Italian Pastoral Drama
We have now passed in review the main classes of non-dramatic pastoral both abroad and in this country. Such preliminary survey was necessary in order to obtain an idea of the history and nature of pastoral composition in general. It was further rendered imperative by more particular considerations which will appear in the course of the present chapter, for we shall find that the pastoral drama comes into being, not through the infusion of the Arcadian ideal into pre-existing dramatic forms, but through the actual evolution of a new dramatic form from the pre-existing non-dramatic pastoral.
It is time to retrace our steps and to pick up the thread which we dropped in a former chapter, the development, namely, of the vernacular eclogue in Italy. If in so doing we are forced to enter at greater length upon the discussion of individual works, we shall find ample excuse, not only in their intrinsic merit, but likewise in their more direct bearing upon what is after all the main subject of this volume. The pastoral drama of Italy is the immediate progenitor of that of England. Further, it might be pleaded that special interest attaches to the Arcadian pastoral as the only dramatic form of conspicuous vitality for which Italy is the crediter of European letters.
The history of the rise of the pastoral drama in Italy is a complicated subject, and one not altogether free from obscurity. Many forces were at work determining the development of the form, and these it is difficult so to present as at once to leave a clear impression and yet not to allow any one element to usurp an importance it does not in reality possess. Any account which gives a specious appearance of simplicity to the case should be mistrusted. That I have been altogether successful in my treatment I can hardly hope, but at least the method followed has not been hastily adopted. I propose to consider, first of all and apart from the rest, the early mythological drama, which while exercising a marked influence over the spirit of the later pastoral can in no way be regarded as its origin. Next, I shall trace the evolution of the pastoral drama proper from its germ in the non-dramatic eclogue, by way of the ecloghe rappresentative, and treat incidentally the allied rustic shows, which form a class apart from the main line of development. Lastly, I shall have to say a few words concerning the early pastoral plays by Beccari and others before turning to the masterpieces of Tasso and Guarini, the consideration of which will occupy the chief part of this chapter.