In the prologue the author boldly announces the novelty of his work—
Una favola nova pastorale ............nova in tanto Ch’ altra non fu giammai forse piu udita Di questa sorte recitarsi in scena.
Guarini, who is said to have supplied a prologue for the revival of the piece, bore out Beccari’s claim when he wrote in his essay on tragi-comedy: ’First among the moderns to possess the happy boldness to make in this kind, namely the pastoral dramatic tale, of which there is no trace among the ancients, was Agostin de’ Beccari, a worthy citizen of Ferrara, to whom alone does the world owe the fair creation of this sort of poem.’
Several pieces of no great interest or importance serve to fill the decade or so following on the production of Beccari’s play. Groto, known as the Cieco d’ Adria, combined the mythological motive with much of the vulgar obscenity of the Latin comedy. Lollio also produced a hybrid of an earlier type in his Aretusa. In 1567 a return was made to the pastoral tradition of Beccari in Agostino Argenti’s play Lo Sfortunato. Among the spectators who witnessed the first performance of this piece before Duke Alfonso and his court at Ferrara was a youth of twenty-two, lately attached to the household of the Cardinal Luigi d’ Este. In all probability this was Tasso’s first introduction to a style of composition which not many years later he was to make famous throughout Europe. The play he witnessed on that occasion, however, was no work of surpassing genius. It cannot, indeed, be said to mark any decided advance on Beccari’s work except in so far, perhaps, as it at times foreshadows the somewhat sickly sentiment of later pastorals, including Tasso’s own. The shepherd Sfortunato loves Dafne, Dafne loves Iacinto, who in his turn pursues Flaminia, while she loves only Silvio, who loves himself. Nothing particular happens till the fourth scene of Act III. Then Silvio, tired of being the last link in the chain of love, devises a plan for placing Flaminia and Dafne in the power of their respective lovers. Flaminia, assailed by Iacinto, makes up her mind to bow to fate, and accepts with a good grace the love it is no longer in her power to fly. Sfortunato, on the other hand, rather than offend his mistress, allows her to depart unharmed, and since he thereby forgoes his only chance of enjoying the object of his passion, determines to die. His vow is overheard by Dafne,