearly all the European countries, returning to Turin, 1772. He was the hero of many romantic adventures, and his first bent toward literature was given him by his desire to lessen the tedium of illness for a lady of whom he was enamored. His success determined his after career. He elaborated the slender sketch of a dramatic dialogue into a tragedy of five acts, ‘Cleopatra,’ which was put on the stage in Turin, 1775. Conscious of his imperfect acquaintance with literature and the niceties of his native language, he now began the study of Latin and of the Tuscan dialect. At Florence he formed a lifelong attachment for the Countess of Albany. His tragedies, ‘Cleopatra,’ ‘Polinice,’ ‘Antigone,’ ‘Agide,’ ‘Bruto,’ and several others are founded on classic themes, and formed on the Hellenic model. They were very influential in arousing national feeling. ‘Saul,’ founded on Hebrew sacred history, but elaborated according to the canons of Grecian dramaturgy, was by far the most popular of Alfieri’s dramas. The ‘Filippo’ presents, in lineaments that could be drawn only by the hand of a master, the somber character of Philip II. of Spain. He wrote in all twenty-one tragedies and six comedies, and composed many sonnets; among his odes are five on ‘American Independence.’ His prose works comprise an essay on ‘Tyranny,’ a volume of ‘Essays on Literature and Government,’ and ‘Memoirs of his Life.’ (See Critical and Biographical Introduction).