Piave, Boito, Pirandello - From Romantic Realism to Modernism

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This study is the first to forge a direct link between the Italian theatre of the post-romantic period, the adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello by Boito and the theatre of the absurd of Pirandello. It traces the significance of the fusion of genre through the symbolic images appertaining to light-darkness, beauty/ugliness, youth/age. It demonstrates the rediscovery of Evil and its application to psychological manipulation as seen in the poetry of the writers of Scapigliatura Milanese, of the late 19th-century. Emphasis is placed on the externalization of the inner conflict, with the psychological victim assuming the roles of manipulated monster and controlled marionette. Finally, the work is the first to consider in juxtaposition the place of Jester (Piave, Rigoletto) and Puppet (Pirandello, Il berretto a sonagli), and how they provide a link between he tragically comical and the absurd.


“This book is a fascinating study of patterns of influence and connection in the Italian theatre of the late 19th and early 20th century. It sheds light not only on the patterns that link these writers but also offers an in depth study of the individual writers themselves. . . . a study that combines the best of close reading with scholarly contextual study. The writers are considered both in their own right and as part of an on-going process.” – Susan Bassnett

“Deirdre O’Grady’s original and insightful study reperesents, among other things, a rehabilitation of the libretto and of the librettist. She compels readers to consider the libretto as an art form in its own right, and one which represents an indispensable link in the transition between late romanticism and realism in the theatre. . . . This is a scholarly, stimulating work which combines a deft examination of the poetry and drama of individual libretti with a knowledgeable survey of the lesser known literature of the period, and which will throw light on many seemingly unrelated areas.” – Joseph Farrell

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword; Preface; Introduction
1. The Jester’s Revenge: Romantic Realism, Hugo, Le roi s’amuse; Piave, Rigoletto
2. Duality: Art and Science in Boito’s Il libro dei versi – Re Orso: The Milanese Scapigliatura Science and Art in Il libro dei versi. Artistic deconstruction and reconstruction Parody in Re Orso.
3. Black Angel – White Devil: Boito, Mefistofele L’alfier nero; Otello
4. The Puppet Show: Towards a philosophy of laughter - ‘Certi obblighi’; and ‘La veritá (the truth); The puppet in literature – Pirandello, Il berretto a sonagli
Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

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