The Aminta, while possessing a delicate dramatic structure of its own, yet retains not a little of the simplicity of the ecloga rappresentativa. Indeed, it is worth noting, alike on account of this quality in the poem itself as also of its literary ancestry, that, in a letter written within a year of its original production, Tiburio Almerici speaks of it by the old name of eclogue. Referring to its representation at Urbino, he writes: ’Il terzo spettacolo, che si e goduto questo carnovale, e stato un’ egloga del Tasso, che fu recitata questo giovedi passato da alcuni gioveni d’ Urbino nella sala, che fu fatta per la venuta delia Principessa.’ The princess in question was none other than Lucrezia d’ Este, who had lately become the wife of Tasso’s former companion Francesco Maria della Rovere, now Duke of Urbino, and who with her sister Leonora, the heroine of the Tasso legend, had, it will be remembered, stood sponsor to Beccari’s play nearly twenty years before. The representation at Urbino to which Almerici alludes was not of course the first. Written in the winter of 1572-3 during the absence of Duke Alfonso, the piece was acted after his return from Rome in the summer of the latter year. Ferrara, as we have seen, had become and was long destined to remain the special home of the pastoral drama in Italy. Here on July 31, in the palace of Belvedere, built on an island in the Po, the court of the Estensi assembled to witness the production of Tasso’s play. The staging, both on this and on subsequent occasions, was no doubt answerable to the nature of the piece, and added the splendour of the masque to the classic grace of the fable. Almerici remarks on the special attractions for spectators and auditors alike of what he calls ’la novita del coro fra ciascuno atto,’ by which he clearly meant the spectacular interludes known as intermedi, the verses for which are commonly printed at the end of the play. But the representation which struck the imagination of contemporaries was that before the Grand Duke Ferdinand at Florence. This took place in 1590. Guarini’s play had in its turn won renown far beyond the frontiers of Italy, while the author of the Aminta, a yet attractive but impossible madman, was destined for the few remaining years of his life to drag his tale of woes and but too often his rags from one Italian court to another, ere he sank at last exhausted where S. Onofrio overlooks St. Peter’s dome.
The structure of the play is not free from a good deal of stiffness and artificiality, which it bequeathed to its successors. It borrowed from the classical drama a chorus, on the whole less Greek than Latin, the use of confidants, and the introduction of messengers and descriptive passages. These last, it may be noted, are deliberately and wantonly classical, not merely necessitated by the exigencies of the action, difficult of representation as in the attempted suicide